Monday, October 31, 2011

Four Weeks Left, Six Teams Standing
Well, how's that for clarity? Michigan State's magic ran out with a thud in Lincoln.  But by late afternoon, what looked like a four team race in the Legends was down to three after Iowa inexplicably lost to rival Minnesota in maybe the biggest shocker of the day in college football.  Penn State dug out another workman like win to firmly plant itself in the Leaders Division driver's seat.  But that only after Ohio State made a statement and turned that division into a race.

Hang on tight!  It's going to be a wild ride.  Six teams - three per division - will vie for a trip to Indy.  I realize more are technically still alive, but I see this as six teams with sights on two slots.  More on who has what left and who I predict where later...

The good...
Ohio State. Wow.  I didn't see anything but that last 5 minutes and that was enough.  I felt like I was watching MSU - UW all over again.  Hat's off to Braxton Miller - who has now officially arrived.  And notice served to the rest of the league.  Penn State.  Ugly but who cares?  JoePa climbs to the tip top of the Division 1 leaderboard and the Nits do it like they have all year long - with defense and resilience.  Nebraska.  Finally, a dominating performance from that black shirt defense.  The Spartans never figured out how to beat it and the Cornhuskers made Cousins and MSU pay dearly. Michigan. Solid. Done the old fashioned way - on the ground, with authority. Minnesota. I thought for sure the Gophers were part of the Suck for Luck campaign!  Seriously though, vote of confidence this week for Coach Kill and a nice win to retain Floyd.  Northwestern.  The points were flying in Bloomington as the 'cats hit their stride on offense.  The defense still worries me but it was a win to stop the bleeding.

The bad...
Wisconsin. For all the tremendous spirit the Badger offense showed again in a late, improbable comeback, the secondary was torched again.  This time losing sight of a Buckeye receiver with 20 seconds left. Illinois. That makes three tough losses in a row with a schedule that still has some toughies.  Really hard when one of the most reliable kickers in the country doinks one that would have sent the game to OT. Michigan State. Part I.  The Spartans also belong in the ugly category.  The defense was not to blame - except for some very untimely penalties.  State flat out ran out of gas and it showed.  And that play calling? Come on! Purdue. After looking like they were going to be a part of this race and jumping out early, the Boilers were steamrolled in Ann Arbor.

The ugly...
Michigan State. Part II. Uh, can we have an adjustment please?  Nebraska dared MSU to run up the gut, and when the Spartans did, they gained yards in chunks.  Yet State chose to try and beat double coverage all day and it never worked.  Blueprint for the next four weeks?  Iowa.  That was fugly. Just when you think Iowa is going to rise up and be a part of the race, the Hawkeyes play uninspired football and lose a rivalry game to a very bad Minnesota team. The Hawkeyes are still a key player, with games against all three Legends leaders remaining. Indiana. Beating a dead horse is getting old but were the Hoosiers really this gutted and fundamentally unsound when Wilson came in?  There is a glimmer of hope in 38 points on offense.  But that was against one of the softest defenses in the conference.

The race...
Back to the very interesting Big Ten race.  Nope, we won't get a participant in the national title game this year.  Why?  The depth in the conference is very good.  There are six top 25 worthy teams and each of them will have a huge say in how this thing ends up.  Here is a look at what is left for each team, the probability of a trip to Indy (my odds) and who goes where in the bowl scheme of things.

Leaders Division:
Penn State - Currently 5-0 in conference play and with a two game lead on the pack.  Penn State has a bye this week, followed by a visit from Nebraska and trips to Ohio State and Wisconsin. The Nitanny Lions have the toughest slate remaining.  I like the way the defense is playing though, and while I don't see a 3-0 finish, 2-1 is highly possible, and thus I put the chances of Penn State making it to Indy at 50%.

Ohio State - Currently 2-2 in conference play with both losses to cross divisional foes.  The win over UW was huge as is having Penn State trekking to Cbus.  Indiana, at Purdue, Penn State and at Michigan remain. There is a better than average chance the trip to Michigan could be huge for the Buckeyes.  I see a 3-1 finish but that won't be enough.  Chances of making Indy - 25%.

Wisconsin - Currently 2-2 in conference play with the loss to Ohio State being critical.  UW still has Penn State left to close the season and the easiest road of the three: Purdue, at Minnesota, at Illinois, Penn State.  I see a 4-0 finish but that won't be enough to get the Badgers to Indy.  Chances of making it to Lucas Oil Field? 25%

Legends Division:
Nebraska - Currently 3-1 in conference play with a key win over Michigan State.  Nebraska has the toughest remaining road in the division with Northwestern, at Penn State, at Michigan and Iowa.  The defense has come alive and the offense is tough to defend but I see Nebraska taking it on the chin at Penn State, finishing 3-1 and falling out of the chase for Indy.  I put the chances at going to Indy at 40%.

Michigan State - Currently 3-1 in the conference after a brutal month of October.  The good news for MSU is that it has the easiest schedule between the division contenders - Minnesota, at Iowa, Indiana and at Northwestern.  I see a 4-0 finish and a trip to Indy to help put the unsightly performance in Lincoln to bed.  I put MSU's chances of making Indy at 45%

Michigan - Currently 3-1 in the division with a key loss to Michigan State and critical battles remaining.  Michigan has to go to Iowa and Illinois and then has Nebraska and Ohio State at home.  Iowa is stinging and will be up for this game.  Illinois is in a similar boat.  Nebraska and nemesis OSU close out the toughest slate of the three contenders.  I see a 2-2 finish and with the loss to Michigan State, a less than likely chance to make Indy.  Chances? 15%.

Way early bowl projections...
I see Michigan State and Penn State making it to Indy and MSU getting it's first Rose Bowl berth in 24 years.

Penn State will get shut out of the at large pool, as title game runner-ups are apt to be, and Nebraska gets the at-large BCS nod at 10-2.

Wisconsin slides into the Capital One Bowl at 10-2 and with the win over Penn State, while Penn State goes back to the Outback Bowl.

The Insight picks ahead of the Gator this year and goes with a 9-3 Michigan team.

Ohio State, at 8-4 heads to the Gator Bowl.

Illinois goes back to the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

Iowa manages a sixth win and goes to the TicketCity Bowl.

No one else makes a bowl and the Little Caesars falls back to the at-large pool.

Think I'm off base?  Tell me what you think?  The ESPN bloggers seems to be on the same wavelength.

Get Gamm:
Michigan at Iowa
Minnesota at Michigan State
Indiana at Ohio State
Purdue at Wisconsin
Northwestern at Nebraska

Friday, October 28, 2011

Encore, encore!
Is it just me or does everything seem a bit anti-climactic now?  I mean, don't get me wrong, we have a couple of great races going on in the first year of division play within the Big Ten, but can there be a better all around football game than the one that Michigan State and Wisconsin battled in last week?  That one had everything.

The good news is, we have some really good games on tap this weekend and plenty at stake.  That alone means we are far from peak season in what is shaping up to be an exciting B1G race.

Northwestern at Indiana, Noon EDT (BTN)
My gut says BTN wishes they had a shot at MSU - Nebraska instead of this one.  Indiana and the Chicago area will watch this one at least for a while, but other than alumni, is there any interest in this game?  Northwestern is better than they've shown record-wise.  Indiana may have found the future at QB in Iowa City.  The Wildcats are more talented overall and have a team that can beat anyone on a given Saturday.  The same cannot be said for IU.  Persa is dinged up but I like the Wildcats to mix he and Colter well and pull away late on Homecoming in Bloomington.  Northwestern 34 - Indiana 24.

Mayo says ... I really thought that Northwestern would be much better than they are right now. Dan Persa has had a tough go of it since his injury last year and although his backup Kain Colter seems to be pretty good running the offense, the defense looks like Michigan’s recent defenses (read non-existent). Indiana, whew something stinks in Bloomington. There are signs of a positive future, but it’s not going to be overnight. Northwestern 37 – Indiana 13

Purdue at Michigan, Noon EDT (ESPN2)
This could be an interesting game.  Many are watching to see if another great start to the season + loss to Michigan State = Michigan collapse.  I think this Michigan team is better than the last few, especially on defense.  The Wolverines won't have a total collapse but are playing for bowl position now because the loss to MSU, coupled with games remaining against Iowa, Nebraska and Ohio State more or less renders them an also ran in the Legends race.  Purdue is two wins from a bowl game and starting to come together.  The ground game and defense are underrated and with a blueprint on stopping DRob available courtesy of MSU, the Boilers will be ready.  Still a week off to prepare and heal and a hunger to prove the pundits wrong puts Michigan over the top.  Michigan 31 - Purdue 23

Mayo says ... Two up-and-comers with questions just about everywhere on the field, but both positioned for a post-season. A co-worker told me last February that Michigan wins 9 games this year. I scoffed at this thought, but now believe that might be at the high end of the year. Purdue needs to find some unbreakable players that can last a season to get where Hope wants them to be. Michigan 41 – Purdue 35

Michigan State at Nebraksa, Noon EDT (ESPN) - Game of the Week
Just like last week, this pits strength against strength.  Nebraska is top ten in all of the key rushing categories.  Michigan State is top ten in all of the key defensive categories.  The Cornhuskers boast a mobile QB who can beat you with his savvy, including his decisions in the option game.  The Spartans boast a front seven that gets after you because the back end is sound.  So, what gives?  Well, if the Spartans can contain T-Mart and force him to pass, this could go the way of the NU-UW game earlier this month.  Nebraska needs to get pressure on Cousins and avoid the big play.  The special teams are very evenly matched.  Both teams have great tailbacks. But I keep going back to the one dimensional tendencies of Nebraska against a really good run D.  The rule of thumb is keep Martinez from a run over 25 yards and you win (they are 9-0 when he has at least one 25-yard plus run a game).  MSU is hungry to keep proving that what you see is real and holds on for it's first ever stretch of three straight wins over ranked opponents.  Michigan State 27 - Nebraska 21

Mayo says ... Three weeks ago, I would have picked the Huskers hands down. Now, it’s not that easy. These Spartans that Dantonio has built are by far the most impressive team in the conference right now. Nebraska was greeted at Wisconsin very rudely and I expect Michigan State will not let up on the pedal this weekend in what will most likely be one of the best matches of the weekend. As a college football fan, I’d rather watch this than even LSU-Alabama. Michigan State 34 – Nebraska 30

Iowa at Minnesota, 3:30 EDT (BTN)
They are playing for the pig in Minnehaha. Iowa lost it last year and wants it back.  They will probably get it back without much of a fight.  I like that the Gophers made a statement and signed Coach Kill to a long term deal but that doesn't help in the now.  He is a few good, solid recruiting classes away from having the horses to sniff six or seven wins.  Makes me wonder why they ever fired Glen Mason, who if nothing else, got the maroon and gold bowling most years.  Iowa is starting to find its stride and this is a good tune up going into a month that has them taking on MSU, Michigan and Nebraska.  Iowa rolls.  Iowa 45 - Minnesota 17

Mayo says ... Iowa takes a 3 hour bus ride, sits in a beautiful new stadium and runs a few sprints up and down the field, takes a shower and a bus ride home. Minnesota wakes up, wonders why nobody likes them, lays down like a beaten dog and accepts that maybe next year they can play with the rest of their friends. Iowa 56 – Minnesota 10

Illinois at Penn State, 3:30 EDT (ABC)
This is where the Penn State schedule gets interesting.  Games remain with Wisconsin, Ohio State and Nebraska after this one so a win is imperative in the race for the top of the Leaders division.  Illinois is also at a crossroads.  The offense is stagnant and the Illini are playing tight.  The magic of the 6-0 start has been flushed and now the men in orange are tasked with a tough trip to State College to face a stout defense.  While I am still not sold on the Penn State's offense to consistently stretch the field, Silas Redd is a stud and can be a one man wrecking crew.  Illinois will come out inspired and ready, but Penn State staves off an Illinois rally and stays atop the Leaders.  Penn State 23 - Illinois 20

Mayo says ... Oh how the Illini have fallen. Starting 6-0 I thought this was going to be the year they surprise some heavyweights. Well, not so much now. Penn State has been playing stellar defense and their only loss is a national champion caliber squad. Paterno can still coach at 134 years of age and brings his team another victory. Penn State 44 – Illinois 14

Wisconsin at Ohio State, 8pm EDT (ESPN)
This is a very intriguing game. Ohio State is coming off a bye week and a solid road win at Illinois.  Wisconsin hits the road again as the opponent's biggest home tilt of the season.  The million dollar question is - will the Badgers be caught licking their wounds from the devastating loss at Michigan State, mired in a shell-shocked hangover, or will they come out hungry to avenge the loss and regain a bead on the leaders in the Leaders?  Ohio State is going to have to pass the ball more than four times to keep the Badgers honest.  Wisconsin can keep a good Buckeyes defense off balance with the Wilson, Ball, Toon, Pedersen combo.  After seeing Wilson first hand, I can attest, this guy is poised and mature beyond a typical senior QB.  The crowd will be rabid and a win keeps the Buckeyes in this race.  However, when push comes to shove, you have to pick the better team to win, even on the road. Wisconsin 24 - Ohio State 23.

Mayo says ... I remember back when this was a game I looked forward to watching every year. Maybe because it was the personification of the Big Ten style of football. Right now, Wisconsin might have to take a quarter to get back on track and Ohio State just wants a win to stop the bleeding. Unfortunately for Luke Fickell, his head coaching tenure appears to be completed at Ohio State by seasons end, this is one more step back. Ohio State 14 – Wisconsin 38

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Hail yes!
Sorry for the delay this week... recovering from an amazing college football game in East Lansing last Saturday, and traveling for work.  But before I hit the road for home Wednesday am, I thought I'd better check in.  After all, what a weekend it was.

The Hail Mary will be what is most remembered, but let me tell you, the MSU - Wisconsin game was a classic college football game.  Big plays.  Comebacks.  Momentum shifts galore.  Two heavy weights going toe to toe to the finish.  Maybe we'll get lucky and get a reprieve in Indy that first weekend in December.  Then again, the encores are rarely ever as good...

The good...
The instant classic in E.L.  I want to watch it over and over.  It was - and I've seen some classics in Spartan Stadium - the best to date and will be hard to surpass.  Michigan State.  The defense forced rare UW turnovers.  The offense was efficient.  Special teams turned the tide.  Total team effort.  Wisconsin.  I can't put them in the other categories.  They were as advertised and still have to be the favorite in the Leaders Division.  Penn State.  Smoke and mirrors or not, the Nits keep getting it done.  Now that maybe they've settled on a QB, they can survive the upcoming schedule and sneak into the title game.  Purdue.  Finally, the Boilers are rewarded for playing a good game.  PU may never be a steady threat to win the title, but despite a spate of injuries, Danny Hope has this team poised to make a bowl.  Iowa and Nebraska get to be here too but they virtually had BYE weeks so no comment.

The bad...
Northwestern.  The Wildcats should not be 2-5.  The season is slipping away and the chances are very good that NU stays home for the holidays.

The ugly...
Illinois.  Hmmm, funny how not playing anyone early can bite you late.  Illinois is stagnant and predictable on offense and the defense isn't bailing out the O at the same rate.  So much for that amazing start.  Indiana and Minnesota.  I can't pick on them any more than placing them here. It's bad.  Real bad.

Get Gamm...
We had two go 4-1 but since Mayo picked the MSU win, he gets the nod over Dan.  Dan gets to move to the top of the standings now that he's picked enough games for the stats to even out.

This week...
Michigan State at Nebraska (Game of the Week)
Northwestern at Indiana
Purdue at Michigan
Illinois at Penn State
Iowa at Minnesota
Wisconsin at Ohio State

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Big Ten in the national spotlight
It's a big week for the Big Ten.  The SEC almost always dominates the airwaves and the headlines, but this weekend, ESPN's Game Day descends upon East Lansing for the best game in college football this week - Wisconsin v. Michigan State.

The rest of the slate is rather yawn-inducing, though the cat fight in Evanston could be fun to watch.  Only two games are division tilts but at this point, everyone needs Ws.

Illinois at Purdue, Noon EDT (ESPN2)
I think Illinois was exposed a bit last week by an Ohio State team that had been all together underwhelming on the season.  The Illini can play defense and have some offensive weaponry but prior to the loss had been squeaking by.  Purdue was some bad kicking from a very nice win in State College and has improved little by little, week by week.  Illinois is dead last in most statistical categories when it comes to special teams, which will bite them eventually. In the end, Illinois has more talent and the better defense and when push comes to shove, defense wins games.  Illinois 23 - Purdue 20

Indiana at Iowa, Noon EDT (BTN)
I know that Indiana has threatened Iowa with upsets each of the last few years, but this might be the worst team the Big Ten has seen in a really long time.  Add to it the fact that IU is missing a few key players and the picture is not pretty.  Iowa re-found the offense last weekend and should have no problem dominating in all facets this week as well.  On a side note, I'd hate the 11am local time start as a fan or a player!  Iowa 41 - Indiana 14

Nebraska at Minnesota, 3:30 EDT (ABC)
Raise your hand if you would rather see Nebraska and Iowa go toe to toe twice this season instead of seeing these teams play Indiana and Minnesota this week?  I said above that Indiana might be the worst team the Big Ten has produced in a long time?  Well, Minnesota is right there too.  The ONLY saving grace is that the Gophers played USC tough on the road in the opener and has a win over a D1 foe.  Then again, while IU has its only win against an FCS school, at least the Hoosiers beat an FCS school.  But I digress.  Nebraska comes off a bye hungry to get firing on all cylinders before a big battle with Michigan State next weekend.  Minnesota is battling injuries, guys skipping class, an unhealthy coach... Taylor and Rex win this one on their own.  Nebraska 49 - Minnesota 0

Penn State at Northwestern, 7pm EDT (BTN)
Something's got to give in this cat fight.  Penn State has been stout on D (3rd in scoring defense, 2nd in total defense, 3rd in rushing defense and 3rd in passing defense) and Northwestern has been able to move the ball with some measure of consistency (5th in total offense, 6th in rushing offense, 4th in passing offense).  With every game, Dan Persa is closer to his pre-Achilles self.  Penn State refuses to select a QB and is down its top receiver.  Silas Redd has been a stud and will need a strong performance in order for the Nits to stay unbeaten in the Leaders Division.  NU is 0-fer night games so far, but finds a way in this one, almost a must-win for the Wildcats.  Northwestern 24 - Penn State 20

Wisconsin at Michigan State, 8pm EDT (ESPN) - Game of the Week
The Badgers' first true test of the season and first real road game.  Michigan State's third tough league test in the past three games.  Wisconsin brings a bona fide Heisman candidate to the table in Russell Wilson.  Michigan State brings a dominant defense - the physical, gritty, tough variety common place in the days of George Perles regime.  Something has got to give.  While everyone and their brother wants to make this a UW O v. MSU D discussion, I want to look at the opposite. 

Wisconsin has the league's best scoring defense, third rated total defense, fifth ranked run defense and No. 2 pass defense. UW also is near the top in other key defensive categories.  However, aside from Nebraska, who has Wisconsin played?  That will be a key in this game, whether the so-called experts want to say so or not. Michigan State has the 8th ranked scoring offense, 7th rated total offense, 10th ranked rushing offense and 3rd ranked passing offense.  MSU allows the fewest sacks and leads the league in time of possession.

Seems like a slam dunk, eh?  Just like Vegas thinks (UW is giving 8 at this time).  Maybe, or maybe not.  Wiscy's true weak link is special teams.  While MSU hasn't been as buttoned up as the past, the Spartans changed last year's game with a punt return TD and are long overdue for a kickoff return for a TD.

The night atmosphere, MSU's defense and the fact that the offense is just starting to fire on all cylinders has me leaning against the popular pick.  If MSU is going to win just one of the next two, next week is the one to win, but why not win them both?  Gholston or no Gholston.  Michigan State 23 - Wisconsin 21.

Monday, October 17, 2011

And then there were three...
We went into an important week of conference play with five unbeatens.  We came out with three.  Wisconsin and Penn State rule the roost in the Leaders, Michigan State in the Legends.  The race is still on in both, as Illinois has yet to play either Penn State or Wisconsin and will try and have a final say in the deal.  Ohio State can still play the spoiler too.  The Spartans, meanwhile, still have to go to Iowa and Nebraska - one loss teams hungry to stay in the mix.  And frankly, Michigan might have one of the easier roads with home games remaining against its toughest competitors.

It was a great weekend for football around the Big Ten.  The only game never in doubt was Wisconsin v. Indiana.  The rest gave us plenty of entertainment and water cooler fodder.

The good... Wisconsin. Although I am disappointed that the Badgers scored 24 less this year than last.  What's up with that?!  Michigan State.  Another year of containing D-Rob.  Conditions were nasty, so MSU got back to Pound, Green, Pound and looked great doing so.  Sets up a great game this week with UW.  Ohio State.  The Buckeyes ratcheted up the D some more and made Illinois look silly at times.  Iowa.  That's the offense that was sorely lacking at Penn State.  Then again, maybe it only appears against sub-par defenses?  Penn State.  Solid, if not at all pretty.

The bad... Purdue. But not really.  The Boilers played Penn State tough.  They just get this rap after a loss.  Them's the breaks!  Michigan.  Two-fold.  The vaunted offense again looked below average against MSU's defense.  And those uniforms?  H-I-D-E-O-U-S.  Burn them. Or donate to kids looking to dress as bumble bees for Halloween.  Illinois. Phew, what's that smell?  The Illini offense.  Northwestern.  Great offense.  Zero defense.  Hard to win in this conference without a good D.

The ugly... Indiana. Sorry but wow, are they bad or what?  Penn State's offense.  It is hard to watch. Ohio State's offense.  Not all of it though.  The Bucks can run, especially with Boom back.  But one completion on four attempts?  Holy old school Batman!  The dirty talk regarding MSU - UM.  Especially that from Chris Spielman on the broadcast.  Please.  MSU was penalized as the officials saw fit.  And don't go thinking that M was squeaky clean.  Right before the "punch", Will Gholston's facemask was in hand with his helmet being pushed to the ground.  Kudos to Michigan coaches and players for calling it what it was - physical domination and not dirty play.  Media and fans?  Bag it.  This is football not patty cakes!

Got Gamm? No one bested my 4-1 and that catapults me back to the top overall, in a tie with Phats.

This week...
Illinois at Purdue
Indiana at Iowa
Nebraska at Minnesota
Penn State at Northwestern
Wisconsin at Michigan State (Game of the Week)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Get Gamm - Week Eight

For most, this is just another interesting week of conference play. A couple of good games and some other tune-ups for next week and beyond. For me? This is THE week. Michigan State and Michigan go toe to toe and there is plenty at stake. There is also plenty of talk, though mostly from former players.

Before I get picking though, I have to weigh in on the college football landscape.

Memo to Mizzou - stay where you are. The SEC will eat you alive and use you for the fact that you are about more than just sports (See Vandy). A&M was wisely replaced with TCU and if the Big 12 has its wits, Houston and SMU will follow to make it a happy family of 12 once again. Or, hey, do nothing and stay at ten. Forget BYU or Boise. My goodness can we get some regional reality in these conferences?

Speaking of which... the Big East is desperate. It is said to be courting schools as far south as Orlando and as far west as Boise. Please. May as well change the name to Big Spread All Over. Boise does not belong in the Big East. Nor does Air Force or even eastern based academies like Army and Navy. In fact, I think Army, Navy, Air Force, VMI and The Citadel should create their own militant conference... but that's just me.

Kudos to the Big Ten for staying put. The only logical move is when or if Notre Dame is ever truly fair game. Then you add them and only someone else if they make sense...

Now, onto the week at hand:

Indiana at Wisconsin, Noon EDT (ESPN2)
Yawn. Indiana is on the cusp of's Bottom 10. Wisconsin is coming off of a bye, ready and refreshed. It is Homecoming, which may be the only thing that keeps the crowd engaged. Kevin Wilson will eventually get the Hoosiers competing, but Russell Wilson pads the stats in a warm up for the big game in East Lansing (the last time the Badgers lost in conference was at MSU last year). Wisconsin 45 - IU 10

Purdue at Penn State, Noon EDT (BTN)
Purdue might wind up one of the those teams that somehow manages to make a bowl game this season. The Boilers aren't very good but have a chance in this one because Penn State's offense has been abysmal. I'll venture to guess that the Nittany Lions will be sluggish to start after a hard fought win over Iowa and that this will be a better game than expected. But PSU is flat out better and just keeps finding ways to win. Penn State 23 - Purdue 13.

Michigan at Michigan State, Noon EDT (ESPN) (Game of the Week)
Really? A noon game between two ranked teams? I guess OK and TX did it last week but come on. This is far better than OSU and Illinois. Ok, enough venting. The noon tilt back in 2009 was a memorable one - an OT win for the green and white. If you look at it carefully, Michigan State has had some of the best success in slowing D-Rob over his career. The Spartans bring a great defense if a sluggish offense to the table. Michigan has been far more opportunistic with the turnovers on D and is bending but not breaking. Typically this one goes to the team who rushes for more yards. M has the upper hand on offense, but State on defense and special teams. Spartans break it open late. Michigan State 31 - Michigan 17.

Ohio State at Illinois, 3:30pm EDT (ABC)
Well, we know OSU isn't totally dead yet - at least not if Braxton Miller is healthy. For as awful as he was made to look against MSU, Miller was a stud against Nebraska. Problem is, the Buckeyes fizzled and blew a 21-point lead. Illinois wasn't great last week at Indiana but that was to be expected after three close wins in a row. The Illini are good and should win this game, but I cannot believe that Ohio State will lose a third straight Big Ten game. OSU pulls off a mild upset. Ohio State 23 - Illinois 20

Northwestern at Iowa, 7pm EDT (BTN)
A battle of the bruised and battered. Iowa looked the part of a wrestling school at Penn State last week. Northwestern once again failed to sustain a lead against a good team. The Wildcats have given the Hawkeyes fits of late and the black and gold O took a giant leap back last week. I'm not sure who truly needs this one more, but for some reason I like the 'Cats to pull off the weekend's second road upset. Northwestern 26 - Iowa 24.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Gaining clarity, one game at a time...
We're still very early in conference play, but there seems to be some clear separation between the top, the contenders, the pretenders and the nobodies. The weekend saw some great comebacks - Nebraska and Michigan - the backing up of a bold statement (Penn State) and more clarity on who's who this season.

The best part? It gets even better this coming weekend with a slate of meaningful games on tap.

The good...
Michigan. Nebraska. Penn State. Illinois. Purdue.  Nice wins by all five.  Two solid comebacks. One statement backer. Two more good wins even in games that were near givens.  Nebraska was most impressive to me because the fans had turned on them, OSU was in control and things were spiraling fast.  Patience, a defensive surge and the Martinez-Burkhead combo were the nails in the Buckeye coffin.  Michigan overcame an ugly first half to dominate a NU team that looked inexplicably lost for two quarters.  Penn State had to back up the "Iowa is a wrestling school" call out by a player and did so with a dominating if not awe-inspiring performance.  Illinois and Purdue rolled - and should have.

The bad...
Ohio State and Northwestern.  The Buckeyes finally woke up their dormant offense and looked to be on the road to a romp in Lincoln.  Then Miller got hurt and that was all she wrote.  Bauserman looked - as my 12 year old said - fat, old, slow and with an arm of a middle schooler.  What a shame that the six-time defending champ has fallen so hard so fast.  Northwestern looked the part of contender until halftime.  Then it all unraveled.  The 'cats forgot the great spy defense that kept DRob in check early and let him right back in the Heisman race...

The ugly...
Iowa. Indiana. Minnesota.  The latter are not a shock and require no further comment (or beat down).  But Iowa? Really? That offensive display was, well, offensive.  Highly.  What happened to the offense that worked so well in a comeback win over Pitt?  And people, Pitt bull-whipped a good USF team so we know that was a nice win for Iowa.  There was no fight from the wrestling school that had owned PSU in the 2000s.

No dinna
For the first time this year, I beat all comers by taking the tiebreaker from Phats - who rebounded nicely after a bad week five.
This week...
Indiana at Wisconsin
Purdue at Penn State
Michigan at Michigan State (Game of the Week)
Ohio State at Illinois
Northwestern at Iowa

Friday, October 07, 2011

Get Gamm - Week Six
No sense beating around the bush.  The thermometer may say 80 and sun here in West Michigan, but we're halfway through the college football regular season.  Mayo is picking with me this week.  Can you beat either of us?

Minnesota at Purdue, Noon ET (ESPN)Not the Basement Bowl in total... that would only be if this were Minny and Indy.  Purdue stunk it up big time last week and is going a la Penn State with a two-headed QB system.  Sorry, not a big fan of that.  Minnesota has to be play better than last week, right?  Purdue does too.  The Boilers aren't all together good but are light years ahead of the Gophers.  Purdue 31 - Minnesota 13.

mayo says... In what could be the Bottom Of The B1G Barrel Bowl, this could be an ugly game. And I don’t mean one team taking the other to the woodshed ugly. I mean ‘can anyone score some points’ ugly. Combined scores against these two last weekend: 96-10. In a pick that even Phats will love, Purdue 13 – Minnesota 6.

Illinois at Indiana, 2:30 ET (BTN)
I had to do a triple check on the game time.  This is old school, sorry but your not on TV this week type of timing.  Of course we know EVERY game is on some sort of TV anymore but still, the time seems odd to me.  Illinois escaped last week with a comeback, throw away, comeback win over rival Northwestern.  Boy was that a kick in the nuts... pun intended - well, at least for the 'cats.  This is simple: Illinois is good.  Indiana?  Uh, see Minnesota.  ILL-INI roll.  Illinois 42 - Indiana 10
mayo says... Zook takes his impressive Illini squad next door to Bloomington for what should be a glorified scrimmage, although one player will not be on the field. Why on Earth would you knee a guy in the groin when you know there are cameras on you and there are two refs within 10 feet? Unbelievable. Regardless, Indiana is showing some signs that they could be on the way up, but it’s not going to be a quick fix. Illinois 34 – Indiana 14.

Iowa at Penn State, 3:30 ET (ABC)
If IU v. U of I is old school with its kick time, this is old school based on the style of play.  Iowa has gone to this magical hurry up since the Pitt game and is clicking but both teams get it done with defense first.  This is one of those cross division games that change rooting interests for fans.  And this is a toss up.  Coach Ferentz has had great success against the Nits.  PSU is struggling through two quarterbacks and a paltry kicking game but is at home.  Both teams are quietly sitting on just one loss but have been unimpressive at times.  Heads PSU. Tails Iowa. Flip, roll, bounce... Penn State 16 - Iowa 14.

mayo says... Oh how Penn State needs this win. Iowa can get things going in the conference with a nice win (again) over Paterno and his indecisive QB group. Iowa has had an extra week to prepare for a very mediocre Penn State group. Iowa 27 – Penn State 20.

Michigan at Northwestern, 7pm (BTN)
My Game of the Week.  Two teams with the potential to score in droves and one with a defense that appears improved, but I'm witholding judgment until the Wolverines play stiffer competition.  You know the fans clad in Purple will be hyped for this game and NU often fares well in these night games.  The key is Persa.  If he stays healthy, we've seen what he means.  If the cats can contain Denard and get off to a good start, they will emerge.  Michigan could get caught peeking ahead, but I doubt it.  Michigan 34 - Northwestern 27.

mayo says... Two of the most enjoyable quarterbacks to watch in the sport on the same field. I really like Persa because he has the better arm of the two, but the weapons that Michigan has at WR are the difference. Defenses may end up null and void here, and I don’t buy that Michigan’s defense is quite back yet. But they appear to be the better group in this matchup. Michigan 37 – Northwestern 29.

Ohio State at Nebraska, 8pm ET (ESPN)
Something has got to give in this one. Either the OSU offense will awaken and lay the hammer to what has so far been a vastly overrated defense or said defense will add to the woes of the scarlet and gray.  Those star players that were due back?  Uh, not so much.  You know the Cornhuskers are hungry to put last week behind them.  Nebraska 24 - Ohio State 20.

mayo says... Both of these teams got socked in the mouth last weekend. Ohio State learned that eventually Mark Dantonio was going to beat them with a good, old-fashioned defense and Nebraska was given a rude awakening that they weren’t going to walk through the B1G by Wisconsin. In what should be a spectacular rivalry for decades to come, Nebraska shows up and is able to muster a win over a still incomplete roster out of Columbus. OSU 16 – Nebraska 22.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Week six, already?
Seriously, we're at the kinda, sorta halfway mark of the season already? Where has the time gone?  It hasn't been without some brow raisers and head shakers along the way, last weekend included. 

Dan did a nice report card in a comment to last week's pick 'em blog, so I won't repeat what he did.  Instead, I'll stick with my usually good, bad and ugly analysis.

The good...
Wisconsin. Uh, make that a damn good.  Wow.  So much for not having played anyone.  Color me highly impressed and a trite bit more nervous about the night time show down in EL in a few weeks.  Michigan State.  Best defense I've seen from the Spartans since Perles' late 80s squads wrecked havoc on the league. The offense needs to get scoring, but that is a Legends Division winning D.  Michigan.  Then again, they played a team I'm pretty sure my local high school team would challenge.  Still, 58-0?  Nicely done.  Illinois. Sweet comeback, choke, comeback. But how close was NU to pulling off a mirror of the Music City Miracle at the end?  This close!  Northwestern.  I can't rate them bad or ugly after that one.  It was disappointing but oh what a game changer Mr. Persa is.

The bad...
Penn State.  Really? Trouble scoring on Indiana? Ugly. Pick a QB will ya?  Illinois II. Umm, it is never okay for one dude to knee another dude in the jewels - especially when he isn't looking.  Come on.  That was bad. And classless.  Nebraska.  Black shirt huh?  And let me get this straight, you have an option QB throw on five straight plays?  What?  Indiana.  The Hoosiers were in it until the end, in a game they shouldn't have been.  But dude, get the Hail Mary to the end zone will you?

The ugly...
Minnesota. See above.  No wonder Coach Kill is having health problems.  Purdue.  Off a bye week, the Boilers lay a total egg at home against a rival  At least it didn't come down to a field goal - either way - this time.

Gettin' Gamm...
Nice week for all but our leader.  Phats took some shots and went 3-3.  The rest of us went 6-0, with Mayo clinching the tiebreaker on a closer to the huge margin in the UW - NU game.  Mayo, you know the drill:

Minnesota at Purdue
Illinois at Indiana
Iowa at Penn State
Michigan at Northwestern (Game of the Week)
Ohio State at Nebraska