Monday, November 28, 2011

It's Go Time!
T-minus five days until we all get the rematch we desired after one of the greatest games of the season.  Michigan State versus Wisconsin.  60 more minutes of heart-stopping, hair-pulling, hair-graying football madness.  I say, bring it on.  Everyone out there talks about how the Spartans have to face an angry Wisconsin team again.  I see it as both having a difficult task.  Both teams are hot.  Both teams want this championship - bad.  Both teams have to stare down the barrel at the opponents' strengths.  As an MSU guy, I can't wait.  As a B1G guy, I really can't wait... It's GO time!

The Good...
Michigan State.  The media were convinced that MSU had nothing to play for.  Obviously, they don't take Mark Dantonio for his word or values.  The Spartans won a tough game, on the road to clinch the first ever back to back 10-win seasons in program history.

Michigan.  Good for the Wolverines.  The seniors finally got a monkey off their back in a very exciting game.  It was a lot higher scoring than I expected but that win puts Michigan back on the map.

Wisconsin.  What a way to end the regular season.  A beat-down of Penn State in the decisive game.  Impressive!

Minnesota.  I've dogged the Gophers all season.  They sealed Coach Zook's fate.  Nicely done and notice served for 2012...

Nebraska.  Cornhusker fans are going to wonder where this was against NU and Michigan.  A solid win that means a lot for bowl positioning.

Purdue.  Bowl eligible after a dog fight with rival Indiana.  Purdue probably should have seven or eight wins but this is a god start for next year...

The Bad...
Northwestern.  Not really a bad performance all together and certainly a nice run to end the season.  But they have to go here after a loss...

Ohio State.  See Northwestern.  Impressive performance really and an overthrow away from perhaps another win in the series.  Look out for tOSU next year, especially with Urban at the helm.

Iowa.  An appropriate end to a topsy turvy season.  Iowa looked great and below average all at the same time this year...

Indiana.  Giving the Hoosiers a nod for effort here.  IU is young and will improve, but quick enough to keep Kevin Wilson around?

The Ugly...
Penn State.  Sorry Nits but you flat out sucked at UW.  Turnovers, dropped passes, untimely errors, phantom tackles.  But I do feel for what this team has gone through...

Illinois.  Way to get your coach fired.  From 6-0 to 6-6.  OUCH.  Could be home for the holidays despite being one of the first to clinch a bowl berth.

Bowl Predictions...
We'll know the Rose Bowl slot after Saturday.  I guess I am tipping my hand a bit with my pick, but tune in later this week for the deets anyway.  And Phats, you went 6-0 and get to pick the big game with me...

Rose Bowl - Michigan State
Sugar Bowl - Michigan
Capital One Bowl - Wisconsin
Outback Bowl - Nebraska
Insight Bowl - Penn State
Gator Bowl - Ohio State
Meineke Car Care Bowl - Iowa
TicketCity Bowl - Northwestern
Little Caesars Bowl - Purdue
At Large - Illinois

Friday, November 25, 2011

Season's end...
Well, at least the end of the regular season.  Still plenty of fun to be had on the gridiron.  Sorry for the lateness of the post... had this in draft and well, holiday got in the way!

Iowa at Nebraska, Noon EST (ABC)
Nebraska needs a bounce back and gets one at home.  Iowa isn't what they've been.  Nebraska 27 - Iowa 14.

Phats says ... Nebraska 28 Iowa 24- Tempted to take the Hawkeyes, but Nebraska won't lay an egg two straight weeks especially at home

Michigan State at Northwestern , Noon EST (BTN)
Believe it or not, MSU has plenty to play for.  Northwestern does as well, which will make this an interesting game.  Grab some turkey soup and keep an eye on this one.  Michigan State 31 - Northwestern 24.

Phats says ... Michigan State 35 Northwestern 21- Another solid season for the Spartans, this is a tune up for Indy

Ohio State at Michigan, Noon EST (ABC)
THE game has little luster this year.  The bigger question is, Urban yes or Urban no?  Most are predicting Michigan to walk on OSU and get some revenge for seven straight losses.  I'm thinking not so fast my friends.  At least it won't be as much a blow out as thought.  Michigan 23 - Ohio State 20.

Phats says ... Michigan 38 Ohio State 17- OSU one dimensional, UM defense so much better this year.  

Purdue at Indiana, 3:30 EST (BTN)
Battle for the Old Oaken Bucket won't be a battle for long.  Purdue 38 - Indiana 14.

Phats says ... Purdue 42 Indiana 17- Close thru the first half, and for a change the Boilers light up the third quarter, scoring for the first time since the PSU game.  Bringing the Bucket back where it belongs West Lafayette!!  Boiler Up! 

Illinois at Minnesota, 3:30 EST (BTN)
Boring.  Illinois 34 - Minnesota 20

Phats says ... Minnesota 17 Illinois 14- I really am not sure why I am picking this upset, but Illini have really struggled, Gophers have played so much better and it's at Minnesota. 

Penn State at Wisconsin, 3:30 EST (ESPN)
For weeks, I have been predicting an MSU - PSU title game.  But I think Wisconsin woke up in time last week and has just enough offense to put the Nits to bed and make Delany happy.  UW 24 - PSU 20.

Phats says ... Wisconsin 31 Penn State 17- I think the Badgers are still the best team in the Big Ten, if only special teams and a couple of hail mary's wouldn't have done them in they'd be playing for a chance a National title still.  At least they will set up a solid Big Ten title game with a win here.  

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Halfway There...
We are precisely halfway to knowing the participants in the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game.  Michigan State tore through Indiana like a tornado through a trailer park, while Michigan handed it's rival the Legends crown by systematically dismantling everything that was good with the Nebraska Cornhuskers this year.  That leaves a 3:30 tussle between embattled Penn State and Wisconsin for the other half and a much clearer bowl picture.

The Good...
Michigan State. Have to start with the Spartans who battled slow starts and sluggish performances in recent Senior Day games only to come out and flat out own Indiana in all phases from the opening kick.  Congrats to Legends Division Champs MSU.

Michigan. Wow. It seems like more than ever the Wolverines have answered the lingering question - are they really back.  Yep.  But we'll know for sure after nemesis OSU comes to town...

Iowa.  Nice bounce back win for the Hawkeyes.  Most expected a dud, but Iowa played inspired and is making a push for a good bowl berth yet again.

Penn State.  Impressive.  Love what the offense is doing to shake things up and that D is outstanding.

Northwestern.  Ho hum.  Kinda boring but now bowl eligible and on a roll.  P-Fitz does a lot with a little every year.

Wisconsin.  The Badgers looked ripe for the picking early but persevered through the doldrums to walk away with the win and set up a shot at the title game.

The Bad...
Purdue.  The tough luck Boilers can't string it together this year.  They are still a win away from a bowl berth too... damn that blocked kick at Rice!

Ohio State.  The Buckeyes rose to the occasion at times on Saturday but I expected more after the Purdue loss.  Is there anything in the tank for Michigan?

Minnesota.  The Gophers are still way too up and down, but do have a glimmer of hope down the road.  IF Coach Kill can stay healthy.

The Ugly...
Indiana.  Atrocious.  Awful.  Ugh!

Nebraska.  What the? So much for playing for the BCS.  THAT was AWFUL.

Illinois.  All I can say is what the?  Seriously.  6-0 to 6-5 that fast?  Sorry, but that goes on the coach.  Any hot names out there for the Illinois job? 

Bowl Predictions...
No sense belaboring the divisions anymore since only two teams remain in the fight.  So, here are my picks for the bowls heading into our last week of the season.

Rose Bowl - Michigan State
BCS At Large - Michigan
Capital One - Wisconsin
Outback - Penn State
Insight - Nebraska
Gator - Iowa
Meineke Car Care - Ohio State
TicketCity - Northwestern
Little Caesars - Purdue
At Large - Illinois

Get Gamm...
If only Phats hadn't gone homer, he would be a perfect 6-0!  I retake the top spot overall but due to being closer on the tiebreaker, Phats get a week win and picks along with me.  Games start Friday Phats so get 'em to me ASAP.  Happy Thanksgiving!

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

Friday, November 18, 2011

Nitty Gritty
We're down to it.  Go time.  The nitty gritty.  Three teams control their destinies, a few more are hoping for some miracles.  The ESPN B1G bloggers break it all down quite well for us today.

Minnesota at Northwestern, Noon EST (BTN)
Don't just assume that the Gophers are playing out the string.  Minnesota is trying to build a foundation for a rebound in 2012 and this would be a good way to get there.  Meanwhile, Northwestern is seeking a sixth win and this week is easier than the finale (MSU).  This will be a high-scoring, entertaining affair, but in the end, the Wildcats have more to play for and get the W.  NU 34 - Minnesota 27.

Mayo says ... Minnesota is starting to figure out how to play some tough football and Northwestern is showing what it could have been all season. I really do like the fight that I’m seeing in both clubs, but right now Northwestern has shown me more and will pull out a nice win for Fitz. Minnesota 22 – Northwestern 31

Indiana at Michigan State, Noon EST (BTN)I'm bummed that my bad back has me missing Senior Day in EL.  This class has left a remarkable set of memories for fans, students and alumni alike and has set a stage of high expectations that I truly love and appreciate.  Indiana is building for the future but doesn't have the firepower or the defense to get in the way of a 14th straight home win for Sparty.  Michigan State rolls with two 100-yard plus rushers.  Michigan State 41 - Indiana 14.

Mayo says ... In the Spartans protected rivalry for the Brass Spittoon. Although Indiana has played much better lately, this Spartan defense is one of the best and most physical in the land. Defense wins this one big. Indiana 12 – Michigan State 31

Nebraska at Michigan, Noon EST (ESPN) - Game of the Week
Talk about a toss up.  Both teams sport spectacular running games and weak passing attacks.  Either defense can step up on any given Saturday.  That may leave it to special teams.  I think Nebraska has the definite upper hand in this area.  But, the Wolverines have a new found advantage at home since the suites keep the noise inside.  I like an OT thriller with Michigan sealing the deal for rival MSU.  Michigan 38 - Nebraska 37 in 3 OTs.

Mayo says ... A lot of writers in Detroit are saying these two teams are very similar. In some ways I see the point, but Michigan’s offense just seems to have peaked and although this team is much improved, the likes of Nebraska have not been seen this season. Although I’m sure the Michigan D will have a pretty decent second half, Nebraska’s Rex Burkhead is a menacing runner who I envision running wild enough in the first half to get a decent lead that will hold throughout the game. Nebraska 27 – Michigan 24.

Iowa at Purdue, Noon EST (BTN)
This one is very interesting.  Iowa is reeling after the smackdown at home last weekend.  Purdue is sky high after an improbable OT win over Ohio State.  Iowa has the six requisite wins, Purdue is one shy.  Iowa is playing for positioning and Purdue always has the Bucket game next week to get to six.  I think Iowa will be motivated to silence some of the demons and get a nice road win.  Sorry Phats, I'm not going with you this time!  Iowa 27 - Purdue 23

Mayo says ... Both teams need to win this one, Iowa has shown some flashes, and Purdue has as well. This game will show what Purdue has left after taking down Ohio State last weekend. Iowa is a head scratcher this year, dominating some opponents and then losing to Minnesota. I’m gonna go all Phats this week and predict a Boiler win. Iowa 23 – Purdue 29.

Wisconsin at Illinois, Noon EST (ESPN2)
Hmmmm, another very intriguing game.  Illinois has gone from 6-0 to Fire Zook in a heartbeat.  Wisconsin is rolling again and has an eye on a rematch in Indy.  The once touted Illini D is looking very soft right now while Wilson and Ball and Toon are white hot.  Wisconsin rolls to set up a win and in game with Penn State.  Wisconsin 33 - Illinois 13.

Mayo says ... I don’t remember a better hand-picked successor ever coming along than Bret Bielema. Usually those don’t work out very good, but he has put together one of the most solid programs to follow a legend that I have ever seen. Illinois has been slipping since starting 6-0 and that slope just turned into the edge of an abyss at this point. Queue up ‘On Wisconsin’ several times today and see if Montee Ball can break some more rushing records. Wisconsin 51 – Illinois 24.

Penn State at Ohio State, Noon EST (ABC)
Call this one the Shame Bowl. Had OSU simply made it's PAT last week, this would be even bigger in the Leaders race.  Still, OSU can make a dent in the title chase.  Penn State needs to win and see UW upset to clinch Indy.  But how focused is the team?  Maybe it will do them good to leave State College.  OSU is motivated to play and takes advantage of a shaky Penn State offense.  Ohio State 20 - Penn State 14.

Mayo says ... A spectacular matchup most years, this one is tainted with scandal on both sides of the field. Ohio State couldn’t wait to start the season this year to get the bad taste of the previous 9 months out, and now Penn State finally gets to get out of Happy Valley and all the media attention that has fallen on them. In what could be the only matchup between Luke Fickell and Tom Bradley, I’m going with Ohio State in a nail-biter. Penn State 13 – Ohio State 17.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Crunch Time
A little late this week.  On the rack with a bulging disc in L5-S1 territory.  Not fun!  But I figured in between pain killers I should check in seeing how it is definitely crunch time in the Big Ten.  Some key losses - and victories - last Saturday helped clear up the title race picture... well, kinda sorta.  And it put to rest the 24/7 PSU coverage that was all consuming. 

Speaking of which, great scene at Beaver Stadium with the teams coming together at midfield.  Keeps it all in perspective.  Also the game reminds us, these players are collateral damage.  So any talk about canceling the season, as ludicrous and down right stupid as it sounded, can go away too...

The Good...
Michigan State.  What an impressive answer to last season's debacle in Iowa City.  Cousins atoned for his shocking failure in 2010 and MSU solidified its position as Legends leader. 
Michigan.  Okay, I'm buying more and more into that D.  Vastly improved over a season ago.  And the run game was sound.  The coaching staff finally figured out they need the right QB to truly become a two-dimensional team and stopped trying to throw so much. 
Nebraska.  No one talked much about the task the Cornhuskers faced last week as the first Penn State opponent post program apocalypse!  NU fared very well and stayed right in the race, while also making the Leaders Division race a little more fuzzy. 
Northwestern.  Nice win to keep up the momentum.  But beating Rice won't get you much more than that from this blogger!
Purdue.  Nicely done.  When another devastating defeat seemed imminent, a big right paw bats away the oft taken for granted PAT to send the game to OT where the Boilers once again shocked the Buckeyes and threw a monkey wrench into the race!
Wisconsin.  Left for dead after two straight losses, the Badgers control their destiny and sent a message in the romp over rival Minnesota: despite the losses, Wilson and Ball never slowed down and can hardly be contained...

The Bad...
Iowa. Despite some head scratching losses, the Hawkeyes controlled their own destiny.  Note the past tense.  Iowa was bullied and smacked around in a defeat that nearly resembled the beat down Iowa put on MSU a season ago.
Penn State.  Hat's off for the effort of the players, fans, etc.  But the lack of offense bit the Nittany Lions once again and may well keep them from Indy.
Ohio State. Squarely in the race, OSU inexplicably sleep walked through the first 59 minutes, scored and then had the simplest of plays blown up, leading to a loss and all but NO chance at a division title.
Minnesota.  The Gophers are improving and will be dangerous next year.  The fake field goal was sweet.  But that was about the only bright spot.

The Ugly...
Iowa fans. Booing injured players?  Nice show of sportsmanship there.  Way to send a message to young kids at the game and watching on TV.  Flopping in the 4th quarter of a close game?  Maybe.  But in the 3rd quarter of a blowout?  Please.
Illinois.  That offense - or lack thereof - is quite possibly the nail in the Ron Zook career coffin.

Division Races and Bowl Projections
The races took some funky turns last week, notably in the Leaders Division.  With two weeks to play, here are my thoughts on how things will shake out...

Leaders Division:
Penn State and Wisconsin are in the driver's seat.  They go head to head in the last week in what should be a defacto title game.  Both have tough roadies this weekend, but we should get a doozy in the final week of regular season play.

I put Wisconsin at 80% likely to represent in Indy; Penn State at 20%.  OSU and Purdue need way too much help and are playing for bowl position not the division title.

Legends Division:
Michigan State is the only team that controls it's own destiny.  Nebraska and Michigan play an elimination game this week.  Iowa needs a lot of help.

I put Michigan State at 80% likely to make it to Indy; Nebraska at 19% and Michigan at 1%.  Michigan needs to win against NU and OSU and see MSU lose twice more.  Nebraska just needs to win out and get one MSU loss.  Iowa has really no shot.

Bowl Projections:
Looks like we will have a whopping ten teams eligible this year.  Shows the depth of the conference if not a clear hierarchy.

Big Ten Title Game: Wisconsin over Michigan State
Rose Bowl: Wisconsin
BCS Bowl: Nebraska
Capital One Bowl: Michigan State
Outback Bowl: Michigan
Insight Bowl: Ohio State
Gator Bowl: Penn State
Meineke Car Care Bowl: Iowa
Ticket City Bowl: Northwestern
Little Caesars Bowl: Purdue
At Large: Illinois

Get Gamm
We all went 4-2 with Mayo closest on the tiebreaker...

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

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Toughest Sports Week Ever
I'm like everyone else this week... shocked, disgusted, horrified, disappointed, dismayed, sick to my stomach over what is going down in State College.  I've read and watched and listened to about every piece of news on this tragically historic "event" all week.  And the more I read, the worse it gets.

Lost in all of the angst and anger, chaos and disappointment and pointed commentary towards Paterno, McQueary, Curley, Spanier, et al is who we really need to be infuriated with - Jerry Sandusky.  I've watched this become a JoePa thing.  It isn't.  It shouldn't be.  This is a Sandusky thing first and foremost.  And what about the victims?  What must all of this do to them?  The focus on Paterno has turned this into a circus and taken the light off the fact that the accused is walking free right now, while the victims are running the gamut of emotions.  It leaves me incredulous.  Speechless really...

Rick Reilly of ESPN has one of the better stories right now.  And with that, I'll leave it to the thousands who are already covering this event.  My parting wish, a country resets its focus on what is right and wrong, how we were founded and on prayer and faith to put us on a path to healing.  To paraphrase Matt Millen, what kind of people are we that we can't stop these sorts of things from happening...

Get Gamm
It doesn't feel right to pick games.  But at the same time, the show must go on.  I feel for the PSU players, caught up as collateral damage.  How will they respond?  I can't even imagine...

Rice at Northwestern, Noon EST (BTN) - Yawn. This is why I hate going out of conference in the middle of the season.  Rice beat Purdue but hasn't done much else.  NU is riding high but has some work left and this really becomes a must-win when it comes to a bowl berth.  The Wildcats sleep early but awake late and get to .500.  Northwestern 31 - Rice 14.

Ohio State at Purdue, Noon EST (BTN) - Hmmm, Purdue looked good for a while before absolutely taking it on the chin at Michigan and then Wisconsin.  The Boilers need two more wins to go bowling.  Ohio State had the predictable hangover against IU last week.  OSU is getting better by the week and is still very much in the title chase.  Most think this will be close.  Sorry Dan and Phats, I don't agree.  Ohio State 41 - Purdue 17

Michigan State at Iowa, Noon EST (ESPN2) - I was on record last week with my UM - Iowa pick that these noon games in the central time zone are no friend to the eastern time zone schools.  That said, Michigan State can't - and won't care - when this game is being played.  The green and white have not won in Iowa City since 1989 and were slobberknockered there last year.  These teams control their own destiny.  I like a classic battle a la 2008 and 2009 but a victory 22 years in the waiting for MSU.  Michigan State 24 - Iowa 21.

Nebraska at Penn State, Noon EST (ESPN) - How on earth do I pick this one?  Nebraska is in a must win situation.  Penn State is in a no win situation.  The Huskers can't afford another loss.  The Nits want to win and get out of dodge.  Trips to C-bus and Mad-town look easy compared to what faces Penn State this week.  Will the players have focus, energy, will to win, etc?  Many of them say so because they've been doubted and knocked down a peg all season long.  This will be an uncomfortable game for both teams.  Penn State might need it more just to try and start a healing process.  But as much as I was sure that would happen before, I am not so sure anymore.  Nebraska 20 - Penn State 9.

Wisconsin at Minnesota, 3:30 EST (BTN) - The Badgers got back to UW football last week in a pasting of Purdue.  Minnesota is looking better each week as Gray gets fully established.  We saw what happened with the battle for Floyd... but this won't go that way.  UW is oodles better than Iowa.  Wisconsin rolls.  UW 45 - Minnesota 20.

Michigan at Illinois, 3:30 EST (ABC) - This one is all about bowl positioning.  Illinois has fallen on hard times.  Michigan suffered a tough loss at the hands of Iowa last week and is in danger of totally falling out of the Big Ten race.  These teams played an epic in Ann Arbor last year.  Don't expect quite the fireworks, but do expect Illinois to come off a bye week ready to right the ship.  Michigan falls out of the Legends race... Illinois 27 - Michigan 24.

Once again, thoughts and prayers with the victims of this outrageous act by Jerry Sandusky...

Monday, November 07, 2011

Game On!
Is anyone else as excited as I am that we have 12 teams and two divisions in the B1G?  We have seven of 12 teams in contention for the Big Ten title game.  No way that happens in the old world. While the parity that seems to exist means no national title contender, the race for Indy and the Roses alone is great theater.

And while the debate rages on over whether 'Bama and LSU was the greatest game of this century and should meet again in New Orleans this coming January, let's remember that the Big Ten has produced two or three of the very best games this season and has more depth than the SEC.

Speaking of "the big game" - as a college football fan, I thought it was great.  It was edge of your seat, cringe before the big hits, as hyped and advertised exciting.  I personally don't mind if the teams meet again, but do think that opens up way too many what if scenarios.  Plus, sequels are rarely ever as good as the first release.

Back to the Big Ten, in a weekend short on great match-ups, we had several thrilling games.  Indiana and Minnesota gave it their all, Northwestern stung Nebraska, and Iowa held off a late charge.  The better news? We have three more weeks of this remaining.  Game on!

The good...
Iowa. A week after the biggest head scratcher since, well, Iowa State, the Hawkeyes got a huge win against Michigan and find themselves in control - yes, that's right - in control of their Legends destiny.  Minnesota and Indiana.  Both were big time double digit dogs and scared the pants off of their home team opponents.  Moral victories for both.  Northwestern.  Wow.  The Wildcats made moving the ball on the black shirts look a lot easier than MSU did a week prior.  Hangover for the 'huskers?  Apparently.  Wisconsin. Back in style.  In a BIG way.

The bad...
Michigan State and Ohio State.  Proof positive that you can't take anyone for granted, ever.  While the home field edge in this league is crazy big, you can't sleep on teams that have nothing to lose.  Michigan.  Way too many dropped passes and mistakes to win on the road. The Wolverines need a lot of help now to win the division.

The ugly...
Someone has to be here.  Purdue.  A few weeks ago, people were high on a defense that was making noise.  Uh, maybe it was the lackluster offenses that D was facing.  Nebraska.  It was a close game, but to lose at home a week after gaining firm control of the Legends race?  U-G-L-Y you ain't got no alibi... Speaking of which, I am not sure I've ever read something so haneous and disgusting and troubling as the accounts and allegations against former PSU staffer Jerry Sandusky.  Could this be the most unfortunate way to end what should otherwise be a most celebrated coaching era in college football?

The race...
Ohhh things got interesting with that Northwestern upset in Lincoln.  Four teams are in play in the Legends Division, two control their own destiny, including an Iowa team left for dead after the disaster in Minny.  The Leaders Division race stayed the same but gets very interesting the last three weeks as well.  No sense in me setting the table for who's who and what's what, since ESPN did a great job, but I will offer my views on what I think will play out, followed by my bowl projections.

Legends Division:
Already noted that MSU and Iowa control their destiny.  But how about this for one possible, crazy, wild scenario?

Iowa beats Michigan State. Michigan beats Nebraska. Nebraska beats Iowa. The four win the rest of their games not including these head to heads.  Who goes? Michigan State in a tiebreaker with Michigan.  And this is just one of many scenarios.  Hang on tight!

Michigan State. Chances of winning the division? 60%
Iowa. Chances of winning the division? 20%
Nebraska. Chances of winning the division? 10%
Michigan. Chances of winning the division? 10%

Leaders Division:
Penn State is obviously in control here but the road games scare me a lot.  I think the week off helps with Nebraska coming in, but the Nebraska must win factor swings this game a bit too.  The scenarios aren't quite as crazy here, but with PSU playing OSU and UW to close the season, it gets interesting in a hurry.

Penn State. Chances of winning the division? 60%
Ohio State. Chances of winning the division? 25%
Wisconsin. Chances of winning the division? 15%

Weekly Bowl Projections...I'm sticking with Michigan State over Penn State for the Big Ten Championship and MSU in the Rose Bowl.  The rest could get very interesting with bowls having tough choices to make.

Rose Bowl - Michigan State @ 11-2
At Large BCS - Wisconsin (Badgers win out to claim this spot) @ 10-2
Capital One Bowl - Penn State @ 10-3
Outback Bowl - Nebraska @ 9-3
Gator Bowl - Michigan @ 9-3
Insight Bowl - Ohio State @ 8-4
Meineke Car Care Bowl - Iowa @ 7-5
Ticket City Bowl - Illinois @ 7-5
Little Caesars Bowl - Northwestern @ 6-6

Get Gamm...
Only Dan was able to keep up with me this week, also going 4-1.  But I edged him on the tiebreaker so I pick solo again.

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

Friday, November 04, 2011

Calm before the storm
Two teams have the week off to prepare for the stretch run - Penn State and Illinois - so the schedule isn't as good as it will be.  Nonetheless, every game matters in this new Big Ten world, and I have to say, it makes for more exciting times.  For kicks, we'll also pick the latest "Game of the Century" pitting LSU versus Alabama.  Since most have their picks in, it won't be our Game of the Week, although it should be...

Minnesota at Michigan State, Noon EDT (BTN)
The Spartans have likened this one, and all four remaining regular season games, to the playoffs.  The Gophers are riding into East Lansing on a bronze pig named Floyd.  MSU is getting healthier of late, Minnesota more banged up.  Michigan State laid an offensive, offensive egg in Lincoln.  Minnesota shocked its rival at home.  The Golden Gophers bring another multi-talented QB into the fold in Gray and have some confidence.  But I expect to see a steady diet of Pound, Green, Pound mixed in with some new wrinkles in the passing game and a positive Spartans response to the loss at Nebraska.  Michigan State 38 - Minnesota 10.

Indiana at Ohio State, Noon EDT (BTN)
If ever there was a time for the Hoosiers not to play OSU, this is it.  IU is playing a true freshman QB.  The top two receivers are done for the year.  The defense can't stop a thing.  Ohio State has new Leaders life after the stirring win over Wisconsin.  While a bit of a hangover is to be expected, especially considering the opponent, and injuries are mounting for key Buckeyes, the scarlet and gray are making strides and want to have a say in the Big Ten race.  It might be tighter than it should be for a quarter or so, but Braxton and the Bucks roll the hapless Hoosiers.  Ohio State 42 - Indiana 3.

Michigan at Iowa, Noon EDT (ESPN) - GAME OF THE WEEK
I'm not speaking from true player or coach experience here, but these 11am central kicks for teams that reside in the eastern time zone, well, suck.  You're on the road to begin with, playing when you should be watching Game Day or eating breakfast and too boot, Michigan is doing so against a very agitated and angry Iowa team.  It doesn't make for the best situation for the Wolverines.  A few things are on the line here.  Iowa needs a win to stay in the race.  So does Michigan.  Iowa needs to get the bad taste of last week out of its mouth.  Michigan wants to continue to silence the critics who predicted a typical M collapse after another loss to Michigan State.  I am truly on the fence with this one.  Michigan pounded Purdue on the ground last week and I think the Boilers have a better D than Iowa.  Iowa is hungry and often bounces back well (see MSU last year).  Plus, the road teams have been indefensibly poor this season (MSU, Wisconsin, Illinois). For some reason, I see Iowa pulling this one out in OT.  Iowa 41 - Michigan 35

Northwestern at Nebraska, 3:30 EDT (BTN)
I have to say, I'm pretty disappointed in the Northwestern season to date.  Three wins, all over teams with putrid records and not enough oompf to beat any of the big boys.  Nebraska meanwhile, has been rock solid.  The only hiccup was the loss at Wisconsin and that one was turned on three turnovers in a short period of time.  The defense has gotten better, the offense is tough to defend and the Cornhuskers are hungry.  Thing is, the schedule is back loaded and gets tough quick. This is a potentially tricky game too just because Northwestern has nothing to lose and Nebraska has so much to play for.  Still, Lincoln is an intimidating place to play and the Wildcats don't have the D to slow the Big Red down.  Nebraska 45 - Northwestern 24.

Purdue at Wisconsin, 3:30 EDT (ABC)
I would not want to be Purdue this weekend.  Wisconsin is two huge mistakes in the secondary from being potentially unblemished and in the national title hunt.  Purdue got bull whipped by Michigan last weekend and took a step back after a few nice moves forward.  The home cooking at Camp Randall is just what the doctor ordered for the Badgers.  UW needs to win out and hope for some help to get to Indy but you can bet has its sights set on just that.  Two straight losses didn't make Russell Wilson any worse, even if the Heisman talk has quieted.  UW runs wild.  Wisconsin 49 - Purdue 17

LSU at Alabama, 8pm EDT (CBS)
I love ESPN and their coverage of college football, but I'm sorry, the CBS college football jingle is the best in the business. I also love the announcing crew of Lundquist and Danielson.  No excuses for going to bed on this game as we gain an hour with the fall back to standard time at 2am Sunday.  Big games are often over-hyped and under perform, but I don't see that here.  These teams are so evenly matched that it comes down to a few things.  Special teams.  Big advantage to LSU here.   Home field.  Obvious advantage to Saban's boys.  It will be a lot like the No. 1 OSU vs. No. 2 UM game a few years back but with less points scored.  I like the Mad Hatters' (or Lesticles if you prefer) swashbuckling style.  But having seen first hand the NFL caliber team that Alabama fields, and knowing Nick Saban is the best in the business, I'm going with Bama.
Tide 17 - Tigers 14