This weekend brings us another fantastic lineup of Big Ten football. Things kick off Saturday morning with Northwestern at Penn State and end in primetime with Nebraska at Ohio State. Saturday afternoon presents a very intriguing matchup between Purdue and Michigan in West Lafayette. MSU travels to Indiana, who has been playing better ball this season, and both Illinois and Wisconsin try to get back on track in Madison. Iowa and Minnesota have the week off to think about last week’s rivalry game; and for Minnesota, especially, they have time to regain the focus they had during the opening month.
Game of the Week:
Nebraska at Ohio State is one of five games between ranked teams this Saturday. It is a great opportunity for Nebraska to take a big jump early in the divisional race, if they can knock off the Buckeyes; MSU has already lost to OSU and Michigan has yet to face them. Both Taylor Martinez and Braxton Miller have made early cases for league MVP and, with plenty of season left, both could create some Heisman buzz, provided they register the win tomorrow night.
[More Big Ten Action: B1G Performance Grades, Week 5]
As a Big Ten fanatic, I genuinely love all these matchups. However, if there is one game that a casual fan can skip this Saturday, Illinois is a safe bet. They have struggled against talented teams this year and on the road they were hammered by Arizona State. Wisconsin should be good and steamed about last week’s let up against Nebraska and will use their energy to run away with this one early.
The Upseter: Both Indiana teams. First for Purdue, they are taking on a Michigan team in a bit of a funk right now. Nationally this would appear as an upset, even though the Boilermakers have a better record and are playing at home. For the Hoosiers, they get a MSU team with a number of offensive issues. IU’s weak side of the ball is defense. If IU can get the scoreboard moving, they might stun the Spartans.
The Upsetee: Northwestern is undefeated and ranked, but they are on the road against Penn State, the hottest team in the league right now. The Nittany Lions have won three straight games in impressive fashion. Beaver Stadium is never an easy place to play and this will be NU’s first road game in a month.
Michael Mauti has been a man possessed, at linebacker for the Nittany Lions. For PSU to bottle up Northwestern’s electric offense, especially with do-it-all QB Kain Colter, someone will have to put in a good game. Mauti has been putting in an MVP effort all season long and I expect no changes against the ‘Cats.
After seeing two games that I updated go south on me last week, perhaps I should stand pat with all my picks…although that does defeat the purpose of Waffling.
Preseason: Illinois 10 Wisconsin 38
Woah, I love that score. I am keeping the four touchdown margin, out of the lack of respect for what Illinois has done thus far.
Preseason: Indiana 17 Michigan State 35
I don’t know what to do with this one. IU seems capable of scoring more than 17 points and MSU does not seem like they could could reach 35. For some strange reason, I still like how this score looks, so after seeing my August picks do a lot better than my updates a week ago, I will hold off on changing this one.
Preseason: Michigan 30 Purdue 16
Hmm, do I adjust this pick based on performance through four games, or roster talent, or preception of that talent? If I change it to reflect performance, Purdue would win. If I base the pick on the actual talent, Michigan should win by more than 14 points. If I base it on how people precieve that talent, well then Michigan will be in a hole since pundits have fled like rats on a sinking ship away from Denard Robinson, and thus the Wolverine team.
My stomach tells me Michigan just isn’t that good right now, and that Purdue is clicking. My brain is telling me that Purdue is unproven and shaky at times in big games. The strange thing about this is my brain is talking nonsense. Against their one common opponent this season, the Boilermakers played much better than Michigan. UM has had issues multiple times so far this season, while Purdue has looked good (other than last week’s second half). I think my brain isn’t working, since it can’t imagine Michigan going from top ten to under .500 in just five games.
I am taking a deep, deep breath and pulling the string on the upset.
Update: Purdue, 24-21
Whew, that feels really good. I feel like I was in Vegas with a sixteen and the dealer showing a 10. It doesn’t make sense to hit, but it is the right play. I may get that pick dead wrong, but based on how the two teams have fared so far, it was the right play. It feels a million times better than picking Michigan for the sake of it being Michigan.
Preseason: Nebraska 14 Ohio State 21
Oh man that acid build-up in my stomach is back. By picking OSU, you are throwing out the first few weeks of the season when the Buckeyes had the 12th ranked defense in the league. By picking OSU, you are assuming Braxton Miller will shred yet another defense (this time a top 40 defense, almost as good as OSU’s). On the other hand, picking Nebraska means to overlook the struggles against Wisconsin at home and the rough outing NU had in their one road trip so far (UCLA).
My head tells me the Huskers have a more relaiable offense, since they have more playmakers, while my gut is saying the Huskers can pull off the upset. Yet, for some reason, I am tuning both out because I have seen my share of talented Big Ten teams go to the Shoe and come back empty handed. I have seen more OSU lucky/crazy/stupid outcomes that the Buckeyes won in my lifetime than any son of the midwest should have to endure. All I am doing for this is compensating for the defenses not looking as strong as I thought they would.
Update: OSU, 28-21
Preseason: Northwestern 17 Penn State 24
I had NU starting 5-0 and moving into the Top 25. I had Penn State at 4-1 (they are a few plays away from that mark, if not 5-0). I seemed to know these two teams, even in August. I can’t believe I am going to stick with it, since every fiber of my body wants to believe in the Northwestern start, but Beaver Stadium is a whole different animal. Penn State has been so hot the last three weeks that I am going to step away from this one and let it ride.
Nebraska is a bridge between the Big 12 and the Big Ten, but this connection is much deeper than just changing leagues. Coach Pelini’s life in football has provided an insane number of crossovers:
Bo Pelini went to the same high school as Bob Stoops, who played at Iowa and now coaches Oklahoma. After high school, Pelini went to Ohio State and was coached by John Cooper, who played at Iowa State. Pelini started his coaching career at Iowa for the legendary Hayden Fry, who played and got his coaching start at Baylor. He has also coached for Stoops and Les Miles (a Michigan alum). His first two NFL stops were San Francisco for George Seifert (assistant at Iowa) and New England for Pete Carroll, who in 1978 was on the staff at Iowa State and in 1979 was at Ohio State.
It has been said that tomorrow’s game in Columbus is a homecoming for Pelini, but he has ties to every school in the league from his playing days, and even deeper ties to several from coaching.
More Big Ten Action >> B1G Power Rankings, Week 5