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Big Ten Week 4 Preview, Predictions and Random Musings


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Notre Dame Fighting Irish running back Cierre Wood (20) leaps over Michigan Wolverines safety Marvin Robinson (3) in the second quarter at Michigan Stadium. (Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE)

Well, it is Friday, so we all know what that means.  In the final weekend of non-conference play, there are only ten B1G teams in action with Indiana and Purdue getting this Saturday off.  This is the last chance for some teams to gain momentum, such as Penn State trying to even their record after starting 0-2.  Minnesota will try to improve to 4-0, but the Gophers face their toughest test yet with their first AQ (automatic qualifier )league opponent.  Wisconsin and Iowa may both be 2-1, but they haven’t played their best football yet, so this weekend is a chance to gain some swagger for both. The Badgers will be breaking in redshirt freshman Joel Stave, who replaced transfer Danny O’Brien in the second half of last week’s win against Utah State.  Lastly, I’m told there is a game in South Bend.

Game of the Week

Notre Dame is 2-0 against the Big Ten this year and are currently ranked the No. 11 team nation; the upset over Michigan State had a big factor in the Irish’s surge up the rankings.  Michigan, who face planted in week one against Alabama, has not lost since and thanks to an impressive showing last week, the Wolverines have climbed back to No. 18.  This is always a fun rivalry game and with both programs seemingly back, or at least very close to being the national powers we are used to, this game should be very entertaining.  Best case would be a repeat of the insane game from last season.

[Related: Michigan students take over Notre Dame Stadium]

I am also really excited for Minnesota-Syracuse and Illinois-Louisiana Tech.  Tech can score in a hurry and Illinois prides themselves on defense (more about this game in a sec).  Minnesota, meanwhile, has a great opportunity to make a statement about the state of the rebuild under Jerry Kill.

If you haven’t caught LA Tech’s new music video, it is a must watch for everyone. Warning though, it will make you laugh.

Snoozer

Indiana and Purdue may be off, but a couple of teams might as well have a bye week.  Michigan State hosts an awful Eastern Michigan team while Northwestern and Nebraska step out of the FBS all together, facing South Dakota and Idaho State, respectively.

Upset Watch

The Upseter: Michigan has the talent to knock off Notre Dame, but based on ranking (11th to 18th) and the game being in South Bend, Michigan comes in as an underdog.  I’ve been dead wrong about Notre Dame thus far as they have exceeded my expectations against Purdue and Michigan State, but Michigan has had some success in this series lately and should be hungry to make up for the last time they were on a national stage this season.  I think the Wolverines get the upset.

The Upsetee: The way Wisconsin has been playing and the fact UTEP hung with Oklahoma for a while, who knows.  Temple also has a decent chance to upset Penn State, as does Syracuse to spoil the hot Gopher start, but the obvious answer is Louisiana Tech.  I picked the Bulldogs in the offseason and still like this upset pick.  Tech averages 56 points per game (3rd in the nation) and has the 9th best rushing attack in the land.  Sonny Dykes is heck of a coach and I’m sure he’ll have his kids ready for this one.  I know the Bulldog defense is still a work in progress, but if they can score, they can make it a track meet and then…well…who knows?  The winner might be whoever has the ball last.

MVP Prediction

After having a monster day last week, I look at the Big Ten’s best wideout in Allen Robinson to spread the Temple defense and come up with another solid day as he catches 10 to 15 balls for at least a “buck fifteen,” which means he will have at least half of McGoin’s completions and half his yards.  He will also have at least two touchdowns.

Weekly Waffling

Time to look back at my preseason picks and either keep, or update, them now that I’ve seen all the teams in action.

Preseason: Illinois 21 Louisiana Tech 24

Illinois’ defense is pretty good, although they did give up a ton of points and yards to Arizona State.  LaTech’s defense has struggled in their 2-0 start.  I’m tempted to boost both team’s totals a little, but my gut says to leave it and the completely unscientific gut feeling has served me well this season.

Preseason: Iowa 42 Central Michigan 13

Central gives up 34 points per game (99th) and Iowa only averages 17 a game, so that 42 appears to need some touching up.  Meanwhile, CMU can’t really score and Iowa’s defense has been stout in the early going.  So why stick with 42, I predict Iowa’s defense scoring at least once and creating some short fields, so I’ll hold despite it sounding and looking really high.  Stupid gut.

Preseason: Michigan 24 Notre Dame 17

The Wolverines average 36 pints per game and the Irish give up only 10 per game, so 24 sounds pretty good.  The issue is what will the Irish do when they have the ball.  UM has giving up an average of 26.3 points per game and ND has been scoring 30 per contest.  It comes down to the cliche of “somethings gotta give.”  In order for Michigan to pull the upset, that something will have to be Everett Golson struggling and the Irish being held to a lower than expected score.  I feel like I’m going to get burned on this pick, but I see the Irish more likely struggling to score than Notre Dame’s defense giving up 30 or more points.  I am fully prepared for this pick to blow up in my face.

Preseason: Michigan State 31 Eastern Michigan 10

Back in August I was under two impressions.  The first was that EMU would build upon their 6-6 finish and be a decent squad.  The other was that MSU would not care about this one and look past the Eagles since they would be coming off a big rivalry win.  Well neither of those have panned out.  MSU should be good and steamed about last week and EMU looks like they are headed to an 0-12 year.

Update, Michigan State: 45-3

Preseason: Minnesota 21 Syracuse 28

Oooh, I love this pick.  I had Minnesota starting 3-0 thanks to the soft schedule and talent they have.  They needed three OTs to get past a UNLV team that stinks and they slipped past a decent, but by no means sexy, WMU team. The Gophers leading player and QB, MarQueis Gray, are now banged up.

The Orange, on the other hand, lost a heartbreaker to a good Northwestern team, stuck with USC pretty well and while that Stony Brook game was closer than it should have been, Syracuse was probably still hung over wondering what could have been against the Men of Troy.  The Gophers defense gave up a bit to WMU’s Alex Carder, and Orange QB Ryan Nassib is much better, so predict Syracuse to win this game thanks to a solid day passing the pigskin.

Preseason: Nebraska 49 Idaho State 6

I had two 50 yard field goals for the Bengals?  Nice!  I also jokingly called their kicker Bobby Bobbison. In reality, his name is Brendon Garcia.  His long this year is 46 yards and his career long is 50, so it’s do-able.  I can’t believe I’m going to cite this, but the information used in this piece came from isubengals.com.  Now that is digging for some stats my friends.

Preseason: Northwestern 42 South Dakota 21

You know what, Northwestern’s defense is much improved this year.  I’m going to reward them for their work and fix this pick.  That sounded a lot more condescending than I meant it to be.

Update, Northwestern: 42-10

Preseason: Ohio State 42 UAB 10

The Blazers were 108th in scoring and 110th in scoring defense a year ago and started 2012 where they left off with a 110/123 split.  If only they looked as good on the field as their logo does off it.

Preseason: Penn State 21 Temple 10

The Owls lost at home to Maryland.  That’s all I need to know to brand them as losers.  Watch Temple and Maryland both go 11-1 and meet in an epic Orange bowl that ends 57-55 in quadruple overtime after I slammed both of them.

Preseason: Wisconsin 45 UTEP 17

UTEP hung with the Sooners and Ole Miss before breaking through in a big way against woeful New Mexico State.  Seriously, how does DeWayne Walker still have a job there?  Here’s the good thing for the Badgers.  They thrive when the running game thrives (that’s my sentence, really?  Thanks thesaurus).  In their two losses, UTEP gave up 205 and 330 rushing yards.  I still don’t see the Badgers getting to 45, but I do see them improving to 3-1 despite the shakiness of their opening month.

Update, Wisconsin: 28-17

Random Musing:

UAB hasn’t beaten an AQ team since 2004 (Cincinnati), the last season they were above .500 when they finished 7-5.  How can this happen?  If recruits are swayed by crazy uniforms how can a program with a logo like UAB’s not get blue chippers?  It’s like there is another team in the state with a higher profile, but I can’t quite place who…

Week Three Recap

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