Friday, October 9, 2009

Big Ten Picks Week 6

Jer had a great post yesterday on how Purdue makes him nervous. Both of us were pretty confident on the podcast Wednesday night by picking Minnesota to win by 10+. Yet Jer reversed coarse yesterday, and after doing some more research, I'm doing the same. I said the Gophs would win 31-17, which would be a comfortable win if it worked out that way. But the more I've read up on Purdue, the more I believe they really are better than their 1-4 record indicates. They lost week two to Oregon by 2 points, the same Oregon team that beat California 175-3 (ok it was only 42-3 but still), which was the same California team that the week before beat the Gophers 35-21. They gave Notre Dame a free timeout and Jimmy Clausen and the dangerous Notre Dame offense two shots at the end zone instead of one. On the second chance, Clausen got the game-winner. The Northern Illinois loss was sloppy, but what REALLY makes me nervous is the loss to Northwestern last week.

On paper, it's a 27-21 loss at home to the Purple Smart Kids which, as we've said all year, you just don't do in the Big Ten if you have serious bowl aspirations. Why does that worry me? Because the final score doesn't come close to telling the whole story. Did you know Purdue scored touchdowns on their three opening drives? They were up 21-3 in the first quarter, and only one of those TD's came on a short field off a turnover. They were legitamately leading the Wildcats early in the game and should have ran away with this one.

Except they couldn't hang onto the ball. They coughed up it up six times- five of them fumbles. Interceptions can be controlled. Generally good teams- and good QB's- don't throw a lot of picks. Bad teams always seem to have the QB that makes some dumb throws that gets them killed. But fumbles are random. Sure, one player could have a fumbling problem, but when four different guys put it on the turf in a game? The Rivalry, Esq interviewied Chris from the website Smart Football, and as you might expect, the guy is really smart. He's also a Purdue fan, and he had a good and long take on what happened to the Boilermakers against Northwestern, and why I'm now more nervous about the game Saturday: basically, after jumping out to a 21-3 lead, Purdue got smacked with a heavy dose of fumble-itis, or you could argue, a rash of bad luck. If they don't commit even one of those random fumbles, they probably win, but if you turn it over 6 times, chances are you aren't going to beat anybody, even the Purple Smart Kids.

So I'm taking back my 31-17 prediction, and thinking more like a 27-24 final victory for the Gophs. Don't get me wrong, I would LOVE to see Minnesota come out swinging for Homecoming and take Purdue out behind the woodshed, but I think this one is close the whole way through.

Miami OH @ Northwestern (11am Big Ten Network)
Jer and I sometimes like to play the game "What Would You Rather?" with the comparison being "watching a WNBA game" versus, well...just about anything. Honestly, we have a difficult time coming up with anything- and I mean ANYTHING- that I would rather NOT do than watch a WNBA game. Cleaning the gutters, stabbing myself with a dull butter knife, listening to man-haters like Ani Defranco or watching Desparate Housewives are things that I really hate doing- yet I would do all of them if given the choice between that or watching a WNBA game. Yet the prospect of having to endure Miami of Ohio at Northwestern is the first sporting event I can think of that actually gives me pause...ok so I'd still rather see this than the WNBA, but just the fact I have to think about it at all tells you how bad this game could be. I think Northwestern wins but really, I don't care who wins as long as I don't have to watch it.

Eastern Illinois @ #14 Penn State (11am ESPN Classic)
Jer says a lot of funny things, but my favorite joke he's had of late, on the podcast or anywhere, was the one about this game: "I didn't know Glen Mason was in charge of scheduling games for Penn State." See? Very funny. And very true. If I wasn't such a Big Ten homer, I wouldn't even have Penn State in my top 25 because of their absolutely embarrassing non-conference schedule which, as Jer said, is as bad as anything Glen Mason put together when he was here at Minnesota. The Nittany Lions have destroyed four terrible teams, and then got embarrassed against the one real opponent they played (the dirty, dirty Hawkeyes). The JoePas could run out 22 kids from their student section and they'd win this game.

Michigan State @ Illinois (11am Big Ten Network)
Trap game! Trap game! Trap game! Michigan State is coming off a very emotional season-saving win over arch-rival Michigan, and now they travel to Champaign to knock off a left-for-dead Illinois team that has been awful. Wait, what's worse than awful? Gawd-awful? Horrifically awful? Oakland Raiders-awful? Pick one, that's been Illinois thus far. But you know what? I'm picking the upset. I am. It will probably go down as my worst pick of the season (well, besides picking Illinois to go 11-1 and for Juice Williams to be the conference offensive player of the year), but this is a total letdown game for the Spartans while the Illini will rally around new QB Eddie McGee. Expect a shoot-out and for Illinois to pull the upset.

Indiana @ Virginia (2:3opm ESPN 360)
Hang on, let me flip a coin...heads. Um, which team was head again? Ok best of three...two...three. As a Big Ten homer I'll pick the Hoosiers is awful at protecting the QB and Indiana has a good pass rush? And also because the flip of a coin said so.

Wisconsin @ #9 Ohio State (2:30pm ABC)
John Clay, Scott Tolzien, and the Badger offense- meet the best defense you'll see all year. This one is going to be a defensive "slobberknocker" (I love that word. Tell me a word that's more fun to say. Go ahead, I dare you) like last year's 20-17 Buckeye win was. I think Ohio State's defense is good enough to make Tolzien beat them throwing the ball, and against that defense and in front of that crowd, I don't think he's good enough to do it. We might also see Jim Tressell finally let Terrelle Pryor loose on a defense that's not equipped to handle his running. I also hope we see Badger safety Jay Valai knock out two more Buckeye players. This should be one of the best Big Ten games of 2009.

Michigan @ #12 Iowa (7:05pm ABC)
Explain to me again how this is the primetime ABC game over Badgers/Buckeyes? Maybe ABC is just conceding that football fans outside of Iowa and Ann Arbor will be watching Florida/LSU over on CBS instead, so you might as well grab two large, passionate fan bases. For the game itself, I just don't trust a freshman QB on the road against that defense. As I said last week in predicting a Michigan loss to State- Forcier is good, but he's still just a freshman, and I think the Hawkeye D beats him up pretty good. When Iowa has the ball it's not going to be pretty, but they'll find a way to get it done. Close game and a Hawkeye win. Let me know how it goes, as I'll be watching the Gators and the Bayou Bengals.

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