Finally. It's conference season. Time to crank up the hate and see what these teams are really made of.
Four weeks into the season the Big Ten has come out relatively unscathed. Sure Minnesota lost to an FBS school, but with the way things are going in Minneapolis I don't think there's anyone that is too surprised by it. But the rest of the conference looks like it's doing alright. Right now the conference has six ranked teams and 9 teams with winning records. Six of those teams are undefeated. So, yay. Our conference doesn't suck! Woo!
Looking ahead to Saturday, it's somewhat of a strange lineup. Other than Penn State at Iowa, all the favorites on this weekend's slate are on the road. And that could make for some strange outcomes. Over the last few years Ohio State seems to drop one inexplicable game to an inferior opponent. Michigan's defense is going up against an Indiana offense that is just as prolific as Michigan's. Northwestern gets the FIGHTRYWINing Brewsters on the road in a game the absolutely promises to be more riddled with landmines than a Cambodian jungle. The Badgers travel to Mark Dantonio's
ICU home turf to match up against the other prolific pro-style rushing attack in the conference. Something funky seems like it's destined to happen this weekend so lets run down The Slate and see what we're looking at.
#2 Ohio State at Illinois - This one could be interesting. Ohio State's running game (except Terrelle Pryor) has been awful. Brandon Saine has done little to nothing, Daniel Herronhasn't eve cracked 200 yards, and the Buckeyes' offense seems dependent upon Pryor to do everything this season. On the other side of the coin, Illinois is coming off a bye week and Zook is 5-4 against teams ranked in the top five. More importantly, Illinois' defense looks legit through 3 games. The Illini are ranked 20th in points allowed this season and may give the Buckeyes a real test this weekend. Please notice I said "may". Despite the record against top five teams and all the other crazy things that can happen, I think OSU rolls in this game, but still leaves ample questions about their ability to run the ball. But this one has the potential to be a lot closer than it should. There's just something screwy about a game like this.
#11 Wisconsin at #24 Michigan State - Ah the Bash Bowl. If you like 4 yards and a cloud of dust football, this is going to be your game. Two middling to average passing attacks and two thunderous, mountain leveling ground assaults. I can't wait for this game. Sadly it's on during the the Michigan Indiana game but you bet your ass I'm DVRing it. John Clay is second in the Big Ten with 501 rushing yards and Michigan State's Edwin Bakeris third with 449 yards (Behind Denard Robinson's ridiculous 688 total yards). Michigan State also features Le'Veon Bellwho is fifth in the conference 396 yards and an absurd 8.2 ypc average. This game is going to be AWESOME. Why? Because both teams are ranked in the top four of the conference in rush defense! Something's gotta give. Will Wisconsin's insane slate of tomato cans (Arizona State excluded) finally catch up to them? Will Michigan State finally playing a top 15 opponent punch holes in the hot air balloon that is the Spartan fan base right now? I don't know! But holy crap am I excited to find out. If you're putting a gun to my head, I think Wisconsin wins by four. But this could easily go the other way.
#22 Penn State at #17 Iowa - It's a match up of ranked teams, but it won't end that way. I don't have a clue how Penn State is still ranked right. Penn State is 10th in scoring offense, and 9th in both rushing and passing in the conference. You can't win football games, especially in conference when you can't score or move the ball. On the other hand, Penn State's defense isn't half bad and their strength (#1 Pass Defense in the conference) runs right into Iowa's strength, throwing the ball. With all the injuries to Iowa's tailbacks, I'm going to be shocked to see the Hawkeyes' go over 130 yards rushing against the Lions. As a result, you're going to see a lot of passes, a Pick Stanzi, and a close game. Aren't they all? Even so, Iowa should win this one by double digits, probably by 10 points or so. Ricky Stanzi recovers from an early pick to play outstanding the rest of the way. Iowa's not great right now, but they're head and shoulders above where Penn State going into conference play.
#19 Michigan at Indiana - Ah the heart attack special. The over under right now is in the 65 point range, which sounds about right. Michigan should be able to run at will. Indiana should be able to pass at will. I'll leave the break down to Beauford's preview, but I think Michigan wins by 10.
Northwestern at Minnesota - The Brewster Bowl. Look, before we start shoveling dirt on Brewster's coffin, it would be unprecedented for a Big Ten school to fire it's coach mid-season. It ain't going to happen. especially if he somehow pulls an upset here. And don't shake your head and tell me it can't happen. It can. It TRY! FIGHT! WIN! But it won't. Northwestern's passing offense is just too damn good. Dan Persa looks like an even better version of Mike Kafka. Imagine, Kafka without the interceptions. /shudder/ I think Northwestern wins this one by three as Brewster rallies the troops for the "how is God's name was that game that close" game of the week.
Off - Purdue - They need it.
So, that's The Slate for the week. You've got my picks. Give me yours.