Every week we run down every game in the Big Ten for the coming Saturday. Usually we're right, but most of the time we're wrong. Wait... no... that's right. We've watched an insane amount of football so far this year and five weeks into the season we're starting to see some trends among the Big Ten teams. OSU can't run the ball with their tailbacks. Michigan can't cover a hot pocket with a paper towel. Northwestern can only win games by the skin of their teeth. Every player on Purdue's squad has contracted Ebola. Indiana's offense is napalm mixed with a blowtorch, and they spread the ball around the way Travis Henry spreads his seed. Illinois is nowhere near as bad as we thought they'd be and, dammit, they may actually be pretty good this year (relatively speaking).
All of this makes for a very, very interesting Week 6 Slate of Big Ten Conference games. There's the potential for more than one big upset in the Big Ten and a bitter matchup of instate rivals looking to go 6-0 and gain bowl eligibility before they drop a game. All eyes in the conference will be turned to Ann Arbor, but there are great matchups in Happy Valley, Columbus, and Evanston. Not in Madison, that matchup sucks. My fearless prediction for that game is that the student section won't show up until the third quarter, they'll try to make the bleachers collapse during "Jump Around", then they'll leave regardless of the score, which will be Wisconsin up by 14 going into the fourth.
But enough of my smartassery. Let's get to...
The Slate - Week 6
Indiana at #2 Ohio State - I don't care what the history books say, this may well be one of the most interesting games on the schedule this week. Indiana's offense is like nothing, and I mean nothing, the Buckeye's have faced in the last two years. Four and five receiver sets, quick drops, quick slants. I know Ohio State's defense is infinitely better than Michigan's defense, but here's the issue: Terrelle Pryor. If Pryor was 100%, I would put this game on beat down alert. But he's not. A quad injury (which sounds a lot to me like a partial tear [experience talking here]) means that he's a missed step away on a scramble from being out for the rest of the game. And just like Michigan's offense, Ohio State runs its playbook almost exculsively through the 6'6" signal caller. Ohio State should be able to put up plenty of points on Indiana's craptastic defense, but I think Ben Chappell and Indiana's offense are good enough to roll up points on anyone. This one's going to be a lot closer than people think. Indiana's got the outside chance of an upset, but that depends on Pryor's health. Ohio State by a touchdown or less.
#17 Michigan State at #18 Michigan - The Spartans scored the Big Ten's biggest upset last week when they bumped of #11 Wisconsin while the Wolverines looked completely clueless on defense, eeking out a 7 point win over Indiana. The result: OMG GAME OF TEH CENZTRY OF TEH WEEK! If you can point a more entertaining game this weekend, anywhere, you're lying. God hates it when you lie. This is one of those games that can go either way and really doesn't have a favorite. The four point spread is basically because Michigan is at home. And because they have Denard Robinson. What this comes down to is whether Michigan's defense can stop the Spartans even a little bit, to allow the offense some margin of error. Up until this point, the Wolverines have rolled up points on some inept defenses and Notre Dame.
Personally, I think this game goes a lot like Notre Dame, except Michigan doesn't get the benefit of a crappy backup quarterback playing for the other side for two quarters. Michigan is going to get torched by Michigan State's running backs. You can mark that down. Michigan State is a good, balanced team, but it does have a quarterback in Kirk Cousins who is capable of both great throws and chucking the WTF!? type interception. The Spartan ground game is arguably the best rushing attack Michigan will see all year, and lord knows Michigan's had issues stopping pro-style rushing attacks. But then again, Wisconsin racked up decent yardage on the ground and Robinson's thrown the ball better this season than Scott Tolzien. On the flip side, State's mediocre defensive line and secondary looks pretty ripe for Robinson and Company. Expect an H back to single out Greg Jones on just about every rushing play and for Michigan to run a lot of play action passes (Robinson to Roy Roundtree on the fake run). Yardage in this game should be pretty comparable, but I don't think either team goes over 600 yards. But they come close. I'm sticking with Vegas on this one, Michigan scrapes out a four point win.
Minnesota at #20 Wisconsin - Bloodbath. Wisconsin destroys the hapless Gophers. Brewster's team comes out game, but Wisconsin bludgeons the Minnesota defense in a game reminiscent of Iowa's last trip to the Humpty Dump.
Illinois at Penn State - This one could be fun. Penn State's offense has been god awful. When they've played ranked teams they've scored a grand total of 6 points. When they've played Division One teams, they're only averaging 23 points a win. This isn't a good football team and it's going to run into a decent Illinois line. LVS made a great point on the Maize Pants podcast about Evan Royster, he has made his name running wild on mediocre teams like Illinois. So this should be his breakout game of the season so far. I don't think so. Illinois held Ohio State's ground game in check (minus Terrelle Pryor, of course) and Brandon Saine and Daniel Herron are just as good as Royster, but with a better offensive line. Royster and Robert Bolden have NO ONE blocking for them right now. Their line is composed of Cheeze Whiz and Unicorn farts. Martez Wilson looks like he may well be the real deal and Illinois corners are pretty darn good. Penn State's defense is certainly up to the task of stopping Illinois' anemic offense, but I've got a feeling Illinois should be able to put some points on the board. The Illini had plenty of offense against OSU, and OSU is probably 2nd in the Big Ten in quality defense to Iowa. I think Illinois and the Zookers shock everyone, move to 3-2 (1-1) on the season and send Penn State back to .500. Illinois by a field goal in Happy Valley.
Purdue at Northwestern - With all the injuries, all the problems on offense, the difficultly for anyone not named Ryan Kerrigan to tackle anyone... Purdue shouldn't stand a chance in this game. I'm not so sure. I know I've been bullish on the Cats all season, but this game REEKS of a trap. At 5-0 Northwestern is gearing up for another showing of their perennial Jekyl and Hyde performance with co-star Michigan State. Both teams could come in 6-0, both teams could come in 5-1. Beating Michigan State is a much bigger deal than beating Purdue, but they're not playing Michigan State this week. They're playing Purdue. See what I mean? Purdue may not be healthy, but Danny Hope is very good at getting his kids to play as hard as they possibly can no matter the odds (see: Ohio State 2009). Purdue finds some offense from some unlikely sources and makes this a close game. Still, I can't see the Cats slipping up enough to lose this one. Fitzgerald is a pretty good coach and if Dan Persa can keep from throwing Red Zone picks, Northwestern should roll eventually. Northwestern by 10.
Bye - Iowa - IT'S PURDUE HATE WEEK! GET YOUR HATE ON! WOOOT!