Everyone is playing this week, so let's see just how much more chaos will take place in the league...
12:00 PM Eastern
Illinois at Penn State (ESPN):
The Illinois rushing attack has been horrendous. In their last two games (Wisconsin and Michigan State) they've totaled only 97 yards on the ground. With such a terrible running game, it's going to come down to Nathan Scheelhaase, obviously, but the Illini have lost senior WR Ryan Lankford for the season due to a shoulder injury. A team like Illinois just can't afford to have any injuries on an offense that is expected to make up for the fact that there's no defense: allowing 297.6 rushing yards and 194.3 passing yards per game in B1G play.
Penn State will still be smarting after that beat down at the hands of Ohio State, but they'll need to get their heads in this game. Although Illinois is kinda bad, the PSU defense has allowed some nasty numbers, too (yes, skewed a little bit by the Ohio State game): 235.6 rushing yards and 284.6 through the air in B1G play. It's clear that Scheelhaase could take advantage of the PSU pass defense.
Inaccurate Prediction: the Nittany Lions will be able to come back from that loss in Columbus and beat a team that is on a downward spiral. Penn State 21 - Illinois 13.
Wisconsin at Iowa (ABC/ESPN2):
Wisconsin looks at Iowa as perhaps their biggest rival, even bigger than Minnesota, because the Hawkeyes have actually made the series competitive in recent history, whereas the Gophers haven't. The key to this game, as with all other UW's games, is running the ball. Iowa allowed 273 and 225 against Ohio State and Northwestern respectively. The Badgers are averaging 296.8 per game.
For Iowa, they can actually go into this game with a little confidence. They've won six of the last nine, and four of the last seven in the Heartland Trophy series (which began in 2004). Given the fact that the Hawkeyes played the Buckeyes tough, beat Northwestern, and this game is in Iowa City, it is entirely possible that they could pull this one out. It's all going to come down to whether the Iowa defense can stop the Wisconsin run game.
Inaccurate Prediction: Bucky's run game will continue what it's been doing all season and will leave their cleat-prints on the Iowa unis. Wisconsin 35 - Iowa 17.
Ohio State at Purdue (BTN):
Not a whole lot can be said about Ohio State. They're damn good, and they finally blew out an opponent not named Florida A&M. Penn State is a better team than Purdue, and the Buckeyes dropped 63 on them. I shudder to think what will happen to the Boilermakers. I know that Purdue has actually matched up well against the Buckeyes recently, but raise your hand if you really think it's going to happen again this year.
I'm going to disrespect Purdue and not give any stats on this team; instead, I'll go right into the prediction: the Ohio State Buckeyes will be called to The Hague to face charges of crimes against humanity. A tribunal will meet to discuss whether the players should be prosecuted, or if "I was following the plays called" will be an adequate defense. Urban Meyer will claim that going for two when he's already up by 60+ points and an onside kick with 70+ points really aren't that bad. After deliberating for all of 15 minutes, the decision will be to sentence Urban Meyer to death by firing squad. The firing squad will be made up of one person from each B1G team.
3:30 PM Eastern
Minnesota at Indiana (BTN):
The Gophers are rushing for 217.8 yards per game, and Indiana has allowed an average of 238 in their last two games. The Minnesota rushing attack has been solid (minus the game against Iowa), with David Cobb going for over five yards per carry. The question for the Gophers is at the quarterback position: will it be Mitch Leidner or Philip Nelson? Nelson performed very well against Nebraska, and will probably get the start, but any signs of struggle will lead to Leidner getting into the game.
Indiana showed against Michigan that they have no defense, but plenty of offense (not that the offense was ever in question). Although Minnesota's been playing decent defense against the run, they can't defend the pass; that's where Indiana is going to feast on Gopher carcasses. If the Hoosiers could do what they did against a Michigan defense that is much better than Minnesota's, just imagine what they'll do against a porous Gophers secondary. Minnesota has been allowing 272 passing yards per game, while Indiana is averaging 343.
Inaccurate Prediction: Indiana is going to score a lot of points, but the Gophers will be able to use Nelson and Cobb on the ground to keep pace with the Hoosiers. A key pass to Derrick Engel or Drew Wolitarsky will be the difference. Minnesota 42 - Indiana 38.
Northwestern at Nebraska (BTN):
At 0-4, Northwestern has hit the bottom of the league. Minnesota was able to take it to the Cornhuskers last week, but they had a pretty good rushing game going. The Northwestern rushing game has taken a hit with Venric Mark possibly seeking a medical redshirt. Prior to the 225 rushing yards against Iowa, Northwestern gained 94, 44, and 94 yards. If the Wildcats can duplicate the Iowa performance, they may actually be able to get back into the win column against Nebraska.
The Cornhuskers suck. Look at their 5-2 record and tell me who they've beaten...the answer is no one. They've played two legitimate teams in UCLA and Minnesota this year, and they've lost to both of them. They almost lost to Wyoming, too. It's not that they don't have offense or know how to score points, it's their defense that is atrocious. Ameer Abdullah is the only reason this team has remained remotely competitive.
Inaccurate Prediction: Northwestern will come out and play some inspired football and win in Lincoln. NW 21 - Nebraska 20.
Michigan at Michigan State (ABC):
We have a lot of good pieces on the upcoming match-up in E.L. on Saturday. Everyone knows the Wolverines' woes on the road. In our season predictions for Michigan, I figured that the Wolverines would end with two regular season losses: one to Notre Dame and one to either PSU or MSU. Well, since Michigan beat ND and lost to PSU, I think a loss to State is in order.
The State defense is incredibly good, and the Michigan offense needs help. Perhaps Michigan can inspire a little fear by continuing to use Funchess on the outside and allowing Jeremy Gallon to get free. State hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher yet this season, so they'll contribute to Fitzgerald Toussaint's struggles; be prepared for a Penn State-type rushing performance from Michigan.
Inaccurate Prediction: Greg Mattison will get the D to play well in this game, but both offenses are going to struggle. In my opinion, this game is perfectly set up for a low-scoring affair. Michigan State 10 - Michigan 3.