Okay, sure, but what about the rest of the conference? Once again, I get it; nobody outside of State College wants Penn State to win out and make it to the title game, particularly if it comes at the expense of a one-loss champion from the Big XII or SEC. The Coke-Bottle Glass Guy must pay for the coaching sins of the Sweater Vest Guy, and the whole conference suffers until, you know, they actually win something.
So I'm guessing that whatever SEC teams wind up in the Capital One and Outback Bowls will have it penciled in as an Insta-Win; ditto the Big XII and the Alamo Bowl, the likely destination for whoever is unfortunate enough to win the North Division. I don't know what to say, other than that it's hard to argue with somebody when they're probably right. Who knows? The conference might not even win the Motor City Bowl this season, given that it's likely they'll be facing a bevy of honked-off Ball State Cardinals.
Blame, of course, is like fruitcake: Somehow it seems like there's always enough to go around. Who do I blame for the fact that the Big Ten keeps getting force-fed giant bowls of Scorn Flakes? Go back to the first paragraph.
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WISCONSIN @ INDIANA
Like I said last week, only $14.95 on pay-per-view.
Both these teams returned to form last week with heartbreaking, inexplicable losses. IU just got outgunned by Central Michigan, while Wisconsin can take comfort in knowing that they were only about 238 mistakes away from victory.
The talent gap between these two teams is so huge, Evel Knievel would want to jump it, if only he was still alive. Wisconsin should be able to walk right over the Hoosiers; of course, this year, there are quite a few things they should have done. Small matter. The Badgers showed significant signs of life last weekend; if they get their heads in the game, they'll make short work of IU.
|WHISTLING PAST THE GRAVEYARD||28|
|HURTLING TOWARDS BASKETBALL SEASON||17|
Do not assume Iowa has no chance in this game.
Again: Do not assume Iowa has no chance in this game.
The Hawkeyes will stop Penn State's running game. They'll force a still-healing Daryll Clark to throw. They won't go after him in the pocket, because Iowa just doesn't do a pass rush. The Hawks are just as capable of slowing down Penn State's attack as Ohio State was, and you can count on the Nits to come out with a similarly conservative game plan. Why? Three reasons:
- Daryll Clark probably isn't at 100% yet
- The game's in Iowa City, and
- Iowa has won six of the last eight games in this series.
They have a shot, maybe even a better shot than Michigan State has (they don't have the defense, and that game's in Happy Valley). They could win. But they won't, because once you get past Shonn Greene, there just isn't much in the offensive cupboard. This will be a better game than many people think, but since there won't be 94 points scored, I'll just say it for you: "Boring." You freaks.
|WE'RE GOING; GET USED TO IT||27|
|CERTAIN TO BE LINKED TO THE K-STATE JOB||18|
PURDUE @ MICHIGAN STATE
Purdue finally played Tillerball against Michigan, keeping the tempo fast and relying on the passing arm of redshirt freshman Justin Siller. Tiller hasn't named a starter yet for this game, but has made it known that Curtis Painter will start if he's healthy enough.
That's it. That's the punchline.
|THREE YARDS AND A CLOUD OF UNCERTAINTY||31|
MICHIGAN @ MINNESOTA
Speaking of incredible heartbreak, here's two more Big Ten teams who lost in the last minute of last week's games. I'm tempted to say that it will be interesting to see how Tim Brewster's team handles adversity, but we already know: They go from 1-11 to no worse than 7-5.
Now, how does Michigan handle adversity? Not very well, it turns out, as all across the Wolverine nation, Maize and Blue fans will grudgingly have to accept all those invitations to New Year's Eve parties which they've been able to ignore for the past 33 years.
Games like this are dangerous, though, because Michigan has nothing to lose but another football game. There's no reason not to pull out all the stops and see what Threet and/or Sheridan and/or that one sorta tall guy from the drumline can do. Maybe they'll find something inside themselves that hadn't come out while there was still something other than pride to pay for. And, while Minnesota has gotten markedly better on defense, their over-agressive blitz packages blew up in their faces last week. They'll come out with a more conservative plan, and that might be all Michigan will need to shock the world.
Oh, wait, it's still this season. Gophers roll.
|LES MILES PROBABLY WISHES HE CAME HERE TOO||21|
|ONE MORE GAME AND NO MORE RUBBERMAID STADIUM||44|
OHIO STATE @ NORTHWESTERN
As with the Penn State-Iowa game, don't assume the obvious underdog has no chance in this game. It's quite clear that Ohio State has come back to the pack a little bit, while Northwestern was tenacious and opportunistic in their defeat of the Gophers last week in Minneapolis.
C.J. Bacher will start if he can, but wasn't Mike Kafka a great story last week? Northwestern's offense has underperformed at many points this season, but the defense has stepped up and kept them in most of their games. As for Ohio State, they're tanned rested and ready ... and they'd better be, because this is a losable game for them. I think, though, that they will be able to hang on and win in Evanston before their revenge game with Illinois next week.
|KAFKA-ESQUE PLOT TWIST||10|
ILLINOIS @ WESTERN MICHIGAN
For the second year in a row, the Broncos find themselves in a position to skeezix a Big Ten team's holiday plans. Last year the Broncos were a pretty "meh" team who took advantage of an Iowa team that was halfway to the Insight Bowl in their minds. I get the sense that Illinois isn't taking anything for granted this year, and that's a good thing. This WMU team is better than last year's, and it would mean a lot to them to pick off another Big Ten team.
Both schools have high-tension offenses and squishy defenses, which is considered "exciting" elsewhere in the country. This will be a yard-and-point festival, and I think an amped-up home crowd helps Western pull off another upset.
|IS THE DOMAIN FOR SALE?||38|
|YOU ARE OUR DOMAIN||42|
Know Your Non-Conference Tomato Can: Western Michigan University
Hey, whaddaya know? There really is such a place as Kalamazoo! It's in that fine city we continue our tour of Michigan directional schools with a look at Western Michigan.
Like a lot of schools, WMU began as a teachers' college but has grown into a comprehensive university. Indeed, Western offers more than 250 different degree programs, including a renowned program in paper engineering. How good is it? in 1998, WMU paper engineers built a paper airplane with a 40-foot wingspan, launched it from a slingshot ... and it still hasn't landed. (NOTE: Not an actual fact!)
Western Michigan has probably come to terms with the fact that its best-known alum is Timothy Allen Dick, better known as Tim Allen, better known as a guy who can be seen in reruns somewhere on the planet at any given moment.
Next week's games!
- Ohio State @ Illinois: This game will ruin somebody's season
- Purdue @ Iowa: Vital to both teams, unless they both lose this week, in which case, who cares?
- Northwestern @ Michigan: Is it not enough to have higher SAT scores? Must they win on the gridiron too?
- Indiana @ Penn State: Look away. Look WAY away
- Minnesota @ Wisconsin: Paul Bunyan's Axe currently buried in Bret Bielema's back