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The Weather Channel forecasts a pleasant, partly cloudy, 78-degree afternoon in East Lansing, Michigan, Saturday. That, along with their usual pattern of peaking for this game each year, means the Michigan State Spartans will plow over Notre Dame by 10 points.
A week ago, it must be said, I made what I figured to be a similarly bold, insightful, Notre Dame-hating prediction that Michigan would overcome its early season submediocrity and outlast the Irish in South Bend. I didn't count on the heavens--and the arms of Michigan's runners and receivers--opening up. While some of us were wondering if we should start building an ark, the Wolverines gave away the ball six times on the way to a dispiriting 35-17 loss.
In my defense, I went 9-0 on the rest of the Big Ten--but that's not important. What is important is that unless MSU gives a few touchdowns to Notre Dame, the Spartans' running game will carry them to a win. ND coach Charlie Weis may want to keep a comfortable distance from the sidelines when he sees State's Javon Ringer barreling his way. Ringer's coming off a 282-yard rushing day in the rain last weekend.
The rest of the Big Ten schedule is, on paper, pretty soft--my money's on a clean sweep for the league:
* Indiana gets by Ball State (but not by as much as you'd think).
* Iowa isn't great, but the Hawkeyes are scrappers, and they'll further endanger coach Dave Wannstedt's job by winning at Pitt.
* Minnesota may have a tough time with Florida Atlantic, but will win.
* Northwestern always seems to start slow, which will hurt them in conference play, but they'll beat Ohio.
* Ohio State will do to Troy like it got done by USC last week.
* Penn State is looking like the best team in a lousy league, and the Lions won't even mess around with Temple.
* Purdue may be flat after an OT loss to Oregon a week ago, and Central Michigan's not awful, but the Boilers will take it.