Reversals of fortune

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We’re not done with baseball in Chicago quite yet, and it’s great fun to watch Sarah Palin reading off her debate crib sheet when she’s not improvising (who, by the way, is this mysterious Iraqi leader named “Talibani” she referred to Thursday night?), but I for one am glad to have other important matters to turn my attention to Saturday, such as the season-defining football games in Ann Arbor and Madison.

Last weekend Wisconsin played some great pound-ahead, Michigan-style football while the guys actually wearing the Michigan uniforms continued to be afflicted with the dropsies (FIVE turnovers!). Then came the second half. Some of us once suspected that the Wolverines still had a few athletes left on their defense, and they all showed up to shut the Badgers down and lead a stunning reversal of fortune. The 27-25 win could be enough to lift U of M from a losing season to the kind of almost-above-average one that fans of Indiana, Minnesota, and Northwestern regularly covet (and NU, at least, may actually realize this year).... Wisconsin, meanwhile, had a few days to lick its wounds before facing the Ohio State.

So that brings us to Saturday’s contests—and the question of which half of that Michigan-Wisconsin game will carry over.

I’ll go out on a limb and say ... both. The Michigan D will ride the momentum and keep getting better, but coach Rich Rodriguez simply doesn’t have the players to run his offense, and it’s going to be unreliable until he finds them—which didn’t happen in the last week. The Wolverines host Illinois, whose Juice Williams-led offense played pretty well again in a loss at Penn State last week. The Illini will be eager for a win to redeem their conference title hopes, and they usually get up to play the Wolverines. They should win by a touchdown.

Wisconsin, meanwhile, still looks bigger and stronger than anybody in the conference except maybe Penn State. I don’t think Ohio State can beat them on the line of scrimmage, and as long as they don’t cough up the ball or give up too many long passes, they’ll win at home in a squeaker.

Then again, last week I went a lousy 3-3 (though I was happy to be wrong about my Wildcats), so I’ll be the first to admit that my crystal ball is a little cloudy. I won’t even try to blame it on Talibani.

The other games:

·        Minnesota mows over Indiana.

·        Penn State pounds Purdue.

·        Michigan State maroons Iowa.

·        And out of the league, Notre Dame knocks around Stanford.

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