It may not be the Big Ten’s finest fall, unless you’re a Barack Obama supporter. (Even Indiana? Really?) But one result of having lots of teams that are more or less OK, if neither sublime nor wretched, is that lots of the games are interesting—or at least unpredictable. Who’d have guessed that this year’s Michigan would beat Wisconsin? Or that Ohio State would struggle with Ohio and then beat Wisconsin? Or that Penn State would put up 48 to beat Wisconsin? Or that Iowa would score 38 to beat Wisconsin?
Let’s just say Wisconsin’s going through a rough patch.
The point, however, is that there’s really only one marquee game on the schedule this week: the #3 Nittany Lions at the #12 Buckeyes. But all of the others have the potential to be wild upsets. Northwestern, for example, looks like a much better team than Indiana, which has been beaten up pretty routinely since being knocked around by Ball State a few weeks back. But the Hoosiers have a lot of good athletes, and if Northwestern starts slowly or quarterback C.J. Bacher attempts any more of those 40-yard, cross-field passes while he’s rolling out the other direction, I could see (and, unfortunately, have seen) Indiana pulling the upset.
Same holds true around the rest of the league. Minnesota’s program has been reignited by second-year coach Tim Brewster; Purdue’s appears to be retiring to Wyoming along with last-year coach Joe Tiller. Yet some of the Boilermakers are playmakers, and at home they could burn the Gophers. Michigan is, by Michigan standards, and by Kent State standards, pretty weak; but nobody likes to lose to Michigan State, especially the Wolverines, and I bet they’ll be tough against their rivals. After the last couple weekends it’s hard to imagine Wisconsin’s defense stopping me on my way to lunch, let alone Juice Williams and Arrelious Benn, but it’s not hard to imagine the Illini committing a few dumb penalties and turnovers to give the Badgers a chance to run the ball at home. As for that big game—Penn State has a better squad, especially on offense, but Ohio State knows how to play big games, especially when they don’t involve national titles or conference prestige.
If it seems that this is merely one stretch of ass covering, that’s because it is. But it’s also true, and it’s why this stuff is almost as unpredictable as AIG’s business plan, and substantially more fun.
· The Illini trap the Badgers.
· The Spartans skin the Wolverines.
· The Golden Gophers melt the Boilermakers.
· The Wildcats devour the Hoosiers.
· The Nittany Lions crack the Buckeyes.
And not that we’re happy about it, but:
· Notre Dame washes out Washington.
Last week: 4-1.