Big Ten Preview: on Charlie Rose and Fandom

I'm a big Charlie Rose fan. He's the best interviewer in the business. Case in point: last week Charlie interviewed the editor of Sports Illustrated, Terry McDonell.  Towards the end of the interview, Rose doesn't even ask McDonell a question, he just says,

"You don't really even care that much about sports, in the end....Sports is just where you see the human experience played out."

There's been plenty of human experience playing itself out in the Big Ten this year. The fall of Tim Brewster. The (momentary) rise of Sparty and Mark Dantonio. Purdue's grit amid endless injuries. Indiana's neverending incompetence. Wisconsins' toughness, Michigan's finesse, and the zany Fighting Zooks. But the best story of the year is likely the one in our own backyard. Matt McGloin's challenge to Herbie and unexpected rise to stardom, while propelling this season back from the dead and Joe Paterno to 400 lifetime wins.

Maybe that's not the best story, and I'm just biased. But I'm biased for a reason: it's easy being a Penn State fan. In the drama that is Penn State football, the good guy always wins. Loyalty is rewarded, as is merit. Success with honor, and winning through superior preparation. No names on the jerseys.

Believe it or not, though, the rest of the Big Ten fandom has plenty of reasons for liking their teams, and they probably don't even include that their team has uniforms similar to the Steelers.  I salute the rest of the Big Ten fans, because they like their teams for reasons I can't even fathom.  

Onto the games and the gambling:

Iowa Hawkeyes at Northwestern Wildcats (12:00, ESPN); iowa -9.5; O/U 50; 48 and rain

Arguably the two best quarterbacks in the league this year square off in what seems like Iowa's first and only road game all year. Sure, Indiana gave the Hawkeyes a scare in Bloomington last week, but if you realized how much the football gods hate the Hoosiers, you'd have known the game was never in doubt. Just Northwestern has beaten Iowa in four of their last five matchups, but the road team has won each of the last four.  The visiting team makes it five straight on Saturday.

Prediction: Iowa 28 - Northwestern 20

Indiana Hoosiers at Wisconsin Badgers (12:00, ESPN2); WIS -21.5; O/U 57.5; 44 and rain

Speaking of the football gods, they love the Badgers. I'd guess Wisconsin is worse than at least three teams in the Big Ten this year, even though they managed to beat two of those teams (Ohio State and Iowa). But there's no question they're better than Indiana. John Clay and the rest of the Badgers offense is going to beat the crap out of Indiana's terrible defense so badly that they might not want to fly to their home game in southern Maryland next week.

Prediction: Wisconsin 38 - Indiana 16

Minnesota Golden Gophers at Illinois Fighting Illini (12:00, Big Ten Network); ILL -21; O/U 53; 54 and rain

Illinois' loss last week in Ann Arbor was a testament to how good the Michigan offense is more than anything else. Minnesota, meanwhile, has lost nine straight after their come from behind win against Middle Tennessee State in week one. Saturday's contest is Senior Day in Minneapolis, but one imagines that the Gopher seniors will be happy for this season to be over. I think they'll actually make a game of it through the first three quarters. But the main reason they've been losing isn't a lack of effort. They're just not very good.

Prediction: Illinois 33 - Minnesota 21

Michigan Wolverines at Purdue Boilermakers (12:00, Big Ten Network); mich -13; O/U 61.5; 56 and rain

I admit that I didn't think Purdue coach Danny Hope had what it takes earlier in the year, but I think I was wrong. He'll get the Boilermakers going in the right direction again--and soon. But not this year and not this week. Michigan fans have been waiting a long time now for a good old smack down of the dregs of the Big Ten. I think their defense keeps the momentum from what was actually a pretty impressive second half against Illinois and their offense just keeps on dominating.

Prediction: Michigan 51 - Purdue 24  

Penn St. Nittany Lions at Ohio St. Buckeyes (3:30, ABC/ESPN); OSU -18; O/U 49; 62 and partly sunny

See the BSD staff picks tomorrow.

BYE: Michigan St. Spartans

Last week 3-2 Against the Spread; 3-2 Straight Up;

Overall: 14-16 ATS; 21-9 SU 

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