Big Ten Preview: Week 4

It's Brownie Point Saturday in the Big Ten. Take the kids to the park, mow the lawn, or take your girlfriend out on a date. Score points at home this week to help earn immunity to watch football the rest of the year, when there will be, you know, good Big Ten games. (If you're single and no one gets upset at you for spending entire fall weekends in front of the tv, then god bless you. And realize how lucky you are.) All ten Big Ten teams playing this weekend (Illinois is on a bye) play at  home on Saturday. And those home teams are favored in every game (two of the games are off-the-board). 

Central Michigan at Northwestern (12:00, Big Ten Network)

All aboard the Northwestern Wildcat bandwagon. Pat Fitzgerald's boys got a fair number of votes in both the AP and Coaches polls--though not enough to break into the top 25, and there's even rumors about QB Dan Persa being an outside Heisman candidate. Of all the opponents of Big Ten teams on Saturday, Temple is probably the best, and the Owls needed overtime to beat the Central Michigan Chippewas. For those of you who can't wait until Penn State's November 6 game against Northwestern, this Saturday's games will allow for easy comparison of the two teams using the failsafe transitive property of football.

Northern Colorado at Michigan State (12:00, Big Ten Network)

There's an old, cryptic gambling line that says: bet on death, bet against distraction. After making what will likely be the best call of the big ten season and of his coaching life--the fake punt in overtime against Notre Dame--Mark Dantonio unfortunately had a heart attack. Unfortunate as it is, playing without a head coach is almost certainly a distraction for the Spartans, which would incline some to bet against MSU. Bad luck for cold-harded gamblers, though. This one's off-the-board, maybe because Dantonio won't be on the sidelines, maybe because the Northern Colorado Bears play in D-1AA.

Bowling Green at Michigan (12:00, ESPN2)

We're starting to get a sense of what this Michigan team is and isn't. The Wolverines are capable of putting up plenty of points, in a hurry if they have to. They aren't capable of stopping the opponent from doing so.  The Bowling Green Falcons are 1-2, with their only win a 44-28 victory against Marshall last week. Freshman QB Matt Schilz has led the Falcons to 29th  place among FBS teams in passing yards per game. If he can beat up the Wolverine D, that will confirm the worst fears of Michigan fans, even if the Falcons don't cover the 25.5 point line.

Austin Peay at Wisconsin (12:00, Big Ten Network)

Wisconsin struggled last week against Arizona largely due to special teams problems and difficulties converting on third down. The Badgers' stat lines look decent, but if you watched the game, Coach Brett Bielema's offense had little to no rhythm. Austin Peay lost to Middle Tennessee State--who even lowly Minnesota beat in week one--by 23 points a couple of weeks ago. In other words, they're awful.  This one's off-the-board in Vegas, but odds are Wisconsin finally looks impressive winning this Saturday.

Ball State at Iowa (12:00, Big Ten Network)

This is an important game for Iowa to get their mojo back after that disheartening loss in the desert last week. Ball State is not particularly good, having lost to Purdue by nine last week. Odds are the Cardinals get in a big hole early just like the Hawkeyes did against Arizona last week. Unlike Iowa, Ball State won't be able to fight back. I like Iowa to cover the four touchdown line as they get ready to play the good guys next week.  

Toledo at Purdue (12:00, Big Ten Network)

Toledo got drilled 41-2 against Arizona in week one, but has won two MAC matchups since. Their defense has looked particularly strong, but they're playing their third straight road game.  The best part of Purdue's squad is likely the defense as well, as the Boilermakers are only allowing 19 points per game. Their offensive backfield was a little beat up last week, which helps explain why they only put up 24 points against Ball State, fewer than both Liberty and SE Missouri State were able to.  The 12 point line feels just about right.

Eastern Michigan at Ohio State (3:30, ABC)

Ohio State doesn't play decent competition for nearly a month. After they dispatch the winless Eastern Michigan Eagles this week--who ought to be embarrassed about being 44 point underdogs--the Buckeyes play at Illinois and then host Indiana before facing off against Wisconsin on October 16th. The biggest issue for the Vest is likely to just make sure his players stay sharp.

Akron at Indiana (7:00, Big Ten Network)

You know you're not very good when the professionals expect Indiana to beat you by 22 points. The Akron Zips are 0-3, rank 99th in FBS in rushing yards, 111th in passing yards, and 110th in points against. In other words, they might be the worst team in college football. If this game is even remotely close, my opinion of Indiana and Ben Chappell--the best Big Ten QB you've never heard of--will be greatly diminished.

Northern Illinois at Minnesota (8:30, Big Ten Network)

Predicted to be closest game of the week by Vegas, the Golden Gophers are only 4.5 point favorites as they host the 1-2 Northern Illinois Huskies. Northern Illinois lost by six against Illinois last week, and if they keep it that close against Minnesota, Tim Brewster might as well open up the classifieds, because he'll need to find a new job. Minnesota represented themselves and the Big Ten with class last week, even though they lost to USC. If they can play with pride again this week and stay on track, maybe they'll be able to upset a team or two in the Big Ten this year. 

In Scores of Other Games

Jeopardy!  fans should check out spakajewia's lovely and talented sister Kara who appears on the show tonight.

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