It's another week of what looks like, on paper, to be snoozers of conference games...but in conference play, anyone can beat anyone on any week, right? And that means the Big Ten sucks...but in the SEC it's called parity.
Iowa at Michigan State
line: Michigan State -10 Were the Spartans taking Indiana too lightly last week? Or, was the letdown over a tough-fought, close loss to Ohio State the week before too much to overcome by the first half? Either way, the Hoosiers came close to an unlikely upset last week, and it wasn't until the near end of the game that Michigan State was able to put it away. That most likely won't happen this week, when a better-than-Indiana, at least, Iowa team heads to East Lansing behind unlikely starting running back Mark Weisman. Both teams have proven to be a little anemic on offense, so this one should be a low-scoring affair.
likely winner: Michigan State. It may be a close one, but the Spartans should be better prepared and focused this week, even without star tight end Dion Sims, who injured his ankle last week. Iowa is coming off a bye that, while not at 2011 PSU proportions, wasn't kind, with three players being arrested over the weekend, including starting cornerback and team captain Micah Hyde--though none of those players is being suspended from play by coach Kirk Ferentz.
Northwestern at Minnesota
line: Northwestern -3.5 The Wildcats are looking to rebound in a big way and become bowl eligible against a Minnesota team that's a surprising 4-1. The Golden Gophers are off of a bye week, right after a loss to Iowa that wasn't even as close as the 31-13 score. Minnesota is hoping to get injured quarterback MarQueis Gray back for this game, as his replacement Max Shortell has been spottey, putting up good numbers in their wins, but looking very much overmatched in their one loss.
likely winner: Northwestern. The line is close, but Northwestern is the superior team, and is coming in with a chip on its shoulder. Minnesota doesn't have the strong defense needed to contain this up-tempo Wildcat offense, and Northwestern's front seven should be able to dictate this game better than they did last week against Penn State and get the ball back to their prolific offense and Kain Colter. If this was at Ryan Field, I'd think it's be close, but as they tend to play better on the road, the Wildcats should win big in this one and come closer to the 700 yards they put up against Indiana than the 200+ they managed against the Nittany Lions.
Wisconsin at Purdue
line: Purdue -2.5 Last week's loss to Michigan was not what many expected from Purdue; I, for one, at least expected the Boilermakers to make it competetive. It was anything but, with the visiting team getting blown out it unexpected fashion. The good news for Purdue is that they get an underperforming Badger team at home, and Wisconsin tends to perform less than great on the road. Wisconsin's offense isn't the same as last year, and running back Montee Ball arguably hurt his draft stock by sticking around to play for the Badgers this year, but they still were able to handle a down Illinois team last week pretty well, despite an Illini attempt at a fourth quarter rally, just like Wisconsin should.
likely winner: push. In what, on paper, should be this week's best game in the conference, the most intruiging matchup will be between the Purdue offense and the Wisconsin defense. Purdue coach Danny Hope has said that Caleb TerBush is their starter, despite the impressive performances that Robert Marve has put up surrounding his knee injury earlier this year. In a year of lack of defense, Purdue's isn't that great--but Wisconsin's offense, now solidly led by freshman Joel Stave, isn't amazing either. This is one matchup that should determine the winner of the Leaders division.
Illinois at Michigan
line: Michigan -23.5 Oh, Illinois...preseason, you were a Big Ten title contender. Now, you're quite possibly the worst team in the Big Ten--in a down year for the conference, no less. Michigan has also been a bit disappointing this season, with a lofty preseason ranking but performances that haven't lived up to expectations. Their bye week in week five, however, strongly helped the Wolverines, and they came out strong against a decent Purdue team last week, with Denard Robinson finally showing why he's been the recipient of Heisman talk since he set foot in Ann Arbor--and played his first game this season with no interceptions.
likely winner: Michigan. This one shouldn't even be close, as the Illinis are in a freefall at this point in the season, but may depend on which Wolverine team shows up. If it's the team that destroyed Purdue last week, the line looks about right. If they revert back to the team we saw earlier in the season, versus Notre Dame and Alabama, this may be much closer; either way, Michigan has better talent and far superior coaching, and should take this one running away.
Ohio State at Indiana
line: Ohio State -17 The Hoosiers started out strong last week versus a demoralized Michigan State team, but weren't able to hold on at the end--especially in the red zone, where the Spartans were five for five. After demolishing Nebraska last week, it's a bit surprising that this line is so low; odds-makers seem to have like Indiana's performance last week versus the Spartans, and the Hoosiers do get this one at home (which, in all likelihood, won't make much of a difference).
likely winner: Ohio State. The Buckeyes knocked two top 25 teams off in a row, knocking those opponents out of the rankings in the process. This is a very different game than those, however, and though Indiana's offense has picked up in the past few games, so has Braxton Miller and the Ohio State offensive line. The goal of the Hoosiers is to keep moving the chains themselves to keep the Buckeye offense off the field, but that is a tough order for a young defense. OSU should come out of the gate slow, but will ramp up and likely have this one put away by mid third-quarter.
Nebraska vs BYE
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