Around the Big Ten: Week 3

Week 2 for the Big Ten was about as bad as anyone could have imagined. There were some huge games on the slate and somehow, the conference managed to drop nearly every single one of them. I had a lot of confidence in the Big Ten going into the weekend, so that resulted in my going 7-5 to bring my year to date record to 18-7. Not very good at all.

Last Week

 Western Kentucky @ Illinois

My prediction: Western Kentucky over Illinois

Result: Western Kentucky 34, Illinois 42

McNeese State @ 19 Nebraska

My prediction: Nebraska over McNeese State

Result: McNeese State 24, Nebraska 31

Akron @ Penn State

My prediction: Penn State over Akron

Result: Akron 3, Penn State 21

Central Michigan @ Purdue

My prediction: Purdue over Central Michigan

Result: Central Michigan 38, Purdue 17

Howard @ Rutgers

My prediction: Rutgers over Howard

Result: Howard 25, Rutgers 38

Western Illinois @ 18 Wisconsin

My prediction: Wisconsin over Western Illinois

Result: Western Illinois 3, Wisconsin 37

Middle Tennessee @ Minnesota

My prediction: Middle Tennessee over Minnesota

Result: Middle Tennessee 24, Minnesota 35

Ball State @ Iowa

My prediction: Iowa over Ball State

Result: Ball State 13, Iowa 17

Maryland @ South Florida

My prediction: Maryland over South Florida

Result: Maryland 24, South Florida 17

7 Michigan State @ 3 Oregon

My prediction: Michigan State over Oregon

Result: Michigan State 27, Oregon 46

Michigan @ 16 Notre Dame

My prediction: Notre Dame over Michigan

Result: Michigan 0, Notre Dame 31

Virginia Tech @ 8 Ohio State

My prediction: Ohio State over Virginia Tech

Result: Virginia Tech 35, Ohio State 21

I was not kidding when I said it was an ugly week for the Big Ten. Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State all had huge opportunities to grab quality non-conference wins but all failed to do so. Even worse was the fact that none of the games were particularly close down the stretch. Nebraska and Illinois each came out with close wins but they did not leave fans with much confidence. Ameer Abdullah had another clip for his highlight reel and the Illini scored 21 points in the fourth quarter to complete a comeback. Iowa continued its uninspiring play in a narrow victory and Purdue returned to 2013 form in their blowout loss against Central Michigan.

The most impressive team of the weekend was probably Penn State. Even though their offense did not dazzle, their defense did, giving up only 17 first downs and 277 total yards. Minnesota built up a 28-0 lead before the Middle Tennessee offense could get its footing. Elsewhere, Maryland picked up a quality road win and Wisconsin dismantled Western Illinois behind a stellar second half. The reputation of the conference is in shambles, so much so that there is discussion on whether an unbeaten BYU team could beat a 1-loss Michigan State team to get into the College Football Playoff. So to say the conference needs some big wins, and soon, would be an understatement.

This Week (All games on Saturday, September 13th)

 Bye Week: Michigan State, Wisconsin

 West Virginia @ Maryland

Maryland is quietly putting together an impressive non-conference season. Though South Florida is not the most impressive victory, welcoming West Virginia into town is certainly a game worth paying attention to. For the Terps, their passing offense led by CJ Brown has been less than stellar as they are 93rd in the country with 193.5 passing yards per game. Meanwhile, Mountaineers QB Clint Trickett has already thrown for 713 yards and no interceptions (365 of those yards came against Alabama.) The Maryland defense will face their first true test of the season, and try to notch what would be the biggest non-conference win for the Big Ten so far this season.

Prediction: Maryland over West Virginia

 Indiana @ Bowling Green

Coming off the bye week, Indiana is looking to securing a quality road win early in the season. To do this they will have to win a battle of wills with the defending MAC champion. Indiana boasts the most prolific running game in the country, racking up 455 yards against Indiana State, but Bowling Green has only given up 3 yards per carry on 75 rushes through its first two games. Indiana can win this game if their QB Nate Sudfeld can capitalize on the porous pass defense of the Green Falcons who have given up 890 yards through the air so far this season.

Prediction: Indiana over Bowling Green

 Kent State @ 22 Ohio State

 Talk about a 180 for the Buckeyes. They went from a no-doubt national title contender with a quarterback who was a virtual lock to be a Heisman finalist, to a program hanging onto their top 25 ranking by a thread after losing their first home opener in 36 years. The Buckeyes look like an average team at nearly every position, but especially in their defensive front where they have averaged 250 rushing yards against them per game. Luckily, Kent State is only averaging 47.5 rushing yards per game which is a paltry 123rd in the country. OSU should be motivated for this one and shouldn’t have to worry about its biggest weakness being exposed.

Prediction: Ohio State over Kent State

Miami (OH) @ Michigan

 Last week, I expected Michigan vs Notre Dame to be highly competitive largely due to their history with one another. Then Michigan decided not to show up for their game. Similar to their bitter rivals, Ohio State, they get to rebound with a home game against a bad MAC team. Miami ranks 114th in the country in both rushing yards and points scored and has a QB who has already thrown more than 100 times this season. Michigan needs to use this game to get themselves back together as their next 5 games (after this game) will without a doubt define their season.

Prediction: Michigan over Miami (OH)

Iowa State @ Iowa

 I consistently have no idea what to make of Iowa. The team came into the season with so much hype and though they are 2-0 their play has been so uninspiring, almost as if they are waiting to flip a switch. That switch will have to be flipped this week as the take on their first Power 5 opponent. Iowa State is desperate for a win, especially after their narrow loss again Kansas State last week. Jake Rudock for the Hawkeyes is leading the team in both passing and rushing but the rushing attack has to improve from their 132 yards a game. Iowa wants to try to crack into the top 25 (they are 36th in the media and coaches polls) and an inspired win against Iowa State will be a step in the right direction.

Prediction: Iowa over Iowa State

 Minnesota @ TCU

 Minnesota is getting a huge test going down to Fort Worth to take on TCU. The Gophers’ run game has been dominant racking up 233 yards per game. That attack will be pitted against a TCU defense that only gave up 143 total yards and one offensive touchdown in their last game. The TCU offense also exhibited tremendous balance with 355 yards passing and 200 yards rushing. For Minnesota to compete, they will need QB Mitch Leidner to step up and give the Gopher offense a sense of balance they have yet to display this season.

Prediction: TCU over Minnesota

 Illinois @ Washington

Illinois has had to grind out both of its two wins thus far this season. QB Wes Lunt has thrown for 741 yards and 7 touchdowns so far to give the Illini the 8th most prolific passing game in the country. Meanwhile their run game is ranked 122nd in the nation and does not have a single player with more than 90 yards rushing through two games. Washington’s season has told a similar story. They have won their two games by a combined 8 points, and won a 59-52 shootout with Eastern Washington last week. The Huskies have just the 107th ranked pass offense but the 19th best rush offense. This game is likely to be a shootout, but Washington’s ability to run the ball should allow them to maintain control of the game.

Prediction: Washington over Illinois

 Purdue vs 11 Notre Dame in Indianapolis

 What happened to Purdue? Yes their win against Western Michigan was not convincing but you figured the team would ride that momentum to at least being competitive last week. 3 turnovers and 7 penalties, the same sloppy play that earned Purdue a 1-11 record a year ago doomed the team from the very beginning of this game. Unfortunately, it is not going to get better this week. The Fighting Irish are coming off a thorough dismantling of Michigan and are setting themselves up for a berth in the Playoff.

Prediction: Notre Dame over Purdue

James Franklin's first Big Ten conference game is also Rutger's first game in the league? Which conference rookie does Tralon Williams think starts off 1-0? Photo Credit: Luke Fong, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

James Franklin’s first Big Ten conference game is also Rutgers’ first game in the league. Which conference rookie does Tralon Williams think starts off 1-0? Photo Credit: Luke Fong, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

 Penn State @ Rutgers

 The first conference game of the season comes for two programs that are going to be very excited to play this game. Penn State is boasting a top 5 passing attack, a top 25 defense and the knowledge that they no longer have the shadow of the Sandusky sanctions over their program. Rutgers boasts a crafty veteran at quarterback in Gary Nova and has their first game as a member of the Big Ten in the confines of their home stadium. Rutgers has proven they have trouble stopping the pass so far this year so Christian Hackenberg will be able to toss the ball around. But what the Scarlet Knights have proven is that they have enough heart and fight to keep themselves in just about any game.

Prediction: Penn State over Rutgers

 Nebraska @ Fresno State

 Nebraska escaped being upset by McNeese State by the skin of their teeth. Never before has Bo Pelini’s crew been so thankful to have Ameer Abdullah who is averaging over 7 yards per carry and leading the nation’s 6th best rushing attack. Fresno State poses an interesting test for Nebraska because of their experience playing Power 5 schools (losses to both USC and Utah) and their 13 game home winning streak, 2nd best such streak in the country. Though Nebraska is a double digit favorite, they will need players other than Abdullah to make big plays to avoid the upset.

Prediction: Nebraska over Fresno State

 My year to date record: 18-7

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