NCAA Week 9 Preview: Big Ten Look-Around

October 29, 2016 • Jon Lowe • Big Ten, Front Page, NCAA

Last week I was right about the Badgers winning in Iowa (and honestly, I’ve been right about their entire season so far, as I projected them to head into the Big Ten Championship at 10-2), and obviously Michigan and Nebraska would get wins this week as well. I knew Rutgers would lose, but I didn’t think they would play a close game in Minnesota. I also knew Northwestern would keep the momentum going heading into the next week, by beating up a weird Indiana team.

There were two things that I was completely wrong about, which is usually the case with me, but here they are: Michigan State lost again, on the road in Maryland. I didn’t think it was possible, especially after beating Notre Dame, that Michigan State would now be 2-5 and 0-4 in Big Ten play (without Ohio State or Michigan yet). The only other team without a win is Rutgers, meaning they are worse than Purdue, Illinois, and obviously Maryland. This team was in the College Football Playoff last year, and I won’t fall for their trap anymore and pick them to win again. As for the Penn State-Ohio State game, it’s hard to find somebody who actually picked Penn State, and I won’t be kicking myself for that one.

This week in the Big Ten contains some big games as well, and like usual, the biggest one is coming from Madison, WI. Since I’m a Badgers’ fan, I always cover them in a separate blog. As for the rest of the Big Ten, there are a couple of intriguing games, but none that are going to be even close to the level of the Wisconsin-Nebraska game. Iowa and Rutgers are also off this week, and they are the last teams to take their byes this season.

Prove it, Gopher

So as you know, Minnesota has not been the best team in the Big Ten West recently, and an easy schedule has gotten them to a 5-2 record heading into a game at Illinois. And despite being 5-2, they are only 2-2 in the Big Ten, with their losses coming to Iowa and Penn State, and their wins over Rutgers and Maryland. In other words, they haven’t proven they are a team that is ready for big boy competition. Wisconsin and Penn State are both 5-2, and both have better wins. Iowa is 5-3, and beat Minnesota in Minneapolis. And yet, a win over the lowly Illini will get them to a 6-2 record overall, and a bowl berth. Minnesota should be able to prove they are above the bottom-feeders again. Final score: Minnesota 24, Illinois 17.

Trap Lafayette

Most people don’t realize that Purdue can actually play offense this year, and they even have three wins to back up that statement. However, their four losses are due to a lack of defense, along with them just not being ready to take on teams better than Rutgers or Illinois and get wins. With newly-ranked Penn State coming into West Lafayette, this spells a trap game for the Nittany Lions, and a potential shootout score. Coming off of a big win against Ohio State could lead to a hangover against a not-as-bad-as-you-think Purdue, and the way they throw the ball is dangerous for Penn State. Penn State has some defense, and should be able to slow down Purdue enough to get the win, but don’t be surprised if it’s Purdue who gets its’ first ranked win in years. Final score: Penn State 31, Purdue 27.

Battle of the Bad Losses

Maryland and Indiana, what do these teams have in common on the football field? Not a whole lot, not even similar records. But they do have one thing in common, and that is a win over Michigan State at home. Indiana started the derailing of Sparty a few weeks ago, and Maryland finished the job. Now, these teams battle against each other to see who is better. If Maryland wins, Maryland gets into a bowl game thanks to the softest non-conference schedule imaginable, and if Indiana wins, they get back to .500 and fourth place in the Big Ten East. I like Indiana here, as they have better overall talent. Maryland shouldn’t worry, though, since they have a game against Rutgers at home, which basically means they are guaranteed a bowl berth. Final score: Indiana 30, Maryland 20.

Reeling Test

Northwestern really is a hot team heading into this week, with three wins in a row over Iowa, Michigan State and Indiana, all formidable opponents. However, this is a whole new animal, and an animal that should not be happy about what happened in State College, Pennsylvania last Saturday. Ohio State is still a really good team, and definitely a notch above all of the teams Northwestern has played. Ohio State is for sure on the down slope at the moment, with a way too close first half against Indiana, an overtime win at Wisconsin, and finally got beaten by Penn State. They need to find their footing, fast, as Northwestern is not terrible by any stretch and will put up a fight. Despite that, it’s incredibly hard to pick against the Buckeyes in Columbus. Final score: Ohio State 38, Northwestern 27.

Game of the Week

I know Michigan State is playing awful right now, but I seem to remember them being ranked pretty high in the preseason (which doesn’t matter a whole lot) and them also not liking the hype down the road in Ann Arbor. I know Michigan is No. 2 in the nation, and Michigan State is 2-5, but I feel they are at least going to play hard enough that the shell of themselves makes this a ball game for a while. And if not, Michigan will end the recent tenure of Michigan State, and with Ohio State still and a road game at Penn State, it’s hard to see them getting more than four wins. Third place to 4-8, somebody is on the hot seat for sure in East Lansing. Like I said, this should be close for a while, but I don’t get tricked by Michigan State anymore, so I’m picking Michigan. Final score: Michigan 30, Michigan State 21.

Photo: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

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