When making my picks for the Big Ten bloggers' pick ‘em via e-mail yesterday, there was a great comment about how close all the games were this week. Wisconsin has the week off because of their season ending trip to Hawaii, so there are only five games. All five games are to teams that are relatively close to each other in the standings as well. It makes for a big week as we look for bowl bids.
The winner of the Purdue-Illinois game keeps faint bowl hopes alive while the loser is done. The same is true for the Northwestern-Indiana game based on their remaining schedules. Michigan State-Iowa has some major conference title implications, while Ohio State-Minnesota could be decided entirely by defensive scores. Michigan-Penn State also has had plenty of good moments recently, so this could be the most exciting week of football this season.
Indiana (4-3, 1-2) at Northwestern (4-3, 1-2) Noon, Big Ten Network
This is a very interesting game. Indiana has overachieved a bit with four wins, while Northwestern has underachieved. Not only that, but Northwestern has two too close for comfort wins over winless MAC teams and their lone conference victory took six fumbles to squeeze out. It's not that I am bitter about that. It is just that I would love to have their four ugly wins as opposed to our two dominant ones right now. With a win over Indiana, Northwestern can think bowl game because of the remaining game against Illinois.
Indiana has looked much more impressive in its four wins. They also had the close call at Michigan. Should they beat Northwestern, they are playing for unexpected bowl eligibility in the remaining four games. They won't win at Penn State or Iowa, but Wisconsin and Purdue at home are certainly winnable. From both previews you can see this has been a tight series of late. If Purdue is going to snag a bowl bid it should cheer for Indiana in this one. Assuming a win over Illinois, Northwestern would have to get a win over Iowa, Penn State, or Wisconsin for #6 if they lose this one. That can eliminate them, and Purdue could eliminate Indiana personally in the Bucket game. Indiana 24, Northwestern 21
Minnesota (4-3, 2-2) at #19 Ohio State (5-2, 3-1) Noon, ESPN
The Daily Gopher Preview (again, none posted yet)
Admit it, Purdue fans. If you could have heard what was said on the bus back to Columbus Saturday afternoon, it would have been worth the price of admission. Ohio State should be pissed off. If you were picking a team for them to lose their long conference road winning streak against, we would probably rate slightly ahead of Northwestern and Indiana. Yes, there were some bad calls that went against the Buckeyes, but they were still dominated the entire game by a 1-5 team.
Minnesota has its own embarrassment to deal with. They went all the way to Penn State and accomplished exactly what they were going to accomplished had they just stayed in Minnesota. Both of these offenses are struggling right now, so how do you find and edge? I would have to give it to Ohio State. They at least scored offensively last week and they are playing at home. Ohio State 17, Minnesota 7
Illinois (1-5, 0-4) at Purdue (2-5, 1-2)
As mentioned in yesterday's preview, losing this game would undo all the good accomplished from the Ohio State win. Unfortunately, the same good feeling I had last week is now accompanied by a bad feeling this week. It doesn't matter though. For the sake of the program, this is an absolute, "win at any cost" game. Illinois has shown zero interest in playing the 2009 season, so it cannot be a loss.
Based on the way both teams have played Purdue should win in a walk. But it is like I have the opposite attitude of last week. Last week I was upbeat and trying to give reasons for an upset. This week I see Illinois' raw talent and know that our nature is to turn it over, so I know we can very easily lose this. Northern Illinois is proof of that. That was the last time I felt there was no way we would lose a game and look what happened.
I am probably grasping at straws though. Illinois' demeanor has been terrible all year. We are hardly motivation for them to turn it on. All we need to do is build a lead early and they will crumble. Purdue 34, Illinois 14
#13 Penn State (6-1, 2-1) at Michigan (5-2, 1-2) 3:30 ABC
In the blogsophere, this is the biggest matchup. According to the Big Ten bloggers' official roster there are seven Michigan blogs and eight Penn State blogs. Because of that, there is no focused preview from blogs. Just follow the links to the right on the main page and you can find plenty of talk about this game.
A proper analogy for Michigan in regards to Penn State is kryptonite. The Wolverines possibly cost Penn State a national title in 2005. It only took an epically bad Michigan team last year for the Nittany Lions to break a nine game losing streak against Michigan. Some very good Penn State teams have lost to some mediocre Michigan teams. With these year's results, both teams are probably dead even.
Of course, Michigan has to be elevated because they survived a Jimmy Montana comeback. If you listen to Pete Carroll's pissing and moaning this week, that fact alone should elevate the teams that survive above all others. Penn State has already fallen once in their one true test this year. I think the same happens this week and Penn State is eliminated from the Big Ten title race. Michigan 20, Penn State 13
#6 Iowa (7-0, 3-0) at Michigan State (4-3, 3-1) 7pm Big Ten Network
I am shocked this game is on the Big Ten Network. It is one of the better games of the week. Despite a pretty bad non-conference season, Michigan State has gotten it done in conference. If they win this game they won't control their destiny for the Rose Bowl (they have two non-conference losses to Ohio State's one, giving the Buckeyes the edge), but they will have a large say in their fate. Not playing Ohio State is a blessing and a curse. It means they can't lose to the Buckeyes, but unless New Mexico State pulls a shocking upset the next tiebreaker is non-conference record. That gives Ohio State an edge.
We can't ignore Iowa though. They are trying to have a 2002 Ohio State season. They have a fantastic defense, an offense that does just enough to win, and they know how to win close games. If they win, it will likely come down to a November 14th date in Columbus for them. That would mean the Rose Bowl, and maybe a date in Pasadena a week later. Thanks to Purdue, they could possibly even get through with a loss in Columbus because who really believe Ohio State gets through the rest of its schedule unscathed?
The reason that Iowa keeps winning close games is enough for me to pick them. Iowa 17, Michigan State 16