It doesn't seem like it, but after tomorrow we will be halfway through the season. Everyone except Illinois will have played six games after tomorrow. That will also give us a very good idea of who has a chance to go bowling, and who has to have a big second half of the season to keep those hopes alive. It is safe to say that we easily fall into the latter category. We can make our work that much harder if we give away another game in Minneapolis.
It is also a big week in terms of the overall conference race. Michigan can be all but eliminated if they fall at Iowa. The Ohio State-Wisconsin game is huge in the race as well. It should be a very good day for some football.
Purdue (1-4, 0-1) at Minnesota (3-2, 1-1) Noon, ESPN2
I would love to have a more in depth preview from the Daily Gopher, but those of you who listened to last night's podcast know that I died a slow, painful death on air until Boilerdowd was kind enough to call in. As a result, we have no podcast to really post this morning. No one stands up the Hammer & Rails Nation and lives to tell about it. no one. I think it is time to officially shun the blog The Daily Gopher, ala Dwight Schrute.
In truth, this looks like another game that Purdue absolutely has a chance to win. I also think that a win would do a lot to ease some of the pressure the players and coaches are facing from the fans. It is good because it would be a road win (something that hasn't happened in two years) and it is one that many people were considering a loss before the year started. Rarely do we get a chance to face a team where, if we stop one player, we seriously hamper that team's efforts. Minnesota wants to go to Eric Decker. Their running game has been held in check, so if we can contain Decker their offense should falter.
This is, of course, ignoring our history of making average running backs look like Bo Jackson circa Tecmo Bowl. I feel as long as we can avoid that tendency we have a good shot. The fumbles and turnovers have to stop sometime. This is a game we absolutely should win if we can just stop turning the ball over. Purdue 27, Minnesota 21
Miami (OH) (0-5) at Northwestern (3-2) Noon, Big Ten Network
Okay Northwestern, you already had two, "What the hell was that?" non-conference games. You're playing a winless MAC team at home. Not only are they winless, they didn't even score a point until the third game of the season. If this is anything less than a thorough ass-kicking you should be ashamed of yourselves. Northwestern 38, Miami (OH) 13
Eastern Illinois (4-1) at #14 Penn State (4-1) Noon, ESPN Classic
Much of the same for Northwestern applies to Penn State. Penn state finally looked like Penn State last week in dismantling Illinois. For some reason, the Nittany Lions lack that same killer instinct against Iowa. It is actually refreshing to watch, and what makes Ohio State so good against lesser teams. Penn State knew it was the better team last week, and acted like it. Very few teams in this conference have that ability against lesser opponents. I don't care that the Panthers are 4-1, this is still a 1-AA game. Penn State should pick its score. Penn State 48, Eastern Illinois 10
Michigan State (2-3, 1-1) at Illinois (1-3, 0-2) Noon, Big Ten Network
Hail to the Orange Preview (None posted yet)
This game should be quite interesting, as both teams really need it. If Michigan State wins they will show that the three game losing streak was just a blip. If Illinois wins, they can salvage something from the season. I think Illinois needs it more though. If the Illini lose, you can all but declare their season done. I certainly would not pick them later on at Cincinnati. I wouldn't pick them against Michigan, either. That would give them six losses (assuming an MSU loss), and they haven't shown enough to me that they could win all of the other five games.
Offensively, you have to go with the team that has it together more. Illinois is also in desperation mode by starting Eddie McGee at quarterback. Illinois' offense is already that bad and there is no excuse for it. To me, you go with the team that is on a bit of a roll instead of the one that is already desperate. I think Michigan State closes the coffin lid before Indiana nails it shut next week. Michigan State 30, Illinois 10
Wisconsin (5-0, 2-0) at #9 Ohio State (4-1, 2-0) 3:30 ABC
This is the week that Ohio State's dominance either continues or fades away. The Buckeyes are currently on a very impressive streak of either winning outright or tying for the Big Ten title. If the Badgers win this week, that streak will be in serious jeopardy. I am sure the Buckeyes do not want to face the two week schedule of Iowa and Penn State later on with a conference loss. Wisconsin hasn't been overly impressive so far, but they have gotten he job done each week. This is their biggest test.
Ultimately, no one should bet against the Buckeyes in the ‘shoe against an unranked opponent. A Badger win apparently would guarantee a BCS bowl for Wisconsin, as the last team that beat Ohio State and did not play in a BCS bowl during that season was Purdue in 2004. When you talk about killer instinct against unranked opponents, Ohio State has it. Because of that, I will pick them until proven wrong. Ohio State 20, Wisconsin 10
Indiana (3-2) at Virginia (1-3) 3:30, ESPN360
Okay Indiana, this is your shot. Win this game and you are 4-0 away from the Big Ten. That means I will pick you to win two Big Ten games and get a surprising bowl bid. Virginia is awful. The only reason they have a win was because North Carolina unbelievably gacked at home last week. This team lost to 1-AA William and Mary to start the year. It wasn't even a last second field goal type of loss. They lost 26-14, so it was a convincing loss to a 1-AA team. If you want respect, you win this game, Indiana. Indiana 34, Virginia 24
Michigan (4-1, 1-1) at #12 Iowa (5-0, 2-0) 8pm, ABC
I would argue that if Wisconsin and Iowa both win tomorrow, the winner of their game later on has a real chance at going to the BCS Championship game. Hear me out on this. Both teams are the only two unbeatens left from the Big Ten. Iowa has already disposed of Penn State on the road and still has Wisconsin and Ohio State on the road. In an undefeated season, they would have three very good road wins with those. Should Wisconsin get through this week and next week I don't see anything standing in their way of a perfect record except a home game against Michigan.
I cannot explain Iowa's tendency to play down to its opponents, but wins are wins. You can only play who is in front of you. That is why I don't want to hear any crap about a one loss SEC team "deserving", as if it is a Biblical Edict, to get into the BCS title game over an undefeated team from another conference. If you don't want to gripe about it then don't lose. It is that simple. That is why later in the season I will not have a one loss BCS conference team ranked ahead of an undefeated BCS conference team.
Honestly, I think Iowa is the Big Ten's best chance right now. I am thankful Purdue does not have to play them, because they are developing "the look". Remember, Ohio State wasn't supposed to be that good with all their close wins in 2002. We all remember what happened to them. Iowa 24, Michigan 21