This is a real bland week in conference play. The only games of remote interest are Notre Dame playing Michigan State and Minnesota hosting California. In every other game the Big Ten team should be favored. With conference play starting in earnest next week there might be a tendency to look ahead. As usual, there is a full MAC slate of games. That means the Big Ten will be favored in nearly every game this weekend.
I look at this weekend as a real chance to see what we can do against our conference schedule. With what we have shown so far, is there really a conference game that is an automatic loss? Yeah, Ohio State and Michigan are probable losses, but I think the other six games are very much up in the air.
Eastern Michigan (0-2) at #25 Michigan (2-0) Noon, Big Ten Network
No preview needed, but a great MGoBlog reaction to the Notre Dame can be found here.
This is a ranked Big Ten team coming off of a big win and they are playing at home against a winless MAC team. I do not care that Eastern Michigan took Northwestern to the brink last week. Michigan should win this game easily, and there is no excuse for a close game. Eagles, make sure the check clears once you get home. Michigan 45, Eastern Michigan 17
#8 California (2-0) at Minnesota (2-0) Noon, ESPN
TCF Bank Stadium gets its first marquee opponent as California comes to the Twin Cities. I find the tit for tat scheduling between the Big Ten and Pac-10 very interesting. Last week, in a lower profile game, the Pac 10 team playing at home (Oregon) played a night game against the Big Ten team coming in (Purdue), using the time zone to its advantage. This week the opposite happens, as Cal must come in and play at 9am their time. I think there should be a uniform time here, much like last year's Purdue-Oregon game played at 3:30 West Lafayette time.
This is an interesting game. Minnesota defended Air Force's powerful rushing attack very well. Now they face maybe the nation's best running back in Jahvid Best. The Bears have won five straight against the Big Ten, last losing at home to Illinois in 2001. With a win, Cal is looking at a two game season: A home game against USC and a trip to Oregon could stand in their way of an unbeaten campaign. I think they get this one because Minnesota has been pretty average to start the year. Cal is averaging almost 55 points per game while giving up just 10. California 38, Minnesota 24
Temple (0-1) at #5 Penn State (2-0) Noon, Big Ten Network
Mismatch. This is a top 5 team playing at home against a "rival" that has already lost to a 1-AA team. It doesn't even start until tomorrow and it is already over. Penn State should be able to pick its score as I openly wonder why the Owls even still have a football program. Are they really in the MAC now? They give the MAC a bad name. Penn State 49, Temple 10
Wofford (1-1) at Wisconsin (2-0) Noon, Big Ten Network
Come on, Adam! You're a better blogger than this. We have a TON of problems? Our tackling is improving and we need to cut down on interceptions. That is it. Even with a "ton" of problems we still very nearly won at Oregon (and I hate playing that card, because it makes me sound like a Notre Dame fan "almost" beating USC a few years ago). What does this have to do with Wofford? Nothing. If he is giving us a half-assed preview I am giving him one. Wisconsin should roll easily. Wisconsin 45, Wofford 13
Northern Illinois (1-1) at Purdue (1-1) Noon, Big Ten Network
I know we are not going to get any true respect until we beat someone we shouldn't. The next opportunity comes next week, but until then we still have people picking this game as an upset. I have done a ton of research both this summer and this week concerning Northern Illinois because they have long been picked as a team that can upset us. Honestly, nothing scares me about them. Their offense is similar to Oregon's which we did a good job against last week. They do not have Oregon's athletes either. Their defense has some punch, but our offensive line should continue to dominate. In reality, I think their offense is worse than Toledo's, but their defense is better. what does that leave? They have a really good kicker, but so do we. I am not afraid one iota in saying we should roll in this one unless we take a major step back. Purdue 49, Northern Illinois 24
#11 Ohio State (1-1) vs. Toledo (1-1) at Cleveland Noon, ESPN360
This game could be a little interesting. I don't think Toledo's offense is a fluke, as they flat out rolled Colorado last week. This is technically a home game for the Rockets, but they will be cashing a massive check as Ohio State sells out Cleveland Browns Stadium. As much as I like Toledo's offense, their defense is still awful. Combine that with the fact that Ohio State still does not lose games to unranked teams means that Ohio State will take care of business. Ohio State 38, Toledo 17
Michigan State (1-1) at Notre Dame (1-1) 3:30, NBC
Both teams choked it away last week. Michigan State choked it away by being unable to recover an onside kick, while Notre Dame choked it away by completely moronic playcalling. As always with the Irish though, it wasn't their fault. It is absolutely ridiculous that some people thought it was the right call for them to be passing instead of running at the end. Check out CFN's Matthew Zemek:
Charlie Weis made the right decision to throw the ball late, as much as a lot of armchair quarterbacks might disagree. Armando Allen, who destroyed Michigan all afternoon, got dinged up just before the final series of downs on ND's ill-fated drive in the game's 58th minute of play. Blame the inability of the Irish to execute a simple out pattern on 3rd and 10; if Notre Dame gets that pitch-and-catch, game over. That was your ballgame.
No, it was not the right decision. If Jimmy Clausen simply falls down instead of throwing those incompletions he forces Michigan to either use its timeouts or use the clock. It is that simple. Both are valuable commodities, and in a close game where Michigan is moving the ball well you absolutely, 100% of the time, without question make the other team give up one of those valuable commodities. Besides, where is that wealth of talent from the recruiting classes and the decided schematic advantage? You're telling me that none of Notre Dame's other four and five star running backs were capable of gaining three yards per play there? Yes, they could have had a completion and sealed it, but why risk it? They risked it, and lost as a result. I have applauded Weis for being aggressive in the past, but he has zero sense of when he should go conservative.
As for Michigan State, I think people are making way too much out of their loss. Central Michigan has proven they are a very good team. They just had not broken through to get a big win yet. The Spartans were the unfortunate victim of Central Michigan finally getting that breakthrough. It does not mean Michigan State is a bad team.
I don't know what to expect in South Bend. Both teams are good teams. Both teams failed to execute when it mattered most last week, and lost as a result. I will give Michigan State the edge, however, because Notre Dame's loss was more of a result of poor coaching than poor execution. To me, that is more of a liability ebcause execution can be fixed. Weis has consistely shown he is an awful clock manager. That, and Michigan State simply owns Notre Dame Stadium lately. This is a prove it game. Just as I won't believe Purdue can win in Ann Arbor until I see it with my own eyes, I won't believe Notre Dame can defend its home turf against Michigan State. They have had better teams lose to worse Michigan State teams. You want my respect, Irish? Go earn it.
Of course, what do I know? I was told Notre Dame would win last week by at least 14 points, and I am "biased fool" for saying Notre Dame might start 1-7 two years ago. Michigan State 24, Notre Dame 21
Indiana (2-0) at Akron (1-1) 3:30 ESPNU
Even though they are still picked to finish last in the Big Ten, a bowl game is still a reality for Indiana. I say that because beating Akron and an awful Virginia team are not stretches. That would give them a 4-0 non-conference record and put them just two conference wins from the six they need. Can you absolutely say with 100% certainty they won't beat Illinois? Or Wisconsin? Or Iowa? Much like us with Northern Illinois, Indiana absolutely cannot afford a stumble against this weekend's MAC opponent. The Zips did nothing against Penn State and everything against Morgan State. This is a game somewhere in between, and I would actually give the Hoosiers an edge. Indiana 25, Akron 24
Arizona (2-0) at Iowa (2-0) 3:35 ABC
It is this week's transitive property game. Arizona has a nice 19-6 win over Central Michigan, who beat Michigan State. Since the Spartans were picked to be about dead even with the Hawkeyes, it will be a nice test for Iowa. The last time Arizona ventured into Big Ten Country they were handed a 59-7 beatdown at Ross-Ade Stadium in 2003. The Wildcats are also the answer to a trivia question, as they are the lone Big Ten or Pac-10 team that has never played in a Rose Bowl. They are one of the under the radar Pac-10 teams, so they are looking for a statement in what will be the final Big Ten-Pac 10 game before Pasadena. We should also get a better idea of who the real Iowa is after this one. Iowa 21, Arizona 17
Northwestern (2-0) at Syracuse (0-2) 7pm, ESPN360
Syracuse already has a lead on Indiana as far as finishing in last place, as they are 0-2 against the Big Ten. In their third and final game against our conference they have won last shot to get a win. Northwestern was less than impressive last week against Eastern Michigan, but the Wildcats managed a 30-10 season opening win over the Orange last year. This has the potential to be a back and forth game like the Minnesota game a few weeks ago. The Gophers were lucky to escape upstate New York with a win, and I think Northwestern will face a similar fate. My gut says Northwestern, but do not be surprised if Syracuse pulls an upset. Also remember, Northwestern has a very difficult time going unbeaten in non-conference play despite easier schedules. Last year was the first time in like 40 years it had happened. Northwestern 27, Syracuse 21