As I write this on Wednesday afternoon I am watching the DVD of the 2009 win at the Big House. Arguably it was Danny Hope's best coached game. We ran wheel routes, had a fantastic onside kick, and had big play after big play. Mostly it is a joy to watch this game because it is physical proof we can win in Ann Arbor.
We've done it before, and we can do it again. As I outlines in yesterday's preview, we have a lot of positives in our favor, but it all revolves around getting after Denard Robinson. I'll get to it in a moment, but for now let's take a look at the first ever weekend of six Big Ten conference games:
Northwestern (2-5, 0-4) at Indiana (1-7, 0-4) Noon, Big Ten Network
Both of these teams have performed below expectations. I thought Northwestern had the horses to make some noise in their division. I never thought Indiana would lose to North Texas. For one Saturday at least, someone's suffering will end. Sippin' On Purple points out that this may be the worst game Sagarin-wise in Division IA the rest of this year. Lake the Posts can't believe Northwestern was favored by 10. Given the Wildcats' lack of a defense I tend to agree.
Historically this has been a pretty close game. Two years ago Indiana peed down its leg and blew a 25-point lead in a Bill Lynch collapse-special. Since 1995 Northwestern leads this series 9-3 and has had a number of close calls. Strangely, I believe in the power of Tre Roberson and the Hoosiers. Roberson showed something last week and their offense has not been the problem. It's been the defense, much like Northwestern. This game has the potential to be a fun shootout because neither team can stop anyone. Prediction: Indiana 45, Northwestern 42
Michigan State (6-1, 3-0) at Nebraska (6-1, 2-1) Noon, ESPN
Why on earth is this a noon game? If the Spartans win you can probably declare the Legends race over. They are not going to lose to Minnesota, Northwestern, or Indiana. That leaves only Iowa as a team that could beat them, and they would have to play perfect the rest of the way just to tie Michigan State and win the head-to-head tiebreaker. That's not going to happen. They need to just avoid a letdown in this game and they can dream of Indianapolis.
Nebraska needs this game just to have a chance at Indy. A second loss would put them behind Michigan, Iowa, and Michigan State in their division. A win for them sets up their game with the Wolverines as the next Big Game in the Legends Division. That said, their defense is still suspect. They had the rare double bye of no opponent, then Minnesota, but they still have struggled to stop teams. Michigan State also feels like a team of destiny. It's all coming together for them. First, they had a game where if Ohio State's offense had been dreadful it would have been an improvement. Then, they beat Michigan for the fourth straight time, something that hasn't happened since Kennedy was in office. Then, you had the Hail Mary that has turned Wisconsin into a bunch of whining ninnies.
It's destiny. Prediction: Michigan State 31, Nebraska 24
Purdue (4-3, 2-1) at Michigan (6-1, 2-1) Noon, ESPN2
I am still hesitant to pick us in this game. We have yet to win consecutive games in 2011 and we haven't won consecutive games in Ann Arbor since some guy named Bob Griese was quarterback. It's awfully tempting though because of how simple it seems to be to stop the Wolverines. If you stop Denard Robinson, you stop their offense. Michigan State did it, but no one else has. That should show how hard it is to do.
For us to win our defensive line has to remember it had a great week last week and absolutely get after Robinson. Roy Roundtree has killed us in two games too, so we have to cover him too even though he hasn't done much this year. This game totally revolves around our D-line vs. Robinson. If he goes apeshit, we lose and probably lose big. If we're in his face from the first play onward, we win.
On our side, Ralph Bolden needs to remember his 3-TD game he had two years ago. My interview with the Wolverine Blog tells me they're still concerned about the defense. If we commit to the run it does an even better job of stopping Robinson because it keeps him on the sideline.
All that said, I think we turned a corner last week, and if I am wrong, well, we already know I look like a jackass. Prediction: Purdue 27, Michigan 24
Iowa (5-2, 2-1) at Minnesota (1-6, 0-3) 3:30pm Big Ten Network
Our Most Hated Rival is putting together a blueprint to rescue Floyd. We need to do the same on November 26th to rescue our Bucket. We're seeing it this year. It is quite painful to see your bitter rival hold the trophy you two play for while being in the middle of a crap season. Both Indiana and Minnesota have one win, but both hold the trophy of their biggest rival.
Of course, the Hawkeyes have a precedent before them. The Golden Gophers have yet to score a point in Big Ten play without already trailing by 31 points. They've been drilled in three conference games so far and it doesn't look like it is going to get any easier the rest of the way. Their defense is so bad I think Floyd could rush for 112 yards and two scores if you just gave him the ball. That means there should be no problem for Marcus Coker. Floyd returns to Iowa City with ease. Prediction: Iowa 45, Minnesota 10
Illinois (6-2, 2-2) at Penn State (7-1, 4-0) 3:30pm ABC/ESPN2
The Fighting Illini were dreaming of roses two weeks ago. Then their offense fell completely apart. Now they have to go to Happy Valley and face a Penn State team that is getting it done with smoke, mirrors, Silas Redd, and a defense. They finally settled on Matthew McGloin at quarterback and they woke up against Northwestern. Of course, part of that could be because the flag football team of Sigma Phi Epsilon could throw for 300 yards and four TD against Northwestern.
It was strange watching Illinois last week. I know what the stats told me. I know what the stars by the recruiting services told me. Hell, I had watched a few of their games on TV. That was not the same team that was going crazy early in the year. Now we need them to help us out if we're going to be in first place in the Leaders Division going to Madison.
As usual, Black Shoe Diaries does an excellent job of telling the story in stats. They're pretty even, but I'll go with the team that is coming together rather than falling apart. Prediction: Penn State 21, Illinois 14
Wisconsin (6-1, 2-1) at Ohio State (4-3, 1-2) 8pm ESPN
I think there is going to be an angry group of Badgers at the Horseshoe this weekend, and no matter how good Ohio State's defense is it won't matter. Russell Wilson finally had a bad game, but the Badgers simply have too many weapons. Ohio State also has two few. Bucky's 5th Quarter still sees them as dangerous, however.
If Braxton Miller is back at 100% after the bye week Ohio State has a chance. Dan Herron almost has an advantage after his long suspension because he is fresher than most running backs at this time of year. He went off on Illinois and I remember what he did to us last year. This is also in Columbus, where it is never easy to win. I would much rather Wisconsin vent this week and have nothing left next week for our visit than be really pissed off with two losses in a row by the time we get there. Prediction: Wisconsin 34, Ohio State 17