This week is the first in which we are officially out of the running in the Leaders Division. Sure, it doesn't feel like we were ever truly in it, but I like housecleaning formalities like that. Now that we are out of the Big Ten, all we have to play for is a bowl game. To those that listened to the Handsome Hour last night, you know I was pretty fired up about this weekend's game. I have said all along that we are more likely to beat Ohio State than Iowa because (at least in theory) if you stop their running game you stop them, period. I stand by that.
Ohio State (6-3, 3-2) at Purdue (4-5, 2-3) Noon, Big Ten Network
If we do not beat the Buckeyes it is a complete indictment of our coaching staff. This is not a good Ohio State team. They are terrified to throw the ball and the defense is not as good as even Along the Olentangy thinks:
Really, there is little excuse for Ohio State's defense to not dominate Purdue. The Boilermakers have been inept against talented defenses, and the Buckeyes may be the best they've seen yet. Ohio State should push the Purdue running game backwards and have no trouble with the anemic passing attack, which more often than not shoots itself in the foot.
Sorry, but Notre Dame, Wisconsin, and Michigan have much better defenses. Indiana, Toledo, and Miami moved the ball with success against the Buckeyes. The defense gave up a double-digit lead to Wisconsin in virtually no time, so they can hardly be trusted to close games out. Granted, our offense isn't nearly as potent as Wisconsin's, but The only two teams OSU truly shut down were Michigan State and Illinois.
To have a chance we have to run the ball with as much success as Indiana did, if not more. We have to stay committed and build a lead on them. As for our defense, it is very simple: We have to commit everything to stopping the run because Carlos Hyde, Dan Herron, and Braxton Miller running the ball is their only legitimate offensive threats.
That is why I say a loss is a complete indictment of the coaching staff. It should be easy to prepare for a team that is more one-dimensional than Navy, but I have zero faith we will do so. Ohio State's offense has proven to be especially inept on the road, so that is another thing in our favor. That is why my final prediction is split. If we prepare properly and slow down their running game, we win. If our defense continues to play as awful as it has the past few weeks, we lose. It is really that simple. This should tell you the faith I have. Ohio State 24, Purdue 7.
Rice (3-6) at Northwestern (4-5) Noon, Big Ten Network
Here is another game that will be an indictment of our coaching staff. The Rice Owls will go for their second Big Ten win of the season, but I am betting the Wildcats will handle them with greater ease than we did. Sippin' on Purple tells us everything we need to know:
Overall, I can't find anything particularly interesting about this matchup in the stats. Rice is very bad at everything, but Northwestern is bad enough at defense to give them hope. Still, if both teams play the way their stats suggest, Northwestern will put up a lot of points, Rice will put up some but not nearly as many, and Tyris Jones might get another chance to carry the ball.
Northwestern needs this for a bowl game, and they'll get it. Northwestern 38, Rice 28
Nebraska (7-2, 3-2) at Penn State (8-1, 5-0) Noon, ESPN
I can't even imagine what the atmosphere at this game is going to be like. Can you imagine if Joe Paterno shows up in a luxury box or something? It will be amazing if the Nittany Lions can concentrate enough to pull this game off, and that is unfortunate. Lost in the maelstrom of the circus in State College are the current players, who had absolutely nothing to do with the Jerry Sandusky scandal. These guys are in the midst of a special season where they are in the hunt for a Big Ten title, and now that chance might be lost because of things well beyond their control.
They have handled everything better than the administration, however. Things have been so crazy that Corn Nation even questioned if the game would happen, and I have no idea what a cancellation would do to the rest of the conference. I honestly have no idea what will happen or if the players themselves will be able to concentrate on football. The teams are pretty even on paper, and we all know that Paterno hasn't done much actual coaching on game days of late. I think they pull this off, somehow. Penn State 17, Nebraska 14
Michigan State (7-2, 4-1) at Iowa (6-3, 3-2) Noon, ESPN2
I'm not sure what to think of this game. Michigan State has not looked very good since beating Wisconsin, while Iowa is a completely different team at home as opposed to on the road. How else do you explain them beating a good Michigan team a week after crapping the bed against Minnesota. The main storyline behind this one is the prestige lost last year in Iowa City by Michigan State. The Spartans lost one regular season game, but it was a bad one in Iowa City and it cost them a BCS berth.
Marcus Coker has become a beast that we will likely allow 4,082,027.483 yards to next week. For now, he has to go against a Michigan State defense that has honestly kind of sucked the last two weeks. An Iowa win throws the Legends Division into anarchy, and if the above result for Nebraska is correct it would put the Hawkeyes in control of their own destiny with two weeks to play. Iowa 27, Michigan State 24
Wisconsin (7-2, 3-2) at Minnesota (2-7, 1-4) 3:30pm, Big Ten Network
I'm glad the Badgers vented on us last week. Now they will look to win Paul Bunyan's Axe for the eighth straight season. J Money and Boilerdowd raise a good point last night. Minnesota is at least improving as the season winds down and they are fighting hard. They are infinitely better than when they came to West Lafayette. I don't think it is enough for the upset, but the team we saw when we played them would give up 100 points to Wisconsin. For now the Golden Gophers put up a fight for a half, but the Wisconsin offense is back rolling behind Montee Ball. Wisconsin 52, Minnesota 21
Michigan (7-2, 3-2) at Illinois (6-3, 2-3) 3:30pm, ESPN/ABC
I think we have all forgotten about Illinois, especially since our last image of them was Derek Dimke doinking a field goal off the upright in State College. It will now go down as the last game ever coached by Joe Paterno, and it hardly seems like it was really two weeks ago that everything was fine. Now the Fighting Illini are on a three game losing streak after they looked like Big Ten title contenders to start the year.
This game should be fund because it has two of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the conference. Nathan Scheelhaase is very similar to Denard Robinson, but Robinson is the better player. Something happened to the Illinois offense against Ohio State because it has been fundamentally broken since then, scoring only 28 points in 12 quarters. 14 of those points were scored as they tried to come back in desperation mode against us. Michigan has no such problems. Even last week they moved the ball and had a real shot at the end against Iowa. That will be enough. Michigan 20, Illinois 17