The Big Ten should go to 10-0 this weekend. Two teams have a bye in Purdue and Northwestern. The rest will be favorites in their respective games. Three games are against the MAC. Two games are against FCS foes. Two more games are against Sun Belt teams. The only BCS conference matchup is Ohio State hosting Colorado.
Unfortunately, I don't think the Big Ten will get to 10 wins this week because someone invariably screws things up. The two FCS foes are not your usual FCS fodder, but ranked teams in the lower division poll. Two of the games are away from Big Ten home stadiums. More importantly, several Big ten teams are reeling right now and not looking as good as originally thought.
That is the one thing that gives me hope for a bowl game even in the face of the Rice loss. Several of our future opponents have either struggled to move the football greatly or have glaring weaknesses on offense. Two of those foes, Minnesota and Indiana, are consistently below us in every Big Ten power poll. Assuming we get those games, that means we need two more somewhere along the way. Before we get into the preview, here is another scientific poll you can vote in to see who the most like two teams we can beat to get to six wins are.
Central Michigan (1-2) at Michigan State (2-1) Noon, ESPNU
This is a lot different from a few years ago when Dan LeFevour led the Chippewas to an upset in East Lansing. This Central Michigan team struggled to do anything against Kentucky, who looks like one of the worst BCS teams out there. That should be enough to fix some of the things that went wrong last week for the Spartans. In addition to a costly red zone turnover, They couldn't generate anything on the ground.Those might be the weaknesses exploited down the road by Nebraska and Wisconsin. Michigan State 45, Central Michigan 10
San Diego State (3-0) at Michigan (3-0) Noon, Big Ten Network
I am calling in an upset alert for this one. The Aztecs have a hell of a running back in Ronnie Hillman (497 yards, eight touchdowns) and he goes against a Michigan defense that probably won't be able to stop the Salvation Army this year. I am not confident in the "Denard Robinson runs around and throws jump balls into traffic" offense, either. Michigan is the better team in this game, but their weaknesses will come back to bite them later. Also of note is that Brady Hoke is facing his former team. The Wolverines need to be ready for the revenge factor even if it is in the Big House. Michigan 31, San Diego State 24
Eastern Michigan (2-1) at Penn State (2-1) Noon, ESPN2
Eastern Michigan is awful and Penn State's offense is as potent as King Charles II of Spain. I expect a shutout from the Penn State defense, but Black Shoe Diaries is already calling their offense the worst since 2004. That offense might give us a puncher's chance in Happy Valley. Penn State 21, Eastern Michigan 0
Louisiana-Monroe (1-2) at Iowa (2-1) Noon, Big Ten Network
As usual, our Most Hated Rival is presenting its 10 reasons that the Hawkeyes will lose. This week they actually have some valid ones. After Steele Jantz tore them apart they are afraid of Kolton Browning. The truth is that aside from the fourth quarter of the Pitt game, Iowa has looked pretty bad lately. They couldn't stop anything against Iowa State and against Pittsburgh they needed a 28-3 run in the last 20 minutes to pull off the win. They shouldn't lose on Saturday, but the general atmosphere of self-loathing in Iowa City is quite strong at the moment. Iowa 34, Louisiana-Monroe 17
Colorado (1-2) at Ohio State (2-1) 3:30pm, ABC/ESPN2
Braxton Miller is starting, but will it matter when he can't throw, either? If you thought Iowa was all emo you should take a look at some of the Ohio State blogs this week. So confident they were that the Hurricanes couldn't touch them, and now they are all mopey like the world is ending. Everywhere else, the college football world snickers. Now they face an unorthodox offense led by Paul Richardson that could cause problems. I don't see the Buckeyes having many problems at home since Colorado sucks on the road, but if the Buffaloes do what Toledo couldn't there will be a full-fledged panic in Columbus. Ohio State 28, Colorado 10
South Dakota (2-1) at Wisconsin (3-0) 3:30pm, Big Ten Network
South Dakota is ranked 18th in the FCS poll, but Wisconsin is basically destroying everything in its path to start the season. In fact, they are the only team in the conference that has yet to show a true weakness. Yeah, they've not been as strong against the run as you would expect, but does it really matter when Montee Ball, Russell Wilson, James White, and Nick Toon are dropping 45 points per game. That makes it a lot easier to win each week. South Dakota did grab a Big Ten pelt by beating Minnesota last season, but there is a huge difference between Minnesota and Wisconsin. Wisconsin 51, South Dakota 10
Western Michigan (2-1) at Illinois (3-0) 3:30pm, Big Ten Network
Western Michgian already struggled against Denard Robinson, and now they get Denard Robinson-lite in Nathan Scheelhaase. Scheelhaase is a much better passer and is performing at the position at a higher level than Robinson did at the same time. The Fighting Illini should enjoy their return to the top 25 for at least another week. Illinois 34, Western Michigan 10
North Dakota State (2-0) at Minnesota (1-2) 7pm, Big Ten Network
It is a sad state of affairs in Minneapolis when I am considering the Golden Gophers as an upset pick against an FCS team. Unfortunately, Minnesota has the worst recent record against the lower division in the Big Ten since these games became regular. They are a pretty bad 3-2 against FCS foes in the last five years, with their largest margin of victory a 35-23 win over Montana State. As for North Dakota State, this is the third time in six years they will play the Gophers. They lost 10-9 in 2006 and won 27-21 the next season. Also, they are rated 8th in the FCS poll. The Daily Gopher is advocating a return to a Glen Mason-style offense, which may help in the long run. I am picking Minnesota because no Big Ten team should ever lose to an FCS team, but I would not be surprised if NDSU shocks them again given Minnesota's troubles with FCS teams. Minnesota 24, NDSU 21
Indiana (1-2) at North Texas (0-3) 7pm, ESPN3
North Texas is a simply awful team. They cannot defend against anyone and they can't score, either. In three games against Florida International, Alabama, and Houston they have given up more than 40 points each and they are averaging only 13 per game. Surely the Hoosiers can't screw this one up, right? They will be the first BCS conference school to play at UNT's new stadium, so there will be some excitement from the home crowd. The Hoosiers cannot be taken seriously if they drop this one. Indiana 35, North Texas 20
Nebraska (3-0) at Wyoming (3-0) 7pm, Versus
Wyoming is one of the weaker 3-0 teams in the country. They have beaten two FCS teams and won at Bowling Green on a missed extra point in the final seconds. The Cornhuskers need to improve their defense before the Big Ten season. They are hardly the Blackshirts so far, giving up a ton of points and yards to Washington and Fresno State. Brett Smith is a dual-threat quarterback that could cause some trouble too. I expect Nebraska to win big, even on the road, before they finally get a Big Ten game. Nebraska 41, Wyoming 10