Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE
Taking a look at this week's Big Ten slate.
Well now, we've had quite the interesting afternoon in terms of news here at the site. The impending firing of Danny Hope appears to be irreversible at this point, especially if it has already leaked to the mainstream media. I am not really sure what it means going forward.
I do know that hope will coach tomorrow's game against Iowa. As for after that, who knows. It may depend on tomorrow's result. If the Boilers lose tomorrow it would not surprise me if a move is made for the final two games which are trophy games against Illinois and Indiana. If Purdue beats Iowa things might stay put, at least for another week.
If I had to guess I would say that Hope finishes the season win or lose tomorrow. If Purdue does win its last three and reaches a bowl game I would say that an interim coach coaches said bowl game before the new hire comes along.
I do like the choice of Northern Illinois' Dave Doeren, who will be on ESPN2 next Wednesday night. His first-year starter at quarterback, Jordan Lynch, is a junior with 2,175 yards passing and 19 TDs against only three interceptions. He has also run for 1,342 yards and 16 more scores. How good would Rob Henry, as a senior next season, look running a similar offense? let's make this happen, because the talent is there to be successful on both side of the ball with Doeren. If not, he'll smoke us when the Huskies come to Ross-Ade next season.
But enough about that speculation for now. Let's get on with this weekend's games in the conference.
Wisconsin (6-3, 3-2) at Indiana (4-5, 2-3) Noon, ESPN2
This is easily the biggest game in Indiana Football history since November 1993, when a 7-1 Indiana team lost at Penn State 38-31. The Hoosiers control their own destiny for Pasadena and a win over the Badgers might be enough to get them there even with a loss at Penn State next week. Indiana would own the tiebreaker over Wisconsin and a 4-4 finish with a win at Purdue would possibly tie them with Wisconsin since the Badgers still must play Ohio State and Penn State.
On the other side, a win for Wisconsin seals up a trip to Indianapolis that should have already been locked up. Curt Phillips will start for Wisconsin, while the rotation at quarterback for Indiana has been strangely effective. Even more strange, the Hoosiers have been toying with actually playing defense in recent weeks.
It has been 19 years since Indiana has won three conference games in a row. They will come close to pulling off the upset, but not quite close enough as Wisconsin will still have a strong ground game that will grind out yards. Wisconsin 31, Indiana 27
Northwestern (7-2, 3-2) at Michigan (6-3, 4-1) Noon, ESPN
Oh Northwestern, if only you had not blown those games at Penn State and at home against Nebraska. The Wildcats are still in the race for the Legends Division title, but those hopes end this week if they can't upset the Wolverines in Ann Arbor. It's crazy to think that Northwestern is a handful of plays from being 9-0 and probably ranked in the top 10 nationally.
Devin Gardner played very well for Michigan last week at Minnesota, so regardless of if Denard Robinson returns or not the Wolverines should be okay on offense. The defense also looked good against a team that was hot before meeting them in Minneapolis. They'll have to defend the run and the all-Kain Colter all the time offense. Michigan 27, Northwestern 24
Purdue (3-6, 0-5) at Iowa (4-5, 2-3) Noon, Big Ten Network
I wish I could say I felt better about this game. I really do. Iowa's offense is almost as putrid as our own if not worse. Unfortunately they at least have the benefit of a pretty good defense to help them out. Our own holds well for a bit, but with constant three-and-outs from the Nordfense keeping them on the field they wear down like in the Michigan and Penn State games.
I think we should be prepared for some ugly, ugly football. Robert Marve has outplayed James Vandenberg and has more TD passes in less than half the playing time. Their running game is better with Damon Bullock, but he is their lone option. I know I am just trying to talk myself into a Purdue win here only to be disappointed.
The players are more than capable of winning this game because the Hawkeyes are a bad team that is getting worse. Unfortunately, Purdue is a very poorly coached team that is also getting worse. I give Iowa the edge because of its defense and I hope I am wrong. I want to see at least one more win this season. Iowa 17, Purdue 10
Penn State (6-3, 4-1) at Nebraska (7-2, 4-1) 3:30pm, ABC/ESPN2
In any other year this would be a nice possible preview of the Big Ten championship game. Now it is a land mine that Nebraska must avoid before playing two much easier games to reach the Big Ten title game. The Cornhuskers are in the driver's seat in the Legends Division with the tiebreaker over Michigan in their back pocket. A loss combined with Northwestern beating Michigan throws that division into three-way tie chaos.
Penn State did look really good at Purdue. The Nittany Lions were incredibly stout defensively, but I doubt Nebraska is dumb enough to run the same plays at them over and over again is they are stopped. In a close game like this I often lean towards the home team. Nebraska won last year in Happy Valley the week after everything went to hell with the football program, and I think they repeat it this week. Nebraska 27, Penn State 21
Minnesota (5-4, 1-4) at Illinois (2-7, 0-5) 3:30pm, Big Ten Network
The Fighting Illini are the first Big Ten team that is officially paying out the string and waiting for next season. Next week's game against Purdue could be a cripplefight between 0-6 teams, but this week they get a Minnesota team looking for one more victory in order to reach bowl eligibility.
That eligibility would be huge in Jerry Kill's second year, especially since they will likely get a decent bowl even at 6-6 because of the dearth of eligible teams. The Golden Gophers gave Michigan a good game for a half last week and if they take care of business this week it won't exactly be automatic for Nebraska or Michigan State to beat them.
Illinois simply looks done, and that will help Minnesota this week and hopefully Purdue next week. Minnesota 37, Illinois 20