The day of Purdue Harbor II: Urban's Reckoning is almost upon us! It is a full slate of Big Ten football as finally, the double byes are over and all 12 teams are in action. That said, the Big Ten Championship game still looks like it will be Michigan State vs. Ohio State unless something truly bizarre happens in the Leaders Division. The Legends is closer, but Sparty has a comfortable lead there.
Speaking of something completely bizarre, let's start off the picks with Purdue-Ohio State:
No. 4 Ohio State (8-0, 4-0) at Purdue (1-6, 0-3) Noon, Big Ten Network
We've got the Buckeyes right where we want them, in the sleepy ignored game on BTN in a half-filled Ross-Ade Stadium! The fans of the Bucks seem split on this game. According to some comments at Eleven Warriors they are up in arms that I would have the gall to say their perfect Buckeyes should even lower themselves to be in a game with Purdue. Others are optimistic, but at least view the recent history with a small amount of unease.
As fun as it has been to talk about Purdue Harbor II and the potential for a massive upset, I recognize Purdue's chances are very small. At least in the last two visits, where Purdue's defensive line has been dominant, the Boilermakers have had a semi-competent offense capable of scoring points. Purdue's offensive line would suddenly have to morph into a functional unit and the defensive line would again have to play out of its mind to even give Purdue a chance.
I hope to be very pleasantly surprised and that the bizarre hex over OSU in Ross-Ade continues, but this is the tallest test for said hex by far. We should get crushed, but I hope for a miracle. It has happened before. Ohio State 52, Purdue 10
No. 24 Wisconsin (5-2, 3-1) at Iowa (5-3, 2-2) Noon, ABC/ESPN2
One team cheering for Purdue Harbor II is Wisconsin. The Badgers need an unlikely Ohio State loss to Indiana, Illinois, or Purdue in addition to a loss at Michigan to get to the Big Ten title game. Maybe they will let us borrow their offensive line for this game along with Melvin Gordon.
Unfortunately, they will likely need them against the Hawkeyes, who have cobbled together a much better season than I expected in advances of renewing the Most Hated Rivalry next week. They are consistently scoring between 25 and 28 points and the defense is a surprising 12th in point given up at only 18.1 per game. It is not pretty, but it is effective. I still like Wisconsin here, but Iowa is good enough to pull an upset. Wisconsin 31, Iowa 24
Illinois (3-4, 0-3) at Penn State (4-3, 1-2) Noon, ESPN
This is the game we get on ESPN at Noon? A Penn State team that just got taken to the woodshed by Ohio State and an Illinois team that has lost 17 Big Ten games in a row? That was your best choice, ESPN? I didn't realize Purdue was that much repellant for the Flagship.
The Fighting Illini started the season strong by going 3-1, but they have been getting worse and worse each week, especially on defense. For example; they gave up 42 unanswered points to Michigan State, who managed only 7 offensive points to Purdue the week before. Not only does this give me hope the Boilers can actually win a game on November 23rd, it has me leery of picking Illinois the rest of the way. It is not like Penn State has been excellent, but at least they are playing well at home. Penn State 41, Illinois 21
Minnesota (6-2, 2-2) at Indiana (3-4, 1-2) 3:30pm, Big Ten Network
Repeat after me, Minnesota: Just run the ball. Don't worry about getting Philip Nelson going in the passing game. Don't be concerned that you are ranked 119th in the nation in passing at only 122.9 yards per game. Just give the ball to David Cobb repeatedly. Get your 5-7 yards per carry, move the chains, and run the clock. You ran for 271 yards last week against a marginally good run defense. Against Indiana you should be able to top 400.
As always, the Hoosiers cannot defend the run at all. Given their performance against Jeremy Gallon they aren't great against the pass, either. The Golden Gophers can definitely run the ball, so they should follow Navy's plan of barely passing. It was successful. I recognize that Indiana's offense is excellent, but Minnesota's best weapon is the ground game moving the clock and keeping the Indiana offense on the sideline where it is completely harmless. A Minnesota win all but officially eliminates IU from bowl contention because they won't win at Ohio State or Wisconsin. Minnesota 38, Indiana 35
No. 21 Michigan (6-1, 2-1) at No. 22 Michigan State (7-1, 4-0) 3:30pm, ABC
Here is your best game of the week, mostly because these two hate either other. I love the epithet of "Little Brother" that Michigan throws at Michigan State. It is delicious. Now you have a shaky Michigan offense that can go nuclear against Indiana or crumble against the likes of mighty Akron going against a Michigan State defense that has given up only three points in its last eight quarters.
If Michigan State had any kind of quarterback play against Notre Dame they would be in the top 10 right now. The defense is just that good. Indiana is the only team to crack 20 points on them and it took several big plays to do so. Playing at home in a huge rivalry game, I think the Wolverines aren't consistent enough to do what needs to be done. The Spartans have figured a few things out offensively, too. Michigan State 17, Michigan 10
Northwestern (4-4, 0-4) at Nebraska (5-2, 2-1) 3:30pm, Big Ten Network
Northwestern is a dead team walking. They even contracted a dose of AIRBHG playing against Iowa last week and are down to their fourth string running back on the depth chart. It is almost unthinkable, but after starting 4-0 it looks like Northwestern will miss a bowl game. They have to go 2-2 against Nebraska, Michigan, Michigan State, and Illinois to get to six wins.
The loss at Minnesota last week was bad for the Cornhuskers, but as long as they take care of the Wildcats at home they will still control their destiny for the Legends Division. They go to Michigan and host Michigan State after this, making it a difficult stretch of games. Would another Divison title be enough to save Pelini? Maybe, but a loss to Northwestern, especially as bad as Northwestern is playing, could mean it is his last game. Nebraska 31, Northwestern 14