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Week 3 preview (What doesn't kill us only MAKES US STRONGER!!)

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This is the year where hope fails you
The test subjects run the experiments
And the bastards you know, is the hero you hate
But cohesion is possible if we strive
There’s no reason, there’s no lesson
No time like the present, telling you right now
What have you got to lose, what have you got to lose
Except your soul...who's with us!!!!!!! – Pulse of the Maggots, Slipknot

First of all, I know we could never come out to that song because I doubt Purdue would change, but to those of you who have heard it, would it not be a better ‘fire up’ anthem than When Worlds Collide? Can you imagine coming out of the tunnel with the air raid siren that it has and having the entire student section jumping in time with the marching beat at the beginning? I don’t know about you, but that would get my blood going on Saturdays.

And that brings me to my point about this week’s games, not only in the Big Ten, but also around the country. When you have teams that are evenly matched, or a team coming in wanting to pull an upset, attitude can mean everything. Why has Purdue struggled not only in big games, but also in games against supposedly inferior opponents? We have lacked the proper attitude, a ‘swagger’ if you will. Our talent level has never been as high in West Lafayette as it has been the last four seasons, probably peaking in 2003 when we had a team that, in my opinion, was better than the Rose Bowl team. Yet we have constantly struggled to close out close games and have lost to teams we should have no business losing to.

I would argue that we could have benefited more last year if we had a team-wide attitude that Pollard, Kirsch, and Edwards, our so-called ‘troublemakers’, had. Am I condoning their actions? Somewhat. I am saying that if we as a team had collectively had their attitudes, and they had been more integrated into the team as a whole, we would have been better off. We cast them as outsiders instead of taking their attitude team-wide, which naturally made them rebel and cause friction. In football you have to have the "I am a certified badass," attitude.

Why has Miami (FL) been at the top consistently for the last two decades (minus the sanctions of the mid-90’s)? They not only have had boatloads of talent, but an attitude of "We are better than you, we are going to kick your ass, and you will enjoy it because you cannot stop it." From watching their games over the past four seasons as well as Purdue’s the difference is dramatic. When Miami does not have that attitude, they often lose with superior talent. We have never had that attitude as a team, and it has cost us in games like Minnesota last year, Northwestern the past two years, Wisconsin two years ago, and in probably every single bowl game since 2000 outside of the Rose Bowl, where we have been the better team coming in, but have not gotten the job done.

I say all this because in all of this weekend’s games, attitude will be a huge factor. It is why Notre Dame is getting better and better. It is why Michigan has struggled recently. It is why Ohio State went into Texas and won. And it is why we need to come together and dominate right now.

Michigan (2-0) at Notre Dame (2-0) – This is our only hope for Notre Dame to have a loss before they play USC. This is our last great hope that the hype will be ended, saving us from a long national nightmare. Michigan is the last team before the Trojans that I feel has the talent to come in and go toe-to-toe with the Irish and beat them physically. Anyone else on their schedule and it would be because of a fluky offense or the Irish beating themselves. Michigan State is way too shaky this early in the season to do it next week, and Purdue would have to play an absolutely perfect game to have a chance.
The thing is, Michigan has not had the necessary attitude for some time. I think, when you look across the board as a whole, Michigan has the physically better team, but they are lacking in attitude. Notre Dame has that attitude in bunches right now, and it has been proven in the past that they ride that emotion well until they get cocky, wear green jerseys, and someone beats them because of it. They simply crushed a good Penn State team last week, and they are riding high right now.
PREDICTION: Notre Dame 38, Michigan 21 – I hope I am wrong, but I don’t think Michigan has a prayer in this one. I get the sense Notre Dame is starting to roll and it will take something wacky, say a fluky wishbone offense and high altitude in a late season visit to Air Force, for them to lose right now.

Cincinnati (1-1) at Ohio State (2-0) – This one should be no contest. The Buckeyes just went into the home stadium of the defending National Champs when they were still ranked #2 and walked out with an easy win and we’re supposed to expect Cincinnati to hang with them? Cincinnati has a win over 1-AA team and lost to Pittsburgh. Their offense right now probably couldn’t score in a women’s prison with a fistful of pardons, much less against Ohio State’s D in Columbus. This is a short preview.
PREDICTION: Ohio State 45, Cincinnati 3 – The Buckeyes roll in this one. I mean come on. Cincy ducked out of playing us two years ago in Ross-Ade, making Syracuse come in its stead.

Michigan State (2-0) at Pitt (2-0) – this is one of the more interesting games of the week for the Big Ten, as the Spartans want to prove their early struggles with the likes of Idaho are in the past. I want to point out again, what is to get excited about them other than Drew Stanton? You never know when this team is going to fold each year, so will it be this week?
Pitt is one of those quiet teams that have played very well on both side of the ball to this point. They are a bit of an enigma and they also want to get some respect for their conference with a win over a Big Ten team. They also have a former NFL coach who is defensive minded calling the shots. The days of Larry Fitzgerald may be over, but remember, Pitt went in to Notre Dame and crushed them two years ago. They did lay a huge egg last season, however, so can they be trusted?
PREDICTION: Pitt 35, Michigan State 32 – This should be a very good game, but I give the advantage to Pitt being at home. If it were reversed, my pick would be Michigan State.

Syracuse (0-2) at Illinois (1-1) - When looking at this game I feel it is like the episode from Season five of South Park where Timmy and Jimmy get in a fight, and Cartman goes running around the town screaming, "CRIPPLE FIGHT!!!" I mean come on, Syracuse could not get two freakin’ yards in seven straight plays last week. It had a good Iowa team come into its house and pretty much do everything it can to hand it the game, and it still can’t get the job done.
Illinois is even more of a joke. When you can’t score against Rutgers of all people, I think it is time for demotion to 1-AA for at least a year. With all due respect to the Scarlet Knights, who are coming around nicely, they had been to exactly one bowl game before last year. That’s fewer than football powerhouses like Indiana, Baylor, Duke, and Vanderbilt have been to. They are improving, but we’re not exactly talking about the Bears’ defense here. They scored 3 points against our defense last year, for crying out loud! Seriously, this team won the Big Ten just five years ago?
PREDICTION: Syracuse 14, Illinois 7 – I sure hope this game is not televised anywhere. At least Syracuse was competitive against Iowa.

Iowa State (2-0) at Iowa (2-0) – Wow! I guess Iowa really does rely on Drew Tate and his leadership. How else can you explain its near embarrassing loss last week? He really needs to come back this week for the Hawkeyes to have a chance. Iowa State has surprisingly won six of the last eight games in this series, and when you look back, the Cyclones were the only team to beat Iowa in the 2002 regular season, preventing the Hawkeyes from being the second undefeated team from the Big Ten that year.
With Tate, I think the Hawkeyes are a very serious national title contender. Without him, they are very beatable, however. Fortunately for Iowa, Iowa State’s pass defense may be one of the few in the country that is worse than ours. It should give us an idea of how well we will match up in a few weeks when we visit Iowa City. The Cyclones aren’t afraid of playing in Kinnick Stadium though, as they along with Michigan are the only two teams that have walked away with wins there in recent years. This is all hinging on how well Tate plays.
PREDCITION: Iowa 31, Iowa State 30 – never discount a rivalry game, as Iowa State can play a bit, but Tate will be the difference.

Ball State (1-1) at Purdue (2-0) – This is exactly what I mean about attitude. On paper, Ball State has absolutely no business coming in to our house and thinking they can compete. We blasted them 59-7 two years ago, and we need to remember that. Yet because of our own timidity and struggles on defense, they think they have a shot to come in and hang with us. Our defense was better last week and will continue to improve, but it has to show that this week. Simply put, we’re in serious trouble this year if we allow much of anything on the ground to the Cards. Yes they can pass, but their running game has pretty much been non-existent against Eastern Michigan and IU. Our run defense has to be better than theirs.
Also, Ball State cannot defend the option, which is our preferred offensive set. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s time to go Oklahoma 1972 on them and just run the ball down their throats. Keep running until they stop us, and why risk getting too crazy in the passing game? If we allegedly have one of the best lines in the country, let’s freakin’ use it! Just come out with the attitude of "We’re running the ball, stop us." This purpose is twofold, as it allows the offense to gain confidence in all aspects (we can still pass 15-20 times) and it keeps the defense off the field. They can’t score if they don’t have the ball, right? I don’t care we get it done, just take care of the ball and put it in the endzone.
Purdue needs to come out and make a statement in all aspects of our game. 3-0 will psychologically look infinitely better as we were stuck on two in the win column forever last season, so Saturday is critical. We have to have an attitude when Ball State comes in on Saturday, and make them feels sorry for even considering they could compete with us. On defense we need to sit back and drop seven our eight into coverage in order to gain confidence, and on offense it is time to just cram the ball down an opponents’ throat.
PREDICTION: Purdue 49, Ball State 21 – The defense isn’t perfect, but better as we make the statement I am asking for. I won’t be there guys, and the last time I missed a home game was the previously mentioned 59-7 game when I was in Colorado. It’s time to wake up and step up.

Eastern Michigan (0-2) at Northwestern (1-1) – Northwestern has to be wondering what the heck happened last week. I am as well. Miami’s (OH) passing attack didn’t exactly look that bad to me, yet Northwestern kept them in check on the road. New Hampshire comes in and goes wild on them. I know New Hampshire is a top-notch 1-AA team, but how can you explain that?
Eastern Michigan hasn’t done much against Michigan State and Ball State so far, but who knows which Northwestern team will show up. I know Eastern Michigan is not a good MAC program, but this will be a very telling game to see how Northwestern will do the rest of the year. If they struggle against a team that is probably worse than New Hampshire, then it’s times to look forward to a season ending battle for last place with Illinois.
PREDICTION: Northwestern 21, Eastern Michigan 10 – The Wildcats can’t lay an egg two weeks in a row at home. This is simply a must win at any cost for them.

Temple (0-2) at Minnesota (1-1) – This is another no contest game. Temple is playing at about a 1-AAAA level right now. Minnesota should have a pretty easy time of it before they head to West Lafayette for a conference opener that will be just as important for them as it will be for us. It will be interesting to gauge their defense against a sorry team like Temple to see how we will do against them. Offensively, I have never played a down of organized football in my life (I grew up a basketball player) and I could probably step in and run for 100 yards with Minnesota in this game.

PREDICTION: Minnesota 48, Temple 3 – That’s three pity points for the Owls. I hate prediction shutouts, plus remember how well my 66-0 shutout prediction turned out two weeks ago.
Youngstown State (2-0) at Penn State (1-1) – I remember a few years ago, during the 2000 Rose Bowl year, when Michigan blew a second half lead in losing to us 32-31 on Dorsch’s last second field goal. The way Michigan played in the first half of that game there was no way we could have won, but the second half was night and day different, as we somehow held them to just a field goal and came back to win. The next week Michigan was pissed for losing and played like it, absolutely destroying Indiana 58-0 at Michigan.
I say that because Penn State has to be pissed with their play Saturday at Notre Dame, and Youngstown State, despite being one of the best 1-AA programs over the years, is a hapless victim wandering into Happy Valley. I would not want to be their quarterback against those linebackers.
PREDICTION: Penn State 52, Youngstown State 7 – Do Nittany Lions eat Penguin? Apparently so.

San Diego State (0-1) at Wisconsin (2-0) – Simply put, the Badgers don’t lose non-conference games at home. If San Diego State could heal Marshall Faulk and bring him back for this game they might have a chance, but it’s not bloody likely. Wisconsin hasn’t played too overly well so far, so the Aztecs (one of the cooler names in sports) might be able to hang around for awhile, but I don’t see them seriously threatening.
PREDICTION: Wisconsin 35, San Diego State 20 – This game is never really that close, as it’s on of those ‘keep the other team at arm’s length all day’ games.

Southern Illinois (1-0) at Indiana (2-0) – I will give the Hoosiers, and many of the other Big Ten teams credit. At least when they are going out and snagging games against 1-AA opponents they are getting good ones. The Salukis are ranked 16th in the lower division poll, and IU struggled with Nicholls State last year when they barely made it to the game because of hurricane Katrina.
All that being said, however, they don’t stand a chance. Please refer to my opening few blog entries when I say this, as I do not say it to make light of the situation or make fun of the Hoosiers and their situation with coach Hep, but this has cancer boy game written all over it. There is no way that IU loses this at home.
PREDICTION: Indiana 27, Southern Illinois 10 – The Hoosiers get halfway to their coveted bowl eligibility, and a chance to improve things in order to get the three more wins they need.

NATIONAL GAME PICKS:
This week there are literally tons of games to pick for my two national games, and I already know that one of them will be the game I am attending, Miami (FL) (1-1) at Louisville (2-0). This is another attitude game, as the Hurricanes failed to bring the proper attitude in all three of last year’s losses, as well as their season opener against Florida State. To make things worse, Louisville is already barking about having attitude itself, and they are on the same level as Miami, if it hasn’t already passed them by. From my experience, that is usually a big mistake. The Canes usually get up for big games on the road, and not only beat Virginia Tech last season when they started talking, but ripped out their souls in Blacksburg. It’s times for the Canes to break out the fatigues again. Why does everyone hate them? Because they are usually cocky AND they back it up. That’s my kind of team. It’s time to get back that, and if they do Louisville doesn’t have a chance.
The game is being played in Louisville though, and you can’t take away from that. The Cards are very, very tough at home, having won 13 straight at home and 17 of 18. Brandon Merriweather thinks that’s cute though, and mentions that the Canes once won 58 in a row at home, and it still ended. This should be a fantastic game, well worth the money. Miami (FL) 27, Louisville 24

For my second national game I want to go with LSU (2-0) at Auburn (2-0). This is a #3 vs. #6 game that will have huge implications in the national title race. Both teams are fairly even, but I get the sense LSU is out for blood after the way they have dismantled opponents lately. By the end of the day, the winner could be #2 in the polls and control their own destiny. I give the edge to Auburn, playing at home. Auburn 10, LSU 7.

NEXT UP: Week three reactions for both the Boilers and the Canes on Saturday night.