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Week 6 Preview (We’re a movin’ on up!)

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Into my head is out of my mind
Then I become a day behind And I can't help but wonder why
that some days are the very worst case
When I cannot believe that I'm living this way
Kismet tell me its okay
and I'll guess it's just a twist of the fate
– Hurt, Danse Russe

For Purdue this week, it's just like the song above suggests, a chance to go in to a place where it has played well in the past, but has yet to manage to come away with a win under some strange twists of fate. If the Boilers can avoid such a fate this year, then it could end up being a very special season.

It’s week six of the season, and that means most teams will be halfway home after this week. Some teams will already be looking to simply play out the string, while other will be looking to solidify a better bowl. For that middle ground, however, there is a good chance to make up ground in order to qualify for a bowl, period. So this week, which has some marquee match-ups on a national level, is more a moving week in the Big Ten. Indiana and Illinois will play to stay out of last place, Iowa and Purdue will play an elimination game for third, and Penn State and Minnesota will play a critical game both need to be eligible for a bowl.

Before we get to that though, the national championship picture is coming into view. In my book, you cannot consider any 1-loss teams until there are less than two undefeated teams left standing. Right now, by those standards, there are 13 teams left among the 119 Division 1-A teams that have yet to suffer a loss. Of those 13, we know that Boise State will not receive serious consideration for the title game without an unprecedented rash of upsets and strange events, so they are out. Rutgers, Louisville, and West Virginia all have games remaining against each other, so at least two of them will be eliminated. Michigan and Ohio State must face each other, and unless someone else in the Big Ten can pull off a huge upset, one of them will be unbeaten, and the other eliminated, much like Oregon and USC who must play in the Pac-10. Because of the SEC Championship, At least two of the triumvirate of Florida, Georgia, and Auburn will get a loss.

That leaves us with two other teams that do not have an unbeaten left on their schedules. Ladies and Gentlemen, are you ready for Wake Forest vs. Missouri for the national title! Okay, I didn't think so either. At this early date, it appears that the Ohio-State-Michigan winner will emerge unscathed from the Big Ten, and will likely face the Oregon-USC winner, as the SEC is way too tough and I doubt one of it's three will end up unbeaten. The wild card is the Big East, where there is a strong chance one of those three teams will finish unbeaten, and with the emergence of Rutgers and awakening of Syracuse from the dead, that's not as easy of a pick as before.

So after all that non-sensical analysis, it's time for my mid-season national title game pick. I am going to go with Ohio State against Oregon in Glendale on January 8th. Because last week's 6-2 picks mark was so good, I will now place my entire savings account on that being the game. In the mean time, it's time to look at the Big Ten this week.

Purdue (4-1, 1-0) at Iowa (4-1, 1-1) – This game is huge for both teams. Purdue has a chance to make a statement and beat a ranked team for the first time in three years, a streak of 10 straight losses. The last win against a ranked team was against this same Iowa Hawkeye team when it was ranked #10 in 2003. Purdue's last road win over a ranked team was in the same 2003 season at Wisconsin, which also included a win at a ranked Wake Forest of all places.
The Hawkeyes struggled last week and Drew Tate has not been playing up to the glowing praise I have heaped upon him. I've done a little reading on an Iowa blog this week, and while their tight end and running back have been good receivers for them, their actual wideouts have severely struggled. If they can't get going against Purdue, then at least they have the same old, sorry-assed Hoosiers next week in a light scrimmage in Bloomington. Tate has been struggling with injuries, and this is the type of game that if the Purdue defense can take advantage of the two above factors, the Boilermakers truly have a shot.

The last two years, Purdue's first loss of the season have lead to losing streaks of four and six games respectively. During that time, it has looked like Jim Colletto was back on the sidelines, especially last year. But I like this team a lot better. This team seems to have a much better overall attitude in approaching each game. I don't know if it's a case of youth not knowing better or what, but as a fan I just feel better cheering hard for this team than I did last year. You get the sense that the team took the Notre Dame loss in stride, and it only made them hungry for more. You could see it in the fight late in the game Saturday. The squad was simply frustrated it couldn't get the job done, and knew it had a chance but shot itself in the foot.

I feel a rebound coming on. This is a chance for Purdue to make a statement, and with the way the schedule is after this game, it could go on a very big run. No one was counting this game as a win coming into the season, least of all me, but with the way Iowa has played so far, and the roll Purdue's offense can get on, there is an excellent chance there to surprise.

It's is critical that Painter continues to play well, spread the ball around, and not turn it over. If he survived Notre Dame last week, he should do fine this week. The offense should be fine, and I get the feeling the defense is just waiting for a breakout. All we need is a defense that can hold the Hawkeyes in the 20's scoring wise. Since Iowa has struggled a bit on offense, and is not nearly as explosive as Notre Dame, there's a good chance.

There's another thing to look at, and that's the fact that Purdue has played very well in its last two trips to Iowa, only to come up short. Specifically in 2002, Purdue had a blocked field goal and punt both returned for touchdowns in a last minute, 31-28 loss. Two years ago it took a Kyle Orton injury and a few critical interceptions to give the Hawkeyes another win. Purdue hasn't won at Iowa since 1992, but because of the rotating schedule that has only been four games.
PREDICTION: Purdue 31, Iowa 27 – I didn't have the guts to do it last week, but I do this week. The Boilers will finally break the hex against an Iowa team that is struggling to find an identity. This win will not only all but assure Purdue will go to a bowl, but it will give them a chance at a pretty good one.

Indiana (2-3, 0-1) at Illinois (2-3, 1-1) – Even before Illinois' upset win at Michigan State last week, I was probably going with the Illini in this one. Everyone has read about all the streak Illinois broke last week with the win, and this week they are looking to start a new one when the Hoosiers come to town. An Illinois win pretty much assures them of not finishing in the cellar this year, and even gives them an outside shot at making a bowl.

Indiana, on the other hand, is on its usual pace of trying to use the Old Oaken Bucket game as its bowl game, only to get stomped in West Lafayette. I was so wrong about this bunch this year that I am embarrassed. The only bowl this group will see is the toilet bowl, puking away the pre-game tailgate alcohol. It's possible this IU team is even worse than in past years, but at least with James Hardy they have an All-American in the woman-beating category.
PREDICTION: Illinois 24, Indiana 10 – I doubt the IU offense could score in a women's prison with a fistful of pardons right now. I'm giving them 10 points simply because Illinois is still Illinois, but the Illini get it done on momentum.

As a side note right now: I cannot freakin' believe that ESPN chose this game for ESPN Regional coverage, and put Purdue-Iowa on ESPNU that approximately four households in the U.S. get. Are they freakin' retarded? Anyone who would even want to see this game could simply go to it, and there'd still be 20,000 empty seats.

Penn State (3-2, 1-1) at Minnesota (2-3, 0-2) – This is a huge game for both teams. It's a step below Purdue-Iowa as far as the Big Ten race goes, but it is still big in terms of both teams getting to a bowl, which is pretty much all they have to play for at this point. Minnesota cannot afford to go to 2-4 overall, but at least its three losses are to teams that are a combined 13-2. Those two losses are to Notre Dame and Tennessee too, not exactly the Sisters of the Poor and Blind.

Penn State to this point has simply beaten who it was supposed to, and lost to whom it shouldn't. It's 0-2 on the road, but that's at Notre Dame and Ohio State. You have an untested, but highly touted quarterback for the Nittany Lions going against a solid, but not spectacular senior for the Gophers. Yes, Minnesota is at home, but the Metrodome isn't exactly a great home field advantage.

In the end, Penn State has the better defense, but Minnesota has the better, more polished offense. The Gophers will look to run the ball, but they have shown they can pass the ball a bit so far. That should be the difference, but this is Glen Mason we're talking about.
PREDICTION: Penn State 21, Minnesota 20 – This game is a true toss-up, so I am going with Joe Pa over Glen Mason. There's less chance of a coaching error costing the game with ol' Joe Pa.

Northwestern (2-3, 0-1) at Wisconsin (4-1, 1-1) – The Badgers are one of those four teams fighting for third place in the Big Ten, while it is a shame that Northwestern does not play IU this year to see who can finish last in the Big Ten. Northwestern's defense hasn't played too poorly, but its offense has been dismal on the road so far. The Wildcats have two wins, over winless Eastern Michigan and winless Miami of Ohio. They also lost to a 1-AA team.
The Badgers are fresh off a fierce beating of IU, and will likely have another light scrimmage before getting the Gophers next week.
PREDICTION: Wisconsin 45, Northwestern 7 – Never go with a team on the road that can't chose between an unproven quarterback, and an unproven and injured quarterback.

Bowling Green (3-2) at Ohio State (5-0) – The highlight of this game will be Jack Nicklaus coming out to becoming just the third non-band member to dot the I in script Ohio before the game. That's probably going to be the top highlight of this game played on SportsCenter, short of Ohio State scoring touchdown after touchdown. This game would have been very intriguing about three years ago, but not this year.
PREDICTION: Ohio State 55, Bowling Green 3 – And that is a pity field goal.

Michigan State (3-2, 0-1) at Michigan (5-0, 2-0) – Who seriously thinks Michigan State has a chance in this one? I mean really? This team has obviously already checked out mentally, and now Drew Stanton is playing without one of his top running backs. He has been talked up for the past several years in Big Ten circles, but I fail to see why. Yes, he is a great physical talent, but great quarterbacks elevate their games and lead a team to victory when things get tough. Is it a coincidence that the Spartans have folded each of the past three years with Stanton at the helm?

As good as he is supposed to be, there is no reason for him getting beaten by Purdue last year, a team he should have lit up. Last week he couldn't even get things going on homecoming against an Illinois team that had not won on the road in the Big Ten since this country actually approved of its President.

My short analysis of this game: No team that loses to a quarterback named "Juice" has a prayer in the Big House.
PREDICTION: Michigan 35, Michigan State 14 – And the spiral continues.

There are several national games I want to take a quick look at this week, so I will be picking three games nationally instead of two. First we have LSU at Florida. With four teams in the top 10, the SEC is going to be brutal. LSU already has one loss, and will be effectively out of the race with another one. A win keeps them alive not only in the SEC, but gives them a chance in the national race as well. I'll go with the Tigers here, LSU 17, Florida 14.

Second, I am going to look at Oregon at California. The Ducks make their third straight appearance here, and they are honestly very lucky to still be unbeaten. Cal has been on a tear of late, and they have this game at home. That is the difference. Cal 28, Oregon 21.

Last but not least we have Tennessee at Georgia. There are several other great games this week, but I think this one has more national importance because it will likely knock Georgia from the ranks of the unbeaten. If you're in the top 10 and struggled with Colorado, you're overrated. Tennessee 21, Georgia 10.

Well, for all you Boilermaker fans out there, I hope you have a good radio this week, because obviously we'd rather imagine what the game looks like while watching Indiana and Illinois punt the ball back and forth. Check back Saturday night for my reaction to the gripping radio broadcasting. It's like 1940 all over again!