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Week 2 Big Ten Preview

By the time Sunday comes around I will be exhausted with football. Tonight I have tickets to the Colts game, where I will also get to see Mr. Brees play again in gold and black. Friday and Saturday evenings I have high school games to cover for my newspaper job, and Saturday at noon I finally get to see the Boilers play in person again as they open their home season against Eastern Illinois. By the time Sunday comes around I'll worn out, but giddy from so much football.

Fortunately in week two we should have more interesting games within the conference than week one. Nothing can top Appalachian State's upset of Michigan though, and maybe fortunately for the conference there are just two 1-AA teams on the schedule.

GAME OF THE WEEK:

Oregon (1-0) at Michigan (0-1) 3:30pm Saturday

I am glad I am not in one of Michigan's practices this week, as they had to be quite brutal. After enduring a week of jokes, tough practices, and scrutiny Michigan will come out in this game either really pissed off, or drained. What is a bigger, faster, deeper Oregon team going to do to the Wolverines if Appalachian State can do what they did? This is potentially the biggest game in recent Michigan history, as a loss would mean an 0-2 start and with some mean games in the Big Ten coming up, a potential end to their long bowl streak.

Oregon can't stop the run and Mike Hart is one heck of a running back, but they should be able to do a decent job against the pass. It may not matter either if the offense can get rolling against a Michigan defense that was terrible last week. Dennis Dixon is a very mobile quarterback and he could run circles around the defense if Michigan isn't ready to play. This game will depend on Michigan's attitude right from the start. If they don't come out and dominate early they will be in serious trouble. Also, Michigan might want to consider blocking on field goal attempts. Right now, I don't trust the Wolverines.

PREDICTION: Oregon 31, Michigan 28

Miami (OH) (1-0) at Minnesota (0-1) 12pm Saturday

These two teams were on the opposite ends of last second one point games last week. Ball State is a little more difficult of an opponent to beat than Minnesota though, and after last season's poor finish I'm not convinced the Redhawks are back after a one point win against Ball State. Minnesota still lacks a pass defense as proved in last week's loss to Bowling Green, but Miami lacks a passing game.

What Minnesota does have though is a good running game with a solid running back in Amir Pinnix. It seems like they just plug NFL caliber running backs into that offense every year and start rolling. Pinnix had a fantastic week last week and I look for him to dominate this week as Minnesota gets a desperately needed win. Even then the Gophers have a lot of catching up to do in the conference.

PREDICTION: Minnesota 37, Miami 14

Bowling Green (1-0) at Michigan State (1-0) 12pm Saturday

After the Falcons shocked the Gophers in Minneapolis last week this game became much more interesting. Michigan State's pass defense is better than Minnesota's though and that should be the difference. After the way the Spartans dominated UAB on the ground last week I am forced to view them a little bit differently. The most important thing is that they appear to be much more disciplined this year than they ever were under John L. Smith.

Since there was only a one point difference between Minnesota and Bowling Green, and Michigan State appears to be better than Minnesota at the moment I like the Spartans. You can't discount the Bowling Green program though, as they are making quite a habit of knocking off Big Ten programs lately. If Michigan State maintains their play from last week they roll in this one.

PREDICTION: Michigan State 24, Bowling Green 20

Eastern Illinois (1-0) at Purdue (1-0) 12pm Saturday

Because the Panthers are ranked in the 1-AA poll people are making this out as a great chance for a 1-AA team to knock off another 1-A team. It doesn't help that it has happened to the Big Ten now three times in two years, with a fourth nearly happening between Minnesota and North Dakota State last year. In looking at both teams in this game though I don't see it happening.

Appalachian State had a match up differential and a very special team that made it able to pull off the upset this week. That does not exist here. Eastern Illinois had a good week passing last week, but Purdue's secondary is much improved and played very well against Toledo. The Panther running game is almost non-existent and its own secondary has four new starters. The only way Purdue loses this game is if it turns the ball over more than five times and the defense forgets that it has actually improved so far. Purdue also showed a running game last week by operating under center for more snaps than they have in the last four seasons combined. If that running game stays strong they will be very dangerous this year.

Purdue 59, Eastern Illinois 14

Akron (1-0) at #12 Ohio State (1-0) 12pm Saturday

Mismatch. That's all that really needs to be said about this game. Ohio State is better in all areas of the game and may have beaten a better opponent last week in Youngstown State than Akron did in beating Army. When added to the fact Akron barely got by Army, one of the worst teams in 1-A this one has all the makings of a blowout. Ohio State needs it too, as the road trip to Washington next week looks a lot tougher now than it did a few weeks ago.

PREDICTION: Ohio State 42, Akron 3

Nevada (0-1) at Northwestern (1-0) 12pm Saturday

This is a big game for Northwestern if they hope to make a bowl game. Duke and Eastern Michigan provide two more easy non-conference games, so this is the only true impediment to a 4-0 non-conference season. Last year the Wolfpack beat the Wildcats 31-21 at Nevada as well, but they struggled mightily in getting shelled by Nebraska last week. It's hard to judge either team as they are closer to each other in talent than they were to their respective opponents last week.

Tyrell Sutton has to be licking his chops as Nevada surrendered more than 400 rushing yards to a team that has a passing oriented attack last week. Northwestern can pass the ball a little bit too, and that will be big. If Nevada can't get the offense in gear this week Northwestern wins in a walk.

PREDICTION: Northwestern 31, Nevada 21

Notre Dame (0-1) at #14 Penn State (1-0) 6pm Saturday

Looking at this game makes me want to steeple my fingers Monty Burns-style and say, "Excellent". Notre Dame could barely move the ball last week and is putting their offense in the hands of new savior Jimmy Clausen. He will only be facing a nasty defense and 100,000+ fans in the stands thirsting for revenge from last year's blowout in South bend. He also has no running game and no offensive line to take the heat off him, and a defense that struggled to stop Georgia Tech last week. Penn State's offense is even better and if it can get a running game going this week, more balanced.

With Buffalo coming to town next week, and with Notre Dame playing so poorly last week despite their offensive genius head coach, the Nittany Lions could be in line for three straight shutouts. Notre Dame is a better team than they showed last week and they will improve this week, but they don't have much of a chance in Happy Valley this week.

PREDICTION: Penn State 45, Notre Dame 14

Western Illinois (1-0) at Illinois (0-1)

Illinois had a good game last week, but still proved they need to hold on to the football if they are going to knock off a team of note. Turnovers were critical last week, as was the loss of Juice Williams to injury. It should matter as much this week as a home game against a 1-AA team is exactly what the doctor ordered for a team needing a win of any kind. It's been more than a year since Illinois won a home game, as they won just once in Champaign last season.

If Illinois holds on to the ball they will not have a problem in this game. Five turnovers last week was too much as they lost to a good team by only six points. This week it won't matter.

PREDICTION: Illinois 41, Western Illinois 10

Syracuse (0-1) at Iowa (1-0) 8pm Saturday

Iowa was pretty lackluster last week in beating Northern Illinois, while Syracuse was downright horrid in a home loss against Washington. This should be a good chance for the Iowa passing game behind Jake Christensen to get going, but he is still missing his top two targets due to suspension. Albert young and Damien Sims both proved to be more than capable of carrying the offense last week by each going for more than 100 yards.

With a night game in Iowa City and Syracuse being one of the worst BCS conference teams right now I don't see the Hawkeyes having much trouble. Still, the orange took Iowa to double overtime last year in the Carrier Dome. As long as Iowa can run the ball they will have little trouble.

PREDICTION: Iowa 24, Syracuse 7

Indiana (1-0) at Western Michigan (0-1) 8pm Saturday

This is probably one of the most difficult games any team in the conference is facing this week. Much like we did last week, the Hoosiers must face a hostile environment on the road in the MAC as the Broncos will be looking to make their season. It also is probably Indiana's most difficult non-conference game in the way of a 4-0 non-conference slate. Last year the Hoosiers handled Western Michigan 39-20, and Western Michigan already got drilled by West Virginia last week.

I really don't know what to think about Indiana, as its defense has yet to be tested. They will finally face a real live, breathing team this week and on the road no less. This one will go a long way toward saying how good Indiana is this year, as they had probably the easiest game of any team in the conference last week. Indiana is the better team here though.

PREDICTION: Indiana 35, Western Michigan 17

Wisconsin (1-0) at UNLV (1-0)

The only way Wisconsin loses this game is if they get too drunk from partying on the strip. Their defense is way too good to let a team like this score enough, and the offense will be steady and true in dominating this game. UNLV will have to play out of their minds and take advantage of Wisconsin turnovers to have a shot. At least the Badger fans that make the trip should have a good time in Vegas for the weekend.

PREDICTION: Wisconsin 45, UNLV 10

NATIONAL GAMES OF THE WEEK:

Excuse me while I spend a ton of time this week taking advantage of my parents' club seats connection to watch the Miami (1-0) at #5 Oklahoma (1-0) game during the Purdue game. I am very interested to see what that defense does against a team that had the best offensive week out of anyone in the country last week. Miami has a great running game working with Javarris James and Graig Cooper, and if they can get a bit of a passing game going they have a real shot to pull the upset and announce to the world that the U is back. I think they can do it. Miami 21, Oklahoma 20

The second national game I am taking a look at should be a dandy as #9 Virginia Tech is at #2 LSU. This looks like the marquee game of the non-conference season much like Texas and Ohio State the last two years. Even the loser still has a great chance of making the national title game. Virginia tech wasn't very sharp at home last week and let East Carolina hang around, but LSU went on the road and forced a ton of turnovers for a shutout against Mississippi State. Home field advantage plays a huge role in this game as Death Valley is a dangerous place to play at night. I think LSU rolls and has a much easier time than people think. LSU 31, Virginia Tech 17.

Last week's picks: 10-3

Season's picks: 10-3