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Week 6 Big Ten Preview

There are some good games this week in the conference, but none as big as the Purdue-Ohio State one Saturday night at Ross-Ade. Personally, I have been alternately confident we're going to shock the nation and scared to death that we're going to be exposed in front a national audience to be mocked mercilessly. Maybe I should load up the exact conditions Saturday morning on NCAA 08 for the ol' Playstation to put my mind at ease. I know that as a Purdue fan we have one shot and exactly one shot to impress people, and that is Saturday night. A loss Saturday night, especially if the game is a blowout will begin the murmurs of "same old Purdue". These will be deserved though, and even if we go on the road and beat Michigan next week and follow it up with wins against Iowa and Northwestern to start 8-1 it won't be enough. This game is our season right now, and a win will do more than anything we've accomplished since going to the Rose Bowl.

Elsewhere in the Big Ten perhaps the biggest game is Wisconsin's visit to Illinois, where an Illini win would suddenly make them a big player in the conference. Michigan essentially has a bye this week against Eastern Michigan, while everyone else is facing a critical game. It's make-or-break time all-around as we reach Stand-off week in the Big Ten.


BIG TEN GAME OF THE WEEK:


#4 Ohio State (5-0, 2-0) at #20 Purdue (5-0, 1-0) 8pm


This is your chance Purdue. No one is giving you any credit. No one outside of West Lafayette thinks you have a chance. Everyone is snickering that you haven't played anyone, that the defense will crack, and that the offense won't do a thing against a good defense. They're calling you a paper tiger, a fraud, and a team that will wither now like it always has. This is normally when we play our best, because no one expects us. A loss kisses everything; a national ranking, a chance at the Big Ten title, and respect goodbye.


Prove them wrong.


Ohio State is a very, very good team, likely the best we will face all year. I am worried about their offense and containing a running back that can run right over us. I am worried about containing Brian Robiskie, who can create a match-up problem with everyone in our secondary. I am worried about falling behind early on a few big plays and losing confidence as we have so many times in the past. I am worried about getting embarrassed like we did the last time we appeared in a nationally televised night home game against Notre Dame two years ago.


We have the offense to do this. We have too many weapons to be completely stopped. I have seen some promise from the defense that has been very good for stretches this season but has yet to put together a whole game. I also have to wonder just how much the coaching staff has been holding back on both sides of the ball against inferior competition just for this game. So far we have done what we have done without a lot of tricks or wrinkles. It's time to go all-in and hope for the best. I think Ohio State is the better team and will break our hearts in a close game, but I know we have it in us to pull the upset and earn respect. Respect is never given, it is earned and this is your shot, Purdue.


Prove me wrong.


PREDICTION: Ohio State 24, Purdue 21


#5 Wisconsin (5-0, 2-0) at Illinois (4-1, 2-0)


Wisconsin just wins ballgames, plain and simple. Right now the Badgers are the undisputed champion of the close game, as they have mastered the concept of simply scoring more points than their opponent. People may rip them for it, but I respect them. Right now there are nine teams in the country without a win led by Florida International who hasn't walked off the field victorious in almost two years. Do you think they would throw back a Wisconsin-type victory? Hell no!


Illinois has been way too one-dimensional this year to be favored against the #5 team in the country home or away. The Illini have a heck of a running game but Wisconsin can concentrate more on stopping the run this week because Juice Williams isn't as big of a threat when throwing as Brian Hoyer of Michigan State was. Williams and Mendenhall should be able to find some daylight to run, but Williams will need to have more than 11 completions to win. It's nice to see Illini fans fired up about their team for the first time in a long time, but Wisconsin seems like they are locked in right now on winning no matter what. That's too much of an edge right now.


Wisconsin 31, Illinois 24


Minnesota (1-4, 0-2) at Indiana (4-1, 1-1) noon


Do you wonder if Indiana might just be looking ahead a little bit against the Gophers? I don't think so, not after they have hung a combined 105 points on the Hoosiers the last two seasons. Last year's visit to the Metrodome was supposed to be a coronation and return to the postseason. Instead Minnesota flat-out waxed them to the tune of 63-26 and began its own run to an unlikely bowl. It's hard to see Indiana missing a bowl game at this point, and a win this week all but locks it up.


Indiana had perhaps the most impressive win of anyone in the conference last week as they shockingly dominated Iowa all day. Minnesota also turns the ball over way too much and they will need to solve that to have any chance here. If the Gophers ever stop giving the ball away they have enough of an offense to take a bite out of someone. Even the Gopher defense wasn't that bad against Ohio State, but the Buckeyes didn't need that much in holding them to seven points.


What has this world come to when Indiana is favored in any Big Ten game by almost two touchdowns?


PREDICTION: Indiana 38, Minnesota 21


Eastern Michigan (2-3) at Michigan (3-2, 2-0) noon


What would be a worse loss: Michigan losing this game to a perennial MAC doormat or the Appalachian State loss against a two time national champion? I would think the Eastern Michigan one, but it's not going to happen. Then again, Appalachian State wasn't going to happen either. Appalachian State can actually score points against anyone they play. Eastern Michigan cannot.


The Wolverines will have little trouble in this one and that is what scares me. Even if Purdue pulls off the upset it will likely come in a long, drawn out battle while Michigan will have essentially a bye week before facing us. Queue up a clip of Nelson Muntz if Michigan somehow loses this one, but otherwise expect this game to be over by halftime.


PREDICTION: Michigan 41, Eastern Michigan 3


Northwestern (2-3, 0-2) at Michigan State (4-1, 0-1) noon


Speaking of revenge games in reference to the IU game, how motivated do you think Northwestern is to play Michigan State after last year's epic choke? Michigan State fans also have to be quietly wondering if things will start falling apart after a close loss like they have so many times recently. Mark Dantonio seems to have this team much more focused than his predecessor, but if Northwestern comes out and gets an early score or to the collective sphincter of all Michigan State fans will have to tighten just a little.


How has one team suffered so much from missing a single player like Northwestern has by missing Tyrell Sutton? He makes that offense better and they haven't been able to do much of anything without him. Sure, they piled up a bunch of yards against Michigan last week, but as Purdue found out last year games are not decided by yards gained. If they can somehow win this game Northwestern can amazingly still hope of a bowl game as they have Minnesota and Eastern Michigan coming up. Michigan State wants to prove at home they are vastly improved and immune to another collapse. They shouldn't have a ton of trouble in doing so.


PREDICTION: Michigan State 28, Northwestern 20


Iowa (2-3, 0-2) at Penn State (3-2, 0-2) 3:30pm


After a nightmare-ish couple of weeks you have two very angry football teams meeting in Happy Valley Saturday amid the ruins of shattered hopes and dreams. Both teams have dominant aspects, but are fatally flawed and have been exposed in recent weeks. It is a stand-off to see who is going to salvage what's left of the season and play spoiler against everyone else and who is going to pack it in and fight to merely make a bowl game.


That being said, I think Penn State is due for a break out this week, as their fans are angry and they want to see the Nittany Lions just put a hurting on someone. Iowa has a good defensive line, but that offense is pretty bad right now with only a parking attendant and peanut vendor available for Jake Christensen to throw to. Iowa cannot afford to fall behind at all right now and it is putting way too much pressure on a good defense that almost needs to pitch a shutout.


Iowa has had Penn State's number of late having won five in a row, and we all know how well Penn State has responded to similar challenges this year. This very easily could go down as the ugliest game of the season in conference play because of Penn State's own inconsistencies on offense, but not as ugly as the 6-4 game Iowa won two years ago on a three-run homer in the ninth.


PREDICTION: Penn State 24, Iowa 10


NATIONAL GAMES OF THE WEEK:


I don't know how to act, as I have gotten to this point of the article and I have plenty of space to take a look at some national games of interest. At the same time we are playing Ohio State much of the country can also watch #7 Florida at #2 LSU. This game obviously lost some of its shine last week when Auburn beat Florida on a last second field goal, but kudos should be given to Auburn kicker Wes Byrum. After making the second kick as time expired, Byrum had the sheer balls to do the Gator Chomp at mid-field in front of the stunned Swamp fans. This kid is lucky he got out of the stadium alive after that, but it was funny to watch. LSU has already annihilated a top 10 team at home this year (see Tech, Virginia) in a high profile game and they happened to play in one of the most intimidating stadiums on earth. LSU 20, Florida 10


Since Texas and Oklahoma both choked away games last week the game I am interested in seeing is #17 Missouri at #23 Nebraska. Since the Alamo Bowl seems to be our most likely projection at the moment (subject to change) we very well could see one of these teams there. Missouri has some moxie as they are the only team to knock off Illinois so far, but they really haven't played anyone else. Nebraska got embarrassed at home by USC, then almost lost to Ball State (and probably should have). Missouri is facing a "prove it" game like us, and they will gain a ton of respect with a win. Nebraska has been too shaky so far, and I don't like them even at home. Missouri 24, Nebraska 21.


LAST WEEK: 6-2, SEASON RECORD: 42-10