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Big Ten Week 2 preview

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I was going to do a more in depth preview, but my look at Northern Colorado from the summer should suffice. We have a decided advantage in every aspect of the game. It will simply be nice to head to West Lafayette on Saturday and be back in Ross-Ade Stadium for what should be a gorgeous afternoon. Other than that, it is the type of game that can only raise questions instead of find answers.

The rest of the Big Ten is in action against a rather mediocre slate of games. The conference didn’t do itself any favors by losing its only difficult games last week, and nearly dropping another one it shouldn’t have when Minnesota struggled with Northern Illinois. We could have an 11-0 week this week, as the only difficult game should be Minnesota at a confidant Bowling Green team. That is far from a guarantee since the Falcons beat the Gophers last season in an overtime thriller at the Metrodome. It is the only time a Big Ten team visits a MAC team this year.

Northern Colorado (0-0) at Purdue (0-0) – We’re the last team in the conference to start, and we should join seven other teams at 1-0 around 3:30 Saturday afternoon. To be frank, if this is not a blowout in every sense of the word we should be very concerned for the rest of the year. One of the few good things that can happen in this game is learning if Kory Sheets is over his fumbling problem. I would not be surprised if he had a 139 yard, 2TD day, so the carries will help him get used to not fumbling.

Bryan Waggener, a transfer from Florida, poses a mild threat at quarterback, but I don’t expect him to have any time to throw at all. In what little research I found about Northern Colorado I could find I saw where the offensive line, which may be more banged up than our, allowed 8 sacks in the spring scrimmage. By the way, Northern Colorado’s defensive line is supposed to be the weakest part of its team, so it’s not like they had a lethal pass rush to fend off in the spring.

Northern Colorado could not stop anyone last year, ranking at the bottom of Division 1-AA in pass defense. They also could not move the ball or score, breaking 20 points just twice. Their special teams is a huge weakness also, meaning they’ll likely need to be inside the 15 to even have a chance at scoring unless they break a big play. These guys lost 31-0 to a Division 2 team at home, so we should have very little trouble. I don’t normally predict a shutout, but honestly this one should be unless we surrender said big play. We’ve also never failed to hang 50 on a 1-AA team, and we won’t fail to this year. Purdue 56, Northern Colorado 0

Minnesota (1-0) at Bowling Green (1-0) – The only team that has beaten us in a home opener under coach Tiller hosts Minnesota in a rematch of a pretty exciting game a year ago. The Falcons now officially have a reputation of surprising BCS teams on the road to start the season, having done so at Purdue in 2003, Minnesota in 2007, and Pittsburgh just last week. Pittsburgh and Purdue were both ranked at the time, while the Falcons could find themselves in the top 25 somewhere down the line if they get a second BCS foe.

When the Big Ten travels to the MAC it is always more dangerous for the Big Ten team. The crowd is jacked up for the biggest home game of the year, the players are ready, and the usual night kickoff is a departure from the normal Big Ten routine. Hen you couple that with the fact that Bowling Green is a pretty good football team while Minnesota showed last week that it still has many issues makes this a tempting upset pick. Bowling had a lot of composure in the upset at Pittsburgh. They also know they can beat the Gophers. It won’t be an upset if they win. Bowling Green 24, Minnesota 20

Eastern Illinois (0-1) at #24 Illinois (0-1) – Expect Juice Williams to have another really good week passing the football. Curtis Painter lit these guys up for 348 yards and six touchdowns a season ago, and I don’t think the Panthers’ secondary is appreciably better. Eastern Illinois is one of the better 1-AA teams in the nation, making the playoffs once again a season ago. They are clearly outclassed against the Big Ten, however. Illinois 52, Eastern Illinois 17

Murray State (1-0) at Indiana (1-0) – This is the weakest game on Indiana’s schedule, but the other two non conference games against Central Michigan and Ball State will be more difficult as the Hoosiers will have to face living, breathing offenses in those games. For the second week in a row Indiana should have little trouble. Kellen Lewis should move the ball with reckless abandon. Indiana 45, Murray State 10

Oregon State (0-1) at #19 Penn State (1-0) – This looked like a really good game in the preseason. Penn State had some questions and Oregon State was a sleeper in the Pac-10. The Nittany Lions impressed many even in beating a 1-AA team, while the Beavers lost on the road at Stanford. Suddenly this looks like a chance for the Big Ten to even the Big Ten/Pac 10 challenge standings at one apiece before Purdue-Oregon and Ohio State-USC decide things next week.

Oregon State’s Lyle Moevao threw for over 400 yards in the opener against Stanford, but he’ll have to avoid the two interceptions he threw against the Cardinal. More than 300 of those yards went to just two receivers, so spreading around the ball will be paramount. Happy Valley is also a much more hostile venue. Penn State 31, Oregon State 17

Marshall (1-0) at #11 Wisconsin (1-0) – Wisconsin is another team that impressively stepped on the gas last week and made a game that was close a blowout. Unlike Oregon with Washington, we don’t have to face them. P.J. Hill made a very large case against better competition hat he might be the best running back in the Big Ten. He also could be deserving of some Heisman consideration in his own right. If he outperforms Beanie Wells when the two face each other in Madison and leads the Badgers to a win he just might get it too.

Marshall continues it stunning dropoff from the Chad Pennington/Byron Leftwich/Randy Moss days. They were a MAC power and legitimate threat to bus the BCS, but have been found wanting since moving to Conference USA. Marshall opened the season with a 35-10 win over Illinois State at home. And have the most conceited name in history for a receiver in Darius Passmore. It won’t matter if they pass more because Wisconsin will run more. Wisconsin 42, Marshall 7

Northwestern (1-0) at Duke (1-0) – I don’t understand what vendetta GBI has against Northwestern this season. Four different people picked the Blue Devils to repeat their upset of a dangerous Wildcat team. As a sidebar, what do I have to do to get on this media predictions page? It’s time for me and the guys at Boiled Sports to storm the GBI offices like it’s Bastille Day.

Last week Tyrell Sutton proved he was healthy. Like Damian Anderson and Darnell Autry before him, that makes Northwestern incredibly dangerous in any game. The Blue Devils are unlikely to have anyone parachute in to help them here, either. Still, this could be a close game simply because of the IQ levels involved. These guys may not make it to the NFL, but they will all be our bosses some day very soon. Northwestern 30, Duke 20

Florida International (0-1) at Iowa (1-0) - The Golden Panthers have one thing that stands out in their illustrious history. They will go down as the final team to win a game in the historic Orange Bowl. They were forced to use it as a temporary home last season as their on campus stadium was undergoing a serious renovation. They won their last game there against North Texas on December 1st in what was the final collegiate game in the facility. It is their only win in their last 25 games, so don’t expect a W to be on the docket in Iowa City.

Iowa looked impressive against Maine last week, but it was still against Maine. Florida International will be a slightly better road trip before Iowa State and Pittsburgh follow. FIU already got drilled at Kansas last week, so they don’t have a ton of confidence coming in. This is another opportunity for Kirk Ferentz to play musical quarterbacks before settling on a starter. If he doesn’t settle on one, don’t expect Iowa to do much this year. Iowa 45, FIU 14

Miami (OH) (0-1) at Michigan (0-1) - This is a very interesting game. Miami is considered to be one of the better teams in the MAC. Michigan, on the other hand, rarely has any trouble with MAC schools. It was a notable exception two years ago when Ball State nearly bombed its way to wrecking the Wolverines’ perfect season. I thought Miami had a puncher’s chance until they were easily controlled by Vanderbilt a week ago.

I am also tired of hearing that it is a guarantee that Rich Rodriguez’ offense will be unstoppable by the end of the year. As I mentioned in the roundtable yesterday, what makes this a guarantee. As they slowly learn the offense teams will slowly learn to stop it. It’s not like it is this freakish new offense that no one has ever heard of either. A Dave Wannstedt coached Pittsburgh team figured it out pretty easily last year with better personnel running it. To me, that says more than anything. Michigan will likely win this, and they had better since it is one of their few guaranteed wins. Michigan 23, Miami 7

Ohio (0-1) at #3 Ohio State (1-0) - The third of four Big Ten-MAC matchups this week may end up being the biggest mismatch of them all. Beanie Wells likely won’t play, but the rest of the running backs should have a field day against one of the worst rushing defenses out there. I’m not exactly sure what Ohio State’s record against in state opponents is, but I know they have a pretty good streak going against the likes of Ohio, Akron, Kent State, Toledo, Bowling Green, Youngstown State, Cincinnati, and Miami combined. Their tradition is to play at least one per year at home, and this year fans get treated to two blowouts.

Look for Ohio State to use this as little more than a tune up before the USC game. If Beanie Wells plays at all coach Tressel is an idiot. You don’t risk one of your best players coming back from an injury before the biggest game of the year. If I were an Ohio State trainer I would be hiding Wells’ helmet somewhere. Ohio state 41, Ohio 10

Eastern Michigan (1-0) at Michigan State (0-1) - Eastern Michigan has long been one of the worst Division 1-A teams in the country. This was the type of team that Jim Colletto could blow out, and he did once in 1991 49-3. They rarely register 52-0 wins, but that is exactly what they did last week. Sure, it was against the mighty Trees of Indiana State, but a 52-0 win is a 52-0 win. Moving one state north will be much more difficult to reproduce the same result.

As required by the ethics of journalism, I must mention how Michigan State is this year’s official sleeper in the Big Ten. They weren’t as sharp as necessary last week though. They didn’t get the one stop they needed to hold of California on the road. The running game also didn’t produce like many expected either. Since defense and running were to be the hallmarks of the Spartan program this year, that has to be a concern. Expect them to work on both this week. Michigan State 38, Eastern Michigan 7

National game of interest

Miami (FL) at #5 Florida

I’ll be rushing back from West Lafayette in order to be on my coach for this 8pm kickoff Saturday night. It is our first chance to see if the Canes are really going to make a return to prominence. They are a three touchdown underdog heading into the Swamp, but they have enough talent to make things very interesting. Florida has also been talking about they are going to run up the score and take the Seminole War Canoe back to Gainesville for the first time in over two decades.

I’d like this game better if it was being played in the old Orange Bowl, but it isn’t even a pile of rubble anymore. Miami had a 52-7 win over Charleston Southern last week, but that was Charleston Southern. Florida is also facing some injury issues, most notably to Percy Harvin at wide receiver. It will be interesting to see how Miami’s young guns play in this one. A Miami win would announce they are ready to contend nationally right now and would be a huge boost for the ACC. I have long predicted an upset in this one, so why back off now? It’s not like I have any credibility to lose. Miami 24, Florida 23