clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Week 6 Big Ten preview

The ultimate of optimists would say that Purdue is still alive for the Big Ten championship. They would also say that the quest for that title begins Saturday. Of course, I would like to see what this optimist is smoking.

#6 Penn State (5-0, 1-0) at Purdue (2-2, 0-0) Noon, ESPN

I took some flack this week for ranking Purdue at the bottom of the conference when I did Monday’s power rankings. The real question is how can you say we’re playing better than anyone else at the moment? I could see arguments for Indiana and maybe Iowa, but Minnesota? Illinois? Michigan? Everyone else is clearly playing better in most phases of the game. There is little argument that Penn State is on top at the moment. If we’re ninth by the most generous of standards that’s still a tough task.

The difference between both teams right now is that Penn State does not need to play an absolutely perfect game in order to win. Purdue does. I believe we’re capable of that elusive perfect game, but I have little reason to believe it is coming this week. Penn State is the clearly better team, and as we know with Purdue football of late, the clearly better team will often win. Penn State 45, Purdue 21

Illinois (2-2, 0-1) at Michigan (2-2, 1-0) 3:30pm, ABC

This should be a very entertaining game if not crucial for each team’s Big Ten chances. If Illinois wins, they stay alive and avenge a loss that happened mostly because of one mistake in Champaign last year (a muffed punt). If Michigan wins they find themselves 2-0 in the midst of a very difficult part of their conference schedule (Penn State and Michigan State follow). The Wolverines may have turned a bit of a corner last week. They still need to play a complete game.

Michigan’s offensive numbers are still pretty bad. If it weren’t for turnovers, Wisconsin would have won easily. As it was, the Wolverines gave them the ball five times. I need to see some more from Michigan in terms of limiting giveaways and more consistent offense.

I have said before how Illinois reminds me of our 2002 team. They are supremely talented, but they still tend to shoot themselves in the foot. They clawed within a touchdown in the second half last week at Penn State, but then gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown that quickly erased that score. There defense seems incapable of getting the one big stop they need, and the offense can either move quickly or break down quickly. It seems like they have no middle ground. The one thing they have going is that they do not fear playing in the giant venues of the Big Ten. That’s why I give them a slight edge this week. Illinois 24, Michigan 17

Iowa (3-2, 0-1) at Michigan State (4-1, 1-0), Noon, ESPN2

Iowa needs this game badly. A pair of close losses in the past two weeks have them teetering toward .500. Turnovers have been an issue in both. With Penn State and Wisconsin left on the schedule as likely losses they cannot afford to fall to 0-2 in the league. Shonn Greene is gaining some big yards and Ricky Stanzi appears to be the answer at quarterback, but there are still several underlying issues. Turnovers are paramount among them, as good teams don’t turn the ball over five times at home.

Michigan State’s game plan has been simple so far: give the ball to Javon Ringer and get out of the way. Brian Hoyer has not been forced to make important throws yet. He has just three TD passes, but that is because he hasn’t needed to do much. The defense has also been pretty good aside from the California game. They gave up some points at Indiana, but the game was never in serious danger of getting away from them. That is the mark of a good team, and Michigan State is becoming a good one before our eyes. Michigan State 27, Iowa 14

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

The winner of this game will be a bowl contender, while the loser will begin to get nervous about the postseason. Both teams are looking at each other as a potential win, especially Minnesota, who is on a nine game conference losing streak. A win over the Hoosiers means Minnesota can reasonable think about wins over Northwestern, Iowa, Purdue, and maybe even Michigan. Three of those four are at home too. I like what the Gophers have done, and a little confidence can go a long way. The Gophers are limiting turnovers and improving the defense from abysmal to at not that bad. That is good enough to get them bowling in a year where teams are regressing instead of progressing.

Speaking of confidence, Indiana’s has to be shot after their dream four game homestand to start the year sputtered to 2-2. Now there is no rock to defend except the old Metrodome turf that was removed to make room for FieldTurf. Indiana is in desperate need of a conference win, especially before a hungry Iowa team comes to Bloomington next week. I fear this game may make or break the Hoosiers’ season. Considering they close with Central Michigan (who is more than capable of beating them), Wisconsin, Penn State, and the alleged "No way in hell" game of Tiller’s finale in West Lafayette they need as many wins as they can get. This should be one of the most fun games to watch in terms of competitiveness. Minnesota 31, Indiana 30

#14 Ohio State (4-1, 1-0) at #18 Wisconsin (3-1, 0-1) 8pm ABC

This is where we begin the official I was wrong portion of the blog. Wisconsin felt like a dark horse national title contender until choking away a 19-0 lead against a Michigan team that had no discernable offense until last week. Now they can kiss even the Big ten title goodbye with a loss to the Buckeyes. Personally, I want them to win. I feel like it is time to mix things up for the Big Ten title this year, even if it is just the usual #3 and 4 teams playing for it in Penn state and Wisconsin instead of Ohio state and Michigan.

Night games in Madison are always special. The Badgers have always been a team that defends the home turf well. If they do so again they’ll be right there for a Rose Bowl berth at the end of the season. The Michigan loss is really inexplicable.

Ohio State also gets another prime time shot against a good team on the road. I don’t want to say it was only Minnesota they beat up last week, but the Gophers provided a decent warm up game for Beanie’s return. Even though Javon Ringer has stolen eh show a bit, this is a match up of the preseason’s two best running backs in P.J. Hill and Beanie Wells. It has defensive slugfest written all over it, but there hasn’t been a good 7-3 Big Ten defensive slugfest in years. I like the Badgers in Madison because they won’t let Ohio state fans take over the stadium like they do everywhere else. Wisconsin 17, Ohio State 14

Quickie Boilermakings:

- The #18 women’s volleyball team continues to play well at 12-2 overall and 1-1 in the Big ten after losing to #1 Penn State last week. More importantly, we beat Indiana for a half Crimson and Gold series point. After Saturday’s football game they will host Minnesota in a Dig for the Cure match where proceeds will go toward Breast Cancer research.

- Things are quiet on the basketball front, but we have a new recruit in Terone Johnson for the 2010 class. I like that Johnson comes from one of the top programs in Indiana. Eric Gordon, A.J. Ratlif, and Jason Gardner all played well for North Central. I saw him play in a game against Kokomo last season and he was an impressive scorer.

- The women’s soccer team is off to a 2-0 start in Big Ten play with wins over Northwestern and Wisconsin last week. Both wins were of the 1-0 variety. This weekend Michigan and Michigan State come to town.