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Week 11 Big Ten preview

We're roadtrippin' the next two weeks for college football! Much like Maize N' Brew did last week when Dave came to "Kool-ade Stadium" as he calls it for the first time, Mrs. T-Mill and I are heading north to East Lansing to see if the Boilers can end the losing streak against ranked teams. That, or we will see if it will continue into 2009 where the next chance will likely come at Oregon (a game that suddenly looks like a whole lot of fun with Justin Siller playing). Here is Purdue's official road/bowl record with me in attendance:

At Indiana: 2-2
At Illinois: 2-1
At Northwestern: 1-0
At Cincinnati: 1-0
At Michigan: 0-1
At Minnesota: 0-1
At Ohio State: 0-1
At Hawaii: 0-1
At Rose Bowl: 0-1

Overall: 6-7

I'm currently riding an 0-2 streak away from Ross-Ade, and as mentioned earlier my first visits to Big Ten venues haven't always been kind. We'll be following most of the wonderful game day guide posted by the Enlightened Spartan and I have heard wonderful things about East Lansing. I highly recommend any other Boiler fans heading north this weekend to check this out. If you see a blue Jeep Liberty with a Purdue tire cover and Miami stickers on the back heading north on I-69 Friday night give us a honk.

(All rankings are this week's blogpoll rankings)

Purdue (3-6, 1-4) at #17 Michigan State (8-2, 5-1) Noon, Big Ten Network

I had a funny feeling about the Ohio state game and turned out to be half right. The defense played more than well enough to win, but a special teams breakdown and complete lack of offense led to a 16-3 loss. Now, facing our last chance at a ranked team this year, I have a funny feeling again. Last week was a gigantic momentum shift for everyone in the program from the players to the fans. That momentum will continue if we break the huddle Saturday afternoon and #5 comes out to lead the offense instead of #12. If it is #12 I fear the only way we win is if Tiller "starts" Painter for a series, then Siller goes the rest of the way, thus possibly breaking Painter's starts 0-fer against ranked teams with an asterisk.

It is nice to at least have something positive going for us now. As I said last week, we just needed to get something going in the right direction. The Boiled Sports guys have been raving about Siller all week, but it is more than that. Orton and Tardy are a pair of seniors that finally got involved in the same game. Siller can get them the ball, and that gives us two more playmakers to go with Siller and Sheets. Unlike Bernard Pollard and Ray Edwards in 2005, Orton, Sheets, and Tardy appear ready to fight to the last breath to keep our postseason hopes alive. It may be late for that, but they are still alive.

As mentioned yesterday, it means little if we cannot at least slow down Javon Ringer. I feel if we hold him to even 100 yards and two scores we might have a chance as long as the offense can do something. That comes back to the Siller vs. Painter debate. If we win with Painter it will be because he will show something we have not seen since at least the Motor City Bowl. If we win with Siller it will be because he plays as well as, if not better, than last week. I am also completely delusional in that I think this team realizes there is still something to play for. We've always played Michigan State fairly well under Tiller, and Siller gives us an interesting wrinkle. That breaks down the official prediction into two ways: If Siller plays: Purdue 30, Michigan State 28. If Painter plays: Michigan State 35, Purdue 10.

Wisconsin (4-5, 1-5) at Indiana (3-6, 1-4) Noon, Big Ten Network

If we can stomach it, we should cheer hard for Indiana on Saturday. If we win our own game we're suddenly one game away from playing the hapless Hoosiers for a bowl bid. That bowl bid can be helped if Indiana can beat Wisconsin. That will give the Badgers 6 losses with a trip to Minnesota hopefully delivering #7. If the Badgers win they will go bowling unless they drop the season finale to Division I-AA Cal Poly.

Neither team is playing well at the moment. Indiana went right back to the bottom by losing to Central Michigan's backup quarterback at home a week ago. Wisconsin gacked away a near sure win in East Lansing too. It would be fitting if Wisconsin seals the "most disappointing team" label by losing to the Hoosiers. This is one of the harder games to call because both teams should have played much better to this point. It will probably come down to whoever sucks the least on Saturday. In that case, always count on Indiana to be worse. Wisconsin 24, Indiana 14

#12 Ohio State (7-2, 4-1) at #25 Northwestern (7-2, 3-2) Noon, ESPN or ESPN2

I would consider Northwestern in an upset if not for two things: 1. They have the worst home field advantage in the Big Ten, and that includes Minnesota in the Metrodome. They may sell out Saturday, but only because the Buckeye legions will invade Chicago. 2. They got absolutely drilled last year in Columbus. Mike Kafka running wild against Minnesota last week was frustrating because I imagined what Justin Siller would have done with a week's prep now. Pat Fitzgerald is being coy about who is starting, but I don't think it will matter.

Ohio State is still Ohio State. They have about 14 million reasons to keep winning and grab a second BCS bid for the conference. That is especially true if USC can drop another game and a different Pac-10 team ends up in the Rose bowl. If both Penn State and Ohio State win out the Buckeyes will be going to Pasadena or somewhere else in the BCS. They have too many fans not to. They've had two weeks to stew about the Penn State loss, and will sadly enact vengeance on poor Northwestern this week. Ohio state 31, Northwestern 10

Michigan (2-7, 1-4) at Minnesota (7-2, 3-2) Noon, ESPN or ESPN2

Minnesota gets to recover from a severe stomach punch last week by getting the first of three straight trophy games to end the season. Minnesota currently doesn't hold the Little Brown Jug, Paul Bunyan's Axe, or the Floyd of Rosedale, but they stand an excellent chance of opening TCF Bank Stadium with all three in the trophy case. First they must beat a Michigan team that finally found some offense last week, but now may be missing Steven Threet who suffered a concussion against Purdue.

Minnesota's running game has been AWOL lately, but it shouldn't have trouble getting back on track against a dismal run defense. It is unfortunate, but the Gophers likely won't have much of a real test until they get to a New Year's Day Bowl in Florida. At that point, the SEC will probably expose them. If not, they might be one of the favorites for the 2009 Big Ten season. For now, the Little Brown Jug will return to Minneapolis for the first time since 2005 and just second time since 1986. Minnesota 38, Michigan 21

Illinois (5-4) at Western Michigan (7-2) Noon, TBD

This is most definitely a trap game for the Illini. They are facing one of the MAC's best in what is essentially a home game. With a win, Western Michigan will enter a great argument with Ball State and Central Michigan as to who the best team in the MAC is. Both the Cardinals and Chips own a pelt over a Big Ten team (Indiana in each case), but the Broncos are a better team than the one that went to Iowa City and won on senior day a year ago. A win would also help our bowl cause since Illinois still must face Ohio State, then travel to Northwestern.

Tim Hiller is one of the best quarterbacks no one is talking about, yet he is lesser known than Dan LeFevour and Ball State's Nate Davis. Hiller has passed for 2,856 yards and 28 TD's against just five picks. He is more than capable of giving a somewhat shaky Illini defense fits. Western Michigan's only losses this year were at Nebraska and Central Michigan. Illinois will probably win, but do not be surprised if the Broncos pull an upset. Illinois 28, Western Michigan 24

#3 Penn State (9-0, 5-0) at Iowa (5-4, 2-3) 3:30, ABC

This is probably Penn State's last serious chance at a loss. Indiana will not beat them in Happy Valley and a good Michigan State team probably stands little chance on senior day and what could end up being Joe Paterno's final game at Penn State as head coach. That makes the Iowa game incredibly important not only for the Big Ten, but for the national picture.

Unless Shonn Greene goes crazy I just don't see Iowa having the offense to keep up with Penn State. The Nittany Lion offense has had two weeks to prepare and has moved the ball well against everyone except Ohio State. Green has been over 100 yards in every game this season, but will need to have a monster performance. If Iowa can control the running game and simply keep Penn State off the field it might have a chance, but I doubt it. Penn State 27, Iowa 17

National Games of note:

#8 Oklahoma State at #2 Texas Tech – Man that was a great game last week! Can the Red Raiders do it again? If they get past this week they have a trip to Oklahoma as a game against a third straight top 10 opponent. I doubted this team until last week. Oklahoma State is a great road team though. This should be a dandy. Texas Tech 38, Oklahoma State 37

#1 Alabama at #16 LSU – LSU has been somewhat disappointing this year, but all can be forgiven if they beat former coach Nick Saban this week. Personally, I can't stand Saban, so go Tigers. LSU 17, Alabama 14

#21 California at #7 USC – This should be another good one as Cal needs this to break a very long Rose Bowl drought. Unfortunately Oregon State in Corvallis is the only team that has managed to do much of anything against USC. The Beavers are the only team to score more than 10 points against the Trojans, but Trojans always have trouble penetrating Beavers (rimshot!). Still, I'll go with Cal because they're due. California 20, USC 17