This may be the conference's best chance for an undefeated week, although next week's schedule looks good too. Unfortunately, it is unlikely to happen. Minnesota, which is receiving its proper public shaming at the moment, hosts USC in a game that could be an epic ass-whipping. I know about Kansas. Yes, they recovered to beat a ranked Georgia Tech team last week. They also made a quarterback change and lost to a much better 1-AA team. Georgia Tech is also a lot different than USC. The ACC got depantsed as a whole last week, while the Pac-10 looks strong.
For that reason alone the conference probably won't go undefeated. There are still some pretty good games out there. Many teams are making their only non-conference road trip this week. Northwestern is actually making its second of the season, a rarity in these days where most schools have seven home games. This weekend can be viewed as almost the conference's final non-conference argument before the bowl season. Everyone, save Minnesota again, will likely be heavily favored next week, so the time I now to defend conference honor.
Massachusetts (2-0) at Michigan (2-0) Noon, Big Ten Network
Can we proclaim that the Wolverines are back? Boiled Sports reminded us during the Handsome Hour last night that Michigan started almost the exact same way last season before falling apart. I feel a little better about this year's Michigan team though. At least they are off the hook as the only team to lose to a 1-AA team while ranked. Thanks, Virginia Tech.
That infamous game aside, there should be little drama against UMass as long as Denard Robinson continues to go apeshit. The story of the game is the Brock Mealer recovery, which is profiled here courtesy of Maize N' Brew. Prediction: Michigan 45, Massachusetts 10
Ohio (1-1) at #2 Ohio State (2-0) Noon, Big Ten Network
Am I the only one that is not fawning over Ohio State's win over Miami? It wasn't a blowout. Jacory Harris handed the game over with four interceptions and the Special Teams was terrible for the Buckeyes. Ohio State fans are talking big because, "it's a bigger blowout without those special teams plays", as if that isn't a real factor of the game. Sorry kids, but it is. If Harris gets rid of even two picks the Hurricanes are in the game last week. Don't forget their missed and blocked field goals, either.
Of course, there should be little trouble against the Bobcats this week. I don't think Ohio State has lost to an in-state school since the Roosevelt administration, and by that I mean Teddy. About the only thing Ohio has going for it is a quarterback by the name of Boo Jackson. If he helps pull off the huge upset I am sure the Ohio Stadium faithful will shout his name. Prediction: Ohio State 41, Ohio 10
Kent State (1-1) at #22 Penn State (1-1) Noon, ESPN2
This game could be closer than people think. Kent State has the nation's best run defense. That's not something you normally associate with the Golden Flashes, but they have done well against Murray State and Boston College. They now get to top one of the best running backs in the Big Ten in Evan Royster. They have also gotten seven sacks, so Robert Bolden will be pressured. Could this be the upset where the MAC gets a Big Ten victory? Are the Nittany Lions in trouble?
Linebacker U is cautiously optimistic, especially with Kent's Eugene Jarvis out. Penn State is like Ohio State: They simply don't lose to MAC teams. Ever. Prediction: Penn State 24, Kent State 7
Northern Illinois (1-1) vs. Illinois (1-1) Noon, Big Ten Network
This sounds familiar. A 1-1 Big Ten team that looked pretty good in week two hosts Northern Illinois. As we know, the Huskies smacked us around last year. Now they get two straight chances against Illinois and Minnesota to get another Big Ten win. Illinois has never lost to an in-state team (other than Northwestern), but that could change on Saturday. Red and black Attack is calling it the most anticipated game of the season for the Huskies. As one of the MAC favorites, can you blame them?
Hail to the Orange is cautiously optimistic. The Fighting Illini did look better last week against a pretty good Southern Illinois team. They absolutely must get this game to keep alive bowl homes with the schedule that follows. I think Northern Illinois will get one of its two games against the Big Ten, but Illinois makes sure it won't be a sweep. Prediction: Illinois 24, Northern Illinois 21
Ball State (1-1) at Purdue (1-1) Noon, Big Ten Network
It is time to begin life without Keith Smith. Danny Hope mentioned this week that he has seen marked improvement from Antavian Edison and Gary Bush in terms of replacing him. Edison is first in the slot position, while Waynelle Gravesande is second and T.J. Barbarette is third.
As I've said all week, it doesn't matter if the offensive line doesn't do better. Ball State has struggled enough on offense to give me confidence even with our defense. Over the Pylon think MiQuale Lewis can have a breakout game, and that is possible, but this needs to be a game where we allow little to nothing through the air. All I am hoping to see is improvement on offense. As long as we have that, I think we get an easy win. That's what this team needs. Prediction: Purdue 35, Ball State 17
#18 USC (2-0) at Minnesota (1-1) 3:30pm ESPN
This could get very ugly. Matt Barkley is an excellent quarterback. He probably watched film of South Dakota carving up the Minnesota secondary with glee. The Golden Gophers are in trouble, though the Daily Gopher is doing its best to remain upbeat. As they say, this could get very ugly in a hurry. I honestly don't see of a way that Minnesota stays in this game unless USC is just uninterested. The Trojans struggled with Virginia and Hawaii, but both of those teams are probably better than Minnesota. USC 45, Minnesota 21
Arizona State (2-0) at #11 Wisconsin (2-0) 3:30pm ABC
The Badgers went through the motions in a rather lackluster win over San Jose State last week. This week they get one of three Big Ten vs. Pac-10 games, and there will be a familiar face on the Sun Devils' roster. Former Michigan quarterback Steven Threet has won the starting job for Arizona State, and has done well so far. He led Michigan to a 27-25 victory over Wisconsin two years ago, which was about the only highlight of the 2008 season for Michigan.
Traditionally the Pac-10 doesn't do well when it comes into Big Ten country, but things have been better of late. USC won at Ohio State last year. Oregon won at Purdue in 2008 and Michigan in 2007. That said, I think Arizona State will struggle to stop John Clay after having trouble with Northern Arizona last week. Prediction: Wisconsin 30, Arizona State 20
Indiana (1-0) at Western Kentucky (0-2) 5pm, Big Ten Network
Someone please correct me if I am wrong, but is this the first time the Big Ten Network has televised a road game at a non-conference opponent? The Hoosiers are facing maybe the worst team in Division 1-A, as Western Kentucky is the owner of a 22 game losing streak. Bobby Rainey is a good running back, but WKU has forgotten to field a run defense this year. Darius Willis should be able to do whatever he wants. Tandon Doss also returns and should be able to get free as well. Prediction: Indiana 45, Western Kentucky 24
Northwestern (2-0) at Rice (1-1) 7pm
This one may be of interest to Purdue fans since we travel to Rice next season. The Owls have a nice offense, but they struggle on defense. Like Wisconsin, they are facing a former Wolverine in Sam McGuffie. Rice has already played Texas this year, and was 2-10 last year with several close losses. Northwestern has a habit of gacking at least one non-conference game per season, and this seems like the best candidate. Northwestern 24, Rice 17
Notre Dame (1-1) at Michigan State (2-0) 8pm ABC
The Spartans can help me out this week. I famously said this summer that I would shut down Hammer & Rails is Notre Dame won 10 games this year, as some of their more delusional fans predicted. A Michigan state win Saturday night already puts that 10-win boast in danger. It couldn't happen to a nicer team, either. In the Q&A with Inside the Irish this week the theme of crazy finishes in this series was talked about. You can probably expect another one this week. Michigan State sucks against the pass and Dayne Crist, when healthy, has shown he can calmly pick teams apart. That leaves it to the ground game, where I think Michigan State has an edge. Michigan State 24, Notre Dame 23
#9 Iowa (2-0) at #24 Arizona (2-0)
The best game of the week is one of those delicious 10:30 West Coast kickoffs that lull us to sleep after a great day of college football. The Wildcats are the only team in both the Pac-10 and Big Ten (as currently assembled) that has never played in the Rose Bowl. Last year would have been the year if not for a last minute drive by Oregon. If they can upset Iowa they might move into the driver's seat as far as Pac-10 favorites goes. In fact, these two could very well have a rematch in Pasadena.
The Hawkeyes could be I trouble. Arizona has only given up eight points, while Iowa has given up 14. Expect the defenses to rule in a tight contest. Iowa 17, Arizona 13