Thursday, October 2, 2008

Big Ten Week Six Previews


Underdogs in need of some help from baseball legends.

Last week, the visiting squads needed to get off to early starts to stay alive. This week, the home teams will need to step up their games if they are to defend their turf. In light of the Major League Baseball playoffs, I have added some baseball legends whom, had they traded batting helmets for facemasks, could help out the underdogs.

Northwestern stays undefeated. OK, they are off this week. Who else comes out unscathed from Week 6?

1. Ohio State at Wisconsin: Badgers need Willie Mays to run everything down in center field.Against Michigan, Wisconsin could have been exploited over the deep middle several times. Slot receiver Martavious Odoms ran wild on several pass attempts last week, but the Wolverines lacked the necessary timing and experience to connect. In order for the Badgers to cash in at night at Camp Randall, they will need safeties Jay Valai and Shane Carter to not only track down balls launched over their heads, but also to close down alleyways around the box to stuff the run. Wisconsin has shown enough discipline on defense to do this (if you forget the second half last week). If they choose to merely maintain that run discipline and defend against Beanie Wells, it will leave time for Terrelle Pryor to make good decisions passing the ball and wideouts Brian Hartline and Brian Robiskie will exploit the deep middle. The Badgers will lose a great game in a great atmosphere, perhaps on Ohio State’s last possession.
PREDICTION: Ohio State 30, Wisconsin 27

2. Illinois at Michigan:
Michigan needs Ichiro Suzuki to put the ball in play. The difference between last week and this week for Michigan is that after one half of play, Wisconsin thought Michigan’s offense was inept and eased off the gas. This week, Illinois knows that the Wolverines can move the ball at times, despite being ranked in the pits for total offense (110th, 285 yards/game). Michigan needs to be able to hit for power, hit for average and play faster; but the Illini are much more athletic on defense than Wisconsin, which may counter Rich Rodriguez’s spread even more. Contrary to last week where Illinois could not keep up with their opponent (Penn State), it will be Michigan that will not be able to keep up with the Illini in a game that promises to be close…but not close enough.
PREDICTION Illinois 27, Michigan 20

3. Penn State at Purdue:
The Boilermakers need Derek Jeter if they want to be playing for something worthwhile in November. Purdue’s season-killing skid usually starts a little later in the season, but they will need immediate leadership on both sides of the ball from the coaches and/or quarterback Curtis Painter to avoid an early collapse. The tools are there for Purdue to contend, but they need to piece this season back together fast. However, it’s a bad time to face a third straight loss as red-hot Penn State comes to West Lafayette looking to maintain their national championship hopes (averaging 515 yards/game and FBS-leading 33 touchdowns). Just as this year has panned out for Jeter and the New York Yankees, it may be a lonely October for the Boilermakers--Penn State rolls in a four-quarter sweep.
PREDICTION Penn State 42, Purdue 17

4. Iowa at Michigan State: Hawkeyes need Thurman Munson blocking home plate.
The NCAA officially lists Iowa’s offensive focal point (running back) Shonn Greene as “probable”, which is the good news. The bad news is the description of his injury listed as “head”. Oh boy. With a completely healthy Greene, this would have been an intriguing match-up of smash-mouth football between Greene (6th in the FBS with 133 yards/game) and Spartans’ tailback Javon Ringer (2nd in the FBS with 180 yards/game). Now I’m not so sure Iowa will have the offensive firepower to keep this one close on the road. Iowa must keep this one a low scoring affair by keeping Ringer out of the end zone. The Hawkeyes’ predecessors were not able to do it, and neither will Iowa.
PREDICTION: Ringer 21, Iowa 10

5. Indiana at Minnesota: The Hoosiers need Ozzie Smith to make some “short stops”. Last week, Michigan State went to Bloomington and piled up nearly 500 yards of offense on a porous Indiana defense. Combined with the prior week’s loss to Ball State, they had given up 966 yards and 84 points, which showed promise. This week, the Hoosiers go on the road to face a spread offense led by Minnesota’s sophomore quarterback Adam Weber. Weber will have to correct some of those mistakes that he and the Gophers made Columbus if they are to control the ball better this week. The Indiana defense needs an all-star performance, one that provides the offense with enough time to put up points on their own (which they have shown they certainly can). Who will step up on defense for the Hoosiers? No one.
PREDICTION: Minnesota 37, Indiana 30