Zultan's Fearless Football Forecast: Iowa, the Big 10 & Other Primo Matchups
No way Zultan wanted to wake up for this season. The Big Ten is spiraling down the proverbial drain and leading the way are Mom’s Iowa Hawkeyes, who tripped and fell during their “bend but don't break” defensive stand at the end of the game against Central Michigan.
As a world-famous prognosticator, you go to into hibernation for a few months and when you wake up, the whole college football landscape has shifted. Missouri and Texas A&M are members of the SEC—what were they thinking? West Virginia moved out west into Big 12 cattle country? Where is the logic there?
It seems to me that some of these teams are going to be spending all their profits on air-fare.
It was bad enough when Nebraska came on board in the Big Ten, but at least they are next door to Iowa where they share a natural enmity with the Hawkeyes as river rivals.
The good thing in Week 5 is that the non-conference portion of the year is breathing its last breath. The Big Ten can stop suffering embarrassment in isolation, falling to teams who should not be winning against the legendary Big Ten.
What happened to the patsies or cupcakes we were accustomed to running over during the first four weeks? Didn’t anybody get the message about the MAC Conference. They are too good—scratch them from the Big Ten non-conference schedule immediately.
Now, at least the “Legends” and “Leaders” can play teams they can defeat—their brothers in the Big Ten.
So, fellow fans of the Hail Mary, this is the start of the 2012 football season, Zultan’s fourth run at prognosticating college football fortunes highlighting the Iowa Hawkeyes, the Big Ten Conference and other Saturday games worthy of my penetrating insight.
You want a piece of the action—just make your picks here and we will see mano y mano who is the best at predicting winners in upcoming Week 5 in the 2012 season. Or as Zultan calls it—the year of the big, bad Big Ten fall.
Results listing the superior prognosticators—those who surpass Zultan in picking the winners in the 10 games featured in Week 5—will be posted in next week's article, assuming Zultan survives another tumultuous weekend of Big Ten action and Mom's cooking if Iowa loses again.
Game 1: [Big Ten] Minnesota Gophers at Iowa Hawkeyes
Now that the Gophers [4-0] have their egos in overdrive, it may be just the right moment for the Hawkeyes [2-2] to put them back on their heels with a healthy running back plus the wunderkind fullback Mark Weisman stomping Gophers in his way.
Let’s see that defense jell and hold together for the entire game.
Iowa lost to Minnesota in 2010 and in 2011. Enough is enough. It is the Hawkeye’s turn to ruin the Gopher’s season. Payback time is coming. Besides, if Iowa does not win, I cannot be responsible for Mom’s special form of retaliation.
Pick Iowa to win at home.
Game 2: [Big Ten] Indiana Hoosiers at Northwestern Wildcats
The Wildcats [4-0] come into their Big Ten opener with a perfect non-conference record safely tucked away in the record book. They defeated Syracuse, Vanderbilt and Boston College before playing the South Dakota Coyotes last Saturday in Evanston. The Cats breezed past the Coyotes 38-7.
This coming Saturday the Wildcats play host to the Indiana Hoosiers [2-1] who had a week off to rest up for their contest against Northwestern. The Hoosiers are recovering from their shocking upset at the hands of one of those pesky MAC teams—Ball State. The Hoosiers, too, lost in the final seconds of the game.
Previously, Indiana had won against Indiana State and UMass on the road, looking for a promising 3-0 record going into conference play. Ball State, however, had their own script.
Mental Note: Somebody in the Big Ten needs to find a copy of the MAC final two-minute drill.
Pick Northwestern who will continue their winning ways.
Game 3: [Big Ten] Penn State at Illinois
Penn State [2-2] must travel to Champaign to begin their first Big Ten season without Joe Paterno at the helm. The Lions lost their first two games to Ohio and Virginia but have settled down, winning their last two contests at home against Navy and the Temple Owls.
With new coach Bill O’Brien leading the way and quarterback Matt McGloin providing a solid foundation in the pocket, Penn State is slowly leaving behind the notorious headlines that rocked the university over the past several months.
The Illini [2-2] have also suffered some early season setbacks that include losses to Arizona State 45-14 out of the PAC 12 and Louisiana Tech 52-24 last weekend.
The Bulldogs are part of the WAC and took full advantage of Illinois’ unending capacity to turn over the ball last weekend—there were six, count them, six turnovers which just gave Louisiana Tech the ball way too many times.
Pick Penn State to win on the road.
Game 4: [Conf. USA] Marshall at [Big Ten] Purdue Boilermakers
Purdue [2-1] defeated Eastern Kentucky and Eastern Michigan but lost in Week 2 to Notre Dame on the road. The Boilers had last week off to help them prepare to meet their last non-conference opponent, the Marshall Thundering Herd out of Conference USA.
In their last game against Eastern Michigan, Purdue gained 576 yards with quarterback Caleb TerBush clicking on all cylinders. The Boilers were aided by another stingy defensive outing.
Pick Purdue to stop the Thundering Herd dead in their tracks in week 5.
Game 5: [Big Ten] (14) Ohio State at (20) Michigan State
It doesn’t seem all that strange that the Ohio State Buckeyes are leading the way, sitting 4-0 as they head into the Big Ten season. Last year, Ohio State hovered in complete disarray weighted down by NCAA sanctions and penalties.
This year, hopefully, the Buckeyes have set that aside. Even though they are ineligible to compete in postseason play, the team is getting back to their accustomed place at the top of the Big Ten.
But this weekend, the Buckeyes must travel to Michigan State [3-1] to play inside Spartan Stadium. This is not a pleasing prospect for any team this year.
Michigan State started the year ranked in the top 10 but have fallen to No. 21 after an uninspiring and inauspicious beginning—getting by Boise State but losing meekly at home to Notre Dame 20-3.
The Spartans will have their hands full trying to contain the Buckeyes. But, this is a critical contest for Michigan State and their postseason chances. They must win to stay alive.
Pick Michigan State to win at home.
Game 6: [Big Ten] Wisconsin Badgers at (22) Nebraska Cornhuskers
The Badgers [3-1] have not exactly stunned the media so far in 2012. They barely got by Northern Iowa in their opener and the following week, Wisconsin lost to Oregon State, falling out of the top 25 rankings.
The Badgers, however, held on to defeat Utah State 16-14 and stayed ahead of UTEP 37-26. But in winning their last game, they lost their premiere running back, Montee Ball, surely in line for a Heisman Trophy nomination. He may or may not play on Saturday—the jury is still out on that one.
Unfortunately, the Boilers must travel to Lincoln next Saturday to play the Nebraska Cornhuskers [3-1] in their Big Ten opener.
Nebraska, on the other hand, while not exactly setting the football world on fire, has managed to stay ranked in the top 25, hanging tough at No. 22. This contest should be the game of the week— if Ball is cleared to play.
The Huskers put up some impressive numbers against Idaho State last Saturday. But Wisconsin is a far cry from the Bengals out of the Big Sky Conference. Still...
Pick Nebraska to win at home.
Game 7: [PAC 12] (18) Oregon St. Beavers at Arizona Wildcats
The Oregon State Beavers [2-0] are perfect so far this year after knocking off No. 13 Wisconsin 10-7 and then upending No. 19 UCLA 27-20 in week 4.
Now ranked in the top 20, the Beavers head to Arizona [3-1] where they will hope to extend their winning ways to Week 5.
Arizona was off to a great start of their own, defeating Toledo in overtime, then following that with an upset over No. 18 Oklahoma State 59-38 in Week 2. The following week, the Wildcats took it to South Carolina State, winning 56-0.
But in Week 4, Arizona traveled to Oregon where reality bit them badly. The Ducks pounded the Cats 49-0 in an embarrassing loss. It is hard to come back after that. Nonetheless, the line is drawn in the desert sand.
Pick Arizona to win at home.
Game 8: [Big 12] (12) Texas Longhorns at Oklahoma State Cowboys
The Oklahoma State Cowboys [2-1] will be welcoming the Texas Longhorns [3-0] into Stillwater. Last year, the Cowboys won the Big 12 title and should have played in the National Championship Game—or so many believed.
But this year, the Cowboys were shellacked by Arizona 59-38 in Week 2. Now with an injured quarterback, Wes Lunt, whose status remains off the table it is hard to be fully confident in the Cowboys as they face the Longhorns on Saturday.
Texas, of course, has slipped off their perch at the top of the college football pedestal, suffering for the last two seasons. This year they are ranked and undefeated behind the play of quarterback David Ashe. But to date, they have not been tested under fire.
This is a tough one. But when in doubt, do the smart thing.
Pick Oklahoma State to win at home.
Game 9: [Big 12] (25) Baylor Bears at (9) West Virginia
This is the first Big 12 contest for West Virginia [3-0] who hosts the newly ranked Baylor Bears [3-0] on Saturday. Both teams remain undefeated on the season.
The Bears have defeated SMU, Sam Houston State and Louisiana-Monroe.
West Virginia, on the other hand, has turned back Marshall, James Madison and Maryland so far in 2012.
But Saturday should reveal which team deserves their ranking and who might need to go back to the drawing board.
It is homecoming in Morgantown and Geno Smith has been playing first-rate ball.
Pick West Virginia to win at home.
Game 10: [SEC] Ole Miss Rebels at (1) Alabama Crimson Tide
Ole Miss [3-1] has won three games so far in 2102. They scored wins over Central Arkansas, UTEP, and Tulane while suffering one big loss to No. 14 Texas 66-31 in week 3. Their season seems moderately mediocre to date.
But this week, the Rebels get to travel to Bryant-Denny Stadium where they will face the No. 1 team in the country—the Alabama Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa [4-0].
There is no way Ole Miss will win this contest. The only question for this season remains—can any team beat Alabama? It looks like a difficult task for any SEC brother.
Therefore, you would be smart to select the obvious.
Pick Alabama to win at home.
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