The Iowa Hawkeyes are proving to be Zultan’s Achilles heel this season.
For the past two Saturdays, the Z’s only misses have come because the All-Seeing One misread the signs concerning the Hawkeyes' success on the gridiron.
Zultan picked them to lose against Michigan State on the road and win over Penn State at home. Needless to say, that did not work out to the Pigskin Prognosticator's advantage.
Those picks doomed Zultan, keeping him from achieving perfection two weeks in a row.
With the Iowa miss, Zultan went 9-1 in Week 8. Unsettled forces troubled the gridiron, however, causing very close matches with several instances of heart-stopping heroics winning the day. The BCS loomed large in the background.
Still a win is a win.
For the year, Zultan comes in at 34-6, or 85 percent. But Week 9 will be the proverbial turning point in the Big Ten as well as in a number of the top conferences. The Big Z senses trouble afoot.
Therefore, this could well be your week to outguess him. Time to make your own picks and be saluted by Zultan in next week’s column—since so few of you have managed to outshine Zultan so far. In fact, none this past week.
Game 1: Iowa Hawkeyes at Northwestern Wildcats
Going forward, fate has determined that the Hawkeyes (4-3) will do the opposite of what Zultan forecasts until the cloud over Iowa City dissolves. Therefore, Z must pick the Hawks to lose . Such a move would make Mom happy—since she swears Zultan has evolved into the evil eye casting spells over the Hawkeye Nation.
Northwestern (6-2) must be in the doldrums—or fighting mad—after giving up the lead at the end of the game to Nebraska last Saturday. The Cats had beaten down the Husker offense and kept them in arrears for all but the last two minutes of the game. But Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez came back hard in the fourth to secure the win for the Huskers on the road.
Northwestern’s generous spirit will not extend to the Hawkeyes, who will limp into Evanston wounded and deflated after being embarrassed in Iowa City by the Penn State team.
Game 2: Indiana Hoosiers at Illinois Fighting Illini
Indiana (2-5) suffered another last quarter loss, going down to defeat in Annapolis 30-31 to the Navy Midshipmen. The Hoosiers were another Big Ten victim of the frantic end-of-game two-minute drill by the opposing team. Indiana led this contest throughout—until the Midshipmen scored to go ahead with two minutes left on the clock.
But one thing about the Hoosiers—they have a great offense. It would be even better if their defense followed suit. But, alas, that is not the case.
This week Illinois (2-5) hosts the Hoosiers in Champaign. These two teams are at the bottom of the Big Ten Leader’s Division. Illinois, however, has not shown anything yet on either side of the ball.
Even though the oddsmakers favor the Illini, Zultan will...
Game 3: Purdue Boilermakers at Minnesota Golden Gophers
Purdue’s defeat in overtime at the hands of the Ohio State Buckeyes had to make the Boiler’s collective fan base weep. Purdue (3-4) had the game in hand—in Columbus, no less—but during the last tick of the game clock, Ohio State took the ball into the end zone and added a two-point conversion to force overtime.
In overtime, Ohio State sealed the deal, winning the game but losing their quarterback in the process.
Minnesota (4-3) was busy trying to hold down the Wisconsin offense in Week 8. So far, the Gophers have not had any success in the Big Ten. They will welcome Purdue into Minneapolis where, hopefully, Coach Kill has instilled some backbone into the Gopher defense.
Purdue, if they play up to their level, should win this game—assuming they have the right attitude.
Zultan guesses that they will.
Game 4: Michigan State Spartans at (25) Wisconsin Badgers
Michigan State (4-4) lost another heartbreaker on Saturday to their instate rivals, the Michigan Wolverines. This one came down to five seconds on the clock as Michigan put up a field goal to edge past the Spartans 12-10 in Ann Arbor. It was the first Michigan victory over Michigan State since 2007.
Wisconsin (6-2), on the other hand, had their way with Minnesota. They ran over the Gophers all the way to 38-13, exploding on offense in the fourth quarter.
Michigan State seems to be falling back as Wisconsin gains steam. Expect this trend to continue.
Game 5: Ohio State Buckeyes at Penn State Nittany Lions
Ironically, the two sanctioned teams in the Big Ten are the two best.
While Penn State (5-2) was busy humiliating the Iowa Hawkeyes, Ohio State (8-0) was fighting for their lives at home to get past Purdue.
How does that information help Zultan shape the forecast for Week 9?
Ohio State was just plain lucky to get out of that game in Columbus with a win and with their quarterback in one piece. If they are smart, the Buckeye coaching staff will not overtax Braxton Miller upon his return to the lineup this week. It is a difficult spot, however, trying to remain perfect on the road in Happy Valley.
Penn State’s defense is awesome—a thing of beauty. Now that their offense is keeping pace, this should be the ultimate test for both programs. For his part, Zultan sees the future of this contest clearly.
Pick Penn State
Game 6: (22) Michigan Wolverines at Nebraska Cornhuskers
This is another big contest in the Big Ten. The Michigan Wolverines (5-2), who lead in the Legends Division, will travel to Lincoln to play the Nebraska Cornhuskers (5-2), who are dying to trip the Wolverines up on their way to the Big Ten Championship game.
Nebraska just eased past Northwestern last weekend in a game they should have lost—but it was on the road. Yet the Huskers held on and came up with goods when they were needed, led by the often harangued quarterback Taylor Martinez.
Michigan also escaped defeat by a whisker, but the Wolverines were at home. This week, the Wolverines will face another stiff defense in a hostile environment. You have never seen hostile until you have visited in Lincoln. Zultan knows of where he speaks.
Zultan believes the rarified air in Lincoln will be too much for the Wolverines in Week 9.
Game 7: (2) Florida Gators at (10) Georgia Bulldogs
Last Saturday, the Florida Gators (7-0) ground South Carolina to dust and blew them away 44-11, proving that their No. 2 BCS ranking was no fluke. It was redemption for the Gators who knew they were special from day one.
Meanwhile, Georgia (6-1) was having an off day on the road at Kentucky (1-7). They could not put the Wildcats away until the fourth quarter. After going up 29-17 midway through the last quarter, Kentucky came back to score again with just under four minutes left on the clock closing the gap to 29-24.
But the Bulldogs held on.
This week, however, Georgia hosts the Gators in Jacksonville, Fla. This game will determine the probable winner of the SEC East. The Gators have so far exceeded expectations while the Bulldogs have not.
Expect that to continue.
Game 8: (5) Notre Dame Fighting Irish at (8) Oklahoma Sooners
The fighting Irish (7-0) have their first real test of the season on the road. Notre Dame must travel to Norman to face the Oklahoma Sooners (5-1). Both teams are ranked in the Top 10 regardless of your favorite poll.
The Irish seem to be making their way back into national prominence. But take a look at who Notre Dame has vanquished. True, the Irish passed Michigan and Stanford, both now ranked, but this only the second game on the road for the Irish.
Oklahoma, who suffered a loss at home against the best team in the Big 12, Kansas State, has been rebuilding their Big 12 fences, trying to prove they are worthy of consideration by the BCS.
Despite outside forces, no way will Notre Dame out-offense the Sooners on the road.
Game 9: (14) Texas Tech Red Raiders at (3) Kansas State Wildcats
It took Texas Tech (6-1) three overtimes to put down TCU on the road. The Red Raiders must be exhausted after putting up that many points (56-53) over the No. 23 ranked Horned Frogs.
They should have saved something, because they will need it traveling to Manhattan, Ks., to face Bill Snyder and his superlative Wildcats. Kansas State (7-0) annihilated West Virginia whose high octane offense found no legs against the Wildcat’s drop-dead defense.
You got to love Bill Snyder, by the way, who once served on Hayden Fry’s staff at Iowa. But mainly you must appreciate what Snyder has done to bring glory back to Manhattan.
Pick Kansas State
Game 10: (11) Mississippi St. Bulldogs at (1) Alabama Crimson Tide
Mississippi State (7-0) had an easy Saturday, sauntering past Middle Tennessee in Starkville. They won 45-3.
Life will not be so easy this Saturday as the Bulldogs pack their bags for Tuscaloosa to face the No.1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide (7-0).
Alabama also had an easy day on the gridiron rolling past Tennessee 44-13.
So far, however, Mississippi State has faced no ranked team while Alabama has faced only a prematurely ranked Michigan team at home. Neither team has really been tested.
This is the first real challenge for either SEC team. It will give some hint about the veracity of the ranking systems once the curtain comes down on Saturday.
Zultan believes Alabama is the real deal and Mississippi State is the pretender.