Picks, Predictions and Prognosis for Every Week 9 Big Ten Football Game
By the time you are done reading this sentence I'm pretty sure Indiana has scored once and Michigan twice.
Oh, wait...you mean to tell me they are both on byes this week?
Week 8 was high scoring and highly entertaining (as long as you don't count the noon ET games), and Week 9's minimal lineup of games sure will have a lot to live up to.
Speaking of that, one Christian Hackenberg returns to the field after a memorable comeback win two weeks ago. What can he do for an encore?
Despite the craziness that happened last week, my picks were dynamite if I do say so myself.
So, what does my brain tell me is in store for a week with just four games on the docket?
Well, before we find out, let's remind you of just what has gone on with my picks to date.
Last Week: 4-1 (3-2 ATS)
2013 Picks: 50-14 (33-30-1 ATS)
*All odds courtesy VegasInsider.com. Rankings are official BCS rankings.
No. 24 Nebraska (-10.5) at Minnesota
Saturday, Oct. 26 at noon ET (ESPN)
Nebraska is coming off a bye week, and a much needed one to get 100 percent healthy or at least as healthy as they can get. That could include getting star quarterback Taylor Martinez back in the fold, despite the coach speak that says Martinez is a "game time decision," expect that he is going to play.
The question with Martinez's return, can the Huskers offense keep clicking like it has with the change back to him at QB?
In his absence, the combination of Ron Kellogg III and Tommy Armstrong, Jr. played very well against some mediocre defenses (at best).
This week is different though, as Minnesota is coming off its best defensive performance of the season in a road win over Northwestern last week and is gaining in confidence by the week.
Minnesota has its own quarterback conundrum thanks to Mitch Leidner being sick and unable to practice to this point in time—and at Minnesota, if you can't practice, you can't play.
So, it could be all Philip Nelson, all the time for the Gophers.
If so, it will be interesting to see how the offense responds. What I will be watching to see is if Nebraska's defense can contain a tough and physical ground game by being physical back. This is the Huskers' toughest challenge to date in Big Ten play.
Should Martinez return I expect this game to get out of hand fast as the Gophers won't be able to contain the run game between Martinez and Ameer Abdullah. However, if Martinez isn't a go, look for this one to be close—and since I believe Martinez is playing, this is going to be over by the half.
Pick: Nebraska 37, Minnesota 17
Northwestern at Iowa (-4)
Saturday, Oct. 26 at noon ET (BTN)
Talk about teams going in opposite directions, huh?
Raise your hand if you had Northwestern winless in conference play and Iowa as a real player in the Legends Division race?
Chances are most of us in Big Ten country, myself included, didn't see either of those things coming.
Yet, both of these teams come in with identical 4-3 records.
Northwestern has lost three straight Big Ten contests, while Iowa started off with a win before dropping its last two conference contests.
Both these teams sit at a crossroads heading into November, it's safe to say this game takes on some big time importance.
For Iowa, it proved it can play against anyone last week, taking Ohio State to the brink of defeat before bowing down in the second half.
For Northwestern, it has shown that without Venric Mark and Kain Colter this offense becomes too one dimensional against Big Ten defenses to be successful.
While the Wildcats are not likely to have Colter and Mark for this game as well, I am smelling a possibility of an upset in this one and that's because I don't think Pat Fitzgerald lets this team lose four games in a row.
Last week was rock bottom for the Wildcats and I expect a bounce back offensively. Additionally, I'm also thinking we see the return of the Northwestern defense that creates turnovers at opportune times.
Unfortunately, Mark Weisman is one physical individual and that type of play has been killing Northwestern so far. Iowa squeaks one out at home with a final minute touchdown.
Pick: Iowa 35, Northwestern 30
Michigan State (-10.5) at Illinois
Saturday, Oct. 26 at 3:30 p.m. ET (ABC)
So, are we back to this again for the Michigan State Spartans? By this, I mean great defense and a sputtering offense.
That's exactly what we saw last week, weather and missing receivers to the side, it wasn't a good performance for Connor Cook and the Spartans, who couldn't even muster more than a single touchdown against a Purdue defense that gave up 31 to opponents coming into the week.
Luckily for them they see another less-than-stellar defense coming at them this week as they travel to Champaign to take on Illinois.
Wisconsin pounded the Illini into submission on the ground, but Illinois also proved it has the offensive chops to play with some of the best defenses in the Big Ten.
Now, can Nathan Scheelhaase do it against easily the best defense in the conference (and likely the country)?
One thing is for sure, the Spartans secondary will be getting their biggest test of the season by far and the passing game matchup will be the key to victory in this one.
The Illini average 287.7 yards a game through the air (24th nationally), while averaging just over 35 points a game on offense.
Of course, Michigan State only allows opponents 168.9 yards a game (4th nationally) and just 13.6 points a game.
Something has to give between these two teams and for me, this one could be trouble for the Spartans if they can't get the offense going.
Luckily, they can't use the weather as an excuse for poor execution as it is supposed to be 58 degrees and just a bit windy.
So, I expect Cook and running back Jeremy Langford to have a performance more like the Iowa game and that will be more than enough to help a defense that may give up more yards in this one than they have to anyone all season long.
Pick: Michigan State 27, Illinois 20
Penn State at No. 4 Ohio State (-14.5)
Saturday, Oct. 26 at 8 p.m. ET (ABC)
Penn State has had a week off to get past the craziness that was the end of the Michigan game and the horribleness that was overtime in that win.
The Nittany Lions needed that break, as they face the 19 game win streak of Ohio State.
Urban Meyer's crew has taken three of the Big Ten's best shots so far and survived each of them from Wisconsin, Northwestern and Iowa.
Penn State has been a bit yo-yo-like in its performances this season, so this game will really be a test to see which version is the real one.
Will it be the one that took down Michigan at home or the one that lost to Indiana on the road?
The answer may come in the key matchup of Christian Hackenberg and Allen Robinson against the Ohio State pass defense that gives up 240.7 yards a game (70th nationally).
If Bradley Roby, who was supposed to be the best thing since sliced bread at cornerback, can't get back on track it could be a long night in the Shoe.
Of course, that is assuming Penn State can also protect Hackenberg well enough to allow him the time to pick on the passing defense.
If OSU gets a pass rush, this game is vastly different.
Don't sleep on the Nittany Lions' chances of pulling off the upset in this one, but just like all the Big Ten games before...Ohio State finds a way to win at the end and it's all because of Carlos Hyde once again too.
Pick: Ohio State 33, Penn State 24