With as much dignity as he could muster, Zultan gathered up the sad remains of his shattered major award. Later that night, alone in the backyard, the Great One buried it next to the garage. Now I could never be sure, but I thought that I heard the sound of "Taps" being played, gently.*
The shattered prize being a Big Ten Championship for Zultan's Iowa Hawkeyes, of course...
It was quite a Saturday for the Big Ten. Iowa and Illinois fell as Wisconsin stomped the life out of Indiana, crushing bones, sinew and dignity in the process.
Hard to haul yourself off the field and onto the next game after that whopping of 83-20. The Badgers deserve the big Axe for that one...
Northwestern’s 21-17 win over Iowa was just as devastating for the Hawkeyes and their fans, watching another promising season sink out of sight like the sun on the horizon after a long day. The Wildcats continue to have Iowa’s number year after year...
Illinois could not locate the game they left on the field in Ann Arbor as Minnesota came back to win in the closing seconds...
What about Minnesota! The Gophers struck their own blow for the dignity of their team, their school and most especially for their seniors. As hard as it had to be on Illinois to lose that one, you must be happy for the Gophers to finally win a game in the Big Ten.
Zultan’s guest prognosticator in Week 11, Ryan Sparrow went 7-3 for the week, sadly missing on Iowa, Illinois and Arizona. Those seven souls who managed to predict these upsets are listed at the end of the article with accompanying accolades.
Click here to outguess this week’s last guest seer of the season, Craig Bancroft, who issues the following predictions...
Game 1: Illinois (5-5, 3-4) at Northwestern (7-3, 3-3 Big Ten)
It was one thing to lose that close one to Michigan on the road in triple overtime; but it was quite another to lose to cellar dweller Minnesota in Champaign in front of the home-town folks.
Minnesota rose up like Phoenix from the ashes to make a statement about their program and their future in the Big Ten.
The Illini will be smarting as they invade the home of the Northwestern Wildcats, who upset the Iowa Hawkeyes on their last outing. Who will benefit more from the respective mood and mindset of their players and coaching staff?
According to Mr. Bancroft: The Zooker [Ron Zook] and his crew have finally had enough time to get over that heartbreaking loss to Michigan (in a real defensive struggle!) Northwestern QB Dan Persa played an unbelievable game against the Hawks and it's too bad he got hurt on the doggone winning TD pass. Illinois beats the Persa-less Wildcats in a close one at historic Wrigley Field.
Game 2: Penn State (6-4, 3-3 Big Ten) at Indiana (4-6, 0-6 Big Ten)
Penn State hung tough with Ohio State in the Horseshoe during the first half but eventually, Ohio State’s lines began to penetrate on both sides of the ball.
What really turned the Buckeyes' fortunes around, however, was an interception by Devon Torrence that he returned to give Ohio State its first lead at 17-14 in the third quarter.
Penn State would score no more as the impetus turned toward the Buckeyes, who finally won the game 38-14. Penn State travels to a hurting Indiana Hoosiers team kicked around this past weekend by Wisconsin. So who will win in Landover, MD [neutral site] on Saturday?
Craig says: Joe-Pa gets another win in his storied career, a career that will almost certainly never be matched.
Pick Penn State
Game 3: (9) Ohio State (9-1, 5-1 Big Ten) at (20) Iowa (7-3, 4-2 Big Ten)
The once-critical game of the week becomes an after-thought after Iowa’s loss to Northwestern last Saturday...at least in the minds of ESPN and the sports media.
Even so it is a very important game for both these teams, each capable of defeating the other. The question remains, which coaching staff will have its team better prepared on Saturday?
The experts favor Ohio State on the road to knock off a sagging Iowa team but they do not understand the Iowa mentality. Few do. Traditionally, Iowa seldom beats the Buckeyes, but there is no better time to break traditions than now.
According to the guest prognosticator: Call me a homer if you will, but I really think my beloved Hawkeyes can handle the Buckeyes in historic Kinnick Stadium this season.
Either way, it should be a great game, but I'm taking the Hawks in a close one and hoping that things look "rosier" for them after this one.
Game 4: (7) Wisconsin (9-1, 5-1 Big Ten) at Michigan (7-3, 3-3 Big Ten)
To say Wisconsin ran up the score to impress BCS pollsters may be politically incorrect, but how else can you justify that 83-20 score?
Once Indiana’s starting QB Ben Chappell was no longer in the picture, injured on the sidelines, Indiana’s offense was dead. Yet Wisconsin continued to score at will like bullies on the playground.
The reason is obvious: they wanted the college football world to pay attention in order to push them up in the polls. Plain and simple. It worked.
The Badgers may get another chance to be impressive at Michigan, as the Wolverines continue to allow their vaunted QB Denard Robinson to get pounded.
Michigan got past Purdue, but even at home, they will have all sorts of trouble stopping willful and powerful Wisconsin.
According to Mr. Bancroft: I'm now officially a believer in the Badgers, and I think they will outscore the Wolverines (it may be an 83-75 contest).
Game 5: Purdue (4-6, 2-4 Big Ten) at (12) Michigan State (9-1, 5-1 Big Ten)
It was not a particularly pretty game in terms of football aesthetics on Saturday in West Lafayette.
The Michigan Wolverines finally managed to hang onto the ball long enough to secure a victory over the hapless Purdue Boilermakers, whose team has been decimated with injuries.
Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson overcame four turnovers to pass for 176 yards but run for only 68 on a long afternoon for Big Blue.
You have to wonder week after week about the continuing list of walking wounded for the Boilers. This week, Purdue must travel to face a well-rested Michigan State team. The Spartans have to relish the upturn in their football fortunes now that Iowa has another Big Ten loss.
According to our guest prognosticator: Sparty is not going to fall to the struggling Boilers on their home turf. This game will not likely be close.
Pick Michigan State
Game 6: (13) Arkansas (8-2, 4-2 SEC) at (21) Mississippi State (7-3, 3-3 SEC)
The Bulldogs welcome the Razorbacks to Scott Field on Saturday in an SEC West showdown. On paper, one win separates these two teams, but in reality the differences are much more.
It all comes down to this: Mississippi State will not be able to stop Razorback QB Ryan Mallet’s passing attack.
This defensive shortfall doomed the Bulldogs against Alabama. It will be the Bulldogs' undoing against a top-notch Arkansas team even though Mississippi State gets to play at home in front of their fans.
According to the Zultan stand-in Bancroft, The Hogs are playing good ball this season and I think they have their way with Miss State even at Miss State.
Game 7: (15) Missouri (8-2, 4-2 Big 12) at Iowa State (5-6, 3-4 Big 12)
Iowa State fielded a scrappy team, tough as nails with plenty of fight. You just have to hate it that their senior quarterback and offensive leader Austen Arnaud suffered a season-ending knee injury in a devastating loss on the road last week to Colorado.
The Cyclones are fighting to become bowl eligible after defeating Texas in Austin and almost upending Nebraska in overtime in Ames.
A win over No. 15 Missouri would give them that sixth game and pull them even in the Big 12. Playing in Ames might help if Arnaud were still running the show. But you have to wonder.
According to Craig: They coulda’ shouda’ woulda’ beat Nebraska for gosh sakes!. But they lost their starting QB Saturday, and Iowa State historically just has so much trouble with the Tigers, I like the guys from Missouri to find a way to win this one.
Game 8: (8) Nebraska (9-1, 5-1 Big 12) at (19) Texas A & M (7-3, 4-2 Big 12)
Nebraska has shown some vulnerability on the road...not much or very often, however. This is do-or-die week for the Aggies if they hope to share in a piece of the title for the Big 12 South.
In order to stay alive, Texas A & M must win this game. With the finish line directly ahead, Nebraska must also pay strict attention to taking care of business by putting the Aggies in the barn for good.
How this all plays out ultimately rests on how well the Aggies defense plays against the Nebraska offense. Neither one are what we call “top-drawer” in college football. Either team has the talent to win this game. The question remains: who wants it more?
According to guest prognosticator Bancroft: This is another very tough pick. I know what the Aggies did to Oklahoma recently and I know how salty they can be at home. But I think the Huskers are on a mission to have a great season in their last year in that "other" league. The Huskers find a way to win this one in a close game.
Game 9: (23) Utah (8-2, 5-1 MWC) at San Diego State (7-3, 4-2 MWC)
After winning their first eight games of the season, Utah now reels with two straight losses. The first defeat against the TCU Horned Frogs was expected by most when Utah was ranked No. 8 and TCU No. 4.
But the loss against Notre Dame last weekend, took a deep bite out of Utah's pride. The blame game appears to rearing its ugly head.
The Utes must face a surging San Diego State team who is now bowl-eligible for the first time since 1998. The Aztecs will be brimming with confidence as Utah comes calling with two black eyes.
Utah, who leaves the Mountain West Conference at the end of this season to go the PAC-12, hoped to leave with another conference title. That seems highly unlikely now.
As to their chances against San Diego State, Craig says: I readily admit I don't know much about either of these teams, but I think the Utes are too much for San Diego State in what won't likely be a close one.
Game 10: (16) Virginia Tech (8-2, 6-0 ACC) at (24) Miami (7-3, 5-2 ACC)
It is hard to believe that Virginia Tech, so highly touted as they met and lost to Boise State 33-30 in the first big contest of the college football season, is back in the top 20 again.
The Hokies fell completely off the radar until recently. Now Virgina Tech is one win away from clinching their division title. The Canes must win this game at home to retain any hope of winning the Coastal Division.
The last time these two teams met in Miami, Tech lost. It is a critical game for both teams.
Zultan’s stand-in states: I realize this is considered a big game in a league which isn't very good this year, but I don't care much about it I have to say. I do think the 'Canes are too much for Tech, especially in Miami. I like the Hurricanes to swamp Tech's tent in this one.
The Rest of the Story
Ryan Sparrow gave a good reading of the crystal ball; but he fell short of perfection, unable to see the troublesome upsets clearly.
Seven individuals, however, went one better than our guest prognosticator in Week 11 by going 8-2. These future-seeing marvels are: Phillip Murphy - Muscatine, IA; Jack Darland Jr - Cedar Falls, IA; Chris Seberg - New Brighton, MN; Kenneth Zuerner - Iowa City, IA; Daniel Lint - Des Moines, IA; Scott Marr - Denver, CO; Jeff Harmeyer - Windsor Heights, IA
This week also offers some interesting challenges and more unseeable finishes. Our guest prognosticator for Week 12 invites you to click here and see if you can do better than he does in predicting next weekend’s winners. Our stand-in seer says this about himself:
My name is Craig Bancroft and I live in Coralville, Iowa (which is right next to Iowa City). When I'm not rooting for or worrying about the Hawkeyes (especially in football season), I am a retired high school educator and an avid reader of both fiction and nonfiction, who now substitute teaches in the Iowa City district. I also support Iowa City West High athletics and activities. Go Hawks!
For Week 13, Zultan will be back in the saddle. Not only is it the final full week of the regular season, “13” is the All-Seeing One’s lucky number. So come back next week to see it you have any wits left to match with the master prognosticator himself!
* Line from the film "A Christmas Story" spoken by the author/narrator Jean Shepherd. The Old Man is Ralphie's Dad.