Pigskin Punditry No. 5: Is This the Week the Big Ten Makes a Comeback?

David SingletonCorrespondent ISeptember 12, 2008

"Then we'll listen to Michigan have all their excuses as they come running in and saying how they have a new coaching staff and there's changes.  To hell with Michigan." ~ Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis

Hey Charlie, um, remember how you didn’t want to give players bulletin board material?


I know, I know. The “to hell with Michigan” portion of the comment was supposed to be a nod to the late Bo Schembechler, who used to say “to hell with Notre Dame.”

But did Bo ever talk about Notre Dame coming into a game with excuses and a new coaching staff?

Granted, according to Michigan defensive tackle Terrence Taylor, Weis’ comments didn’t really get a rise out of the squad.

“We're going to talk with our pads,” Taylor said. “We laughed when we heard it, but that's about it. It's not going to get a rise out of us. That comment's not going to decide the game or decide what's going to happen when we get over there to Notre Dame. What's going to decide the game is when we put on our helmets and we come into their stadium and we get to flying around.

“We were amused by that comment.”

Look, I’m really not trying to pile on Notre Dame. Last season was atrocious enough that I don’t need to add anything extra to it. And to put the quote into proper context, it was said during a meeting with the booster club before the spring game.

Will it make a difference? We’ll see on Saturday, when a new-look Michigan continues its 2008 introductory tour by traveling to South Bend to take on Notre Dame.

Both teams looked pedestrian last week, as Michigan scored 16 points in beating Miami (OH). Notre Dame needed some luck of the Irish to avoid an upset at the hands of San Diego State—the same San Diego State that lost to Cal Poly the week before.

Is this déjà vu all over again with Notre Dame? It remains to be seen. But I think that both of these teams could use this win as a springboard to a respectable season. I’m giving the edge to Notre Dame, 21-17, simply because of the home field advantage.

What’s that, you say? Notre Dame/Michigan isn’t the biggest game on the schedule? Oh, that’s right: There’s a major tilt going on in California that night.

Up in the valley, Wisconsin takes the field against potential BCS buster Fresno State. The Bulldogs looked very good in the second half of their game at Rutgers on Labor Day. The problem is that they looked positively putrid in the first half of that same game.

Wisconsin, meanwhile, has had a couple of rough spots early in the games against Marshall and Akron, but cruised in the second half of both.

But when the schedules for this season came out, you know that everyone in Bulldog red circled this game—players and fans alike. Couple that with the fact that Wisconsin has struggled in their first true road game of the season lately, and I smell a bit of an upset. Bulldogs win, 24-20.

Oh, that wasn’t the game in California you were referring to? Oh, that’s right. I guess Ohio State is going to play USC at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

The winner of this game will be in the driver’s seat for getting to the BCS Championship game.

The loser is going to have a hell of a hill to climb to make it back into the conversation—especially if that loser is Ohio State.

I don’t think they would admit it, and I am sure Jim Tressel doesn’t want to hear this, but there is a lot of pressure on the Buckeyes. Besides having to repair the damage to their own reputation, they are also somewhat carrying the banner for the Big Ten.

A victory over the most dominant program of the decade would go a big way towards reestablishing the credibility of the Ohio State program.

However, without Chris “Beanie” Wells to tote the rock and shorten the game, that task got harder.

I don’t think Ohio State will roll over—but I don’t see them winning either. USC is just so deep and so talented. I think that they eventually wear the Buckeyes down late and win, 31-20.