Big Ten Football Picks: Forecast Calls for Wins with Michigan Leading the Way
This week's focus is on a coach instead of a player, specifically Michigan head coach Brady Hoke.
Hoke took the Michigan job after leading San Diego State to a 9-4 record in 2010. Some Aztec fans thought Hoke was on the verge of building a successful program at SDSU. Instead, he jumped at the chance to coach in Ann Arbor and left disappointed players feeling the post-Christmas blues.
The Big Ten shouldn't have the blues, because they have 10 teams with winning records and Illinois, Michigan, Nebraska and Wisconsin are undefeated. Meanwhile, I slipped to 9-3 for week 3 and am 30-6 overall.
The last weekend before conference play should be a good one as we look at week 4's contests:
- Big Ten College Football Game of the Week (CFGotW)
- Chillers (sometimes called "trap" games)
- Snoozers (games you couldn't get me to watch)
- Big Ten Player to Watch
- Etc. (the rest of the Big Ten games)
Big Ten CFGotW: Michigan & Denard Robinson Top San Diego State's Dynamic Duo
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There is a new craze in Ann Arbor. It is called the Wolverine formation.
The Michigan offense lines up, the center snaps the ball to Denard Robinson and the Wolverine quarterback scampers for at least seven yards.
Now before my Michigan friends get into an uproar, please recognize that Robinson is not the Big Ten's leading rusher or the quarterback with the most yards running in 2011. Those honors belong to Nebraska's Taylor Martinez who has 384 yards to Robinson's 352.
Enter San Diego State's dynamic duo of running back Ronnie Hillman and quarterback Ryan Lindley. Hillman has eight touchdowns and has rushed for 497 yards. The Michigan defense will really be tested because Hillman's average is half-a-yard behind Robinson's at 6.5 per carry.
Lindley has a quarterback rating of 143.1, while Michigan's Robinson has a 151.6. The difference is Lindley has thrown one interception and the Wolverine quarterback has thrown four. The Aztec quarterback has thrown seven touchdown passes and has completed over 53% of his passes. Robinson has completed 49% of his passes and tossed six touchdown passes.
San Diego State may be motivated to beat their former coach, but Michigan is at home and has just enough talent to prevent an upset and secure their fourth win.
Michigan 28, San Diego State 23.
Chillers: Ohio State Faces Colorado and Michigan State Plays Central Michigan
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The Luke Fickell finger of fate is now pointing at freshman Braxton Miller (see picture) to get the Buckeyes back on the winning track.
Though Colorado is no Miami, the Bucks offense leaves a lot of people with a queazy feeling. How do you explain a 4 for 18 passing performance by the Buckeye quarterbacks last week?
Meanwhile, Ohio State head coach Fickell must get both his offense and defense in order to buffalo Colorado and then prepare for a October 1st showdown against Michigan State.
The Buckeyes are still strong on defense and that will prevent a deep chill from hitting Columbus on Saturday.
Ohio State 21, Colorado 14.
All these MAC teams playing Big Ten teams and you figure there's an upset in the wind. Two years ago, quarterback Dan LeFevour led Central Michigan to a 29-27 upset over Michigan State in East Lansing.
LeFevour has moved on to the NFL and the Spartans now face the Chippewas with two new starters on the offensive line. Central's new head coach is former MSU quarterback Dan Enos,but Michigan State will bounce back from last week's disappointing loss to Notre Dame.
Michigan State 30, Central Michigan 21.
Snoozers: Cannot Watch Nebraska, Penn State and Wisconsin in Week 4
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Nebraska and Wisconsin are 3-0 and should be 4-0 when Monday rolls around.
The Cornhuskers travel to Wyoming and quarterback Taylor Martinez should maintain his lead as the Big Ten's leading rusher. Wisconsin is headed in the same direction, but their fate is to run all over South Dakota.
Is there an award for a Big Ten team that has weathered a football storm and managed to be 2-1? If there is such an award, it belongs to the Penn State Nittany Lions. Their reward is facing the team in week 4 that Michigan throttled in week 3 - Eastern Michigan.
Nebraska 40, Wyoming 20.
Wisconsin 51, South Dakota 6.
Penn State 30, Eastern Michigan 14.
Big Ten Player to Watch: Minnesota Quarterback MarQueis Gray
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Minnesota quarterback MarQueis Gray simply refused to lose in their third game of the season.
With his head coach, Jerry Kill, back on the sidelines after suffering a seizure in week 2, Gray masterminded a 29-23 win over Miami of Ohio last Saturday.
The Golden Gophers quarterback is third in the Big Ten in rushing with 328 yards. Gray is also averaging 156 yards a game passing and has a quarterback rating of 121.9.
This week the junior quarterback plays a home game against North Dakota State. Gray should do well and continue trying to fight through the image of Minnesota as a lower tier team in the Big Ten.
Minnesota 24, North Dakota State 6.
Etc. Games: Illinois, Indiana and Iowa Make It a Great Week for Big Ten Teams
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Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase (see picture) has led the Fighting Illini to a 3-0 start and they'll still be undefeated heading into their first Big Ten game against Northwestern on October 1st.
Scheelhaase is only a sophomore, but he's second in the conference in passing efficiency. He is also averaging 168 yards a game passing.
Here is how the "Etc." games look for Week 4:
- Illinois 34, Western Michigan 21.
- Indiana 31, North Texas 27.
- Iowa 34, Louisiana Monroe 24.
Please note that Northwestern and Purdue are not scheduled to play this weekend.