As we enter the sixth week of the season and weekend No. 2 of Big Ten conference games, it's time for a bold upset prediction. The Northwestern Wildcats will beat the Michigan Wolverines this afternoon at Ryan Stadium in Evanston, Ill.
There will be just five Big Ten conference games, as Wisconsin and Michigan State get a well-deserved rest during their only bye week.
Without further ado, let's look at the:
- 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)
Are you ready for four reasons that Northwestern will beat Michigan today in the Big Ten College Football Game of the Week (CFGotW)?
Ready or not, here they are:
Reason No. 1: Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa is back! He was my preseason selection for the No. 1 quarterback in the Big Ten. He tweaked his Achilles tendon in last week's last-minute loss to Illinois, but he's been cleared to play against Michigan.
He is far and away better than any quarterback the Wolverines have faced this season. He's also the type of leader who will lead the Wildcats to their first Big Ten win of 2011.
Reason No. 2: It's Michigan's first road game! Part of the reason that Michigan is 5-0 is they've played five consecutive home games. Though Ryan Stadium may not be the noisiest stadium in the Big Ten, Wildcat fans will be on their feet cheering for their team. It will be the Wolverines' first test away from the friendly confines of Ann Arbor, and I believe they will fail.
Reason No. 3: Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald is one of the Big Ten's better coaches! He is great motivator and he'll have his team ready after the disappointing loss to Illinois in the Big Ten opener.
This game will be the first road test for Michigan's first-year coach, Brady Hoke. He and his team will need to corral Northwestern's offense and generate a balanced offensive attack to win this game.
Reason No. 4: The strength of Northwestern's defense is stopping the running game, and that is the heart of Michigan's offensive attack. Wildcat senior Vince Browne was selected the top Big Ten defensive end in my preseason review of conference defenses.
Senior Jack DiNardo was an honorable mention on the Top 10 defensive tackles list. Northwestern will force Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson to throw the football, which is his greatest weakness.
With Nebraska suffering an embarrassing loss to Wisconsin last weekend, Northwestern could be a "sleeper" candidate for the Legends Division title with Dan Persa as their quarterback.
Northwestern 31, Michigan 28
I know the game is at Happy Valley and Penn State is rated higher than Iowa in a number of polls, but the Iowa Hawkeyes are notorious for winning this type of football game.
It will come down to the play of the quarterbacks. Iowa's James Vandenburg is the No. 3 quarterback in the Big Ten based on QB rating (158.1) and No. 2 in passing yards with a 273.8 yards per game average.
Penn State continues to rotate quarterbacks and managed to score only 16 points against Indiana. The Hoosiers' defense is No. 10 in the Big Ten.
The Nittany Lions can win at home only if their No. 2-rated defense in the conference shuts down the Hawkeye offense.
Iowa 17, Penn State 14
Who could have imagined that Ohio State and Nebraska would enter week No. 2 of conference play with identical 0-1 Big Ten records?
I picked Nebraska to lose to Wisconsin, but did not expect the Badgers to score a 48-17 win. And Ohio State losing to Michigan State, 10-7, in Columbus was contrary to my prediction.
The biggest advantage for the Cornhuskers is they are playing at home and head coach Bo Pelini will not tolerate another embarrassing loss. Quarterback Taylor Martinez will be prepared to run with the equally proficient Rex Burkhead.
Nebraska 21, Ohio State 17
Senior quarterback Dan Persa is a difference maker.
He is the unabashed leader of the Northwestern Wildcats. Persa is like having a player-coach on the football field.
In his first week back in Big Ten competition last Saturday at Illinois, Persa scored a 239.5 quarterback rating. He did it by completing 10 out of 14 passes and throwing four touchdown passes.
Persa has already re-established his connection with highly-rated wide receiver Jeremy Ebert. Ebert had five catches and three touchdowns in the 38-35 loss to Illinois last Saturday.
If the Northwestern line can limit the number of sacks recorded by the Wolverine defense, Persa will have a productive game against Michigan today.
The college football gurus have identified this game as one of the worst on the NCAA schedule.
You have a 2-2 Purdue team hosting a 1-4 Minnesota team and both teams seem to be masters of the inept.
Poor Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill has to start freshmen this week, because his team is depleted by injuries.
The most interesting (?) debate in this game will be whether Robert Marve (pictured) or Caleb TerBush will start at quarterback for Purdue. The Boilermakers can win with either quarterback at the helm.
Purdue 31, Minnesota 20
In a one-sided football game, I recommend watching Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase.
He led the Fighting Illini down the field for the game-winning touchdown in the last minute of the game against Northwestern. He has a 175.0 quarterback rating.
Scheelhaase can also run with the ball and scored the final touchdown on a one-yard run.
Indiana enters the game with a 2-3 record, while Illinois is 5-0. Expect the Fighting Illini to finish the day with an undefeated record.
Illinois 38, Indiana 7