Big Ten Football: Predictions on Every Week 2 Game
It's time to look ahead to the next chapter of the 2012 season, with Week 2 and a fresh slate of games on the docket. There are so many great games, like...
OK, look. This is how college football is. Nobody wants to play a tough game in Week 2 if they don't have to. Week 1 gets fans excited, Weeks 3 and 4 get the teams ready for Big Ten play, but Week 2 is, for the most part, where you make sure you're not starting the season 0-2 under any circumstances. Oh sure, Purdue's playing Notre Dame. Purdue also started the year against an FCS team, Eastern Kentucky. Not a coincidence.
So let's just get through this one game at a time. And not all the games are horrible this week. It's just that most of them are.
12:00 PM: New Hampshire at Minnesota
You could not pay me enough to watch this game. The only thing New Hampshire and Minnesota should be competing about is "lower population density in the upper half of the state," and who would ever watch a competition about that? The ticket price of this game should be "$We're sorry."
Anyway, after going to three overtimes against a truly terrible UNLV team, Minnesota should delight its fans by running away and hiding against a wildly overmatched New Hampshire team that can only get back to respectability in garbage time as Minnesota rests its starters at the break.
Final score: Minnesota 6, New Hampshire 3
12:00 PM: Penn State at Virginia
Week 1—as much emotion and passion as Penn State's ever going to get from its great fanbase...and the Ohio Bobcats come into the place and shut it down in the second half, scoring the last 21 points unanswered in a 24-14 victory.
And now Penn State has to go to Virginia, who went 8-5 last year, never lost to a team with a losing record and came within a game of going to the ACC Championship. Mike London knows what he's doing there.
That all said, it's probably not going to be a blowout, and Penn State's defense should keep it in the game as long as new defensive coordinator Ted Roof doesn't keep calling plays that basically hand third-down conversions to the defense.
What's that? Defensive coordinators don't usually improve week to week? Well, at least Penn State's playing an ACC team. In the ACC, offensive innovation is illegal.
Final score: Virginia 26, Penn State 17
12:00 PM: Central Florida at Ohio State
Finally, an actual game. Central Florida and Ohio State both executed their MACrifices with extreme prejudice in Week 1, with the Golden Knights throttling Akron 56-14 and Ohio State whipping Miami University 56-10. Those were the two worst beatings opponents gave MAC teams that week, and now those two teams will face each other. Is it serendipity or luck?
That said, UCF doesn't have the horses to make this a game. Not against linemen like Ohio State's bringing to the table. With any luck, we'll see more of Ohio State's freshmen this week, especially along the defensive line. Will Adolphus Washington or Tommy Schutt kill a man this week? Maybe!
Final score: Ohio State 41, UCF 20
3:30 PM: Indiana at Massachusetts
Is this game some sort of sick joke?
Final score: Indiana 31, Massachusetts 17
3:30 PM: Air Force at Michigan
Michigan just watched its ship get wrecked amidst the Crimson Tide, and now Air Force is here to live up to its name by...running the ball exclusively. Great. (Deleting 15 different air-related jokes and goofs.)
The Wolverines have to get back to business this week, which means regaining control of the line of scrimmage and letting Denard Robinson do Denard Robinson things. No, that does not mean throwing horrible interceptions. Not this year. Things were supposed to be different this year. They were supposed to be different!
At any rate, Michigan wins.
Final Score: Michigan 47, Air Force 20
3:30 PM: Michigan State at Central Michigan
Mark Dantonio said during his weekly Big Ten teleconference appearance that if Michigan State, with its first-year starting QB and first-year starting WRs, has to make a road appearance this year (and you guys do, everyone does), he'd rather it be 60 miles up the road. He didn't go on to say "against a truly horrible team like Central Michigan," but the inference was there.
Anyway, there's almost no way Andrew Maxwell and his receivers (especially Tony Lippett, who had a horrific performance and nearly gave the game away) perform as poorly as they did in Week 1 against an inexperienced but opportunistic Boise State defense, and Central Michigan's fans will go home unhappy.
Well, that is if Central Michigan had fans. They don't seriously get things like season-ticket holders in the MAC, do they? That's like deciding your favorite food is toast.
Final score: Michigan State 51, CMU 13
3:30 PM: Purdue at Notre Dame
Here goes the best game of the day, with Purdue locking horns with in-state rivals Notre Dame. Sure, they have horns. They're Boilermakers. All trains have horns.
This game should be pretty interesting. Notre Dame is more talented along the lines, but Purdue should have the edge on the boundaries with advantages at both WR and CB. That said, this isn't basketball, and Purdue's offensive strategies don't affect Notre Dame's strategies in the slightest; if the Irish want to pound the ball, they can. And they probably will.
Maybe this game would be different if it were in West Lafayette. But it ain't, so here we go.
Final score: Notre Dame 27, Purdue 20
3:30 PM: Iowa State at Iowa
Iowa comes into this game at 1-0, having slaughtered Northern Illinois by the score of...wait, this says 18-17. That can't be right.
*Checks ESPN, SI and Wikipedia.*
It is right. OK then.
The funny thing is, coming off a one-point victory against a substantially inferior opponent is usually a harbinger of good tidings in this rivalry. In 2009, Iowa eked out a 17-16 win over Northern Iowa, then throttled ISU 35-3 in Ames. The Cyclones returned the favor two years later by beating UNI 20-19, then topping Iowa in overtime, 44-41.
The real common theme here, then, is that playing Northern Iowa beforehand leads to a victory in the Iowa-ISU game. And according to the schedule, the team that played UNI in week 1 this year is...Wisconsin.
Well, the Badgers aren't even in this game, but our research says what it says, so pick the Badgers to roll in this one. It's science.
Final score: Iowa 26, Iowa State 23
4:00 PM: Wisconsin at Oregon State
What looked like an easy lay-up against the dregs of the Pac-12 (a conference that knows a thing or two about lousy football teams) is now a bit of a concern after Wisconsin beat FCS opponent Northern Iowa by all of five points, which is a toddler's favorite margin of victory because they can just hold their hand out without counting their fingers and it's the right answer. That also goes for Bret Bielema.
That being said, Wisconsin should control the action in this game. Oregon State's defense shouldn't provide much resistance to Danny O'Brien, especially because they'll be looking to replicate UNI's feat of holding Montee Ball to an even four yards per carry. They'll likely succeed on neither front, and by the time this one's over, people will be thinking, "Oh, right. Wisconsin's really good at football and Oregon State isn't."
Final score: Wisconsin 38, Oregon State 17
7:30 PM: Nebraska at UCLA
Another big road test in the Big Ten is Nebraska's trip to UCLA, where Jim Mora isn't talking about "playoffs?!" because that's his dad and this is college football and your easiest jokes are never funny unless they're about Taylor Martinez's throwing motion.
No Rex Burkhead would be no bueno for Nebraska, and even though the backfield's still full of talent (Braylon Heard, Ameer Abdullah and Imani Cross would all see playing time on basically every other Big Ten team), there's one guy that means the most to this offense, and ridiculous Week 1 passing numbers notwithstanding, it ain't Taylor Martinez.
Nonetheless, Nebraska looked good in its thorough whipping of Southern Miss. The defense didn't look outstanding in the win—260 yards given up is very good, 20 first downs and 7-of-14 third-down conversions are not—but it should be good enough to limit UCLA's offensive output and let Nebraska control the tempo of the game.
Barring a Purdue win in South Bend, this will likely be the most impressive performance of the week in the Big Ten.
Final score: Nebraska 30, UCLA 17
8:00 PM: Vanderbilt at Northwestern
Fine, turn your noses up at two teams from academic-heavy schools. You miss this—a game under the lights with two teams that play disciplined, hard-nosed football—at your own risk.
Northwestern remains comically bad at defense, and the Wildcats blew a 35-13 lead at Syracuse before announcing that they were only kidding and rallying for a 42-41 win in the Carrier Dome. The 596-337 yardage disparity in Syracuse's favor is a bit misleading, as Northwestern scored touchdowns on a punt return and a fumble return.
Still, Northwestern gave up nearly 600 yards of offense and falling asleep on defense isn't something that the Wildcats can afford to do with Vandy coming to town and still pick up the victory. They'll probably do it again anyway. Thus, this one belongs to Vandy.
Final score: Vanderbilt 31, Northwestern 24
10:30 PM: Illinois at Arizona State
This one should be fun. Illinois slept through its season opener with Western Michigan and still picked up a 24-7 victory despite gaining all of 260 yards and 13 first downs on offense. The defense looked surprisingly strong—even more so than just having a couple good guys up front—and WMU QB Alex Carder (who is no slouch) was harassed into three interceptions and a pair of sacks.
Nathan Scheelhaase is a question mark for Week 2 and if he can't go, this'll be Riley O'Toole's offense to lead. The weird thing is, that might not be a bad thing, as O'Toole has shown flashes of actual competence at the helm of the Illini attack.
Nonetheless, night time on the West Coast is where Big Ten dreams go to die, especially when the teams aren't great in the first place, and this one should belong to an ASU squad that will take advantage of a shaky Illinois offense.
Final score: Arizona State 20, Illinois 14