Before we get into this week's games, please permit me one little Tom Rinaldi moment. I promise I won't do this very often. If you don't believe me, well, I started writing Pickin' 21 seasons ago and this is the first time I've done anything like this.
I traveled to the Quad Cities this past weekend to celebrate my uncle Jon's birthday. It will probably be his last one. Jon and my mom and I are the only Hawkeye fans in a family full of Cyclones. I hadn't seen most of my ISU-loving relatives since I got married 17 years ago (coincidentally, we got married on Jon's birthday). Turns out they had recently had the experience of seeing a brief, troll-infested Twitter exchange I had with Keith Murphy of WHO.
It doesn't matter what that exchange was about. The experience of seeing my Cy-loving relatives, whom I love, putting aside their rooting interests to give my uncle Jon a fleece Hawkeye blanket to put over his legs, was sobering for me. Truth be told, while I am and always will be an Iowa fan, the State-bashing part of me is a role I play on the internet. It was never a serious part of this column until I started writing it here; it was just an amiable goof I took on one week per season. Heck, for a couple years I even wrote a Pickin' on the Big XII column. Life is too short, and people are too important, to allow your college fandom (or someone else's) to define your worldview. I have allowed myself to wander too close to that line, and I fear at times I've crossed it. I'll not do it again; there is no reason to hate a team that brings joy to people I love. And Steve, if you're reading this, I meant what I told you.
Fortunately, there are several fanbases that have no one I know in them, so I can continue to write this column. In that spirit, let's review.
MTSU at Iowa
I said Iowa 48, MTSU 10; actual score, Iowa 48, MTSU 3.
Shame on me for underestimating the Hawkeyes.
Penn State at Maryland
I said Penn State 38, Maryland 28; actual score, Penn State 59, Maryland 0.
Rutgers at Michigan
I said Michigan 44, Rutgers 12; actual score, Michigan 52, Rutgers 0
You know it's time to shake things up when you make Jim Harbaugh look like Barry Switzer.
Indiana at Michigan State
I said Sparty 28, IU 21; actual score, Sparty 40, IU 31.
This was an entertaining game but I said I wasn't impressed by either team going in and I wasn't impressed coming out.
Ohio State at Nebraska
I said OSU 56, NU 24; actual score, OSU 48, NU 7.
Oof, Frosty. OSU is good and may be underrated nationally but scoring points is the one thing NU has done well recently.
Minnesota at Purdue
I said Minnesota 28, Purdue 24; actual score, Minnesota 38, Purdue 31.
Pour out a 40 for Jeff Brohm, whose loyalty has yet to be rewarded.
Northwestern at Wisconsin
I said Wisconsin 42, jNWU 20; actual score, Wisconsin 24, jNWU 15.
I even said Wisconsin brings out the fight in jNWU, but I failed to listen to my own advice.
Still, this was a pretty good week for me overall, so let's regress to the mean now.
PURDUE (1-3) AT #12 PENN STATE (4-0) (11 am CDT, ESPN)
I'm not sure PSU is the twelfth best team in the country, but Purdue is just looking snakebit right now. 1-4 is an awful hole to try to climb out of, and that is what the Boilermakers will be looking at when they leave Happy Valley. There will be better seasons for them, and for Penn State, which won't win the East this year but will win this game, and I think it will do so easily.
Penntensity 44, Purdoomed 24
MARYLAND (2-2) AT RUTGERS (1-3) (11 am CDT, BTN)
You know things are bad when the Vatican flies in a papal Nunzio to figure things out. They probably should have sent an exorcist too.
Team in Maryland You Don't Care About 52, Team in New Jersey You Don't Care About 12
KENT STATE (2-2) AT #8 WISCONSIN (4-0) (11 am CDT, ESPNU)
The Golden Flashes are not terrible this season but if you come rolling into Camp Randall the weekend after the Badgers had a slapfight with Northwestern, you're not a MAC team, you're a MACrifice. This ends with Jonathan Taylor rushing for something like 16.3 miles in the first quarter, you just know it.
Contenders 48, (The) Pretenders 13
ILLINOIS (2-2) AT MINNESOTA (4-0) (2:30 pm CDT, BTN)
There is little doubt this game will get the Gophers to 5-0 and possibly into the 24-25 range in the polls, making P.J. Fleck just that much more attractive for the South Carolina job that is bound to open up this offseason. Meanwhile, Lovie Smith is starting to get cold calls from real estate agents in Champaign, wondering if he's ever thought about listing his house.
Gilded Rodents 34, This State Has Never Had an OS 14
NORTHWESTERN (1-3) AT NEBRASKA (3-2) (3:00 pm CDT, FOX)
Before you go all hipster and pick Northwestern to knock off a Nebraska team you don't like in Lincoln, please be aware that jNWU has scored two fewer points than Rutgers has this season. Rutgers. A team whose head coach didn't even make it through September. It'll be another week where the Blackshirts look more like they're wearing clown costumes, but I think Scott Frost can easily win a scoring contest with Pat Fitzgerald.
Seems Like Old Times 58, Yes It Does Unfortunately 30
#25 MICHIGAN STATE (4-1) AT #4 OHIO STATE (5-0) (6:30 pm CDT, ABC)
Stop it. Just stop. If Northwestern over Nebraska in Lincoln is a horrible contrarian pick, Sparty over Brutus in the Shoe is so, so much worse. Michigan State's offense is two anemic hamsters on an exercise wheel. Ohio State's offense is Scrappy Doo after three Red Bulls and a pack of Skittles. By 8 pm ABC will regret making this a primetime game. (cc: Freezing Cold Takes)
Our Day 38, Not Our Day 10
And, of course ...
#14 IOWA (4-0) AT #19 MICHIGAN (3-1) (11 am CDT, FOX)
You know inertia is too great of a factor when people look at this game and assume Michigan ought to be favored. What, pray tell, have the Wolverines done this season? They have lost to the only halfway good team they have played. Iowa hasn't had a stellar schedule to date but it had to rally to win on the road and has a far superior passing game. That's inertia. It's assuming that since Michigan was really good 20-30 years ago and Jim Harbaugh had a couple good seasons at Stanford, they still deserve the benefit of the doubt. Mind you, I don't think Iowa is a lock to win this game. But if it comes down to a final drive, whose offense would you trust? Whose defense? Either way, I'd take Iowa's. Sure hope it doesn't come down to a final drive, though. I may eat these words, but I like the Hawkeyes on the road, and not just because I like the Hawkeyes.
Ferentzes 27, Cool Dad Wannabe 23
Last week: 7-0 (1.000)
Season: 42-7 (.857)