Sorry I don’t have a clever introduction for this week’s column. I had one, but it was about Nebraska, and the minute I went to paste it here, my thumb tore its ACL and 43,000 people started talking about how much better I wrote 20 years ago. After a bad week two weeks ago, last week’s picks were actually pretty accurate:
Rutgers at Illinois
I said Illinois 31, Rutgers 20; actual score, Illinois 38, Rutgers 10.
I did not think Illinois would have a better record than Nebraska this late in the season, but here we are.
Northwestern at Indiana
I said IU 35, jNWU 6; actual score, Indiana 34, jNWU 3.
I’m creeping myself out with this one.
Michigan at Maryland
I said Michigan 40, Maryland 17; actual score, Michigan 38, Maryland 7.
I’ll remind you that at one point Maryland was ranked, and I thought it should have been.
Nebraska at Purdue
I said Nebraska 24, Purdue 21; actual score, Purdue 31. Nebraska 27.
It’s too early in November to say “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”
#4 PENN STATE (8-0) AT #17 MINNESOTA (8-0) (11 am CST, ABC)
Tempting as it is to say that this is the game where Minnesota really needs to show up, Penn State needs to show up here too. There’s a good chance the Gophers have grown a bit overconfident on their diet of Johnny-Come-Notlys and ne’er-show-ups but if Penn State is a serious playoff contender, it needs so show it against a team that most thinking fans regard as the Vincent Adultman of the Big Ten. Unusually for Minneapolis in November, the weather will be mostly transparent, so both teams should be able to flex their strengths. Honestly, I think there’s no chance the Gophers are anywhere near the level of Penn State. I am impressed that P.J. Fleck didn’t choke yet this year, but losing here won’t be a choke job for the Gophers, it’ll be the natural consequence of talent and depth. Penn State wins and the jets of Minneapolis get cooled.
Dinky Town 42, Dinkytown 24
PURDUE (3-6) AT NORTHWESTERN (1-7) (11 am CST, BTN)
Yeah, I can’t believe this game is on TV either.
You ever heard about the open-top crab bucket? There’s a theory that when you catch crabs you don’t need to put them in a lidded container because if any crab tries to escape, the other crabs will just pull it right back in to the bucket. Northwestern is already guaranteed to be home for the holidays; one more loss will put Purdue in the same situation. Pat Fitzgerald is just enough of a crab to tell his team to go ruin someone else’s season like his team’s has already been ruined. Regardless, even down to its third-string quarterback, I think Purdue can score enough points to win this game, since evidence would suggest that would only require seven to maybe nine points.
Undue Perversity 17, We Mean No Offense 3
MARYLAND (3-6) AT #1 OHIO STATE (8-0) (11 am CST, FOX)
OSU is #1 in the College Football Playoff rankings, which means there’s nowhere to go but down, and an unimpressive win over anyone would bring that about, so it’s clearly time to bring this out again.
#1 With A Bullet 58, DC’s Most Boring Suburb 7
ILLINOIS (5-4) AT MICHIGAN STATE (4-4) (2:30 pm CST, FS1)
This is one of those November games we get every year where there’s a season on the line for both teams, but nobody cares, because one is plummeting towards mediocrity and the other is trying to reach just beyond it for once. I am having a hard time imagining that Mark Dantonio is having much fun right now. His team is average, there are numerous off-the-field issues, and no one in his or her right mind thinks Jim Harbaugh has a chance of beating Ohio State this season, so all the attention is on Sparty and how this is the second disappointing season in the past three years. Meanwhile in Champaign, Lovie Smith has probably bought himself another year or two if he wants them. An upset of Sparty here would seal that deal -- and it really wouldn’t be an upset.
Champaign Wishes 24, Caviar Screams 17
And, of course …
#18 IOWA (6-2) AT #13 WISCONSIN (6-2) (3 pm CST, FOX)
The blueprint for beating Wisconsin is well established: Bend but don’t break, give Jonathan Taylor his yards, but force the Badgers to pass if they want touchdowns. Fortunately, Iowa is excellent at bending without breaking.
The blueprint for beating Iowa is also well established: Be ranked and play them in your own stadium. Fortunately, Wisconsin is excellent at being located in Madison. Wait, unfortunately. Well, anyway, there’s at least a chance this will be Iowa’s last loss of the season, so there’s that.
Ice Cream Coan 24, Nate Gonna Be Our Day 13
Last week: 3-1 (.750)
Season: 63-17 (.788)