Sorry I don’t have a clever intro for the column this week. I had one but unfortunately I ran 40 yards down field after writing it and got flagged. It’s my own fault for letting my rage get the best of me, but at least the Twin Cities sports media has my back.
Minnesota at Iowa
I said Minnesota 38, Iowa 20; actual score, Iowa 23, Minnesota 19
Being wrong about the Hawkeyes losing is my favorite kind of mistake to make.
Michigan State at Michigan
I said Michigan 34, Sparty 20; actual score, Michigan 44, Sparty 10
Good news, James: Dantonio says he’ll be back next year!
Wisconsin at Nebraska
I said Wisconsin 44, Nebraska 19; actual score, Wisconsin 37, Nebraska 21
I still don’t think Wisconsin is good, FTR.
UMass at Northwestern
I said jNWU 20, UMass 6; actual score, jNWU 45, UMass 6
jNWU scored more than three times as many points in this game as it did in the entire month of October.
Indiana at Penn State
I said PSU 34, IU 24; actual score, PSU 34, IU 27
This is the second game this season I’ve come that close to predicting the exact score of.
Ohio State at Rutgers
I said OSU 66, Rutgers 0; actual score, OSU 56, Rutgers 21
Disappointing performances like this are why OSU isn’t #1 any more.
As we enter the season’s penultimate weekend (for those of you with degrees from SEC schools, “penultimate” means “next to last”) there are still several Big Ten teams trying to lock up bowl eligibility, a couple playing to stay out of Detroit, and one that needs to make a big splash to fend off Georgia and Bama. Let’s take a look.
#10 MINNESOTA (9-1) AT NORTHWESTERN (2-8) (11 am CST, ABC)
Why do I have the feeling that the last thing you’d ever want to do is be a bad football team playing P.J. Fleck when his pretty good and heretofore resilient team has just lost its first game of the season to a bitter rival. I’ve got a feeling jNWU is about to succumb to serious blunt-force injuries from an oar.
Deflecktion 30, We Mean No Offense 7
#8 PENN STATE (9-1) AT #2 OHIO STATE (10-0) (11 am CST, FOX)
Oh, why did Minnesota have to go and wreck this game by beating the Nits? It could have been #2 versus #4 … wait, ‘Bama … #2 versus # .... well, it would have been exactly what it’s going to be. You can throw on Penn State, that much is clear, and if Ohio State has a weakness (on the field, smart guy) no one has discovered it yet. OSU has lost similar games as recently as 2015 (Sparty) but I don’t see a repeat of that mistake here. OSU is your Big Ten Team of Destiny (and that destiny is probably to get bounced in the first round of the playoffs).
Columbus Day 42, Groundhog Day 22
MICHIGAN STATE (4-6) AT RUTGERS (2-8) (11 am CST, FS1)
Stop it. It can’t happen and it won’t happen. Sparty is not good, but Sparty is not that bad, and Rutgers is. Don’t be fooled by last week, that was nothing more than target practice for OSU’s backups.
Mark of Distinction 38, Nunzio Business 16
NEBRASKA (4-6) AT MARYLAND (3-7) (2:30 pm CST, BTN)
Maryland’s last win was against Rutgers, six weeks ago. Maryland lost to Purdue by 28 points. Don’t look at the records and the Nebraska schadenfreude in your chest and assume that this game will be close. Maryland dazzled in the first two weeks by squashing some low-hanging fruit and hasn’t done anything since. That doesn’t make Nebraska good; it just means Nebraska will look good. For a change.
We Want Iowa 37, We Want Ibuprofen 10
#13 MICHIGAN (8-2) AT INDIANA (7-3) (2:30 pm CST, ESPN)
There’s a golden opportunity for Team Chaos to slip a serious mickey into next week’s Very Big Game between Michigan and Ohio State, even though we already know there’s nothing really at stake in that game. Unless IU pulls the very mild upset, that is, in which case Harbz might feel a little pressure to finally, you know, win a big game for once. Can it happen? Yes. Will it? I doubt it. For the entire time I’ve been writing this column, Indiana’s defense has never been anything more than pedestrian. No need to expect that to change here, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the most entertaining Big Ten game of the day. It’s still going to end in a Michigan victory, though.
Hail to the Victors 31, The Big Ten’s Bored Housecat 27
PURDUE (4-6) AT #12 WISCONSIN (8-2) (3 pm CST, FOX)
We know quite well, don’t we, that Purdue has all the pieces to suddenly break out into -- well, maybe not an offensive juggernaut, but a team that could score two touchdowns in the last five minutes of a game with a little help from defense and/or special teams. Wisconsin is sitting there at 8-2 but not having once looked like an 8-2 team all season. You can’t say they’re wasting a great season from Jonathan Taylor but he has yet to assert himself as dominant, mostly because the rest of the offense is a step or three behind. However, the Boilermaker defense is solidly in the bottom third of the Big Ten, and that’s all you really need to know. Wisconsin is boring but it scores points. Shouldn’t be too challenging for the Badgers.
Brat Summer Nights 34, Beer and a Bump 12
ILLINOIS (6-4) AT #17 IOWA (7-3) (11 am CST, BTN)
You know, or at least you should, that this is not the kind of Illinois team we are used to summarily dispatching. Last year Iowa easily flounced a pretty bad squad 63-0 but Lovie’s crew has already put a couple trophies on their rec room wall. I’m with you in terms of being maddened yet not surprised that Iowa started trying new things on offense once the division was safely out of reach. It’s been twenty-one seasons. You should know what you’re going to get by now. There’s still something meaningful to play for, with a New Year’s Day bowl within grasp assuming no screw-ups against two opponents it would be pretty easy to overlook. To be honest, Lovie Smith has had a good enough season to earn a little more time in Champaign -- but let’s not give the Illini a reason to claim a full turnaround, okay? Iowa, but you won’t like this game as much as you liked last year’s.
Duval County Bound 34, Just Happy To Get Out Of Champaign For A Week 17
Last week: 5-1 (.833)
Season: 67-18 (.791)