Sorry I don’t have a clever intro for the column. I sent it off to the NCAA for approval and they finally got back to me two minutes before this was due just to say “nah.”
Last week in review:
Michigan at Indiana
I said Michigan 31, Indiana 27; actual score Michigan 39, Indiana 14.
Don’t know if you’ve noticed but Michigan is peaking at the right time.
Illinois at Iowa
I said Iowa 34, Illinois 17; actual score Iowa 19, Illinois 10.
It’s a win, I’ll take it.
Nebraska at Maryland
I said Nebraska 37, Maryland 10; actual score Nebraska 54, Maryland 7.
Don’t know if you’ve noticed but Maryland is flaming out at the wrong time.
Minnesota at Northwestern
I said Minnesota 30, Northwestern 7; actual score Minnesota 38, Northwestern 22.
The pre-Iowa Gophers would have won this game by 30.
Penn State at Ohio State
I said OSU 42, PSU 22; actual score OSU 28, PSU 17.
Franklin kicks the window open for Harbaugh, who will snag his pants crawling through.
Michigan State at Rutgers
I said MSU 38, Rutgers 16; actual score MSU 27, Rutgers 0.
Solid proof that both these teams stink on ice.
Purdue at Wisconsin
I said Wisconsin 34, Purdue 12; actual score Wisconsin 45, Purdue 24.
Purdue is the best team that can’t win a game.
NORTHWESTERN (2-9) AT ILLINOIS (6-5) (11 am CST, FS1)
I’m of two minds about this game. Illinois bowl bids are as scarce as sincere apologies so I could understand if Lovie Smith decided not to push his starters too hard, since it’s unlikely the Illini can improve their bowl bid significantly by going 7-5 instead of 6-6. Likewise, I don’t think any of us would put it past Pat Fitzgerald to take a burn-the-inbox approach to the last game of a lost season against a rival, which is why I’m glad jNWU is never Iowa’s final opponent. So I can’t rule out a Northwestern victory here. Nonetheless, this game is in Champaign, the fans are actually excited (relatively speaking), and if jNWU had a good game in it this season, it would have already played it. So I like Illinois here.
Bowl Bound 28, Hole Bound 13
#1 OHIO STATE (11-0) AT #13 MICHIGAN (9-2) (11 am CST, FOX)
It’s been a while since we had a The Game that mattered as much as this one does. Ohio State is still giving off Team of Destiny vibes, even after last week’s underwhelming performance against a good-but-not-great Penn State squad. Michigan, as I intimated about earlier, is peaking at the right time, getting markedly better as the season has progressed. Nonetheless, Michigan has not been able to mount a great rushing attack this season and the list of things the Ohio State defense doesn’t do well has zero items on it. I do believe this one is going to be a great game that will live up to the history of this rivalry, but I just don’t see an opening for Michigan, particularly with weather favoring the run game. So I’m taking the Buckeyes.
Poisonous Nuts 31, Tremendous Guts 24
INDIANA (7-4) AT PURDUE (4-7) (11 am CST, ESPN2)
Sing along, but change the words of the chorus: “Indiana’s watching; Lord knows no one else is …”
Hoosier Friend 45, Train Builder Train Wreck 38
MARYLAND (3-8) AT MICHIGAN STATE (5-6) (2:30 pm CST, FS1)
Maryland is playing so badly right now that it could only score once on Nebraska. Nebraska! That means that not even 2019 Michigan State can lose to the Terps. Not that they won’t try.
Lewerkin’ My Way Back To You 34, Mary Christmas Charlie Brown 12
#12 WISCONSIN (9-2) AT #8 MINNESOTA (10-1) (2:30 pm CST, ABC)
This has potential to be the most interesting game in the conference this week. Even with a one-game lead, the Gophers need to win this game to make it to Indy and cap off a dream season (that had a major assist from the scheduling gods). And College GameDay will be in Minneapolis for the first time ever. On Thanksgiving weekend. When the forecast calls for wintry mix turning to snow right around kickoff. If you’re spending the weekend with Southerners, make sure to show them this game and ask if they’d ever dream of going to a football game in this weather. But I digress. The weather plays into the hands of the Badgers here, who can run the ball much better than the Gophers can (though the Gophers aren’t bad) and have a stouter defense overall. Yet underestimating the Gophers has been a bad move this year. They actually are pretty good, kind of. I feel sorry for whatever third-tier SEC team draws them in a bowl game, assuming they’ll make for easy skanking when they could actually mollywhop a soft pass defense. But here? Badgers. Confidence is low, but Badgers.
Spotted Cow 21, Grain Belt 17
RUTGERS (2-9) AT #10 PENN STATE (9-2) (2:30 pm CST, BTN)
The universe is a cold and heartless place.
State Pen 45, Relegate Me Senpai! 0
#17 IOWA (8-3) AT NEBRASKA (5-6) (1:30 pm Friday, BTN)
WARNING: You are not going to like this, Iowa fans. Look away now.
It’s the weather, a horrible, sloppy, windy mess. And the 2001-spec zone blocking. And Nate Stanley on the road, in the weather, against a coach who at least understands how to attack, while Nate is standing behind an offensive line that is slightly off-spec for an Iowa team. All Nebraska will have to do to win this game is shut down Iowa’s rushing game and make Nate throw in an environment that is hostile twice over. I actually like the Huskers’ chances of doing so. This game could turn on special teams and turnovers, and I feel even less confident about this game than I do about Wisconsin/Minnesota (see above). When the weather equalizes things, the team with the most to play for usually overperforms expectations. Nebraska is playing for a bowl bid. What difference do you think a 9-3 versus 8-4 record would make for Iowa’s bowl bid? Zilch. You know it, I know it, and Kirk Ferentz knows it. Get ready for Tentative Kirk and a long, long offseason of Nebraska fans rubbing your face in this game while simultaneously declaring that Iowa is not their rival. I hope I’m wrong. I fear I’m right.
Children of the Corn 17, Something Witless This Way Comes 10
Last week: 7-0 (1.000)
Season: 74-18 (.804)