Pickin' On the Big Ten: Week 2, 2020 Season

By Mark Hasty on October 29, 2020 at 10:30 am
Can they both lose?
© Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports
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It took one whole week for the first Big Ten game to be canceled, and I have to say I am surprised. I thought it would take zero weeks.

The cancellation of Wisconsin-Nebraska brought out the usual collection of Very Serious Takes about how foolish it was for the Big Ten to schedule its games with absolutely no margin for error, but that is just the Big Ten way. No one should really be surprised. 

What I want to point out is how gloriously unnecessary that game was -- in fact, this whole season is completely unnecessary. Just like last season was. But this is the best kind of unnecessary. 2020 is just a giant asterisk, a great big supernova of internet arguments and low comedy. Nothing in this season matters, not in the least. The fact that so many people are losing their ish over this one unplayable game that can't even be proven to be consequential just proves how spoiled, brittle, and entitled we all are. What's at stake: the right to lose to OSU in the title game again? Because we all know Wisconsin is not and was not making the playoff. Crikey, OSU itself might not make it. 

I tell you a secret: If you want to enjoy college football, truly enjoy it, you must never, ever take it seriously. Bask in the glorious unnecessarity of it all. Realize that the games are seldom remembered much beyond the following Saturday. If your team stinks up the place, don't grouse like your car's engine threw a rod three days after the warranty ran out. And if it should win, don't act like you personally had anything to do with it, or even that it reflects on you in any way. That's Husker Todd/Derek from Underwriting territory, and you don't want to visit it, because it is a hard land with not a flake of joy in it anywhere. Do you really want the irrepressible joy of life to be wrecked by a football game? Especially this year?

I'll give you a hint: you don't.

MINNESOTA AT MARYLAND (Friday, 6:30 pm CDT, ESPN)

It's been a long time since anyone has seen the Gophers mollywhop anyone. So it's only fitting that it's about to happen again, now that Sid Hartman has gone to the Great Pressbox in the Sky.

I mean, you have to figure that's what's going to happen, not so much because of Sid but because Maryland gave up 43 to jNWU last week. What in the name of attempted football is that?

Hannibal Fleckter 56, Moldi-Locksley 0.

PURDUE AT ILLINOIS (Saturday, 11 am CDT, BTN)

Remember last season when it looked like Lovie Smith, who by all accounts is a good guy, was finally starting to turn it around in Champaign? Or Urbana? Or wherever the football team is? We all figured Wisconsin would easily handle the Illini, but I don't think anyone thought it would be that easy.

Fun fact: Approximately 10% of all the COVID tests done in Illinois are done on UIUC students, whose overall positivity rate is far, far below the rest of Champaign County. There will be little positivity in Champaign County after this game too.

Rondale Who? 31, At Least the Bears Are ... Oh 10.

MICHIGAN STATE AT #13 MICHIGAN (Saturday, 11 am CDT, FOX)

I've always said that of all the weeks to pick Big Ten games, week 2 is usually the hardest. The reason why is because the first games are almost always awful, just complete mismatches that don't tell you anything about the teams in them.

That's even more true this year as I have to figure out if Rutgers is actually pretty good or if Michigan State is the backed-up drainpipe it appeared to be last week. As for Michigan, well, Minnesota is no longer such an easy out, and the Wolverines more than doubled them up. So I have to figure that even if the second coming of Greg Schiano turns out to be like the first coming of Bear Bryant, Michigan should easily handle its beleaguered in-state rival. After all, it isn't just that Sparty lost to Rutgers, it's how.

Walmart Chinos Are Getting Expensive 34, Tuckered Out 14.

WISCONSIN AT NEBRASKA

#17 INDIANA AT RUTGERS (Saturday, 2:30 pm CDT, BTN)

At the end of this game, one of these two teams will be 2-0 and all alone in the lead in the East, at least until the Ohio State-Penn State game is over. If that doesn't convince you that 2020 is a comical travishamockery of a college football season, I don't know what will.

As for which team that will be, helicopter elephant rhinoceros. But I'll go with Indiana, simply because I'm leaning more towards the "Sparty is terrible this year" side of the equation.

Carey Mahoney 28, Douglas C. Niedermeyer 24.

#3 OHIO STATE AT #18 PENN STATE (Saturday, 6:30 pm CDT, BTN)

This is, as usual, the de facto Big Ten East championship game and, with Wisconsin currently sitting as idle as its legislature did in the face of a pandemic, this has potential to be the last truly important game in the Big Ten until December. It's a good bet that, even though James Franklin is a solid coach, his team was absolutely looking past Indiana last week. History tells us all that one must not ever look past Indiana, the most difficult 4-to-7-win team to knock out in all of college football. So can a humbled Nittany Lion squad bring a swift end to the Big Ten's playoff hopes in just week 2?

It could, but it won't. Ohio State is just too good. Mortal, to be sure, but just too good.

Goodbye Columbus 48, Nappy Valley 20.

And, of course ...

NORTHWESTERN AT IOWA (2:30 pm CDT, ESPN)

Yeah.

I don't want this game to follow that one, either.

The most reassuring thing about this game -- and that's not saying much -- is that Northwestern's point explosion came against Maryland, where the only defense is the Department Of, and it's in Virginia. I didn't love what I saw from the Iowa defense last week, in the same way I hate seeing multicolored cat puke on my front porch in the morning, but I am not going to pull the handle and flush on this season just yet. And remember, for all that we want to think "Fitz always beats the Hawks," his actual record against them is 8-6. Most of those eight wins were like trying to poop out a turf rake for both teams, but a fair number of of those Iowa wins were complete laughers. 

I have no confidence about this game but no great sense of dread either. I don't think Iowa is as bad as it looked last week, nor do I think jNWU is as good. And I think the Hawks will defend their home even if none of us are there.

Whistling Past The Graveyard 20, Curses Foiled Again 17.

Last Week: 3-4
Season: 3-4

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