Sorry if this column isn't fully coherent. I've been a little preoccupied with the crisis gripping America. I'm speaking, of course, about the problem of the front wheel bearings on my van going out only a year after I replaced them. Frankly I don't think the media is giving this crisis nearly enough attention.
Let's review for a moment how I did last week:
Purdue at Illinois: I said Purdue 31, Illinois 10; actual result, Purdue 31, Illinois 24.
Northwestern at Iowa: I said Iowa 20, jNWU 17; actual result, jNWU 21, Iowa 20.
Minnesota at Maryland: I said Minnesota 56, Maryland 0; actual result, Maryland 45, Minnesota 44.
Michigan State at Michigan: I said Michigan 34, Sparty 17; actual result, Sparty 27, Michigan 24.
Indiana at Rutgers: I said Indiana 28, Rutgers 24; actual result, Indiana 37, Rutgers 21.
Ohio State at Penn State: I said OSU 48, PSU 20; actual result, OSU 38, PSU 25.
All these results were well within the margin of error and were accounted for in my methodology, so I don't see what anyone could complain about. This 4-2 week takes me to a robust 7-6 on the season, proving that maybe I should return that Nate Silver guy's phone call after all.
But I can't let my glee at being a little less wrong than usual overshadow the fact that the Hawks have dropped two in a row now. This means I must invoke my tradition. Back-to-back Iowa losses = all the fake team names are the actual titles of Morrissey songs. Thus, let us get to the picks.
#23 MICHIGAN AT #13 INDIANA (11 am CST, FS1)
Oh wow. Is this the biggest football game that's ever been played in Bloomington? Is this the first time that two ranked teams have squared off there? The answer to both questions is probably "no," but still!
This is feeling, in so many ways, like the end of the Harbaugh era in Ann Arbor. That's sad, because (a) he's not terrible and (b) it's always sad to realize that the hometown hero wasn't the right answer after all. But it sure looks like these two teams are headed in opposite directions, with Indiana being impressive in two wins and Michigan sputtering like a V6 engine with a bad oxygen sensor (go ahead, ask me how I know).
Of course, given Indiana's reputation as Team Chaos, that means that the Hoosiers are ripe for a letdown that puts Michigan right back into the swim of things. However, I've not seen Tom Allen fall into the same trap so many of his predecessors have by building teams that looked like completely different squads week to week. His Hoosiers always come to play but sometimes get out-talented. I don't think that happens this week, though. I like Indiana here.
The Edges Are No Longer Parallel 30, Dear God Please Help Me 24.
NEBRASKA AT NORTHWESTERN (11 am CST, BTN)
In accordance with Illinois's enhanced COVID mitigation strategy, each team will only be allowed to have three players on the field at a time, and the game must be played without a ball. In other words:
Crushed as I was by Iowa's loss to jNWU last week, I didn't see much from the Wildcats to suggest that their 43-3 whuppin' of Maryland in Week 1 was much more than a fluke. Nebraska really doesn't play defense any more, but I will still take the Huskers in a point-scoring contest with any Fitz team, so I'll take them here too.
Nobody Loves Us 41, The More You Ignore Me The Closer I Get 38.
MINNESOTA AT ILLINOIS (2:30 pm CST, BTN)
It's unfair to judge any team based on the knocked-over Scrabble game this season is going to wind up being, but Minnesota falling twice already this season probably has folks in Minneapolis so worked up they're almost considering saying something about it. Illinois has struggled mightily on offense this season, but the Gophers have given up 94 points in two games, so something has to give here. Since you can hardly ever go wrong predicting that Illinois will continue to struggle, that will be my move here. The Gophers get on track and Lovie Smith starts reading the writing on the wall.
We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful 41, Angel, Angel Down We Go Together 17.
MARYLAND AT PENN STATE (2:30 pm CST, BTN)
A game against Maryland is likely what Penn State needs, but the Terps did just pull off an impressive hard-fought win against a Minnesota team that was quite good last year, so this one could be a lot closer than people expect and oh crap am I actually leaning in to a Mike Locksley team? Yeah, no. Penn State should easily handle Maryland.
The Boy Racer 38, Earth Is The Loneliest Planet 21.
RUTGERS AT #3 OHIO STATE (6:30 pm CST, BTN)
There is little doubt that Rutgers is the Big Ten's most-improved team this season, and honestly that's good. It does our conference no favors to have a totally inept team dragging us down. Greg Schiano's strict approach is totally old-school and might well prove his downfall again some day, but for now I'm sure they're enjoying this minor, unfinished renaissance in New Jersey, assuming they remember Rutgers exists and has a football team.
That said, it'll be quite a while before Rutgers can expect anything other than a pantsing from the likes of Ohio State, which hasn't dropped off much from last season as far as I can tell.
Good Looking Man About Town 52, Home Is A Question Mark 13.
PURDUE AT WISCONSIN: CANCELLED!
And, of course ...
MICHIGAN STATE AT IOWA (11:00 am CST, ESPN)
The hair-on-fire brigade has been out this past week, but as a very wise Dove chocolate wrapper once told me, "Every cloud doesn't bring a storm." The copy editor in me wants to point out how that's ambiguous syntax and it really should read "Not every cloud brings a storm," but I digress.
Michigan State is not that great of a team. They're not yet fully hooked up under Mel Tucker, which is not surprising, and it remains to be seen if he's going to be able to maintain the long history of pretty-goodness that Mark Dantonio wrote in East Lansing. But you don't care about that. You care that Iowa's offense is making the Nevada vote count look swift and effective. You care that Spencer Petras is being asked to do far too much far too soon, and you have already penciled Iowa in for a six-loss season or worse if 20 points is the speed limit for this offense.
In two games against Michigan and Rutgers, the Spartans have three sacks and a single interception.
It will take more than 20 points to win this game, but this is not a typical MSU defense Iowa is going up against. It's more like a Big Ten-era Nebraska defense, and I still have faith that Iowa can learn from its mistakes. So for the third week in a row I'm picking the Hawks. This may prove my undoing, but here I stand.
I Just Want To See The Boy Happy 28, Now I Am A Was 20.
Last week: 4-2