Pickin' On the Big Ten: Week 4, 2020 Season

By Mark Hasty on November 12, 2020 at 10:00 am
Hoosiers? Hoosiers!
© Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports
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First let's recap last week's picks:

Minnesota at Illinois: I said Minnesota 41, Illinois 17; actual score Minnesota 41, Illinois 14. You're welcome.
Michigan at Indiana: I said Indiana 30, Michigan 24; actual score Indiana 38, Michigan 21. The 2020 Michigan Wolverines frighten and confuse me.
Michigan State at Iowa: I said Iowa 28, Sparty 20; actual score Iowa 49, Sparty 7. The important thing is, Iowa won and the season isn't a total loss (so far).
Nebraska at Northwestern: I said Nebraska 41, Northwestern 38; actual score, Northwestern 21, Nebraska 13. When I said Nebraska doesn't play defense any more, I forgot that Northwestern doesn't play offense anymore, but Nebraska is better at not playing defense than Northwestern is at not playing offense. Imagine a time traveler from 1983 stumbling across this score, though.
Rutgers at Ohio State: I said OSU 52, Rutgers 13; actual score, OSU 49, Rutgers 27. I think OSU is soft on defense.
Maryland at Penn State: I said Penn State 38, Maryland 21; actual score, Maryland 35, Penn State 19. I think Maryland is the new Team Chaos, since Indiana has been predictable this season.

Now, for the third week in a row, there's a COVID-related game cancellation, but for the first time it's not because of Wisconsin. Nope, Maryland was rewarded for its victory over Penn State with an outbreak, so Ohio State has an unexpected bye week. I hear they're using it to put in a game plan for the New England Patriots. But Wisconsin gets to play and most of the SEC is idled so the Big Ten will be in the spotlight anyway and ... [checks schedule] ... that's not good because some of these games are plunger-bait. But one of them isn't. Floyd is on the line, and he wants to remain in Iowa because, after all, that's where he's from. Nonetheless, we always look at Iowa's game last, so let's get on with the appetizers.

#10 INDIANA AT MICHIGAN STATE (11:00 am CST Saturday, ABC)

It feels very strange to type #10 Indiana, mostly because I have never written about college basketball in my life. Yet there's little doubt the Hoosiers are wielding right now and getting it done with a combination of stout defense and a more than viable offensive playmaker in Michael Penix Jr. I haven't seen an IU quarterback this good since ... um ... I'm actually old enough to remember Trent Green, so probably him, since Penix is a better passer than Antwaan Randle-El.

How terribly unfortunate for Sparty that we just saw what it can do against a stout defense with a rapidly improving quarterback. IU is gonna roll.

Allen Monkey Wrench 41, Go Spart the Bus 13.

PENN STATE AT NEBRASKA (11:00 am CST Saturday, FS1)

Remember my 1983 time traveler from the recap? Imagine telling him that this game would be played, it would be a conference game, both teams would be winless going in, and the game would be overshadowed by Indiana-Michigan State, which would be a game in the same conference both these teams would be members of. Neither squad has looked like anything more than loose oatmeal at this point, but you have to think the Huskers will want to look good in front of the home crowd, which won't even be there, but still. Lawdamercy, this season is ridiculous. I have to pick one of these teams, so here comes the Magic 8 Ball:

"Magic 8 Ball, will Nebraska win this Saturday?"

"My sources say no."

From the 8 Ball's window to your ears.

Nit 31, Snakebit 24.

ILLINOIS AT RUTGERS (11:00 am CST Saturday, BTN)

In the old days I usually wrote this about games such as these:

"Only $14.95 on pay-per-view."

That's not a thing any more, so I dare you to go into any sports bar anywhere outside of Champaign or, um, Rutgersville and ask if they'll put this one on the big screen. Seriously. I bet they won't even do it in Peoria. If either team wins this game it'll be a miracle, but I'll go with Rutgers.

Try Our Fried Everything Sandwich 30, Only Lovie Can Break Your Heart 20.

#13 WISCONSIN AT MICHIGAN (6:30 pm CST, ABC)

Hoo boy. This game is a good example of one of the many ways that COVID has messed up this season. I mean, it's great that it's being played. That means Wisconsin has its team outbreak under control. But it's all but impossible to compare these teams. Michigan has been horrible the past two weeks, losing to a pretty good Indiana team and a Michigan State team that Iowa just beat 49-7. (I know you already knew that last one but it felt good to type it again.) Yet all we know about Wisconsin is that even with an (n+1)th-string quarterback, it trounced Illinois. Just like everyone else has this year, with the exception of Purdue, who still won the game. Yet it's now two days until the game and no one knows who will be under center for the Badgers.

Michigan can score points on a good defense. It got three tuddies against Indiana last week. It looks like Wisconsin has its usually pretty-good defense, but who can tell when there's only been one game and it was against Illinois?

Nonetheless, I think Wisconsin is just better enough to take over this game and make it a long afternoon for the Wolverines. 

Chryst-mas Time Is Here 42, Harbaugh-t You Just Take The Buyout? 23.

#23 NORTHWESTERN AT PURDUE (6:30 pm CST, BTN)

I have to respect any team that beat Iowa, and both of these teams did so. That said, jNWU's Week One carpet-bombing of Maryland looks more like a fluke now that we know the Terps have a pulse and thus are not completely incompetent, as they looked in that game. The Wildcats have reverted to form, winning two straight games by putting up 21 points and sweet merciful crap, I just realized Fitz actually did model his program after Iowa's.

The real question here is not Purdue's offense versus Northwestern's defense, it's whether Northwestern's offense can score quickly if it has to. My guess, based on the Cats putting up only 21 on Nebraska's mostly hypothetical defense, is "no." I look for Purdue to replace Northwestern in they Top 25 next week -- and they will have earned it.

Brohms Away 34, At Least We Won The Super Bowl 24.

#3 OHIO STATE AT MARYLAND: CANCELED!

(Truly one of the best sitcom endings ever. I actually watched this show. Jokes go in the comments.)

And of course ...

IOWA AT MINNESOTA (6:00 pm CST Friday, FS1)

Garrison Keillor made a considerable fortune portraying Minnesotans as dull, insular, and provincial, albeit in a heartwarming fashion. You can tell that he wasn't far off the mark by the endless "Who hates Iowa?" chants that show up at all Gopher sporting events. Such a small, narrow vision, unbefitting a team that aspires to greatness, to invest so much energy into a perennial 8-4 squad destined for the Hall of Pretty Good.

And so pointless when you don't beat them, though I guess that would explain why they hate Iowa.

In French a gaufre is a waffle. To waffle, in the parlance of our times, has come to mean a failure to make up one's mind. P.J. Fleck's Gophers were a dominant team last season but haven't been able to carry that momentum into this admittedly strange campaign. Do they want to be great? Great teams don't struggle against mediocre ones, but that's what the Gophers did in their first two games. Yes, they were impressive in dominating the Illini last week, but what is the value of beating a team you should beat? There's little evidence for, and considerable evidence against, this Gopher team being as good as last year's. But that doesn't mean they can't be dangerous, particularly if they're amped up because, well, they hate Iowa.

Speaking of which, you left the Hawks for dead after the first two weeks of the season, and so did I. I thought Iowa would get it back on track but that 49-7 win over Michigan State (yeah, still feels good to type that) was far more than I expected as the offensive attack was more balanced and the defense was as stout as usual. If Iowa had "a tuneup, a tossup, and Iowa State" to warm it up for conference play it'd have gone no worse than 2-1 in that stretch and, I believe, it'd have defeated both Purdue and jNWU. That's a very different-looking season, but still, what happened happened. There's no sense in denying reality when it's up on the scoreboard for everyone to see.

This is gonna be close and I think it'll be the usual asymmetric rivalry warfare as Minnesota comes out looking for blood and Iowa comes out fighting like hell to stick to the gameplan. But Kirk Ferentz was involved in the Floyd Wars before Fleck was even born. He wants to keep the pig home. And I think he will.

Spencer's Gifts 31, Who Hates Everything? 30.

Last week: 4-2
Season: 11-8

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