Pickin' On The Big Ten: Week 3, 2021 Season

By Mark Hasty on September 16, 2021 at 10:00 am
James Franklin
© Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Traditionally I start this column with an alphabetized recap of last week’s picks, compared with the actual results. I’m going to start instead by going out of order with one particular pick:

  • Iowa at Iowa State: I said ISU 17, Iowa 13; actual score, Iowa 27, Iowa State 17.

I’ve never been more delighted to be wrong about a prediction in my life.

But now I’m at a crossroads. After this win, the Hawks vaulted up to #5 in the AP poll. That’s great! Except it makes me terribly nervous. All the more so because I’ve seen at least one national writer say the Hawkeyes are going to make the College Football Playoff. Everyone who wants a team with this many issues on offense to make the CFP, raise your hands.

[someone actually raises a hand]

Bless your heart. I’ve been following the Hawkeyes since the Carter administration. I remember 1985, which was a great season that saw the Hawks ranked #1. Nothing about Iowa in the Top 5 will ever make me feel comfortable. I’ll believe Iowa can be a Top 5-caliber team after Iowa wins a Rose Bowl. But not before.

End of nervous, paranoid rant. I hope I’m as wrong about this as I was about the Cy-Hawk game. As for the other picks, well:

  • Illinois at Virginia: I said UVa 34, Illinois 17; actual score, UVa 42, Illinois 14. My preseason pick of Illinois at 6-6 was predicated on the Illini winning its first three games. They went 1-2 in them. Thanks, Bert!
  • Idaho at Indiana: I said IU 63, Idaho 14; actual score, IU 56, Idaho 14. Curse the Hoosiers for falling one touchdown short of giving me a perfect pick!
  • Washington at Michigan: I said Michigan 24, Washington 17; actual score, Michigan 31, Washington 10. Michigan has four Great Lakes and Washington has a Lake that’s not so great, it appears.
  • Youngstown State at Michigan State: I said Sparty 48, YSU 12; actual score, Sparty 42, YSU 14. I still have no clue if Sparty is any good, and neither do you.
  • Fake Miami at Minnesota: I said Minny 40, Miami 18; actual score, Minny 31, Miami 26. Fake Miami is probably better than I gave it credit for being, but dang, Fleck, you’re not supposed to play a MACrifice within a touchdown.
  • Buffalo at Nebraska: I said Nebraska 27, Buffalo 10; actual score, Nebraska 28, Buffalo 3. Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Nebraska was plagued all afternoon by mistakes. I factored that high-probability event into my pick, and I shall continue doing so.
  • Indiana State at Northwestern: I said jNWU 44, ISU 7; actual score, jNWU 24, ISU 6. Color me unimpressed so far with Fitz’s team. That will make Iowa’s inevitable 17-point loss to the Cats just that much more painful, I guess.
  • Oregon at Ohio State: I said aOSU 31, Oregon 21; actual score, Oregon 35, aOSU 28. I thought aOSU laying more than two touchdowns at home was a bit much to my eyes. Unsurprisingly, it was, but to a much greater extent than I dreamed.
  • Ball State at Penn State: I said PSU 52, BSU 17; actual score, PSU 44, BSU 13. Part of the video resume being sent from State College to Los Angeles, I’m sure.
  • Purdue at UConn: I said Purdue 38, UConn 13; actual score, Purdue 49, UConn 0. UConn could not win two games in the Missouri Valley.
  • Eastern Michigan at Wisconsin: I said UW 55, EMU 20; actual score, UW 34, EMU 7. I don’t think Wisconsin’s offense is all that great but so far the defense looks legit, you all.

It was a decent week overall, and I was happy to be wrong about one of the two games I was wrong about. Now let’s see what I get wrong this week. All games on Saturday unless noted.


I’m not saying Illinois has issues, but it’s a 7.5-point home dog to a team that doesn’t even exist.

RIP Omar 42, RIP Our Comeback 14.


If you want a measure of where Iowa actually stands as a team, this game will be a good milepost. If the Hoosiers play Cincy tough and the Bearcats put up fewer points than the Hawkeyes did against IU, then we Hawkeye fans can start thinking maybe we have been worrying too much about the offense. If Cincy drops half a hundred or more on IU (unlikely, if you ask me), then panic is a little more justified. As for what will happen, I think Cincy wins this game, but not too easily.

Weird Chili 35, Let’s Get Silly 27.


It’s way too early to tell if Michigan is good because there’s a very good chance Washington is terrible. Northern Illinois has already put one upset notch on its resume, beating Georgia Tech 22-21 in Week 1 before getting squeezed by Wyoming last week, 50-43. Still, the Wolverines have easily handled their two opponents thus far, Western Michigan and Washington. The Huskies are, at the very least, better than the former of those, if not both. This will be a better game than Michigan wants it to be, but look for Michigan’s depth to open some gaps in the second half. Wolverines win, and it might look easy, but it won’t be easy.

This Could Be Our Year 37, You Say That Every Year 20.


The Hurricanes have been blown out by Alabama and barely escaped Appalachian State, yet somehow still hold on to a ranking. Polls before October are uniformly stupid. When I am declared Supreme Galactic Emperor I’m going to outlaw them, right after I crack down on all those content-farm websites that just lift threads from Reddit, slap some ads in the middle, and pay to get into your Facebook feed. Hasty for SGE ‘22: Because the world can’t possibly end soon enough!

As you might guess I’m not exactly high on Real Miami, based on resume to date. Michigan State may not be all that great either, but at least it’s won both its games, by a minimum of 17 points. Still, it’s hard to predict a Big Ten team going into South Florida in September and stealing one. I’m not saying I like the Hurricanes, but I think they hold on for the woss (i.e., an underwhelming win).

The U 24, Does That Stand For “U-sed To Be Good?” 21.



Was That A Mosquito? 66, I Tried To Get Us Out But NOOOOO 3.

MINNESOTA AT COLORADO (12 noon CDT, Pac-12 Network)

You may have assumed from one or two or seventeen dozen things I’ve written here that I don’t like PJ Fleck, but that’s really not true. I just think Phil Hartman was the best monorail salesman of all time, and we don’t need another.

The Gophers have scored 31 points in both of their games this season. That’s the sort of fact that would be interesting if they managed to do it ten more times. The fact that they managed to put 31 up on Ohio State was interesting in Week 1 but became less so in Week 2 once it was clear that Ohio State’s defense has been sequestered away in an undisclosed location in the Hocking Hills, to be replaced by the staff of a low-performing Bath and Body Works. But I digress. Both these teams have played a Top Ten team pretty close, but the Buffaloes have played what I think is the better team right now quite a bit closer. So I’ll take them at home, since this will be the first real defense the Gophers will face this season. Maybe I’m wrong. It won’t matter; no one will see this game since it’s on the Pac-12 Network.

Ralphie 30, Ralphing 17.


Speaking of wosses, Notre Dame has two of them. Its tight game against Florida State lost all of its luster and gained considerable tarnish last week when the Noles lost to Jacksonville State, a school that someone will force you to Google to prove that it’s not in Florida. (Alabama, for the record.) Toledo is probably the cream of the MAC, but Notre Dame is not supposed beat any MAC school by only 3 points. So I think the Fighting Irish are ripe for a loss. I just don’t think it’s going to be a loss to Purdue.

(Bad) Luck O' The Irish 27, Purdubious 23.


Even Kerry Coombs cannot screw up a home game against a team that has already lost to Oklahoma State and UC-Davis, the Oklahoma State of California. Can he?

[JEOPARDY! Music plays]

Nah, he can’t.

There’s No Defense For This 56, And Now We Have To Go Back To Tulsa 7.


David Cutcliffe has been coaching at Duke so long, he was there when “Kirk Ferentz is overpaid!” was considered a witty and wise talking point. He’s never been overwhelmingly successful, but he doesn’t have to be when he’s forever in the shadow of Mike Krzystzfghlprzstlvgrwski. Duke football just sort of is, you know?

So far the Blue Devils haven’t had the best year, losing to Charlotte and beating North Carolina A&T (gad, what a great college name!) exactly as badly as they should have. I am not yet sold on jNWU as anything more than average, but an average Power 5 team should be able to get over on a sub-mediocre one. I’m not looking for a decisive victory here, though.

Purple Drank 27, Blue Stank 21.

#22 AUBURN AT #10 PENN STATE (6:30 pm CDT, ABC)

Every move James Franklin makes from here to the end of the season will be carefully scrutinized in Los Angeles and elsewhere as he is one of the leading candidates for the suddenly-but-expectedly-open U$C job. The Nits have already won a tough road contest in Madison and taken care of a mid-pack MAC squad. Auburn has feasted on a couple of soft-bellied bobos, Akron and Alabama State.

One of my first rules of college football is that feasting on cupcakes in September leads to puking all over yourself in October. I’ve seen it happen too many times to think otherwise. It’s not October yet, but the Tigers have not even remotely been tested, winning their first two games by a combined 122-10. Penn State is, well, better than those two teams the Tigers chowed on.

But Auburn plays in the SEC, where every week is the Super Bowl and every actual bowl game is just a vacation, and It Just Means More, and blah blargle bloopy blop blegh. Actual Auburn fans I know are surprisingly rational for an SEC fanbase; they know that living in the bully’s neighborhood doesn’t make you tough, and they are expecting a fight. I think Penn State will take them down -- but not easily. 

No Comment 34, Them Vaccines Gave ‘Em Superpowers PAWWWWL 30.

And finally …


There’s really no way to preview a game like this with any rationality. Kent State was once the weakest team in the entire FBS, but it isn’t any more. Two games into the season it’s impossible to get a read on the Golden Flashes because they’ve served as Texas A&M’s home-opener chewtoy, then blew up VMI real good. Neither of those games really tell us anything because the results were perfectly predictable.

As a long-term Iowa fan it’s my right to be on edge about this game -- not so much for a loss but for a letdown. It’s possible Iowa opened the season against two stellar defenses. This game would thus give Spencer Petras and the O-line a chance to settle into a rhythm and develop some timing that will carry them all through the rest of the season. It’s also possible that the offense will look just as unsettled against the Golden Flashes as it did against IU and ISU -- and that would suck. Worst of all, I don’t know which of those is more likely. The gap between the Power 5 and the Group of 5 isn’t as great as it used to be. Heck the gap between FBS and FCS is narrower than it was a decade ago. Everybody loves a blowout when they’re on the good side of it, but there just aren’t as many of those as there used to be.

I do believe Iowa will win this game, fairly handily at that. I just wish I had a better read on how this game was going to go.

Flying High 44, Laying Low 10.

Last week: 7-2 (.778)
Season: 12-6 (.667)

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