Pickin' On The Big Ten: Week 4, 2021 Season

By Mark Hasty on September 23, 2021 at 10:00 am
go hawks go
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You didn’t love the Kent State game last week and neither did I because we can all see things on offense that can stand improvement. But, like many other Iowa fans, I am guilty of seeing the cloud behind every silver lining.

We should be blissed out, you know. Nine straight wins and a Top Five ranking. More than that, this is the optimal team for the Ferentzian system: world-beater defense, rapidly improving offensive line, stud running back, a QB who doesn’t throw picks, and special teams that all but about two or three programs in the country would sell their souls for.

This is the year we learn the ceiling of Ferentzball, assuming we don’t know it already. The conference is winnable and thus the Playoff is attainable. But will Iowa's tendency to have at least one basically inexplicable loss per season rise up again?

Well, that's enough about ceilings. Let’s look at how I hit the floor last week!

  • Maryland at Illinois: I said Maryland 42, Illinois 14; actual score, Maryland 20, Illinois 17. In a lot of ways this was the most surprising result of the week for me, which is saying something since OU-Nebraska happened.
  • Cincinnati at Indiana: I said Cincy 35, IU 28; actual score, Cincy 38, IU 24. The Week 1 Indiana win continues to fade with the Hoosiers looking like they’re not quite there.
  • Kent State at Iowa: I said Iowa 44, KSU 10; actual score, Iowa 30, KSU 7. And somehow we’re not happy.
  • Northern Illinois at Michigan: I said Michigan 37, NIU 20; actual score, Michigan 63, NIU 10. Close enough.
  • Michigan State at Real Miami: I said Real Miami 24, Sparty 21; actual score, Sparty 38, “Real” Miami 17. Will Sparty beat another UM this season? Hmmm …
  • Minnesota at Colorado: I said CU 30, Minny 17; actual score, Minny 30, Colorado 0. I am not taking this to mean that Minnesota is good, but the evidence is mounting.
  • Nebraska at Oklahoma: I said OU 66, NU 3; actual score, OU 23, Nebraska 16. NU fans I know believe the game wasn’t that close.
  • Northwestern at Duke: I said jNWU 27, Duke 17; actual score, Duke 30, jNWU 23. I forgot this is an odd-numbered year, so jNWU is not good.
  • Tulsa at Ohio State: I said aOSU 56, Tulsa 7; actual score, aOSU 41, Tulsa 20. Speaking of mounting evidence …
  • Auburn at Penn State: I said PSU 34, AU 30; actual score, PSU 28, AU 20. And part of Los Angeles rejoiced.
  • Purdue at Notre Dame: I said ND 27, PU 23; actual score, ND 27, PU 13. I’m always amazed when I get a score half-right.

Now, thank goodness, all the games this week are finally on Saturday where they belong, so let’s get into it.

BOWLING GREEN AT MINNESOTA (11 am CDT, ESPNU)

Or, if you prefer, Driving Your Prius to the Alley at 7.5 Ounce Can of Sprite.

BGSU is terrible, and it’s not even the worst team in Ohio. The Gophers should make short work of the Falcons, which is the opposite of what happens in nature.

Hulk Smash 41, Falcon Punched 14.

OHIO AT NORTHWESTERN (11 am CDT, BTN)

The Buckeyes are down this year, but so are the Wildcats. C.J. Stroud has been inconsist--

[AIR HORN]

Oh. My bad.

So far this season the Ohio University has joined Nebraska on the list of “schools that did not improve their football programs once Frank Solich left.” It shouldn’t take a Herculean effort to dispatch the Bobcats, which is great, because this Wildcat team is more like Achilles, trying to avoid becoming Icarus. Either way, the Cats will win, though!

Born To Occasionally Be Wild 24, Not Great Bob 17.

VILLANOVA AT #6 PENN STATE (11 am CDT, BTN)

This wouldn’t even be a good basketball game.

High Stakes 44, Cheesesteaks 10.

NOTRE DAME VS. WISCONSIN (at Soldier Field; 11 am CDT, FOX)

The focus is on the quarterbacks here, since ND’s Jack Coan transferred from WIsconsin, but we all know the name of the game here will be defense. Notre Dame’s offense, Coan or not, has been a bit flat this season, though it’s not like the Badgers have lit it up either. Honestly, it’s hard to evaluate where either team is right now. The sports books sort of know and they’re giving Wisky a three-point edge, so I guess I will too.

Da Brats Here Taste Funny You Gice 31, Zen Coan 28.

RUTGERS AT #19 MICHIGAN (2:30 pm CDT, ABC)

Everyone is cautioning against buying too heavily into Michigan, since Jim Harbaugh has not lost in the Big House during August and September, ever. Outside of that things get dicey. I would like to add to that caution and also point out that so far Michigan’s games have been pretty easy: Western Michigan, what’s left of Washington, and Northern Illinois. In other words, two MACs and a sad sack. Rutgers has an identical 3-0 record and nearly as impressive point totals against Temple, Syracuse, and Delaware. I still think the Wolverines will be able to run the ball at will on the Dear Old Rutgers Knights of Scarlet (DORKS), but this game should bring Wolverine fans a little bit down to Earth. They’ll still win, though.

See How They Run 30, Fuhgeddabowdit 21.

ILLINOIS AT PURDUE (2:30 pm CDT, BTN)

If you watch this game, I assume it’s because you lost the remote.

This game will be like playing Clue without realizing that somebody accidentally put a room card and two people cards in the envelope, but no weapon. Purdue, in the stadium, with the big bass drum, I guess.

Undue Perversity 23, Real Paign For Our Cham Friends 10.

NEBRASKA AT #20 MICHIGAN STATE (6 pm CDT, FS1)

The Huskers have the opportunity to take the momentum from their far-closer-than-expected Oklahoma game last week and throw it directly into the wood chipper of a Sparty team that has picked apart three successive bad defenses. The ‘Skers badly need this win to give them a bit of credibility and breathing room, but Kenny Walker awaits. He’s the sort of back that Nebraska used to have two or three of on the roster, and now it has one of him every decade or so. Husker faithful will look wistfully and weep, not just at the loss of this game, but at the loss of a lifestyle.

Gang Green 34, Tuckered Out 20.

AKRON AT #10 OHIO STATE (6:30 pm CDT, BTN) 

It’s very possible Ohio State is the worst team currently in the Top Ten, but it’s equally possible that Akron is the worst team in the entire FBS right now. The spread on this game is aOSU -48.5, which is just about the biggest point spread I’ve ever seen. But I think even Akron is going to score a couple times here.

An Ohio State University 63, Running Flat 10.

That leaves one game, of course:

COLORADO STATE AT #5 IOWA (2:30 pm CDT, FS1)

Recall what I said about “the ceiling of Ferentzball” above. This is the sort of game you hope you’ll win 63-0, since CSU (a) has issues and (b) is coached by Steve Addazio. To hope for such a lopsided outcome is to misunderstand the Ferentzian mindset, where style points don’t matter unless you’re playing Ohio State. 23-10 is just as much of a win as 63-0. If Kirk Ferentz cared about impressing the pollsters, we’d know that by now.

So when this game is like 10-3 at the half and you’re ready to sit Spencer Petras in favor of anyone who won’t take that many sacks, remember that. It’ll be good at the end. Maybe not as good as you want it to be, but still good. Ten wins in a row good. Staying in the Top Five Good. Enjoy the ride. It may not last forever and, if the last 42 years of Iowa football are any indication, it probably won’t. But now? Right now?

It’s very good.

Dragons of Autumn Twilight 38, Sheep with Funny Horns 6.

Last week: 8-3 (.727)
Season: 20-9 (.690)

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