Pickin' On The Big Ten: Week 8, 2021 Season

By Mark Hasty on October 21, 2021 at 10:30 am
spiritually this is what college football feels like this week
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“If any team stands a decent shot of disrupting Iowa’s 2021 modus operandi, it’s this one. The Boilermakers aren’t even going to try to establish the run, they’re just going to chuck it to David Bell all afternoon, looking for a mismatch or blown assignment, and daring Iowa to run the ball against them. That … is actually not a bad gameplan against this team.”

That’s what I wrote last week, right before I picked Iowa to beat Purdue, 20-17, thus proving that I’m often better at predicting processes than I am at predicting outcomes. That’s even more ironic considering this line from the opening paragraph of the dang column:

“As a Hawkeye fan of long standing, I’m always deeply uncomfortable when Iowa rises to the top. I’ve seen this movie too many times; something always happens.”

I hate being right sometimes.

Before you think I’ve gone and joined the Terminally Depressed Goth-Hawks, let me rewind even further and share what I wrote about the Hawkeyes clear back in Week Zero:

“Honestly, I can see any record from 6-6 to 10-2 in play, and the first two weeks are absolutely going to set the tone for that. Last year’s team surprised us with its goodness. May it be thus as well this year. Predicted record: 9-3.”

That’s where I thought Iowa would be, because from the get-go I was skeptical about the performance of the offense. I'm hardly a genius, though. I had Penn State, Wisconsin, and Iowa State as the three losses. The Hawks have beaten two of those three and stand a pretty good shot at beating the third. Am I angry about last week’s game? No, I stopped getting angry about losses a long, LONG time ago. I’m not shocked by it either since beating Purdue would require an entirely different defensive scheme that would take away the crossing routes and underneath routes, leaving the deep routes open, and David Bell would just beat us that way instead. Just know that Iowa’s defense is vulnerable to smart, swift, consistent receivers who can not only find the seams in the zone but can also elude tacklers at a cheat-code level. I mean, it’s not like Jeff Brohm knows something other coaches haven’t yet figured out. Freakin’ everyone sends their receivers to Iowa’s zone seams. It’s just that very few teams on the schedule have receivers who can do anything worthwhile against Iowa’s defense once they catch the ball -- and those teams are all behind us now.

And no, I’m not joining the “fire Brian Ferentz” squad. Who do you think signs off on the overall offensive scheme? This is how Kirk wants to play ball. It’s not like we’ve had twenty-two seasons to notice that or anything! 

I say it too much, but we have over forty years of evidence that the Hawkeyes are a very good-to-excellent but emphatically not elite football team. We also now have even more evidence that the polls can’t be trusted in the first half of the season, even when they’re working out in your favor.

Now let’s look at the rest of my picks from last week …

  • Michigan State at Indiana: I said Sparty 38, IU 20; actual score, Sparty 20, IU 15.
  • Nebraska at Minnesota: I said Nebby 31, Minny 13; actual score, Minny 30, Nebby 23.
  • Rutgers at Northwestern: I said RU 28, jNWU 14; actual score, jNWU 21, RU 7.
  • Army at Wisconsin: I said UW 24, Army 12; actual score, UW 20, Army 14.


… and let us resolve never to speak of last week again.

NORTHWESTERN AT #6 MICHIGAN (11 am CDT, Fox)

With all the respect I can muster, I humbly suggest that there might yet be a team in the Big Ten whose lofty ranking is not fully borne out by its resume. What, exactly, is Michigan’s most impressive win? It has beaten two teams with winning records, and they’re both in the MAC.

On the other hand, one of these teams barely beat Nebraska, and the other one lost to the Huskers by 49 points. So … here’s another win for Michigan, I guess.

Hollow Victories Still Count 38, Eternally Mad About Iowa 10.

ILLINOIS AT #7 PENN STATE (11 am CDT, ABC)

The Penn State Nittany Lions, having been robbed of their starting quarterback and then unfairly accused of faking injuries by those unsavory rapscallions representing the dishonorable University of Iowa (may they all have psoriasis in an unreachable place!), shall defend their shining virtue and reclaim their fiendishly tarnished honor by means of what one must expect to be their fine performance against a team for which not even its own coach has any affection, but at least that team beat Nebraska, so. Thus it shall be that Iowa’s attempt to besmirch the Pennsylvania State University’s character must needs be brought to ruins, and the institution shall once again enjoy the sterling, unspoiled ethical character for which it is known! Heaven forfend that it must be the poor, undespoiled Illini who must suffer for this honor to be reclaimed, but great shall be their reward in heaven! (Roderick, the smelling salts; I feel a spell overtaking me.)

Standard Tactics 34, Flat Champaign Is Nasty 10.

WISCONSIN AT #25 PURDUE (2 pm CDT, BTN)

It would be peak Purdue to beat the nation’s No. 2 team as an unranked squad only to barely secure its first ranking in years, then turn around the very next week and lose to an unranked squad itself. But Wisconsin is not the squad to pull that off; David Bell should have another big day against a team that can’t move the ball to save its own season. The Badgers are “12 pack of Milwaukee’s Best left in the back window of a ‘67 Camaro all summer”-bad. I haven’t seen them look this inept since the 1980s.

Bell Cow 27, Spotted Cow 12.

#5 OHIO STATE AT INDIANA (6:30 pm CDT, ABC)

These Ohio State-Indiana games are always a hoot, particularly when the games are in Bloomington. Tom Allen’s team plays way out over its skis while the Buckeyes seem completely incapable of seeing that coming or making any in-game adjustments.

In other words, it’s like Iowa-Purdue, only the underdog never wins.

Rumors Of Our Death Were Greatly Exaggerated 48, Schrodinger’s Hoosiers 28

MARYLAND AT MINNESOTA (2:30 pm CDT, ESPN2)

Sorry, Gophers. I simply cannot take a team that lost to Bowling Green seriously.

Mortal Locksley 34, Flecks of Paint 17.

Last week: 2-3 (.400)
Season: 41-15 (.732)
 

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