Every Thursday, Pickin' on the Big Ten breaks down action across the conference.
ABOVE: Rich Rodriguez manually adjusts his offense's expectations.
You always think you have it figured out, then you find out you were more than a little bit wrong. I thought Mark Dantonio had rewritten the usual rules of Sparty Logic (figure out what MSU should do against a particular team, then predict them to do the complete opposite, and bask in the glow of being right). I totally forgot that Sparty Logic was going to rub up against Tedford Logic (chew up the physical defenses, get totally flustered by finesse), creating a swirling white-hot vortex of derrrr centered right on my forehead.
And that other Michigan team? I don't even want to talk about them. Apparently they can lose two home openers in a row.
All this is a long-winded way of saying I went 8-2 in the first week, which seems pretty good, except the first week's games are usually easier to pick than low-hanging fruit. I can't promise to do better this week. I can and do promise to try. It helps that there's only two real games this week.
EASTERN ILLINOIS @ ILLINOIS
... aaannnd this isn't one of those two games.
Even though we knew Mizzou's defense was a little iffy, let's not take away from what Juice Williams was able to do against them. Playing behind for most of the game, Williams hit on more than 60% of his passes and threw for five touchdowns. The Illini are still in trouble if they don't establish a rushing game, and I'd be more than a little bit worried about the defense, though I suspect Mizzou will drop half a hundred on most of its opponents this season.
This will be a good week to get the ground game going. Eastern Illinois couldn't contain Central Michigan's offense last week and couldn't get its own ground game going. If Ron Zook is smart, he'll play Juice for about a quarter and a series, then sit him down. Losing him would hurt Illinois more than losing, say, Beanie Wells would hurt Ohio State.
|TONY ROMO UNIVERSITY||6|
|DUDE, YOUR RIBS ARE AWESOME||41|
MURRAY STATE @ INDIANA
What a shock, IU named Kellen Lewis the starting QB a week ago Tuesday. We still don't know what he did, but with that harsh punishment of skipping spring practice and sweating out a foregone conclusion until four days before the game, wow, it's a good bet he'll never do it again!
Another good bet: Indiana will beat Murray State. Badly.
|MURRAY? NO, MERCY!||7|
|EATING DESSERT FIRST||52|
FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL @ IOWA
Look, there's no quarterback controversy in Iowa City, okay? Jake Christensen is the starter, Ricky Stanzi is the backup, and you'll see them both again this week. They were both interchangeably good last week, but it was against Maine. In fact, " ... but it was against Maine" has to be appended to all of the Hawks' many achievements from last week. "The running backs were wonderful ... but it was against Maine." "The offensive line only gave up one sack ... but it was against Maine." "The quarterbacks hit on more than 60 percent of their passes ... BIWAM."
Next week it'll be "... but it was against Maine and FIU."
|GAZE INTO OUR CRISTOBAL||0|
|WE WOULD SO CLEAN UP IN THE SUN BELT||38|
FAKE MIAMI @ MICHIGAN
If last week was a wakeup call for the Wolverine faithful and the rest of the college football world, this game is the first cup of oily, brackish, overextracted coffee after that wakeup call. The RedHawks (what, they don't have space bars in Oxford?) lost convincingly to Vanderbilt last week, a circumstance which still brings a bit of stigma to a team. But their strengths and weaknesses dovetail nicely with the Maize and Blue's, at least for the moment, so this game could be a lot scarier than Michigan fans want it to be.
Meanwhile, looking for the Michigan running game could become the "Where's Waldo?" of the new millenium. Yikes.
|CRADLE OF COACHES, GRAVE OF VICTORIES||17|
|CLEARLY NOT QUITE AS GOOD AS WE USED TO BE||28|
EASTERN MICHIGAN @ MICHIGAN STATE
The Eagles abso-Smurfing-lutely flattened Indiana State last week, 52-0, putting up over 600 yards of total offense. I only bring that up so that the Internet can have its first ever positive mention of Eastern Michigan football. Goodness knows there won't be much positive to say after this week, but since Sparty should be able to flip EMU like a flapjack, that means you can expect an intense, four-quarter struggle. I think. Or I used to think. I'm not sure. Thinking about Michigan State football too much is not good for the brain.
|EASILY THE SECOND-BEST UNIVERSITY IN WASHTENAW COUNTY||10|
|YP YP HOORAY||34|
MINNESOTA @ BOWLING GREEN
There's no earthly way of learning much from last week's Minnesota/Northern Illinois game. The Gophers had to fight like Internet commenters to get over on a MAC team with a new coach. Is NIU good? We won't know for a while.
Bowling Green, however, knocked off a supposed top 25 team in Pitt last week, though anybody in Chicago or Miami could have seen it coming. More amazing is how the Falcons did it, with negligible rushing and short, high-percentage passes, plus three Pitt fumbles. Minnesota's defense is considerably less stout than Pitt's, plus this game is at Bowling Green, which is not as easy a place to play as some might think. Last week's win meant a lot to the Gophers, but the Falcons have to be on the mountaintop after their game last week. It'll be a game, but BGSU will take the Gophers eventually.
|WAIT, YOU MEAN WE'RE SUPPOSED TO BE PLAYING DEFENSE?||31|
|REMEMBER, THE WEST COAST OFFENSE STARTED IN OHIO||34|
NORTHWESTERN @ DUKE
I'm starting to wonder about Pat Fitzgerald a little bit. NU looked to have flattened Syracuse last week, but the Wildcats were markedly flat in the first half, and that wasn't the first time I thought Northwestern didn't look ready to play the game.
They'd better be ready for this one after overlooking the Blue Devils last year and paying the price for it. Duke rolled all over James Madison last week, which probably isn't that impressive, but this is Duke football we're talking about. They haven't been good since Steve Spurrier was stylin' in the manner illustrated at right. Northwestern will put the game back in Tyrell Sutton's hands, figuring that Duke won't be able to stop a concerted rushing attack, and I figure they're right.
|SCHOOL WITH A GOOD JOURNALISM PROGRAM||27|
|OKAY, TEAR DOWN CUTCLIFFEVILLE, I GUESS||13|
OHIO @ OHIO STATE
That's not the number of points I expect Ohio U to score. That's the number of seconds I'm guessing Jim Tressel is going to let Terrelle Pryor play, and Beanie Wells may not play that much. It's like they're saving him for a bigger game next week or something.
|A SOLICH YOU CAN'T SOLSCRATCH||6|
|OWING TO A PRYOR COMMITTMENT||48|
OREGON STATE @ PENN STATE
Jay Paterno's Spread HD offense was fearsome against Coastal Carolina last week, though unleashing that offense on the Chanticleers was a bit like using liquid oxygen to light your grill. Well, not really, but it gives me an excuse to use this video, which is just cool:
Right. The game. Oregon State lost to Stanford last week, though I suspect more than a couple teams will do so this season. The Beavers will be a much tougher test for the Nits, and will be seeking redemption after last week's game, so I suspect they'll find a way to shut down the spread (it can be done) and bring the PSU offense back down to Earth.
|THANKS FOR NAMING THE STADIUM AFTER US||32|
|YOU'RE WELCOME, NOW GET OFF OUR LAWN||28|
NORTHERN COLORADO @ PURDUE
Normally, in week two, the Boilermakers play some mid-major also-ran who they totally let back into the game midway through the third quarter. However, they didn't play a game in week one, so this week we get their usual week one opponent: some FCS school you've never heard of against whom they put up gaudy numbers which prove illusory at the end of another 7-5 season.
|ALL YOUR BASE ... NAH, THAT'S OLDER THAN TILLER||58|
Know Your Non-Conference Tomato Can: The University of Northern Colorado
Known best to college football fans as the school which endured an unfortunate punting rivalry a few seasons back, UNC is located in a part of Colorado which isn't Denver and isn't the mountains, either. Founded in 1889 as a teacher training institute, UNC still counts teacher education as one of its strong suits, but also excels in business administration and jazz studies, of all things. (I'd make a wry joke about the odds of making a living playing jazz in Colorado these days, but I'm a Bill Frisell fan, and he went to UNC.)
Northern Colorado has only been a member of NCAA Division I for six seasons, having moved up from Division II. While the Bears had gridiron success at the lower level, they have yet to post a winning season in FCS, making them a great choice for Purdue's season-opening victim.
UNC's best known alumnus is the author James Michener, who died in 1990, thus sparing us from Tippecanoe, a 1200-page epic which would have begun with two pterodactyls fighting in the skies over prehistoric Indiana and ended with this game.
MARSHALL @ WISCONSIN
Run, run, run.
Oh, look. Oh, oh, oh. Look and see.
That's not a long-lost Dick and Jane reader. That's Wisconsin's playbook.
|LEFTWICH? PENNINGTON? MOSS? BUELLER?||10|
|GET THE IMODIUM, WE'VE GOT A CASE OF THE RUNS||35|
Next week's games!
- Louisiana-Lafayette @ Illinois: Champaign is essentially hurricane-proof
- Iowa State @ Iowa: Like a blood feud between two anemic families
- Michigan @ Notre Dame: I hope both bands know "Yakety Sax"
- Florida Atlantic @ Michigan State: Bet Schnellie doesn't call the Spartans "soft"
- Montana State @ Minnesota: Craig Kilbourne is so torn up about this game
- Southern Illinois @ Northwestern: Would be a worse basketball game
- Ohio State @ USC: Overrated
- Penn State @ Syracuse: HD this, Greg Robinson
- Oregon @ Purdue: Funny, it usually takes until October for Purdue to get exposed
- Wisconsin @ Fresno State: If you don't have a bad feeling about this game, you should