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Pickin' on the Big Ten, Week 9

Oct 23, 2008 – 7:30 AM
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Mark Hasty

Mark Hasty %BloggerTitle%

Every Thursday, Pickin' On the Big Ten breaks down action across the conference.

RIGHT: Brian Hartline, the harbinger of Spartan doom.


Look, I tried to warn you. I told you last week that Michigan State just didn't have enough defense to contain the Buckeyes. The only thing that shocked me about the outcome of that game was how easy it was for Ohio State. Clearly, I failed to consider the possibility that ur-conservative Jim Tressel might start letting Terrelle Pryor throw deep. Clearly, neither did Mark Dantonio, who probably went into his office after the game and knocked all the stuff off his shelves.

Tressel did it the way you're supposed to do it. He used the running abilities of Pryor and Beanie Wells as bait. Once the Spartans were forced to stick close to the line of scrimmage lest they give up another 20-yard (or more) run, Pryor hit Brian Hartline on a 56 yard pass. That marked the official beginning of the "we don't know what to do next" phase for Sparty. Enter fumbles and interceptions; exit, Sparty's hopes of being a dark horse.

The Spartans get to recoup against a doddering Michigan team which once again wasted a good half of football in order to become the latest thing stuck to the bottom of Joe Paterno's shoe. The Buckeyes move on, too, for their second Clash of the Titans remake of the season.

But first, there's this week's remake of Gallipoli:

NORTHWESTERN @ INDIANA

The Wildcats will be without middle linebacker Malcolm Arrington in this game and for the rest of the season. That might make a difference down the stretch. It won't mean squadoosh for this game. IU quarterback Kellen Lewis, who didn't play at all last week, is still questionable for this week. You couldn't fault Lewis if at this point he started thinking of ways he could get suspended again, this time for the rest of the season.

GET WELL SOON, MALCOLM 38
HURRY UP, BASKETBALL 13

MICHIGAN STATE @ MICHIGAN

They shouldn't actually play this game. The teams should just gather in a circle at midfield and form a support group.

Much like last week's games involving these teams, this is a mismatch. It'll be a good game when Michigan State has the ball. Brian Hoyer returns, proving that Mark Dantonio still clings to the Lovie Smith Theory of Quarterbacking ("He's our guy") even though Smith himself has finally abandoned it. Michigan's defense was able to stop Penn State for a little while last week, so they're probably up to the challenge of sticking eight in the box and daring Hoyer to throw.

When Michigan has the ball, this game will be all but unwatchable, I fear. Throwing deep is the easiest way to beat Sparty. Throwing deep is also the thing Michigan is least prepared to do. If the Wolverines can keep the Spartans out of the end zone for the first half (and they might) they have an excellent chance in this game. If at any point Sparty goes up by three scores, GAME OVER.

WE DON'T KNOW ANY 'KIRK COUSINS' 24
WE KNOW ALL OF CAPTAIN KIRK'S COUSINS 17

PENN STATE @ OHIO STATE

Even if you hate Big Ten football, ignore this game at your own peril. Even if you left the Buckeyes for dead after the USC debacle, make some time for this game. Even if you think Tastykake deserves more credit for Penn State's 8-0 start than the Spread HD does, you want to watch this game. Why? Because one of two things is going to happen. Either

1. This game will be an instant classic, sort of like this year's OU/Texas game, only with better officiating, or
2. One of these teams is going to take control early and put on a clinic.

The last time OSU faced a team that could dominate on offense and defense, the Buckeyes got dominated.

The last time Penn State faced a team that could dominate on offense and defense, it was 2007.

The only thing which pushes the outcome of this game towards the Nits is the Buckeyes' offensive line. They're playing much better than they were playing a few weeks ago, but they're not all the way there yet. Terrelle Pryor won't have as much time to throw as he did against MSU, and he won't find as many open rushing lanes. Penn State doesn't make mistakes on offense, either. They're the least penalized team in the Big Ten by a large margin. Daryll Clark has thrown a whopping two interceptions, and only Northwestern has been sacked less. Oh, and guess who the most-sacked team in the Big Ten is?

This will be every bit as good a game as you might think, but the Nittany Lions are a machine right now, and Tressel's about to get caught in the gears.

FIRST THERE IS A MOUNTAIN, THEN THERE IS NO MOUNTAIN 34
THEN THERE IS, DANG IT 31

MINNESOTA @ PURDUE

Purdue has no traction right now. None. Joe Tiller is another adherent of the Lovie Smith Theory of Quarterbacking, meaning the whole Bizarro Purdue thing continues. The defense is playing pretty well (okay, it was) while the offense looks completely lost. It's like Tiller is convinced that Mel Kiper was actually right about Curtis Painter.

Adam Weber is as good as any quarterback in the Big Ten, at least where throwing is concerned. His numbers are as good as Clark's or Pryor's and, if he trails Juice Williams in touchdowns, he's well ahead of him in completion percentage and not throwing picks. Meanwhile, Eric Decker is the best receiver in the Big Ten, and there's no debating it. Purdue can still save its season with a win, but if they gave up 48 to Northwestern last week, what are the Gophers going to do against them? Answer: win.

BOWLING FOR RESPECT 28
FISHING FOR TROUT 20

ILLINOIS @ WISCONSIN

What sort of week have the Badgers had? Just go read this transcript of a chat Jeff Potrykus (the Badger beat writer for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) held on Monday. Apart from one token hockey question, Potrykus spent his entire chat reaffirming that Bret Bielema is not going to be fired, and it's not time to push the panic button yet, given that Barry Alvarez laid a few stink bombs during his tenure as well. Of course, it's gotten so bad in Wisconsin that the tinfoil-hat wing of Badger Nation is starting to cast aspersions on Alvarez as well.

Illinois is not the sort of team you want to try to get better against, but don't read too much into last week's 55-17 blowout of Indiana. Like I said earlier, Kellen Lewis didn't play at all in that game, and he's the only good aspect of IU's offense this year. The 55 was impressive for the Illini; the 17, not so much. Without Lewis, IU probably couldn't beat Indiana State. So there will be opportunities for the Badgers to move the ball, and Juice Williams is a very sackable quarterback. I might regret this, but I actually think the Badgers win this one.

BEST THING TO COME OUT OF WISCONSIN? I-39 24
SO LONG, AND THANKS FOR ALL THE SPEEDING TICKETS 26

Next week's games!
  • Iowa @ Illinois: Clash of the Third-Tier Titans?
  • Central Michigan @ Indiana: Will give "MACrifice" a new meaning
  • Wisconsin @ Michigan State: Winner saves their season
  • Northwestern @ Minnesota: Outback Bowl at "steak"? HAW!
  • Michigan @ Purdue: Only $14.95 on pay-per-view!
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