Every team now has six games on the books. Well, Illinois doesn't, which is good news/bad news. Illinois fans have only had to watch five games so far; that's good news. They have seven games left to watch, which is not such good news.
This would be a perfect time for mid-term report cards, but letter grades are so one-dimensional, don't you think? There are more meaningful comparisons to be made. Make the jump and see every Big Ten team compared to ... well, just go and look.
Illinois is like the Whopper (or, if you prefer, any other reasonably complicated fast food burger). You see the ads and it looks fantastic. They talk about using the best-quality, freshest ingredients and it shows. You see a perfectly-cooked burger glistening with juice, deep red tomatoes, green lettuce that looks like it was just picked, all stacked high on a golden brown bun. You can't resist. This is going to be good.
Then you get one. You unwrap it. It doesn't look like the picture. It looks like somebody who had never seen a hamburger before made it by hurling ingredients at a bun from a good 15 or 20 feet away. You sit under a buzzing fluorescent light, gnawing away at it, hoping you forget this meal as soon as possible.
Indiana is like grapefruit juice. You want it to be good, yet no matter what you do it, it inevitably leaves a bitter aftertaste in your mouth. You run for the toothbrush of basketball season, only to discover that grapefruit juice plus toothpaste is a combination that belongs in the next Saw movie.
Iowa is IKEA furniture. Not many things are both trendy and popular, but IKEA and the Hawkeyes both are right now. IKEA because it's cheap; Iowa because a weary football nation sees the Hawkeyes as the last best hope for a Buckeye-free BCS. Thus millions are willing to overlook the common flaws of each: They're kind of funny looking, nobody is really sure how long either will hold up, and you're not sure you can believe them when they say that the STANZI coffee table goes with the FERENTZ armchair, the ANGERER TV stand, and the MOEAKI floor lamp.
Michigan is a BMW with the first-generation iDrive system. From the outside, everybody can see that you've got a Bimmer, and a fairly new one at that. It's easy to be impressed. That's good news for you, because you're sitting inside the car with absolutely no idea how to change the radio station or keep the defroster from running full blast all summer long. But you look like a player.
Michigan State is any article of clothing from the late Steve & Barry's. I loved Steve & Barry's, mostly because I am a horribly cheap individual. Buying clothes there was a bit risky, though. Some things would hold up as well as anything else you could buy. Some things fell to tatters the third time you wore them. You didn't know which you had until one day you were out walking and all of a sudden there's a little trickle of cold air in your armpit or your crotch or some other place where cold air is not supposed to be felt on a fully clothed body and OH CRAP IT'S HAPPENING AGAIN.
Minnesota is MTN DEW. New container, same product, same tendency to keep you up nights if you take in too much of it.
Northwestern is a gas station burrito. They're as tasty on offense as the burrito is in your mouth. Then they go on defense, the burrito hits your intestines, and all of a sudden you wish there was somebody around who could keep bad things from happening.
Ohio State is a Buick Century. Designed as an unhip car for unhip people, the Century couldn't outrun or outdazzle anything on the road. While at one time driving a Buick meant you were too rich for a Chevy and too humble for a Cadillac, those were different times and different Buicks. Your neighbors will tell you, "Hey, nice car." But you you know the minute they get in their Altimas and Passats they're laughing at you and your "ask me about my grandchildren" car.
Yet, no matter how much scorn and abuse gets heaped on it, it just won't die. It starts on the coldest, bleakest mornings. It may never run perfectly, but it'll run okay longer than most cars will run at all. It'll even keep running long after you yourself are sick of it. The only way to get rid of it is to drive around parking lots looking for an Anti-Buick you can park it next to, hoping that the violent explosion which follows doesn't ignite the entire universe.
Penn State is Beeman's gum. You thought it was gone, but it came back, looking like it had never left.
Purdue is the wretched combination of Adobe Flash and Windows Vista. It works well until it doesn't. Then your browser crashes, three other programs stop working, there are security alerts all over the place, and just when you really need Task Manager, CTRL-ALT-DELETE gets you ten seconds of a black screen followed by a dialog box telling you that Vista failed to create Security Options. You sit there wondering why they ever decided to do it like that.
Wisconsin is RC Cola. It tastes a little different. Some people like it. Some don't. Everybody agrees that it's not as big as Coke or Pepsi.
Right. The games.
ILLINOIS @ INDIANA
If either team wins this game, it'll be a miracle. Indiana 23, Illinois 20.
DELAWARE STATE @ MICHIGAN
Delaware State is a
I thought that this, plus Michigan's explosive offense, would combine to make a game so stinky that not even the Big Ten Network would show it. I thought wrong. Oh well. Enjoy the game, Wolverines; you probably deserve something to smile about after last week. Michigan 66, Delaware State 7.
Know Your Nonconference Tomato Can: Delaware State
Located in Delaware's capital city of Dover, Delaware State University is part of America's proud tradition of historically black colleges and universities. DSU was founded in 1891 as the State College for Colored Students before becoming Delaware State College in 1947 and Delaware State University in 1993.
Despite being in the same state and same NCAA division as the University of Delaware, the two schools did not meet in football until 2007, and then only because both schools made the FCS playoffs. Earlier this season, they played their first regular season game.
DSU is a small school, enrolling only about 3,700 students.Its best known alumnus is Dr. Clyde Bishop, the US ambassador to the Marshall Islands. That sounds like a pretty good gig to me.
NORTHWESTERN @ MICHIGAN STATE
The story here is injuries; namely, how will Sparty react to losing starting running back Glenn Winston for the season with a torn ACL? Larry Caper appears ready to step in, but even he tweaked his knee in last week's Illinois game. Quarterback Kirk Cousins is expected to start this week after missing most of the Illinois game with a sore ankle.
Northwestern, meanwhile, is healthy, but their 16-6 loss to Miami (Ohio) last week was yet another unimpressive outing for the Wildcats. Things are bound to get better for NU soon, and a bowl game awaits, but they won't get any closer to it this week. Michigan State 30, Northwestern 17.
MINNESOTA @ PENN STATE
This is one of those games that looks dangerous on paper because the teams have similar records and their overall statistics aren't that far off. Where the teams differ is in overall talent and most particularly depth. Minnesota has come a long way from their 1-11 2007 season, but doesn't yet have all the parts to make a run at the conference title. There are individual Gophers who are as good as their counterparts on any Big Ten team (Eric Decker, for one, who I'm not sure is even human) but football is a team sport.
This is the first game of a brutal road trip for Tim Brewster's team, who travel to Columbus next week. Penn State will play three of its final five games on the road, but they won't face 30% of the challenges the Gophers will. The Nits are lying in wait for the Buckeyes; Minnesota's only real hope is that Penn State is thinking more about that game than this one. I wouldn't bet on that. Penn State 28, Minnesota 16.
OHIO STATE @ PURDUE
Two reasons not to be so glum, oh ye Purdubious: You probably won't lose this game in the last minute, and Illinois is coming to town next week. Ohio State 45, Purdue 20.
IOWA @ WISCONSIN
Here it is, the sole Big Ten game this week which can be described as "watchable." Wisconsin is still reeling from its "How did we lose that game?" performance in the Horseshoe last Saturday, while Iowa continues to whistle past the graveyard.
The Badgers' well-balanced, potent offense means that Iowa can't leave eight in the box, which is the usual defensive game plan for beating Wisconsin. Arkansas State and Michigan exposed some vulnerabilities in the Hawkeye pass defense; now it's up to Scott Tolzien, Nick Toon, and Garrett Graham to exploit them.
That's assuming that John Clay doesn't just take this game on his shoulder and run with it. If Clay has early success, he'll put the Iowa defense back on its heels and force Ricky Stanzi to play with urgency. The problem for WIsconsin is that you never know which John Clay you're going to get.
Wisconsin's defense gives up a lot of points, however, and that will help keep the Hawkeyes in this game. Nothing's going to be easy for Iowa this year, this game included, but somehow Kirk Ferentz will find a way to hold on. Again. Iowa 31, Wisconsin 30.
Next week's games:
- Penn State @ Michigan: Key to UM's dreams of a good bowl is winning this game
- Iowa @ Michigan State: Promises to be another wild shootout
- Indiana @ Northwestern: Cats want revenge; IU kept them from Capital One Bowl last season
- Minnesota @ Ohio State: Another week of Buckeye target practice?
- Illinois @ Purdue: The Illini's last shot at victory?