Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Wild, Wild Big Ten

Well, at least there isn’t much happening in the Big Ten this week.

Oh yeah, Joe Paterno is done and PSU will play at home this weekend against Nebraska in a circus like atmosphere.

Oh and the division championships have about 42 permutations.

Oh right, the upsets. Apparently no one is dominant enough to be considered a lock, week to week.

All 5 road teams are favored this week. Hmmm.

Welcome to the Wild, Wild Big Ten.

Last week- 3-2, (3-3). Which makes me 26-12, (22-9).

B1G GOTW- #19 Nebraska 7-2, (3-2) at #12 Penn State 8-1, (5-0). Noon.

Well this should be interesting. Before I go, I’m not going to address the controversy in Happy Valley, except to say this. JoePa is correct to go. It’s a shame his career ends this way, but it’s also a shame he didn’t do more.

Nevertheless, this will be an emotional game on Saturday. I don’t know how the Lions react without JoePa and with an obviously distracted staff. But this will also be Senior Day. Motivation?

The Nittany Lions are coming off a bye week and need to win 2 of their final 3 games to win the Leaders Division and head to Indy. That fact has been obscured by everything else going on this week.

Penn State is still using two quarterbacks, Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin, which means they don’t have one. Silas Redd is still their main offensive option; he is third in the conference in rushing with 5 straight 100 yard games. They are 88th nationally in total offense averaging 356 yards per game.

Penn State has a very good defense and that has been the key to their success this year. They are third nationally in scoring defense and 24th in rushing defense.

Nebraska has Tyler Martinez and Rex Burkhead. At 237 yards per game, the Huskers are 13th nationally rushing the ball. They are averaging over 34 points per game. But dynamic they are not. Last week, Northwestern successfully stopped the run IN LINCOLN.

The Blackshirts are giving up 23 points per game and statistically are an average B1G defense. They are 64th nationally against the run.

This should be a classic battle of field position and turnovers as both offenses are suspect and both rely on their defense. Penn State’s has been spectacular. Nebraska has been spotty.

Of Note: Nebraska finished with a season-low 122 rushing yards on 35 carries, marking just the third time this season Nebraska did not rush for at least 200 yards. Nebraska is 6-0 this season when rushing for 200 yards and 1-2 when rushing for less than 200 yards.

The Line: Nebraska by 2.5

The Pick: I have no idea. On one hand, it seems like Penn State has enough distractions and may come out flat and awful.

On the other hand, maybe they are ticked off and fired up and will play for JoePa.

Penn State should be able to stop the Nebraska running game. If you stop the run game, you stop the Huskers (see above). Nebraska’s defense is average and Penn State’s offense is well, not that impressive.

So how do you score this one? It should be low-scoring. Penn State is 23rd nationally in turnover margin. Nebraska is 53rd. I’ll go with that statistic. PSU 17 Nebraska 14.

Quick Slants-
Rice 3-6, (2-4) at Northwestern 4-5, (2-4). Noon.
Wildcats are now trying to get bowl eligible. Nothing sharpens the focus of a 20 year-old Chicago kid like the opportunity to go to a beach in December. NW 45 Rice 20.

Ohio State 6-3, (3-2) at Purdue 4-5, (2-3). Noon.Buckeyes still have a chance and playing better with Braxton Miller. Defense is still solid. OSU 21 Purdue 10.

#13 Michigan State 7-2, (4-1) at Iowa 6-3, (3-2). Noon.For control of the Legends Division. Michigan State got pounded in Iowa City a year ago. Hawks are 6-0 at home. State got one big road win in Columbus. Iowa 24 Michigan State 23.

#22 Michigan 7-2, (3-2) at Illinois 6-3, (2-3). 3:30 p.m.Scheelhaase vs. Robinson. Big Blue favored by 1 on the road which has been brutal for B1G teams. Ron Zook coaches the Illini. Michigan 31 Illinois 30.

#16 Wisconsin 7-2, (3-2) at Minnesota 2-7, (1-4). 3:30 p.m.Is there a more dangerous 2-7 team than Minnesota? At home in a trophy game? Yeah, Bucky doesn’t play that. Wisconsin 35 Minnesota 7.

Drinking Beer: Indiana.

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