Thursday, December 1, 2011

Previewing the Inaugural Big Ten Title Game

Jim Delaney and the corporate boys are excited for their big showcase in the inaugural Big Ten Football Championship game.

The nastiness that it might have been with Penn State was avoided when Wisconsin blasted the Nittany Lions to claim the Leaders Division.

They also got the two hottest and best teams in the Big Ten. How often does that happen (cough…UCLA)? And it’s a repeat of maybe the best game of the season in the B1G.

So here we go. Winner goes to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl. Loser probably goes to the Capital One Bowl. So yeah, there is something on the line here in Indy.

My Record: 35-15, (30-12).
B1G GOTW- #15 Wisconsin 10-2, (6-2) vs. #11 Michigan State 10-2, (7-1). Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis. 7 p.m. FOXHow did these two teams get here? Simple. They are ranked first and second in total defense, scoring defense and turnover margin in the B1G. That’s a recipe for winning football games no matter what conference or what era.

The Badgers jumped out to a 14-0 lead when these two teams met in October. Michigan State stormed back with 23 points including a safety and a blocked punt returned for 6. Wisconsin rallied from a 14 point deficit in the Fourth Quarter only to lose on a Hail Mary.

In the first matchup, Russell Wilson threw two picks but the usually stingy Spartan defense allowed 220 yards on the ground. Montee Ball had 115 of those yards with a healthy 6.4 per rush average. Surprisingly the Badgers narrowly lost the time of possession battle.

State’s defense is stout, but other than the turnovers, they really did not slow down Badger O. They have a tall task now on neutral field. They have to either slow down the running game or continue to force turnovers and big plays. Doing that once is tough, a second time is even tougher.

Kirk Cousins tossed 3 touchdowns and had 290 threw the air- including 44 yards to Keith Nichol as the game ended. The Spartans were held to 109 yards rushing as the UW defense is the seventh ranked total defense in the country and 4th ranked scoring defense.

That game was wild, but it was not the exception. In the last nine games between the two teams they have combined to score 65.6 points per game. The winning team has scored at least 34 points in 8 of those games.

Of Note: Montee Ball has scored 34 touchdowns this year. 29 FBS teams have scored less than 34 TDs.

The Line: Wisconsin by 9.5.

The Pick:As any good football coach will tell you- it’s difficult to beat a good team twice in the same season. It is partly the revenge factor, but it’s also that the winning team thinks it did everything right and does not learn from the loss the way the losing team does.

The game is also on neutral field and not in East Lansing. Wisconsin has been lights out at home and lost a couple on the road. Michigan State has held serve at home and lost 2 on the road. Which team will play better away from home?

Russell Wilson plays better and Kirk Cousins plays worse, I think.

Wisconsin 38 Michigan State 28.

Quick Slants
Waiting for a Bowl-
Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue.

Looking for a coach- Illinois.

Dreaming of a White Christmas- Minnesota and Indiana.

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