In between everything, each team has had it's up and downs. Nebraska got embarrassed by Wisconsin, who lost to Michigan State on a hail mary, who lost to Nebraska for their only B1G loss. Michigan lost to Iowa after a goal line stand, who outlasted Northwestern in a shootout, who upset Nebraska in Husker land, who beat Penn State in Happy Valley. Makes sense, right?
And each time it appears a team is about to take hold of the B1G and run away, asserting itself as the elite team, they fall back to Earth. Wisconsin was undefeated and looked like a national title contender. Then two hail mary's in back-to-back games ruined their hopes of a BCS title. Then Penn State arose and looked like the team to beat until the whole scandal broke and they suffered a loss to Nebraska. Now Michigan State appears to be that team ready to take ahold of the conference, but having their spot in the title game secure, they have the ultimate trap game against a Northwestern team that's already pulled off an upset.
And I haven't even talked about the PSU scandal (in this blog, at least), which will unfortunately overshadow everything that happened this year on the field. And that's quite a shame because, while there hasn't been an elite team, the B1G might have been the most competitive conference this year. Just last week, I wrote of six teams who were still in contention for a spot in the game at Lucas Oil. There's a very good possibility that each team, after this week, will have suffered two conference losses, showing just how competitive the conference is. The two worst teams, IU and Minnesota, had Ohio State and Michigan State on the ropes in recent games.
And all this has happened prior to what will likely be the conference's most exciting week. IU-Purdue, Iowa-Nebraska, and OSU-Michigan highlight the rivalry games plus Wisconsin and Penn State's showdown.
You excited as I am? Last week, thanks to the NB3 and my lack of faith in Michigan, I went 6-3, bringing my record to 86-29 on the year. I need to start betting or something.
Michigan State @ Northwestern - Michigan State, thanks to the loss by Nebraska at the hands of Michigan, has secured it's spot in the title game. Even if they lose this week, the worst that could happen would be Michigan winning and them finishing in a tie. In that case, Michigan State holds the tiebreaker. While this game doesn't matter for the conference, it's obviously not a game that Michigan State will take lightly. The game still has BCS implications and I expect MSU to come out still motivated.
As for Northwestern, the only thing they can really gain from this game is a better bowl game. They are already bowl eligible and with the 429 bow games each year, they're basically guaranteed a game. That being said, a win over Michigan State to end the seasons would certainly be enticing to bowl presidents. With the offense they have, this team could most definitely pull off the upset.
However, Michigan State has far more talent on defense and I don't think they'll have much problem this game. They'll win 38-24.
Illinois @ Minnesota - This game has even less meaning than the meaningless MSU-NU game. Illinois is bowl bound (thanks to an amazingly soft schedule) and a win over Minnesota won't improve anything. This game is nothing more than a tune-up for them as they get ready for their trip to a hopefully warmer place this winter.
As for Minnesota, they have improved more and more each week, which is the goal for a team like this. Kill did suffer another seizure this week, but he'll be on the sidelines for the team. Illinois hasn't played well at all to end the year, losing their last five. Given Minnesota's record, they could certainly overlook them, making this game a possible upset special.
And I do think Minnesota pulls off the upset. They've been close a lot this year and this is their bowl game. Minnesota wins 28-24.
Iowa @ Nebraska - I'll admit, I didn't even know this was a rivalry game. But thanks to Wikipedia, I'm now aware this is the Heroes Game. The winner of this game moves up the 3rd in the division and, if Michigan loses to OSU, Iowa could move all the way up to second. As for Iowa, they seem to be the most on again, off again team in the inconsistent B1G. They've alternated the last five games with wins and losses and could certainly continue the trend given that they won last week. Marvin McNutt is having an under-the-radar season as he's 2nd in receptions, 1st in yards, and 1st in TDs. He and Coker offer some great balance for this team.
For Nebraska, they are equally inconsistent. They've also alternated wins and losses in their last 4 games and could also continue the trend after last week's loss. Taylor Martinez didn't necessarily live up to expectations set upon him as he has only 2627 yards and 20 total TDs to 7 INTs. That averages out to 240 total yards per game, which is good for most, but I expected more from Martinez. But he's only a sophomore and could have a big season next year.
As for this year, I think the trend continues for both teams. Nebraska wins in a shootout, 45-42.
Indiana @ Purdue - Yeah, I put this game way up here, but only because of the significance of the rivalry. The Old Oaken Bucket resides in Bloomington for the time being and that game was the last real highlight IU had. They won a couple meaningless games in non-confernce play, have been embarrassed for most the season in conference play, but have one last shot at getting a big win. Tre Roberson has improved each week and looks more and more like the future.
As for Purdue, they have a LOT riding on this game. They are one win away from being bowl eligible and travel to face the worst B1G team. However, it just happens to be their biggest rival. They have been rather disappointing this year, but have a shot at still ending the season on a high note with the rivalry win. Neither IU or Purdue's offense is particularly impressive, ranked 8th and 9th respectively. The defenses are about as bad, Purdue at 9th and IU at 12th.
In the end, this game will be close and I'll take the homer pick. IU will keep the Oaken bucket for another year, 27-24 in another overtime win.
Ohio State @ Michigan - After years and years of suffering, Michigan is finally going to get a chance to tee off on the Buckeyes. They've lost 9 of the last 10 meetings, but things are set to change this year. Michigan finally has a defense that can stop people to go with the 3rd best offense in the conference. Denard Robinson is 5th in rushing and 5th in passing yards/game.
As for Ohio State, they are set up for failure. Miller provides them some spark, but he's still a freshman and has many freshman moments. Against a team like Michigan, on the road, in such a big game, it's not wrong for me to assume that he'll likely have a rough game. This game is bigger than the players themselves and can certainly overwhelm people.
Everything in this game is set up for OSU to get hammered by Michigan, and I think it'll happen. This could turn into a blowout and get ugly. Michigan wins this 42-17.
Game of the Week, and possibly season
Penn State @ Wisconsin - Just over a month ago, Wisconsin was riding as high as any B1G team did this season. They had just handled Nebraska, whooped up on IU, and looked unstoppable. We all know what happened in East Lansing followed by a repeat in Columbus. I think it's safe to say that they are the best two-loss team in the nation and a team that still is very dangerous. Russell Wilson has lost some steam, although that's to be expected following his red-hot start, but he still 3rd in passing per game and 1st in efficiency. He and Ball are probably the best 1-2 punch in the conference quite possibly the league. The offense certainly isn't where the problems lie with this team. The problems come from the other side of the ball, where they aren't quite as good as their offense. Whenever the defense plays up to par, this team is certainly one of the best in all of college football.
Penn State has had as up-and-down a season as possible. The started slow, established themselves and found their identity, then all hell broke loose. It's certainly not anything to do with these football players and they were unfortunately caught up in the mess. They looked like they might succumb to the pressure against Nebraska, but they had a huge bounce back win last week in Columbus. We all know how anemic their offense is and that it's the defense that's going to keep them in games. It certainly creates a very interesting matchup, the best defense verse the best offense. It's fitting that the two teams who both tried running away with the division will get a chance to play for a spot in the title game. This is as close as the B1G will come to the SEC's matchup of the millennium. This is the B1G's LSU-Alabama, but obviously on a much smaller scale.
I expect this game to be a showdown and one that I'm incredibly anxious to see the Wisconsin offense verse the Penn State defense. In the end, this will come down to Penn State's offense and Wisconsin's defense. I'm picking Wisconsin to win this game (much to the chagrin of Grue) by the final of 21-10.
Next Best 3
1. Arkansas @ LSU - As an avid BCS-hater, I really, really hope LSU loses this game and creates massive amounts of chaos. UH talks about the SEC more in his blog, so I'll just stick to the prediction and say, against my hopes, LSU wins 28-17.
2. Notre Dame @ Stanford - After Notre Dame's slow start, they've flown back under the radar and 8 of their last 9. They are ranked again and have a chance at a huge statement win under Kelly. However, Stanford and Luck are too good. 27-21, Stanford.
3. Alabama @ Auburn - This is an underrated game as it could end the talks of a rematch. Again, look at UH's blog for more in-detail talks. I'll go big on this one and predict an upset by Auburn, 21-13.