It’s a good thing nothing of interest happened in the Big Ten this week, isn’t it? I really can’t stand it when off-the-field issues distract from the competition we look forward to all week. Jerry Kill is fine and whether he’s fit to coach is really not for us to decide. Likewise, there’s no reason to talk about what Bo Pelini said a couple years ago in the heat of the moment when we have games to watch, great games like…
So anyway, about Pelini…
Here’s your marquee Big Ten matchup of the week, unless you think Michigan State’s performance against Youngstown State totally shows how they’ve turned the corner on offense. Missouri is, of course, an SEC team, though it seems like there have been some adjustment problems for the Tigers. Mizzou’s offense is for real, though. The Tigers bring a run-heavy attack with field-stretching receivers and a stout defense.
At least I think it’s stout. It’s hard to tell when they’ve only played Murray State and Toledo this year. Indiana we know a bit more about and, while I don’t think the Hoosiers have quite solved their defensive struggles, there’s no question they can hang with anybody in a point-scoring contest. That’s what this game figures to be. I wish I thought IU had enough depth to take a game like this, but I don’t.
Pick: Missouri 48, Indiana 34
Western Michigan at Iowa
Fun fact: Western Michigan is 2-0 against Iowa all time.
Less fun fact: Those two Western Michigan teams were a lot better than this one is.
WMU is soft on defense and has struggled mightily on offense. For all of Iowa’s flaws, the Hawkeyes are not a team against whom bad offenses suddenly start succeeding. Iowa is terribly vulnerable to mid-range and deep passes but Western Michigan isn’t set up to take advantage of that. Worse than that, WMU is allowing almost 250 yards rushing per game, good enough to rank as the FBS’s 116th-best run defense. That’s not going to help them beat Iowa. At all.
Pick: Iowa 34, Western Michigan 13
Michigan at Connecticut
Not only will the Michigan fans be rooting for the Wolverines, so will the UConn fans. All seven of them.
After last week’s “win” over Akron, Michigan needs to send a message here. That message will be “Sorry, UConn, it’s nothing personal.”
Pick: Michigan 55, Connecticut 10
Michigan State at Notre Dame
I can’t lose track of how Sparty struggled to score on two of the worst teams in the FBS, then dropped a bomb on a consensus mid-pack Missouri Valley team, and now we’re supposed to think they’re good all of a sudden? I will grant you Notre Dame’s defense isn’t what it should be but the Irish have played a level of competition far beyond what Michigan State has. I’ve seen this movie before. It ends with Sparty being down 13 points with seven minutes to play, a dreadful interception, and a quarterback controversy. No thanks.
Shilique Calhoun is pretty awesome, though.
Pick: Notre Dame 26, Michigan State 17
San Jose State at Minnesota
I could crack wise about all the dopes out there who think Jerry Kill should step aside because nobody wants their pleasant outing to the football game interrupted by a coach having a seizure. But that would be insensitive. Instead, I’ll just remind you that every college football game features face-painted bros in striped overalls, and I really don’t want to see that.
As for the game, San Jose State’s sole victory is 24-0 over Sacramento State, a team that needed overtime to beat a Division II school.
Pick: Minnesota 31, San Jose State 14
South Dakota State at Nebraska
Everybody in Nebraska is ready to put Bo Pelini’s little moment behind them and let everything be about the football. Nothing will smooth things over quicker than a win, even one over a clearly overmatched opponent. The only possible hitch is that South Dakota State is actually good enough to hang with the Huskers for a while. If Bo is smart — and despite all his other flaws, he is smart — he won’t let the Huskers back off at all in this game.
Pick: Nebraska 63, South Dakota State 24
Maine at Northwestern
The Wildcats have earned this game, but there is great danger in looking past the Black Bears and ahead to both the bye week and the Ohio State game on October 4. It would be hard for NU not to be a bit flat in this game. It won’t matter, but don’t be surprised if it happens.
The pick: Northwestern 31, Maine 7
Florida A&M at Ohio State
OSU athletic director Gene Smith admits he scheduled FAMU just so they would bring their band. The results will be no different than if the band took the football team’s place.
Pick: Ohio State 56, Florida A&M 10
Kent State at Penn State
There’s doomed, and then there’s being a 1-2 football team that only beat Liberty by four points going to play in Happy Valley the week after the Nits lost to Central Florida.
Pick: Penn State 34, Kent State 12
Purdue at Wisconsin
What is this? An actual conference game? In week four?
By the way, there is no truth to the rumor that the top secret punishment for the referees in the Arizona State game is that they’ll be stuck in Corvallis every weekend all season, even when the Beavers aren’t playing there. They were shipped to West Lafayette and will be all playing in Purdue’s defensive backfield.
They’ll never miss a call again.
Pick: Wisconsin 40, Purdue 10
Follow Mark on Twitter: @MarkHasty or email him at pickbigten(at)gmail(dot)com.