First, the obligatory update of last week's picks. I came in at 3-2 both straight up and against the spread, meaning that my Big Ten spread record is finally at .500. I feel like that last piece of information is only noteworthy if you've been using these picks this season; I pray that isn't the case. This week's games include two noonzers (noon snoozers) in Northwestern @ Indiana and Purdue @ Illinois, an NC-17 bloodbath in Ohio State @ Minnesota, a Michigan @ Penn State match-up that will send the loser into a tailspin, and the BIGGEST GAME EVER FOR SERIOUS THIS TIME with MSU @ Iowa.
NORTHWESTERN at INDIANA (+3) - LOCK OF THE WEEK
Even though this game is in Bloomington, Indiana's showed so far that its lauded passing attack can only score against teams that rhyme with "ichigan". However, the only other Big Ten teams the Hoosiers have played so far have been Ohio State and Illinois, so maybe the previous statement was a bit harsh. Indiana should find Northwestern's defense to be a bit more passive than it's seen recently. However, Northwestern has an offense too, and if the running game is as improved as I saw last week (now more than Dan Persa!), this game won't be close.
Straight Up and Spread Picks: Northwestern
PURDUE at ILLINOIS (-17)
In Illinois's favor: An aggressive defense; a steadily-improving quarterback in Nathan Scheelhaase; a top Big Ten running back in Mikel Leshoure; a special teams unit that can be described as "not bad", which immediately qualifies it as one of the best in the conference, Purdue may be without starting quarterback Rob Henry (game time decision due to laceration on throwing hand).
In Purdue's favor: Ron Zook will make one or two decisions in this game that will cause Illini fans to attempt to hang him from a flagpole by his underwear.
Decision: Illinois wins, but do you trust Ron Zook to cover a 17-point spread even with a good Illini squad?
Straight Up Pick: Illinois Spread Pick: Purdue
OHIO STATE at MINNESOTA (+25.5)
Has Ohio State used up all its rage from using Purdue's bones to bake its bread last week? The bigger question is "does it matter?" Minnesota lost last week to a Penn State team that had to use its back-up quarterback in its typically anemic offense.
Half an hour later after writing the previous paragraph, I've been attempting to come up with ways Minnesota can win this game. The best I could come up with was a Tyrannosaurus riding a meteor Dr. Strangelove style into the Ohio State team bus. Thus:
Straight Up and Spread Picks: Ohio State
MICHIGAN at PENN STATE (+3) - MISS OF THE WEEK
Robert Bolden passed a concussion test yesterday after failing on Saturday, but he's still doubtful for Saturday's game. Denard Robinson appears to be healthy after the bye, but will he last four quarters? The atmosphere is going to be the typical "Happy Valley at Night while DEAR LORD DID THAT STUDENT JUST DOWN THAT RUBBING ALCOHOL IN ONE" atmosphere. The crowd will keep the Nittany Lions competitive, but the Wolverine offense, with or without Denard, will be too much for Penn State to handle.
Straight up and Spread Picks: Michigan
MICHIGAN STATE at IOWA (-6.5)
The Big Ten game of the week, and possibly the year. No prediction in this space since I'm saving it for the game preview tomorrow, so I'll leave you with this thought that's been dominating my mind this week -- I can't possibly feel worse after this game than I did after the Iowa game last year, right? RIGHT?
Straight Up and Spread Picks: TO BE CONTINUED...
YEAR TO DATE:
STRAIGHT UP PICKS: 52-9; 14-6 Big Ten
SPREAD PICKS: 23-26-1; 10-10 Big Ten
LOCK OF THE WEEK: 8-0 straight up, 4-4 spread
MISS OF THE WEEK: 3-5 straight up, 2-6 spread