The gang’s all here this week; all twelve B1G teams are on the docket. We’ve got an inter-state rivalry; a battle of the NU’s (which…STOP); more ranked teams than ever and yet another photo of Josh Freeman and a baby tiger. I love the internet. But there’s one game that stands out over the rest, ed and it’s our B1G Legends game of the week.
No. 21 Michigan at No. 22 Michigan State, 2:30 pm on ABC (regional coverage)
Pretty good year for the state of Michigan in terms of sports. The Tigers were this close to the World Series. The Lions are good (and as a Bears fan this makes me sad). And the state’s marquee football programs are back in the rankings at the perfect time of year.
The stats: Let me rattle off a few numbers to set the stage for this one. Michigan State’s defense is stupid good; they rank in the top five nationally in rushing, passing, total, scoring and pass efficiency – basically, in all the areas that matter. They’re first in the conference in pass defense allowing 160.6 per game; second place Iowa is 30 yards behind them. This dangerously good yet balanced defense is going up against an Wolverine offense that has a few different ways to put points on the board.
Players to watch: For better or worse, Devin Gardner is the heart of Michigan’s offense. When he soars, the team wins. He’s ranked 15th nationally in total offense rushing for 520 yards and nine touchdowns and throwing for close to 1800 yards and 13 scores. On his best game days, just the threat of him passing or running opens up opportunities for receivers Jeremy Gallon and Devin Funchess.
This game will largely come down to two things: Michigan’s explosive offense versus Michigan State’s stingy defense, and State’s meager offense (and their ability to get points on the board) against the less-than-stellar Wolverine defense.
My take: If Gardner doesn’t get himself into turnover trouble, the offense finds a way to score three touchdowns. So unless Michigan State’s defense can put up 22 points (which…maybe?), then I’m going with the Wolverines.
Northwestern at Nebraska, 2:30 pm on Big Ten Network
There’s this really cool urban legend about a time when Northwestern football was so good that College Gameday actually came to Evanston with Lake Michigan in the backdrop and ESPN personalities Brent Musburger, Michael Wilbon and Mike Greenberg giving their picks. On national television. And then there’s that other, lesser known urban legend about Nebraska beating teams with quarterbacks nobody had ever heard of.
Why you should care: Well, the Wildcats are defeated in Big Ten action (0-4) and Nebraska just lost to Minnesota. Quarterback Taylor Martinez is out again, but this time with a hip injury so we get to experience redshirt freshman Tommy Armstrong under snap. Neither one of these teams are ranked. And I doubt many of you will even get to see this game because it’s on the Big Ten Network. The only network I – along with the rest of America – have a harder time finding is OWN.
But, hey, there are some bright spots. Like Husker running back Ameer Abdullah. He’s averaging over 7 yards per carry and 136 per game. And he’s only 19 away from 1,000. Then there’s this thing Bleacher Report is trying to do about “whoever wins this game gets to be the real NU for the year.” So, there’s that. If they make some stupid trophy for this “battle of the NU’s” with physics books growing out of corn, I’d risk jail time to steal and destroy it.
My take: I picked Nebraska last week in an impassioned monologue that included Josh Freeman, a baby tiger and herpes. And they let me down. So you know what? I’m going for the upset. Sure, Kain Colter is injured and may not play. And head coach Pat Fitzgerald’s two-quarterback scheme is imploding. But you know what? Why not. YOLO. Northwestern by two. Book it.
Around the division
No. 24 Wisconsin at Iowa, 11:00 am on ABC (regional coverage)
There will be touchdowns and field goals. I’m sure at some point there will be a coach screaming at a referee. Cheerleaders will spell out words with their arms. The band will play stuff. And at the end of the game, one of the teams will have scored more points than the other. I just don’t know and don’t care who. Refer to Kristin’s preview for this one.
Minnesota at Indiana, 2:30 on Big Ten Network
This could actually be a great game. Minnesota has been beating teams that are pretty good. And after Indiana went pound-for-pound with Michigan in what was the coolest, most unexpected game ever, the Hoosiers have got my respect.