It’s hard to believe we are already entering the tenth week of the season. Conference play is starting to get down to some pivotal games, as some teams are now emerging from the pack. As we saw last week; injuries, depth, fatigue, and weather are starting to play more of a factor now than early in the season.
These games really stuck out to me when the lines opened up last night. I won’t necessarily make a play on all of these games, but I will be considering them throughout the week and taking a closer look down the line.
Penn State (-4)
This will probably be a popular public play, but I’m leaning heavy on the Nittany Lions at Purdue on Saturday. Purdue got eaten alive by Minnesota’s freshman QB last weekend. PSU’s Matt McGloin should have similar success against the Boilermakers this week. Purdue can’t seem to get anything going on offense, as they continue to play musical chairs with their QB’s TerBush and Marve. The only concern I have is this is kind of a sleepy, sandwich game for Penn State. They had a huge game vs Ohio State last weekend, and they will travel to Nebraska next week. PSU has been pretty steady against inferior competition this season, but hopefully they don’t sleepwalk through this one. Both teams are in a bounce-back spot, and I see Penn State coming out on top as they have an advantage on both sides of the ball and in the coaching department.
I had this game circled at the beginning of the season, and based off of the recent performances of Nebraska and Michigan State, I’m not backing off my lean of the Huskers in this one. Michigan State is one of the few teams in the Big Ten that Nebraska’s defense should be able to contain for four quarters. The I-formation, power running game of the Spartans will be very similar to the Wisconsin rushing attack that Nebraska limited to 1.4 yards per carry earlier in the year. Look for Nebraska to load up against the run, and play their patented matchup-zone (that absolutely smothered Kirk Cousins and MSU last season) in passing situations. In order for both offenses to sustain drives, they will probably need to go to the air, and I give a slight edge to the Nebraska offense in that department. However, Martinez has had some struggles on the road. He will definitely need to take care of the ball against that tough Michigan State pass rush. Look for offensive coordinator Tim Beck to call some quick, intermediate throws and screens early in the game to help Martinez establish some confidence and rhythm.
Even though the revenge factor plays in for Michigan State, Nebraska should be chomping at the bit also, as they now control their own destiny in the Big Ten legends division.
This is a classic case of one team being overvalued, and another not getting enough respect. Ever since the 2nd quarter of the Alabama game in week 5, Mississippi has looked like a team ready to make noise in the SEC. They outscored Alabama 7-6 in the second half, they almost beat Texas A&M, then they picked up a pair of quality conference wins vs Auburn and at Arkansas last week. They have been pretty consistent over that time span, while Georgia has been far from consistent in the past several weeks. Don’t get me wrong, I was very impressed with Georgia’s huge win over Florida last weekend. Also, the Dawgs usually play extremely well at home between the hedges. However, I think Georgia is a little bit overrated and in a potential letdown spot.
Iowa’s defense has struggled against teams that can pass the ball. Radcliff of Central Michigan went 26/35 283 yards 2 TD 0 INT, and Iowa lost that game. Matt McGloin of PSU went 26/38 289 yards 2 TD 0 INT in a 38-14 rout in Iowa City. Indiana’s pass offense ranks #30 in the nation. Regardless of who is QB, Coffman or the surprising freshman Sudfield, they should find holes in that Iowa secondary.
At first glance, it appears that Indiana struggles at defending the run, as they rank #114 in rushing yards per game allowed. However, majority of those yards were given up to teams like Northwestern, Ohio State, and Navy. All of these teams run the ball much differently than Iowa. Northwestern and Ohio State have mobile QB’s that run the zone-read option. Navy runs the ball 75% of the time with their triple option attack. Iowa has a downhill, I-formation running game that is similar to Michigan State. Indiana held MSU and their stud running back, Bell, to only 2.9 yards per carry. Also, Iowa’s lone bright spot on offense, RB Weisman, is doubtful to play in this game. If Indiana can limit the Hawkeyes on the ground, I’m not sure Vandenberg can keep Iowa in it with his arm.
All of a sudden, Indiana has a lot to play for in the Big Ten Leaders division. After Wisconsin’s loss last week, Indiana is now in the mix to challenge the Badgers for a spot in the Big Ten title game. They should be fired up and ready to go in this game. Meanwhile, Iowa is sliding out of contention in their division. They are banged-up and playing back to back road games, and they struggle away from home as is.