Picks, Predictions and Prognosis for Every Week 5 Big Ten Football Game
If your favorite Big Ten team is playing this Saturday, you are in the minority.
That's right, just four games dot the Big Ten landscape this week and two of them are hugely important contests that could have major implications on the Leaders and Legends division races.
Of course, the biggest matchup of the weekend pits No. 4 Ohio State against No. 23 Wisconsin in what some are dubbing the de facto Leaders division title game.
It will get prime-time billing, but it isn't the most important game of the weekend—you'll have to go inside to find out which game holds that billing.
Schools like Michigan, Northwestern and Michigan State all get much-needed breaks to regroup and get ready for the gauntlet of Big Ten play.
However, before we delve into this week's action last week was kind to my overall thoughts, but horrible against the spread…In fact, it was downright brutal in that area.
So, here is where I stand heading into Week 5 of the season.
Last Week: 8-2 (4-6 ATS)
2013 Picks: 37-9 (25-21 ATS)
*All odds are courtesy VegasInsider.com.
Miami (OH) at Illinois (-24.5)
Saturday, Sept. 28 at noon ET (BTN)
If this game isn't a lesson in what hiring the right coaches can do for you I don't know what is.
On the one hand, you are seeing the fruits of hiring the right offensive coordinator working for Tim Beckman and the Illini. And on the other hand, you've got a once-proud Miami (OH) program trying to figure out what happened in the past few years.
What happened to the RedHawks, the "Cradle of Coaches," is a bad hire. Instead of hiring the next Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, Randy Walker or even Bill Mallory the RedHawks have been stuck with…Don Treadwell.
It hasn't gone well, and the RedHawks are now one of the worst MAC teams, instead of on top of the conference where they've usually been.
Just how bad is it? The RedHawks rank 121st in passing and 120th in rushing offense nationally.
Illinois might have been there a season ago themselves, but Bill Cubit has changed a lot and Nathan Scheelhaase has become the danger most saw he would be early in his career.
He has 884 yards passing with seven touchdowns, while completing 63.4 percent of his passes—that wasn't happening a season ago, to say the least. That's not good news for a RedHawks defense that is giving up over 290 yards a game passing.
This game isn't going to be pretty and I think you see Scheelhaase with a four-touchdown day with three through the air and one on the ground.
Prediction: Illinois 44, Miami (OH) 17
Northern Illinois (-3.5) at Purdue
Saturday, Sept. 28 at noon ET (ESPN2)
Northern Illinois is garnering votes in the latest polls, while Purdue is still trying to figure out what the heck just ran them over last weekend at Camp Randall.
Already owning a victory on the road over a Big Ten opponent, it's highly doubtful that the Huskies are going to be scared by a trip to Ross-Ade Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
For me, this is a stone-cold lock to take Northern Illinois and the points.
How this team is just a three-point favorite is beyond me.
Purdue can't stop the run, giving up 184.8 yards a game (11th in the Big Ten), and are going up against a team that is averaging 295.3 yards a game and is 11th nationally in rushing.
NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch has already accounted for over 1,000 yards of total offense and has nine total touchdowns to his name this season. Add the bad stats of Purdue's rush defense to the awesomeness of Lynch and this has the makings of a bad matchup for the Boilermakers.
Look for Lynch's season totals to be about 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns when this game is done.
For those of you not paying attention, that means I'm calling for a 400-yard, five-TD game from Lynch as they make a Top 25-like statement over the Boilermakers.
Prediction: Northern Illinois 40, Purdue 27
Iowa (-1) at Minnesota
Saturday, Sept. 28 at 3:30 p.m. ET (ABC)
Remember when I said there was a game more important than Wisconsin at Ohio State this week? Well, welcome to said game.
This season not only is the giant pig, a.k.a Floyd of Rosedale, on the line, but so to are one teams' hopes of proving the critics wrong and becoming contenders in what appears to be a wide open Legends division in the Big Ten.
Minnesota is undefeated and coming off an impressive pounding of San Jose State—one in which they racked up over 350 yards on the ground as a team. That, more than any other performance to date, showed me why this team is just like its coach—and that means they are physical, unrelenting and nasty up front.
They also seemed to click more with freshman quarterback Mitch Leidner making his first career start. He'll likely get the second start this weekend against heated rival Iowa, too.
The Gophers are 4-0, but the folks coming in to TCF Bank Stadium aren't slouches either, as Iowa is just a bad interception in the opening game away from being undefeated themselves.
Jake Rudock has given the Hawkeyes some life on offense and the defense has improved week by week too.
Both teams' rushing attacks are stellar and rank inside the top 25 nationally (Minnesota 13th, Iowa 24th), so the key will be which defense can stop the other offense from pounding them into submission.
Iowa may own Floyd right now, but come Saturday expect that baby to stay in Minneapolis thanks to a superior offensive line and a defense that is vastly underrated at this point in the season. However, expect this game to be super close.
Prediction: Minnesota 27, Iowa 23
Wisconsin at Ohio State (-7)
Saturday, Sept. 28 at 8 p.m. ET (ABC)
This is the nightcap to what should be a very interesting day, not only in Big Ten country, but around the college football landscape—and that's the way this rivalry game should be showcased, if you ask me.
Whether it was David Gilreath returning the opening kick, or Braxton Miller letting you know he was for real as a freshman with a game-winning Hail Mary or even a game-saving punch-out at the goal line—this game has seen it all over the past few years.
So, can we expect more of the same this time around? In my mind, there's no doubt.
Both teams want to run the ball all over you, just in different fashions, and both defenses want to be aggressive and make you get out of your gameplan.
For me, this game feels like two teams looking into funhouse mirrors at each other.
Wisconsin comes in with not only the nation's leading rusher (Melvin Gordon), but also the nation's leading active career rusher (James White) as well. If that doesn't work they've got a freshman who's rushed for over 300 yards waiting in the wings.
Ohio State counters with their own 1-2-3 punch in the backfield with a completely returned Carlos Hyde (who killed the Badgers last season), Jordan Hall and their own impressive freshman in Dontre Wilson (121 yards on 13 carries).
Perhaps the right label for this matchup isn't rivalry, but rather: The World's Largest Game of Chicken.
That's because it may be which defense blinks first and gives up the big play that makes all the difference.
As much as I've been impressed by the Wisconsin defense, Ohio State at home is just a bit much for me. However, expect Wisconsin to cover in this one.
Prediction: Ohio State 28, Wisconsin 24