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Thursday, October 11, 2007

10/11/07 - Saturday Preview

Illinois at Iowa 12:00 BTN
Line: Illinois -3.5
After home wins over Penn State and Wisconsin, Illinois has officially joined the scene as a Big Ten contender. Meanwhile, Iowa has been falling down the Big Ten ladder just as fast as the Illini have been climbing. The Hawkeys have lost eight straight conference games and the schedule does not get any easier any time soon. However, Illinois cannot find themselves looking ahead to next week's game with Michigan. This has the makings of a classic "sandwich" game for the Illini, but lucky for them Iowa is very, very bad. Illinois RB Rashard Mendenhall has emerged as one of the best backs in the conference, if not the nation this year. The Iowa defensive front is probably the best unit of the team, but with the Hawkeye offense being so inept, most teams have been able to wear down the defense and really rack up the yards in the 2nd half. Look for much of the same if the Illini stay disciplined and continue to pound away on the ground. Illinois needs to continue using the formula that has worked so well this year, running the football and strong defense. The Illini D should dominate against Iowa, and remember, Ron Zook puts the "Noise" in Illinois.
BTC Prediction: Illinois 24 Iowa 13

Purdue at Michigan 12:00 BTN
Line: Michigan -5.5
Bad news Michigan fans. Another spread offense is coming to town this Saturday! The Wolverines have bounced back from their 0-2 start to win four straight games, but they have been far from impressive. After a 5-0 start, Purdue was exposed by a great Buckeye defense last Saturday night. For the first time all year, the Boilermaker offense was stopped cold. This week should go a long way to helping decide if OSU's defense is really that good, or if Purdue's offense was helped by a weak early season schedule. Both are probably true, but the Boiler passing game should be able to get back on track this week at Michigan. With remaining games at Illinois and Wisconsin, and of course the showdown with Ohio State, this is a must-win for the Wolverines if they want to compete for the conference crown.
BTC Prediction: Purdue 31 Michigan 28

Minnesota at Northwestern 12:00 BTN
Line: Northwestern -7
Thanks to last week's overtime victory at Michigan State, the Northwestern faithful (all 15 of them!) are starting to dream about a bowl bid. With Minnesota this week, Eastern Michigan next Saturday, and another winnable home game against Iowa down the road, six wins are certainly a possibility for the Wildcats. NU QB C.J. Bacher has to be licking his chops at the opportunity to face Minnesota's pass defense that ranks dead last in all of Division 1. Bacher lit up the Spartans last week for 520 yards, and expect more the same against the Gophers. Minnesota's offense will find themselves in another shootout this week, and QB Adam Weber is going to need to play a near perfect game to come away with the victory.
BTC Prediction: Northwestern 38 Minnesota 28

Kent State at Ohio State 12:00 BTN
Line: Ohio State -30.5
Don't you just love these non-conference games placed right in the middle of conference play? Are these midseason tune-ups against MAC schools really better for the Big Ten then just giving each team an off week like the good ol' days? Here's how it should be. Push the Big Ten schedule back one week so that "rivalry weekend" is on November 24th instead of the 17th. That means four non-conference games at the front of each school's schedule and an idle week for each team during conference play. That will help solve two problems. 1. Does anybody really get excited about facing a Kent State, Eastern Michigan, or Ball State in October or November? 2. This would lessen the time off between the end of the season and the bowl games. Anyways, Ohio State will dominate the Golden Flashes as they prepare for the toughest part of their schedule with remaining games against Michigan State, at Penn State, Wisconsin, Illinois and at Michigan. If the Buckeyes can go undefeated through that Big Ten gauntlet, they will deserve to play for another BCS Championship.
BTC Prediction: Ohio State 34 Kent State 6

Wisconsin at Penn State 3:30 ABC
Line: Penn State -6.5
Despite an impressive victory over Iowa, the news hasn't been all too good in Happy Valley this week. RB Austin Scott has been dismissed from the team for violating the "team rule" of committing sexual assault, allegedly. Then there was the news of a brawl at the HUB on campus which involved some members of the team over the weekend. And probably the most bizarre news was that of JoePa pulling over and raging at a younger couple on the side of a road. Saturday could not come sooner for Nittany Lion fans who just want to see some good football again. As for the game with Wisconsin, it should be tough defensive battle with both teams trying to establish their running games. With Scott out for PSU, the Nittany Lions will again turn to the duo of Rodney Kinlaw and freshman Evan Royster. Of course the Badgers have one of the best backs in the conference with P.J. Hill, but he is nursing a groin injury. Expect the Penn State linebackers to key on Hill and force Wisconsin to beat them through the air. This game could come down to quarterback play, and Wisconsin's QB Tyler Donovan has the edge over PSU's Anthony Morelli.
BTC Prediction: Wisconsin 21 Penn State 17

Indiana at Michigan State 7:00 BTN
Line: Michigan State -5
The Spartans certainly had their troubles on defense last week against Northwestern, and they could be in trouble again versus the Hoosiers. If Michigan State plans on going bowling this year, Indiana is a team they must beat at home. On the other hand, the Hoosiers are just one win away from becoming bowl eligible and have to like the way Wisconsin and Northwestern piled it on against MSU's defense. QB Kellen Lewis, who can beat you with with his arm and his legs, gives any defense matchup troubles. Indiana WR James Hardy is a big target and should have a huge day against a smaller Spartan secondary. The question will be if State's offense, or should we say Javon Ringer, can keep up. If the Spartans running game can produce against a pretty good Indiana defensive front, then Michigan State will win.
BTC Prediction: Michigan State 31 Indiana 28