This has been a terrific week on the site -- full of thoughtful fan participation and insight. We encourage newcomers and veterans alike to join college football's smartest picks contest: The Obligatory Predictions Competition. First thing's first:
FILLER (a.k.a. Nittany Lion - this come-from-behind cat has nine lives)
|FRANZ (a.k.a. Clemson -- trying hooks and ladders while his ego shatters)
|BAMA HAWKEYE (a.k.a. Arkansas - almost doesn't count)||8|
|ESTRADA (a.k.a. Oregon State - second best team in the Pac 10?)
|PATERNOSGRANDDAUGHTER (a.k.a. Wisconsin - what a difference one month makes)
Like West Virginia Filler simply refused to play down. He didn't exactly put on 31 unanswered, but he did manage to knot things up 4-4.
Crystal Ball Call (pick of the week): Oklahoma by 14 (FILLER). Plain, simple, effective. A regular Bob Stoops.
Hindsight is 20/20: Wisconsin by 10 (FRANZ). When I picked it, I didn't factor in that the Badgers would just plain quit. Now I'm willing to treat them like lepers.
Bring it on Week 9:
1. No. 22 NORTHWESTERN at INDIANA 12:00 p.m. EST, Big Ten Network
The "Ofer Watch" game. The Wildcats, logically, should win this game. Indian's weak offensive line has failed to protect Ben Chappell and open holes for the run game…and their defense has earned the right to be called "the worst in the Big 10." It makes you wonder what happened to Greg Middleton, that sack master and perennial preseason All Big 10 lineman…
FRANZ predicts NORTHWESTERN by 10
You've got to respect Pat Fitzgerald and his ranked Wildcats. This week should give Northwestern an easy opportunity to skip to 7-1 if that is they aren't caught looking ahead to No. 24 Minnesota and No. 9 Ohio State. If the purple stays focused Bloomington will be hemorrhaging fans at the half.
2. No. 24 MINNESOTA at PURDUE 12:00 p.m. EST, ESPN Classic
FILLER predicts MINNESOTA by 13
The "We're Ranked!" game. As Mini enters the national consciousness through its #24 ranking, I refuse to be sold by the victory over Illinois. Illinois proved to be more athletic and offensively sound, rolling up 550 yards of total offense on the Gopher defense. But Minnesota showed they could overcome this talent deficit with good coaching and players that fit the offensive system. Decker and Weber are going to have a big game against Purdue, but you better not forget about frosh RB Deleon Eskridge (124 yds v Illinois). Purdue's problems have been well documented, but you have to think they will keep at least one Big 10 game close…The Boilers are struggling with key injuries to their backup QB, starting TE, and Joe Tiller's ego.
FRANZ predicts MINNESOTA by 3
The West Lafayette well is dried up. Although I like Purdue to put some points up against a Minnesota passing defense that ranks last in the Big 10. If Painter can come anywhere close to the 260 yards a game the Golden Gophers are giving up in the air, they'll keep the I-65 crowd in the game and make a Minnesota revival all the more difficult. Still, the Gopher spread (which averages 29.9 ppg) will do just enough to keep Tiller in the tail lights.
3. ILLINOIS at WISCONSIN 12:00 p.m. EST, ESPN 2
The "Not Favored at Camp Randall" game. Playing in front of the raucous jumping fans at home is usually an advantage for Wisky. But the Camp Randall benefit has been minimal with home losses to OSU and PSU and the Badgers have been exposed for its one dimensional offensive system and unimpressive defensive line. Furthermore, Juice Williams loves FieldTurf, the surface that Camp Randall offers; he has piled up monster numbers on his home surface (FieldTurf) and at the Big House (FieldTurf).
FRANZ predicts WISCONSIN by 7
Okay, so they've slipped big time. But they've still got the personnel to play power ball, and I think the Badgers take out a little frustration on the Illini. Illinois is ninth in conference against the rush -- last week's Hawkeye oppressors were a far more respectable third. If Wisconsin can establish a ground presence they might be able to move the ball ex post haste. They'll also need their defense -- ranked fouth in the Big 10 -- to play like it.
4. No. 6 OKLAHOMA STATE at No. 1 TEXAS 3:30 p.m. EST, ABC
FILLER predicts TEXAS by 8
The "Offensive Explosion, Again?" game. The Longhorns are using a little bit of everything to make their #2 nationally ranked offense work. McCoy excels by throwing short passes, slants between the CB and safety, and deep balls to leaping wide receivers. But it doesn't stop there; the run game was the reason they beat Oklahoma. RB Ogbonnaya ran for 127 yards behind great downfield blocking…Here is my question: Playing three consecutive Top 10 teams is going to wear on Texas physically, right? Maybe. The Spread protects the durability of offensive lineman; on many plays, all the big boys have to do is push a defender for 2 seconds until McCoy rapid fires to a WR.
FRANZ predicts TEXAS by 14
Last week in a marinading of Missouri Colt McCoy completed 29 of 32 passes on a string. Here's the interesting thing: I didn't have to look that stat up -- It stands out, just like this Texas team. Defensively, the Longhorns rank second in the Big 12, allowing an average of 323 yards a game. I think that number is inflated from their steamroller showdown with Oklahoma several weeks back. If you watched em' last week in primetime you saw big powerful, tackling taking place in open space. Although they earn a notch on their belt for besting the Tigers in Columbia, Mike Gundy proved his firewater judgement sometimes backfires. Here's some advice Mike, don't go for a 4th and 18 in Austin.
5. No. 7 GEORGIA at No. 13 LSU 4:30 p.m. EST, CBS
FILLER predicts GEORGIA by 10
The "HEY, We're Marquee Teams, Pay Attention" game. Georgia has the better offense, LSU has the home field advantage. Georgia has struggled to put up points in bunches (like everyone expected them to)…LSU's inexperience has counteracted its talent, leading to close wins over mediocre teams. Georgia has the dogs in this game, but don't expect fireworks.
FRANZ predicts GEORGIA by 3
SEC play has been tight this season, with matches often coiling around securing good field position late in the fourth quarter. As Graham expresses this should be a nothin' fancy, low scorin', brawl in the Valley. As Matthew Stafford has expressed, with Moreno in the backfield, and the SEC's leading receiver A.J. Green in the wide, the Bulldogs are on the verge of a breakout performance. Still, it'll be all they can do to overcome the richter scale crowd and Keiland Williams.
6. MICHIGAN STATE at MICHIGAN 3:30 p.m. EST, ABC
FILLER predicts MICHIGAN STATE by 17
The "Little Brother is Pissed" game. I predicted that MSU had its best chance in years to defeat or even dominate Michigan. I just didn't know how right I was. Statistics dictate this game being over by halftime, but the whole story is more interesting. The Spartans will have Hoyer back for this week, but it will be telling to see if the Laurinitis hit affected his psyche at all. Meanwhile, the Wolverines showed ability to run the ball in the first half against Penn State, something they haven't done consistently all year.
FRANZ predicts MICHIGAN STATE by 7
Yes, Rich and his great experiment are getting better. Michigan's offense showed flashes of potential in taking a 10-0 lead in Happy Valley against the nation's No. 3 team. But they're not ready to put on a four-quarter effort. The Spartans, meanwhile, have an opportunity to re-align, re-focus, and re-cast their ambitions in the wake of being ashamed by Ohio State in front of the home crowd. A good place to start is in the turnover department. Another interesting interchange: who starts for the Spartans at quarterback?
7. No. 3 PENN STATE at No. 9 OHIO STATE 8:00 p.m. EST, ABC
FILLER predicts PENN STATE by 10
The "It's Monday and I'm Excited For This" game. Penn State's offensive line has been called the Big 10's best (calm down Iowa) and the statistics support this. The O Line has helped lead PSU to a Big 10 leading 234 ypg and has allowed only 6 sacks all year. Gerald Cadogan (compared to Levi Brown by BSD), A.Q. Shipley, and Stefen Wisniewski have anchored the line. The Buckeye's strength, in a nice correlation, is its defense's ability to stop the run and put a hat on the ball carrier. So although I am guessing PSU won't run for 334 yards like they did against Coastal Carolina, I will be excited to see the interplay between the OSU "bend but don't break" pass defense against the 10-15 yard hitches and wheel routes that Daryll Clark loves so much.
FRANZ predicts PENN STATE by 17
I've said it before and I'll say it again: dissection of the Spartans aside these Buckeyes still lack: 1. Sound decision making -- inexperienced quarterback Terrelle Pryor plays it safe and protects the ball, but gives up more sacks than a supermarket, 2. A viable passing game, and 3. A secondary capable of suffocating the short slants. This troubling triage will allow a balanced Nittany Lion team to take home their first win in Columbus since joining the Big 10. That is, providing they play as they're capable.