College football's smartest picks contest.
It's time to separate the men from the boys. Rivalry Week turns our quasi-rational inquiry into an electric marathon of chance and frustration. But first, the scoreboard:
Week 12 Obligatory Results
|BAMA HAWKEYE (a.k.a. Fielding Yost -- 16-3- 1 against Ohio State in the Greatest Rivalry in All of Sports. 1901-1926.)||16|
|HOOKMANIA (a.k.a. Jim Tressel -- 6-1 against Michigan, 2001-present.)||15|
|FILLER (a.k.a. Herbert O. "Fritz" Crisler -- 7-2-1 against the Buckeyes, 1938-1947)||14|
|ESTRADA (a.k.a. Woody Hayes -- 16-11-1 versus That State Up North, 1951-1978)||12|
FRANZ (a.k.a. Earl Bruce -- 5-4 against the Wolverines, 1979 -1987)
|AZNSENSATION (a.k.a. Lloyd Carr -- 6-7 against the Scarlet. Wishes Jim Tressel had never been born. 1995-2007)||10|
|PATERNOSGRANDDAUGHTER (a.k.a. John Cooper -- 2-10-1 versus the Maize and Blue. 1988-2000)||8|
Week 12 Franz v. Filler winner FILLER
For the first time all season Franz failed to come back, widening Filler's lead to two. Trailing heading into bowl season is something Jon is all too familiar with. Filler 7, Franz 5.
Crystal Ball Call (pick of the week): NORTHWESTERN by 3 (Bama Hawkeye). Uninspiring on its own accord, this success takes on new meaning when we consider how its owner arrived at his conclusion. "I have gotten almost every Michigan game wrong" said Bama, "I’m now Costanza-ing my pick. This is the exact opposite of what I really think will happen."
George would be proud. Northwestern 21, Michigan 14.
Hindsight is 20/20: MICHIGAN by 10 (Filler).
1. MICHIGAN at No. 10 OHIO STATE 12:00 p.m. EST, ABC
I picked OSU in last year's competition, justifying this traitorous move with this explanation: "The odds are with the Bucks and I want to win the Picks Competition, so I will make the easy pick. But if my Wolverines win, screw it, I miss one pick and get to dance on the grave of Woody Hayes." I stand by this mentality - I will be sitting in the South Stands in a Maize and Blue t-shirt, hoping for a semi close game.
FRANZ predicts OHIO STATE by 17
It's true. Graham is joining me in the city of flaming couches for the Game and allowing me to ferry him into the student-dominated Block O wilderness. In July, I wrote that this one had upset written all over it:
TO THE VICTORS BELONG THE SPOILS
Impossible, you say?
It's the fear of every Buckeye. Dubbed by the media as "the greatest college football team of all time," the top-ranked Scarlet came into the Rivalry riding the coattails of a 22-game winning streak, and led by the legendary Woody Hayes. Their adversary was rebuilding, a proud program down on its luck, fronted by a curious new coach: Schembechler.
That, naturally, was before I saw Rodriguez's hideous amateur alchemy. To add insult to injury, umm -- injury to insult, the Wolverines will play without Steven Threet. Don't get me wrong: I'm fully aware that this is a rivalry where records and rankings don't matter. It's just, 1995 seems so long ago. Michigan keeps it close for two and a half quarters, then, goes quietly into the offseason.
2. INDIANA at PURDUE 12:00 p.m. EST, ESPN 2
FILLER predicts PURDUE by 10
Joe Tiller, the man who led Purdue to 8 wins a year over the last 11 years, will be retiring, but probably not on the high note that people expected. His injury riddled 3-8 Boilermakers will take on their fellow last place Hoosiers, who also happen to be struggling with injuries. With all these disappointments and injured players, let’s take a quick look at Indiana’s Marcus Thigpen, a track star who also runs the ball for the Hoosiers. He’s scored on runs of 67, 78, 77, and 57 yards, easily outrunning defenders on these sprints. And if there’s any team he’s going to have success against, it’s the porous rush defense of Purdue.
FRANZ predicts PURDUE by 14
Indiana put on a solid first half showing at Beaver Stadium last week only to fall victim to the same fundamental inconsistencies that have plagued them all season: limited execution and a leaky offensive line that's allowed a worst in the Big Ten 27 sacks this year. Joe Tiller might have imagined himself riding off into the I-65 sunset a la Lloyd Carr, on the heels of an epic January upset. He'll have to settle for the home crowd salute. Thanks for the memories Joe.
3. No. 15 MICHIGAN STATE at No. 8 PENN STATE 3:30 p.m. EST, ABC
FILLER predicts PENN STATE by 10
If this were in East Lansing, I could see the Spartans doing the same thing as Iowa did to the Nittany Lions: slow the game down, hit Clark in the mouth early, and make Penn State sweat it out late in the 4th quarter. Brian Hoyer has not impressed of late though and teams have learned how to stop Javon Ringer (hint: get penetration in the backfield, don’t let that big O Line cave you in). I don’t care if its Michigan Week, this is the Big 10’s game of the week, and I will be excitedly watching from Eddie George’s in Columbus.
FRANZ predicts PENN STATE by 17
Countless teams have found the blueprint for keeping the former National Championship favorites accountable. Everyone from Michigan to Indiana held the valued offensive, for a little while. I think Michigan State does the same. We'll be treated to a solid first half, full of concussive defensive play, and limited points. Then, the sleeping giant will wake up. Mark Dantonio will need a miracle (or at least an injury that takes a marquis player out of the game -- see Oklahoma/Texas Tech 2007) to pull off the upset.
4. ILLINOIS at NORTHWESTERN 3:30 p.m. EST
FILLER predicts NORTHWESTERN by 10
Unit by unit matchups for fun. Illinois O v Northwestern D: The offensive line hasn’t been able to pick up blitzes and power rushes against Western and Minnesota; who says they will be able to slow Wooten and the hard hitting Wildcat defense? And when will Juice Williams stop turning the ball over, hamstringing the Illini’s ability to turn on the offensive burners we know they posses? Northwestern O v Illinois D: If Bacher gets back some of his mobility, expect a return to the effective four yard passes that led the Wildcats to a 5-0 start.
FRANZ predicts ILLINOIS by 7
This is one of the most difficult games I've ever picked. As Graham indicated it depends on the turnover margin, where Illinois is negative five on the season. The Illini had no trouble moving the ball across the field against Ohio State, it's just, they always gave it back. I think Juice Williams plays a smarter game this week, and makes it to the lanes (goes bowling).
5. No. 14 BYU at No. 7 UTAH 6:00 p.m. EST, The Mtn.
FILLER predicts UTAH by 10
The Holy War begins and ends with pass defense, something Utah definitely has. If you slow Max Hall, you win.
FRANZ predicts UTAH by 7
Both of these teams are point pilers, but the Utes stand out on the ground where Matt Asiata carries the load. They've also got a defense that's allowed just 11.4 points on average over the last five games. BYU may be motivated -- but the Utes want it more.
6. IOWA at MINNESOTA 7:00 p.m. Big Ten Network
Apparently Iowa hates Minnesota, and vice versa. I would love an explanation where this (un)natural rivalry began…Strategy wise, Adam Weber’s statistics have noticeably dropped since his hot start. Teams have begun jumping the quick slants and sit down routes, plus there is no effective running game (no 100 yard rusher in 5 weeks) to take pressure off Weber.
FRANZ predicts IOWA by 10
The Hawkeyes are simply playing better football right now.
7. No. 2 TEXAS TECH at No. 5 OKLAHOMA 8:00 p.m. EST, ABC
FILLER predicts TEXAS TECH by 10
Heisman contender All-American QB’s? Check. Passing offenses featuring star wide receivers and NFL caliber linemen? Check. Top 5 teams? Check. Highly coveted 8 o’clock TV slot? Check. So how does one pick this game? Run defense and momentum. Texas Tech’s defense has been a major reason they have avoided the “letdown” game that Mike Leach teams have inevitably suffered. The Red Raiders aim to be the first “non traditional” power to make it to a BCS title game and I like their chances here.
FRANZ predicts TEXAS TECH by 7
But, you protest: Bob Stoops' Sooner teams have only lost twice in Norman. There's no way Mike Leech can carve up the Oklahoma secondary like they did last year. Anyways, he won't have the luxury of Sam Bradford on the sidelines.
All good points. But, this time, they don't matter. The Red Raiders aren't just the best team in the heavyweight Big 12 South, they're the best in the country. Texas Tech doesn't just have an awesome offense, they boast a defense that hits hard and tackles in space. Mike Leach's team is simply the more sophisticated. Uncork a big, tannic chalk soil red, and dig into a dry aged T-Bone steak. Bon appetit!