Four And Out: Looking At The Key Non-Conference Games, Week 2

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Hopefully, as the first week draws to a close, the conference will have, at worst, a 10-2 record in non-conference play. I'm thinking it will be 11-1, and if Michigan can get past Alabama, we might be headed for a barnburner of a season.

Week 2 has some really great match ups against BCS conferences, and a bevy of games that will be big tests for almost half the conference. I think how this week goes will largely determine in the minds of a lot of folks how strong the B1G will be this year. There are a lot of games against opponents who match up evenly against their B1G counterpart, and a weak showing in week 2 could mean the talking heads come out in force against us.

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Really, this is the exception, not the rule, Iowa

Iowa State at Iowa: Dear Iowa, what the hell is is with you and Iowa State? I think you should pound Iowa State by 21 points every season. Maybe it's their uniforms compared to yours, maybe it's the merciless ridicule Jamie Pollard takes at the hands of the evil genius that is BHGP, maybe it's the fact that Iowa State has a generally crappy team, I don't know. I don't care that once every so often they do something nuts like beat Oklahoma State or Nebraska in Lincoln, or go to a middling bowl game, you're better than them. Act like it, okay? Thanks.

Signed,

The Rest of the Big Ten, except Minnesota, which is a non-concur. They still hate you and would probably enjoy you losing to Iowa State..

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If T-Magic is getting worse, is that like dividing by zero?

Nebraska at UCLA: Count me in the camp of folks who thought Rick Neuheisel was going to do well at UCLA. For those keeping track, that's reason # 6,409 as to why my predictions should never, ever be taken seriously. That said, I don't think Jim Mora, Jr., will do a good job there. Lane Kiffin, for all his 'irritating as a poison ivy rash' personality, is bringing in some ridiculous talent across town, and when it comes to football coaches, you're either a pro coach or a college coach. They generally don't mix. It's being said that Taylor Martinez is said to be regressing, if that's possible, and Bo Pelini is entering a crucial season in Lincoln. A loss here would be devastating for 'Husker fans, and since they are now in the B1G, they probably have received the memo that says 'play like crap out West'.

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Mr. Frodo, look out!

Vanderbilt at Northwestern: Vanderbilt is no longer the 98 pound weakling of the SEC. No, that's still Ohio State. BWAHAHAHAHA, see what I did there? Seriously, the Commodores have a decent football team, and Northwestern won this one on the road in a close one back in 2010. Zac Stacy and Jordan Rodgers (yes, Aaron's younger brother) are two quality offensive players that a porous Wildcat defense could struggle to stop. I will love watching the contrasting styles of Kain Colter and Jordan Rodgers.

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Will Nathan Scheelhaase step up?

Illinois at Arizona State: This is a big test for Tim Beckman. He's really trying to change the culture in Champaign, and a win here helps get his players to buy what he's selling. A convincing win and it puts Illinois on the map. There's still talent on the Illini roster, it just hasn't been well coached over the last few seasons. Nathan Scheelhaase needs to step up in a big way this season for the Illini, and I really think Illinois could be a darkhorse in the Leaders division. I know, I know, I said the same thing last year. But if I say it every year, eventually I'll be right.

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At Purdue, you have one of two choices: Tear your ACL or run afoul of the law (allegedly). Ralph Bolden did both

Purdue at Notre Dame: Purdue vexes me. Not in a bad way, mind you, but in a 'who are you' kind of way. Are you the Purdue that can beat Ohio State, or are you the Purdue that can lose to Rice? Are you the Purdue that can score 59 one week, or are you the Purdue that gives up 62 in another? You vex me, Purdue. You got beat pretty bad by Notre Dame last year. I think it'll be closer this year, but still no cigar.

//sobs, tears ACL

I'm calling 4-1 in this slate of games, with Purdue going down to defeat. I really don't see much of a challenge for the rest of the conference that week, which of course means they'll probably lose two ball games that they shouldn't. Air Force might be a challenge for Michigan, especially coming off the Alabama game. I'm borderline on that one because of that and the option offense the Zoomies run, but the Wolverines are at home, so I'll take them by a comfortable margin.

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