Week three is about as close to the rubber meeting the road in terms of non-conference opponents as we'll see before we get to the conference portion of the season. Some teams are looking to impress skeptical voters, some are looking to climb higher in the polls, and some really don't have anything to lose.
Iowa at Iowa State
What I want: I want Iowa to win by 10 points or more. Iowa State is a middle of the road Big 12 program, and Iowa...isn't. Your defense has been stout, and your new up tempo offense can move between the 20's but can't score. Fix that.
What I expect: I have no expectations for you. A loss to NIU and an uninspiring win against Missouri State will do that for you. When I found out Kirk Ferentz has only won in Ames three times, I have no doubt that you'll lose, and I wouldn't be surprised if you lost by 10 as opposed to win by 10. You've broken me, Iowa. You've broken me. At least the Olympics is keeping wrestling.
Akron at Michigan
What I want AND what I expect: I wouldn't be surprised to see a bit of a first quarter hangover after last week's big win over Notre Dame, but you'll figure it out and roll Akron by 40. If the starters aren't on the bench by mid third quarter, I'll be mildly surprised.
Youngstown State at Michigan State
What I want: I want Sparty to find some kind of offensive identity. Either run the ball with authority 50 to 60 times like MSU used to do with Lorenzo White back in the day, and/or fix the passing game to a point where it is at least respectable. Don't touch the defense.
What I expect: I expect the offense to struggle again and MSU to win a game that will be far closer than it should, because JIM BOLLMAN HAS FULLY INFECTED THAT SIDE OF THE BALL AND ITS TOO LATE ABANDON SHIP ABANDON SHIP. Thank God your defense is as good as it is, because they will carry you through this game, too. God help you when you get to teams with a pulse, though.
Western Illinois at Minnesota
What I want: I want the Gophers offense to get untracked. They're not as bad as MSU's offense, because the Gophers can at least run the ball effectively. I still want to see Philip Nelson improve his pocket presence and accuracy, and I want defense and special teams to keep making big plays.
What I expect: I expect Minnesota to run the ball a lot, pass when necessary, and grind down Western Illinois. The special teams and defense won't score every week, but they'll make one or two big plays and give the Gopher offense a short field, and I still think Minnesota will win by a comfortable margin.
UCLA at Nebraska
What I want: I want to see Taylor Martinez play mistake free football, make smart decisions, and run the Nebraska offense. When he is on his game, the Huskers are tough to stop, but it all begins and ends with T-Magic. On defense, just don't get rolled like drunk and homeless bum. Make some stops, and make Bruins QB Brett Hundley one dimensional, and pull away in the fourth quarter.
What I expect: I can't remember the last time Nebraska did well against a dual threat quarterback, and Big Red's defense seems to be at it's worst in big games. This is the biggest non-con game at Lincoln in awhile...maybe Virginia Tech in 2008? Both teams are ranked, and this can go a long way to helping the conference in terms of how strong this conference is. I expect a shoot out, and I expect this game to go down to the wire. Nebraska wins a close one.
Western Michigan at Northwestern
What I want AND what I expect: You want to be treated like an upper echelon, elite team in the conference, Northwestern? Okay, fine. Prove it. You've rolled two BCS AQ teams with relative ease, and you're at home against a cupcake. Throttle this team and put them out of their misery by halftime.
Washington at Illinois
What I want: I want the good time rock and roll vibe to keep rollin' in Chambana, that's what I want. Nathan Scheelhaase is finally playing to his potential, and Bill Cubit was two steps ahead of Cincinnati last week. I want Illinois to do the same thing this week to a very good Washington team, and put the rest of the B1G on notice that last week wasn't a fluke and that Illinois isn't going to roll over and play dead in 2013. Look, Illinois is playing with house money at this point, so they might as well let it all hang out.
What I expect: I don't expect a win, but I do expect the Illini to make Washington earn this win. Do that, and I might think the Illini are a fringe bowl team; there's no shame in a competitive loss to a good team when no one expects anything out of you. Win the game and well, SDFjhbSEKJasd;lseffnlASD to you, Illinois. But go all 2012 on me, and I won't know what the hell to think.
Bowling Green at Indiana
What I want: I want Indiana to handle a good MAC team. They lost to Navy last week, but man, the triple option is a bitch to deal with. This is a lot more conventional offense for the Hoosiers defense to deal with, so I want to see them not give up 500 yards of offense and 40 points.
What I expect: The defense to give up 400 yards and 35 points, but for the Indiana offense to outscore Bowling Green. Their offense is the real deal, and the defense is real bad. But like Mike said in his bowl projections post:
Indiana gave up 41 points to an OPTION TEAM. The Hoosiers will score 30+ points a game...and give up 40. The defense needs to come together or it's going to be an entertaining but loss filled season.
Based on what I've seen so far, I expect Indiana to win, but each week is going to be a shoot out.
Ohio State at Cal
What I want: I want Braxton Miller to be healthy and play at a Heisman trophy level, roll up about 400 yards of offense, and for OSU to put Cal away by halftime. They have a freshman quarterback that turns the ball over and no discernible running game, and they are rebuilding under Sonny Dykes and his Bear Raid offense. Their defense looked very susceptible to a spread offense when they played Northwestern, and OSU's offense is pretty good.
What I expect: I half expect Kenny Guiton to play and for OSU to win comfortably, but not really going away. Yeah, OSU has national title aspirations, but there's just something about B1G teams going to the West Coast--no matter who it is and who they play, it makes me uneasy.
Central Florida at Penn State
What I want and what I expect: UCF is a decent team, and this will be a good test for Penn State, but I fully expect Penn State to take control of this game and win by at least three scores. I really, really like Christian Hackenberg, and he's developing some chemistry with Allen Robinson. I also expect to see Zach Zwinak to get untracked, as he has struggled early.
Notre Dame at Purdue
What I want: I want Purdue to beat Notre Dame. I so, so, so want Purdue to beat Notre Dame.
What I expect: After watching Notre Dame against Michigan, I don't think they're nearly as good a team as they were last year...but they're still a lot better than the Boilermakers. Purdue might put up a fight for a little bit, but the Irish will overwhelm the Boilermakers. After getting crushed by Cincinnati and barely getting by Indiana State, Pudue it's apparent Darrell Hazell has a major rebuild on his hands, and they have no chance, unless they win the turnover battle by a +6 margin.
Wisconsin at Arizona State
What I want: I want Wisconsin to dominate Arizona State, much like you've dominated Cupcake Community College I and II in your first two games. I am almost positive a Bret Bielema squad would also be 2-0, but they would've nearly lost to one of those teams, because they had a history of narrow escapes in those games. ASU is a 'meh' program, and I want one of the top programs in the B1 to come into Sun Devil Stadium and slap them around.
What I expect: Minus the Kenny Guiton part, see my expectations from the OSU-Cal game. I fully expect Wisconsin to win, but seriously, what the hell is the evil voodoo that comes over B1G teams when they go west of the Rockies? There are still some folks that doubt Wisconsin is for real (coughChadcough), and even though Wisconsin struggles early, they'll pull away and erase a lot of doubts.
Let's talk wins and losses
I would bet your mortgage that these teams win:
Michigan, MSU, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin.
I would bet your paycheck that these teams will win:
I would bet a pair of used shoes that this team will win:
This team will get their ass kicked:
I want the B1G to go 12-0, but that's unrealistic. I see the absolute best case scenario at 10-2, 11-1 if Illinois repeats their performance against Cincinnati. Sorry, Purdue.
The worst case scenario? 7-5, with Nebraska, Indiana, Iowa, Illinois, and Purdue all losing, and a nightmare scenario would be 6-6 or even 5-7 with Michigan State and Wisconsin also losing.
So let's call it 8-4 and declare victory.