College football's smartest picks contest.
It's no secret that -- despite its out of conference shortcomings -- 2008 has bred a Big 10 that's decidedly more competitive internally. With two full weeks of domestic abuse remaining, no fewer than three programs will stage a legitimate campaign for the title and The Rose Bowl, and that's not counting the three others competing for January play.
Week 11 Obligatory Results
|FILLER (a.k.a. Oklahoma -- A month ago they needed Texas to lose twice just to get to the Big 12 Championship. Now, they control their own destiny -- and the goal is nothing less than Miami.)||8|
|HOOKMANIA (a.k.a. Texas Tech -- They've been more impressive than the Sooners, but they're still the underdogs. Fortunately, they've got The Rivalry, Esq. rooting for 'em.)||8|
|LAKEERIEMONSTAR (a.k.a. Alabama -- When's the last time you can remember that top of the SEC didn't mean top of the world?)||7|
|AZNSENSATION (a.k.a. LSU -- Defending a championship and not putting up much of a fight.)||6|
|PATERNOSGRANDDAUGHTER (a.k.a. Penn State -- Best in the Big Ten. It's like sitting in the front row of coach.)||5|
|BAMA HAWKEYE (a.k.a. Minnesota -- from Week 2 winner to Week 11 pariah.)||5|
|FRANZ (a.k.a. West Virginia -- The Morgantown letdown.)||4|
|ESTRADA (a.k.a. Notre Dame -- Hey, look on the bright side: Charlie Weis is back to calling plays. Expect to see the Irish's "strategic advantage" return.)||3|
Week 11 Franz v. Filler winner FILLER
This season-long contest is beginning to look like the Big 12 South Race. Graham's up, but not by much. Filler 6, Franz 5.
Crystal Ball Call (pick of the week): N/A (Non-Alcoholic, or Non-Applicable: either way, this was a dry showing)
Hindsight is 20/20: PURDUE by 3 (FRANZ). As my old Contracts professor would say, "You were off wondering in the woods." MSU 21, Purdue 7.
1. INDIANA at No. 8 PENN STATE 12:00 p.m. EST, Big 10 Network
Indiana cannot stop the run; it's been a disappointing year for the linebackers, the front four, Greg Middleton, Kellen Lewis…Big question of the week: Can Penn State bounce back without a national title dangling in front of them?
FRANZ predicts PENN STATE by 35
This is the biggest spread I've ever picked. That's because the Hoosiers are about to get ripped a new one. Penn State won't be on a mission of mercy when they roar out of the gate disciplined and re-focused with Pasadena in plain view. Let's look at a few conference metrics: PSU's Scoring Offense v. IU's Scoring Defense (1st, 11th), IU's Scoring Offense v. PSU's Scoring Defense (9th, 1st). Need I say more?
2. No. 11 OHIO STATE at ILLINOIS 12:00 p.m. EST, ESPN
FILLER predicts OSU by 17
What a sexy matchup of 5 star quarterbacks with rocket laser arms and wonderful mobility…But TP is blessed with a power running back and the Big 10's best defense.
FRANZ predicts OSU by 14
In 2007 Ron Zook sold his soul to the devil for a win in Columbus, stabbing the No. 1 Buckeye defense in the heart and bleeding the final seven minutes of the clock out on a cold, dark November night. The Illini pulled off the upset, but they made one fatal mistake: they jumped on the Block O. Bad move boys. Bad move. The same Buckeye defense that gave Daryl Clark a minor concussion, and took Brian Hoyer out of the game will hit the pulp outta Juice Williams, complimented by a dual threat quarterback of their own with an arm that's looking better every week. Then there's the Vest, who suddenely isn't afraid to call a fake punt on Fourth Down up by 21 points -- or run up the score. Brutus ices Champaign.
3. NORTHWESTERN at MICHIGAN 12:00 p.m. EST, ESPN 2
FILLER predicts MICHIGAN by 10
Wildcat mania! Just kidding; that hype was put to rest in week 7 when this just above average Northwestern team was blown out by Sparty. I feel like this injury ravaged Wildcat team has lost the momentum that has twice carried them into the rankings this year. RichRod finally showed me something last week, coaching his cornerbacks to jump routes and calling high percentage passing routes for Nick Sheridan. Wolverine Mania!
FRANZ predicts MICHIGAN by 3
It doesn't happen often, but I agree with Graham. A cursory glance at the numbers won't tell you much here. After all, on paper the 'Cats are better on both sides of the ball. But Michigan's offense is coming into its own: showing a continuous and systematic ability to execute -- particularly in the air. Kafka's metamorphosis has added a pair of legs to the no-huddle grass attack, but the UM defense will hold 'em in the end. The Wolverines scavenge a close one at home.
4. PURDUE at IOWA 12:00 p.m. EST, Big Ten Network
FILLER predicts IOWA by 13
The toughest Big 10 running back faces the softest linebacking corps in the Big 10. I would love to claim "letdown game" on Iowa's part, but the Hawks have a decent bowl to play for now…Strategy side note: How does Ricky Stanzi continue to get ice in his veins on these last minute drives?
FRANZ predicts IOWA by 14
Yeah, I'm done picking Purdue.
5. CALIFORNIA at OREGON STATE 3:30 p.m. EST, ABC
But this game doesn't have any relevance Graham! Yes it does. Reason #1) OSU's impact on Penn State's strength of schedule could determine whether a one loss PSU team makes it into the BCS. Reason #2) The Beavers could possibly win the Pac 10 by beating Cal, AZ, and Oregon – this from a team that we claimed was "gutted like a pacific salmon" in our Pac 10 preview. #3) Who wouldn't want to watch scatbacks Jahvid Best and Jaquizz Rodgers run behind powerful, well coached offensive lines?
FRANZ predicts OREGON STATE by 3
Sure, Cal held USC to 17 points last week, but they barely managed to choke out 150 yards of offense. As Graham indicated, this match comes down to the Golden Bear's rushing D -- let Rodgers slip between the tackles and you're done. California is fourth in the Pacific 10 stopping the run allowing 116 yards a game. Interestingly, they give up almost forty more yards on the ground when playing away than at home -- that's not good. I think the Beavers want it more. Plus, it'd be nice to see someone who's not USC win the Pac 10. Viva Corvallis!
6. MINNESOTA at WISCONSIN 3:30 p.m. EST, ABC
FILLER predicts WISCONSIN by 8
I am rolling with the Big Mo this week…Wisconsin has visibly picked up the intensity of its play since the Illinois game. P.J. Hill has rejuvenated the running game for the Badgers, while the defense stopped melting down. Will this rivalry game turn help the cheeseheads forget their five Big 10 losses?
FRANZ predicts WISCONSIN by 10
My how the tables have turned. Wisky weathered a four-game losing streak, and is back on track (Rose Bowl ambitions aside). Mini's on its way to a four-game drought, despite its own conceivable shot at Pasadena. College football, my friends, is proof that sometimes life is stranger than fiction. The Badgers wear down a Golden Gopher defense that allows an average of 142 yards on the ground.
7. NOTRE DAME at NAVY 12:00 p.m. EST, CBS
FILLER predicts NAVY by 3
Last year, Navy beat the Irish for the first time since Roger Staubach won the Heisman. Now that the Irish have again been exposed as mediocre, can Chuck Weis's increased playcalling overcome the rush-happy Midshipmen? Keep an eye on Navy's option run…BONUS: Here is an article featuring some of the offensive tricks Navy will use on Saturday.
FRANZ predicts NOTRE DAME by 10
With the exception of (then) No. 16 Wake Forest, Navy has lost to every decent team they've played. This year's Irish are leaps and bounds better than last year's team that spoiled the streak. Notre Dame is 53rd in the country against the run (allowing 132 yards on average). Navy averages 302 on the ground. Granted, it's the only thing they do. Chuck gets the wagon turned around.