So, we have two weeks down, and one week of non-conference games to go. By now, the Big Ten has gone all Stella, and they got their groove back, or they are Big and Slow, and worse than the Ivy League. Again. The marquee games, per se, are pretty much over, so these remaining games are more a test for the individual teams as they gear up for conference play, as opposed to a national litmus test.
Week 3, Sep 18:
Mich State-ND: Michigan State is a frustrating school to get a handle on. I thought Mark Dantonio was going to get them to a level of consistency they hadn’t had in awhile, but yeah, he’s still working on that. They lost to Notre Dame in a close game last year, and this is an important game for the Spartans. Would a loss here be crippling for Michigan State? No, not crippling. But if Michigan State is to be a consistent, winning, program, they need to win these games. If ND starts off 0-3 against Big Ten teams, Kelly will have a lot of issues to deal with, like the ghost of Charlie Weiss, for one. And being pwned by the Big Ten, as the kids would say.
Iowa at Arizona: Arizona isn’t a pushover, and going on the road to a good Pac-10 team won’t be an easy task. That said, Iowa is the better team, and should win this game. But I refer you back to the early season struggles of said Iowa team, and after an emotional game against Iowa State, this has all the trappings of a ‘let down’ game. Arizona believes they can contend for the Pac-10 title now that USC has been banished to the island of Elba for two years. This would be a signature win for Arizona and Iowa alum Mike Stoops, and a devastating loss for an Iowa team with BCS title game aspirations. Arizona will be ready for this game, so Iowa better bring it.
Minnesota-USC: I’m calling it right now: Minnesota beats USC. No, that is not a misprint. And no, I am not drunk. The USC program looks like the Titanic right now and Lane Kiffin the conductor of the string orchestra on the deck. Recruits are leaving at an alarming pace, and really, what has Kiffin accomplished as a coach? He sucked in Oakland, and was essentially called nuts by Al Davis. Think about that for a minute: the most bat-shit insane owner in the NFL called his coach crazy. He was okay in Tennessee but really screwed them over after one season, and couldn’t get them to a bowl. Now, he’s left to pick up the pieces of the Pete Carroll ‘Free Money for Everyone’ era, and he has yet to show he is up to the task of doing anything remotely close. Why, he’s a lot like…Tim Brewster!! Allegedly great recruiter, promises a lot, and has yet to deliver. USC has better players, but Minnesota has yet to have a signature win in the new stadium. USC has absolutely nothing to play for, and they will be a demoralized team. Minnesota has enough talent on their team to compete, and when you add in the intangibles of this game, I say the Gophers win.
Or they lose by 30.
Wisconsin-Az State: This is a ‘take care of business’ game for Wisconsin. They enter the season with hopes of a Big Ten title and a shot at the BCS title game. Maybe it’s me, but when Wisconsin enters a season with a lot of hype, they usually stub their toe early, and then have a hard time recovering. This is arguably Bret Bielema’s best team since he took over for Barry Alvarez, and they have a legitimate chance at the Big Ten title…but they have to win games like this. And this one, they should.
Nebraska’s Entire Schedule: Nebraska may be playing a Big 12 conference schedule, but they’re officially a Big Ten school, so how they do this season directly affects the perception of our conference. Looking at Nebraska’s schedule, and combine it with the Bo Pelini ‘we’re back and we aren’t going away’ declaration after their bowl whipping of Arizona, Nebraska is on a mission—win the Big XII and go to the National Championship game. And they can do it. Their schedule is very favorable, they don’t play Oklahoma, they have a reloading Texas team at home, and their toughest road game looks to be Oklahoma State. ESPN columnist Bill Simmons talked about the ‘eff you’ quotient in sports, and this has the potential to be the biggest ‘eff you’ in college football history. I could think of nothing better for Nebraska and the Big Ten if they were to enter the Big Ten next season as defending Big XII champions, and BCS NCG runner up.
To Ohio State. Or Iowa. Or Wisconsin.