As I’m putting these picks together on Thursday night, I’m watching the second leg of the Portland Timbers-Seattle Sounders playoff. While I know that there’s little love for soccer here, and both those teams can get wrecked as far as I’m concerned, I was comparing, to myself, the facial expressions we see in soccer versus the ones in football.
On the one hand, it’s tougher for the players themselves, since they’ve usually got helmets on and it’s tougher to see their faces unless they’re on the sidelines. So you get this in soccer
and have to settle for this in football:
On the other hand, there are the looks of incredulity usually offered us by coaches in college football—remember, men who are being paid millions to rely on the labors of unpaid athletes and forget to conduct themselves with anything approaching decorum
whereas players act with similar incredulity every time they are called for only a foul, let alone the yellow they deserve—despite the fact that their elbow just smashed into an opponent’s nose and must endure a stern talking to from some dumbass like Mike Jones (it works on either OTE or EPL)
Regardless, it inspires the best in what I assume are Dragonball Z-themed photoshops:
Let’s pick some games.
Illinois Fighting Illini (4-5, 2-4 B1G) at Nebraska Cornhuskers (2-7, 1-5)
11am CT | BTN | UNL -17 | O/U 69
Straight-Up: Nebraska, 17-0
Against the Spread: Illinois, 12-5
LincolnParkWildcat: Illinois might’ve gone completely crazy last week against Minnesota, but I think Nebraska’s a better team.
Beezer: Nebraska wins and covers. Illinois is not good at all, and Nebraska is approaching-elite on offense.
Thumpasaurus: If Illinois plays as well as they did against Minnesota, I don’t think that’s enough to beat Nebraska. Their defense is not going to beat itself by being overly aggressive and missing the play, and Martinez is much quicker on his feet than any quarterback we’ve played so far.
Still, I’d take a boatrace over a total blowout. Nebraska covers.
Dead Read: This is the type of game where freshman quarterbacks play like freshmen. Frazier lost to Iowa State, TMart barely got by the mighty Jackrabbits of SDSU. Nebraska wins, does not cover.
Stewmonkey13: UNL could do very, very bad things to this particular Illinois defense. However, I think the weather makes a difference and that favors Illinois’s rushing offense, so I’ll take the points.
MNW: You know, Nebraska is going to get theirs, and I’m fine with that. But Stew raises a good point about how the offenses might adapt to the weather, and I think that favors Illinois staying in it juuuust a little bit longer. See if you can capitalize on the breakdowns in discipline that led wisconsin to roll the Huskers, and get AJ Bush and Reggie Corbin to set the Nebraska D guessing. Why not? FOUR MORE YEARS OF LOVIE, SAY I!
...just kidding; Nebraska’s still gonna win comfortably. Huskers, 45-35.
wisconsin badgers (6-3, 4-2) at  Penn State Nittany Lions (6-3, 3-3)
11am | ABC | PSU -8 | O/U 55
Straight-Up: Penn State, 14-3
Against the Spread: wisconsin, 9-8
LPW: Penn State is going to take out some frustrations on a weaker than usual Wisconsin team.
Beezer: Penn State is a more talented team, at home, with the type of QB who tears Wisconsin apart (doesn’t go down easily, is very mobile). Penn State wins and covers.
Thump: Is WIsconsin really this bad against the pass? If so, will Trace McSorley still bail out and run? If so, will he find room? Wisconsin covers.
DR: I am not buying what Coach Franklin is selling. Wisc to win straight up.
Stew: Ok, so maybe Hornibrook really is the best QB for wisconsin. So I’m just gonna go ahead and take PSU to cover.
MNW: On the one hand, Northwestern showed that this year, finally, even mediocre teams can possibly actually do to wisconsin what they always try to do—stuff their best rusher and force them into the air. I was gonna say “on the other hand,” but holy shit, wisconsin’s defense was not that good. Seems like there’s a propensity in Happy Valley to let shitty teams stick around, though. Penn State, 27-21.
Maryland Terrapins (5-4, 3-3) at Indiana Hoosiers (4-5, 1-5)
11am | BTN | Ind -2.5 | O/U 55
Straight-Up/ATS: Indiana, 10-7
LPW: Indiana will beat the tirefire/TV market from the DC area.
Beez: Maryland wins I guess?
Thump: Indiana wins, but in a way that inspires no confidence. This seems like the kind of game that ends with both fanbases unhappy.
Dead Read: Maryland is the better team. We can trust Indiana to be competitive for a long stretch...and inevitably lose.
Stew: Indiana lost to MN. Maryland blew the gophers the hell out. Blah, blah transitive. I gotta take the terps here.
MNW: I don’t think there is one team I have believed in more unreasonably than Indiana. I can’t—and I mean this earnestly—I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a Hoosiers football fan; to be that close so many times and to be let down.
But Maryland’s not coming back from this, right? It’s over? Indiana, 24-21.
 Ohio State Buckeyes (8-1, 5-1) at  Michigan State Spartans (6-3, 4-2)
11am | FOX | OSU -3.5 | O/U 51
Straight-Up/ATS: Ohio State, 12-5
Dead Read: I think MSU really wants to win this game, I am not sure the Buckeyes do. OSU has strung together suboptimal performances against Minny, Purdue, and Nebby. That trend continues. MSU straight up.
Stew: I don’t think MSU can take advantage of OSU’s defensive deficiencies as well as UNL and PU did. OSU breaks a couple of big plays and cover relatively easily.
MNW: Rocky Lombardi throws for 400 yards in a loss. Ultimately, I just don’t trust the MSU offense to keep up with Ohio State, who just has to feel that sense of urgency now, right? Buckeyes, 31-21.
Northwestern Wildcats (5-4, 5-1) at  Iowa Hawkeyes (6-3, 3-3)
2:30pm | FOX | Iowa -10 | O/U 44
Straight-Up: Iowa, 11-6
Against the Spread: Northwestern, 11-6
LPW: Northwestern is going to take out some ND-related frustrations against the Hawkeyes.
Beez: Iowa wins but NW covers, because of course Iowa is going to play its rivals close (except Wisconsin lol)
Thump: Iowa hits Northwestern hard enough near the end of the fourth quarter to dislodge the rectally mounted horseshoe of gold.
DR: Northwestern to win. It will be a weird game, but somehow Fitz will pull it out.
Stew: NW can’t run, and it’ll be a cold, windy, snowy day. I think Iowa’s DL harasses Thorson all day and pulls away in the 4th to cover. Don’t get sucked in by Iowa winning this game, though.
MNW: And that’s really what this whole [Big Ten] season has been, of course—just waiting for that bubble to finally pop, much as it did late in the Michigan game.
I have that sense of impending dread of a lifetime of Minnesota- and Northwestern-related fandom have inculcated. Gary Anderson can miss that kick. That 6-0 team can miss the playoffs. Sure, all you need to do is beat the moribund 10th-seeded Gophers in the Big Ten Tournament, and you’ll go Dancing. A lifetime. A fucking lifetime.
It’s not The Year. It’s never The Year. Iowa, 28-13.
Purdue Boilermakers (5-4, 4-2) at Minnesota Golden Gophers (4-5, 1-5)
2:30pm | ESPN2 | Pur -10 | O/U 59
Straight-Up: Purdue, 17-0
Against the Spread: Purdue, 12-5
LPW: Purdue’s gonna beat Minnesota. They’re just too strong.
Beez: Purdue beats Minnesota into the ground and covers a line that is shockingly low given the teams Purdue has put up points against and that Minnesota got steamrolled by a terrible opponent last week.
Thump: Can Minnesota join their Illini brethren and make Big Ten teams 2-0 coming off losing their defensive coordinator? No. No, they most certainly cannot do this.
DR: Purdue wins, but isn’t used to winning enough to boat race the Fightin’ Flecks.
Stew: Dear lord Purdue is going to do very, VERY, bad things to the gopher’s defense.
MNW: It’s been interesting to drive around the Twin Cities this week and peek in on sports talk radio to hear how they’re taking yet another slide into irrelevance for the market’s 6th-largest team (I figure the Loons have passed the Gophers by now, yes?). Without Reusse on the air to grouse about Philip John, it’s honestly not quite the same. I want some of that quiet seething. It’s how I know we Minnesotans are still alive. Purdue, 42-24.
 Michigan Wolverines (8-1, 6-0) at Rutgers Scarlet Knights (1-8, 0-6)
2:30pm | BTN | Mich -39 | O/U 47.5
Against the Spread: Michigan, 13-4
LPW: If anyone watches this game it will be like a Varsity high school squad beating up on a junior high school squad. It’s not going to be pretty. Michigan might be trying to get some more consideration in the playoff rankings by dominating poor hapless buttgers.
Beez: Has Michigan ever not beaten Rutgers by like 40, except that time Michigan gave Rutgers its first ever B1G conference win?
Thump: What makes this game such a potential horror show is the fact that the best defense Rutgers has played is Northwestern’s, which ranks #32 in S&P+. Michigan’s ranks #1. Michigan can name their score, and I think they’ll cover.
DR: I’m sure Harbaugh will be a sportsman and not run up the.....HAHHAHA. Michigan commits a hate crime and covers.
Stew: 39 damn points?!? 39!?!? Check yourselves rutger. Dammit, I have to take those points on principle.
MNW: Like, what Vegas is telling us is that this game should end something like 43-4. That doesn’t seem possible, even with how bad Rutgers is.
They’re worse. So I’ll take Michigan, 48-0.
Who you got?
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UNL win, Illini cover
ILLINOIS STRAIGHT UP BOWL GAME HERE WE COME
Last chances at bowl eligibility. What do we get?
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Hoosiers with a prayer, baby!
Against all odds and probably a couple laws, Maryland goes to a bowl game.
Remember when this was a championship game?
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Whatever the opposite of HYPE is, it uses proper punctuation and pays you a silver dollar to mow the lawn.
Right, two ranked teams are playing.
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Best way to get around:
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The Ol’ War for Naperville!
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‘Cats, somehow, live to collapse another day
I refuse to offer a poll question on Michigan-Rutgers.