Driving north to my job in central Minnesota today, we got one of those beautiful, crisp autumn sunrises: the resplendent gold that kind of bounces off the fields, softly illuminating everything it touched. When I stopped for coffee, I lingered an extra second in the parking lot, just breathing in the crisp air and enjoying what is the best time on the calendar before the snow starts to fly.
There is a reason we romanticize fall Saturdays in the Midwest, and it is this beautiful simplicity, this overwhelming calm that I associate with standing along the shore of Lake Michigan, reveling in the fall air before my friends arrive, we fire up a grill, and crack a beer.
Breathe it in.
OK, I’m ready to go yell at some amateur 18 to 22-year-olds.
(all times CT)
Saturday, Oct 1
Illinois Fighting Illini @ Wisconsin Badgers
11:00am | BTN | Wisconsin -8.5 | O/U 45
Straight-Up: Wisconsin 11-4
Against the Spread: Illinois 10-5
HWAHSQB: The internet seems chock full of “Why is Wisconsin favored in this one?” takes. Some of my fellow “writers” have even taken the bait. Illinois did look much better than Wisconsin the last couple of weeks, but UTC is no Death Star.
There are two very big reasons why I picked the Badgers to cover. 1. Remember the game last year? Illinois managed 93 total yards. That is I_wa bad. Wisconsin RUSHED for 391 yards. Illinois is better with Big Time Tommy at QB, but....not that much better. B. Illinois is starting to make people believe. For the last 30 years, whenever that happens, Lucy yanks the football and Charlie Brown goes tumbling.
There was one good thing that came from last year’s mollywhopping. Tony Petersen probably got fired because of that game. Illinois was the worst passing team in the conference (and that is saying something when you look around the B1G) and Petersen said, “Gosh, Wisconsin is good at stopping the run so I’m going to have Art throw the ball on 3⁄4 of our snaps. They’ll never see it coming!!”
MaximumSam: I’m definitely close to taking the bait on Illinois. They look born again into a physical and competent outfit (like, say, ye’ ole Wisconsin teams). That said, they lost to the fried corpse of Indiana, and I have to think Wisconsin is going to be all systems go after getting embarrassed by OSU. Wisconsin 28, Illinois 21
misdreavus79: Yes, I took the bait. Because, think back to every year Wisconsin has lost by 20 million to Ohio State. Wait that’s every time they play. Anyway, Wisconsin doesn’t look that good this season, and figuring themselves out on offense while not having a defense that can shut people down is a recipe for disaster. Wisconsin can win, and most certainly have in the past, but I’m going with Illinois. Illinois 24, Wisconsin 21
WSR: I’ll take the bait too. I’m starting to think my assessment of wisconsin not being very good (sources: fuck wisconsin) is accurate, particularly on offense. The Illini have been quietly smothering people other than that Indiana game they should have won, and Bert is a better coach than Chryst. So you throw it all together and picking Illinois makes a bit of sense.
Thumpasaurus: Illinois’ two FBS wins are aging nicely and their defense is looking pretty feisty. Chase Brown leads the nation in rushing and Tommy DeVito is having one of the most efficient passing seasons in Illini history (it’s not a glorious list, I assure you). Meanwhile, Wisconsin got steamrolled by Ohio State after taking a puzzling loss to Washington State. Their defense doesn’t look as stifling as usual and this is the least inspiring Badgers offense in recent memory. On top of that, the Illini had a bye after their 9/10 game against Virginia before a mid-week glorified scrimmage with Chattanooga. Bret Bielema has had a lot of time to prepare for his first trip back to Madison. Everything’s coming up Illinois.
You’re not fooling me though. The Illini offensive line hasn’t faced a challenge like Wisconsin’s front 7 yet, and they’re not opening holes between the tackles like they did last year. Chase Brown is getting hit behind the line a lot, and while this offense has a capable passing element it’s supposed to complement the run game as opposed to being the focal point. The kicking specialists have struggled so far, and the only reason there were no turnovers against Chattanooga was because receivers were wide open and nobody got any clean hits on any of our players. Illinois has been prone to the kind of mistakes that Wisconsin can take advantage of to win this game by roughly ten points. I’ll be shocked to see Wisconsin run away with this one, but Illinois will make the mistakes that lose the contest.
Buffkomodo: Middle this because Illinois is a good team and it wouldn’t shock me at all to see them win this.
MNW: Hitting the middle for a similar reason...I think Illinois's defensive improvement but should keep it closer. Are they ready to contend with wisconsin's offensive line? If this answer is finally, consistently yes, we could actually be looking at that sea change in the Big Ten West.
Unfortunately, while WSR (and, hell, I) desperately hope the demise of the badger has not been greatly exaggerated, it makes it a little less impactful to assess them as "very good" when you've been doing it every year for the last 10 years. Let's say wisconsin, 24-20.
Kind of...: C’mon Thump, besides Purdue, Illinois has as good of a QB history as any non-power B1G school. It’s just that Wilson, Eason, Trudeau, and George all played before you were born.
Let’s talk UW/OSU for a second. After last week, all the “fuck wisconsin” piling on is something UW fans have to deal with. That said, reviewing UW’s 9-game losing streak to the Buckeyes really shows you just when the Buckeye Death Star was activated. Between 2011-2017, OSU won all six matchups with UW, but five were one-score games, and the sixth was the infamous 59-0 B1G title game when UW was coached by a former Urban assistant who had both feet out the door. The last three games were 2019 (x2) and last Saturday. Two 31-point blowouts and a 13-point B1G title game win where UW basically played a perfect game for 30 minutes. Even if you’re not a Purdue fan, you should enjoy Purdue Harbor 2018, because sometime after that, shit got real in Columbus.
Anyway, this pick is all about fundamental structures. UW has better talent and should be focused: 24-10 Badgers.
RockyMtnBlue: This is a down year for Wisconsin LBs, but that’s only because they’ve set the bar so high. ‘Sconnie has more talent, is at home, and will be seeing vengeance against the universe for last week. Bad timing for Illinois. Wisconsin 24, Illinois 13
Battle of the two most Wisconsiny coaches ever.
This poll is closed
Coach Dad by lots
Coach Dad by little
Coach Drunk Uncle Hitting On Your Girlfriend At a Wedding with the upset!
Purdue Boilermakers @ (21) Minnesota Golden Gophers
11:00am | ESPN2 | Minnesota -10 | O/U 54
Straight-Up: All Minnesota
Against the Spread: Minnesota 8-7
MaximumSam: Are we allowed to stealth edit these later in the week? If Purdue has Aidan O’Connell, then I think they might be able to finally break through what has been a tremendous Goph defense. Without him, Purdue became checkdown city, and Minny will eat them up. I’m picking today like he won’t play, and reserve the right to change my pick after seeing the game. Minnesota 37, Purdue 18
misdreavus79: If Minnesota keeps crushing teams on their way to a West title, we might find ourselves in the same position as we did in 2019, where we just assumed everyone the Gophers played was bad until they played Penn State. And I’ll say this: Minnesota being good and Michigan State being bad can both be true. Minnesota being good and Purdue without Aiden O’Connell being bad can both be true. So, hopefully, O’Connell is good to go for this game. Minnesota 31, Purdue 24
WSR: Purdue is pretty beat up, Fleck has Brohm’s number, and we’re a much more complete team. This will be a fun homecoming.
MNW: Fleck has had Brohm's number to the tune of a one-score win the last three meetings. Where I will agree with the assessment of a Minnesota win is that I don't think Purdue can stop the run. If that it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if Brohm kept O'Connell out last week just to have him ready for Minnesota. Gophers, 28-20.
Thumpasaurus: As I said on the podcast, all those sour feelings towards Jeff Brohm this season go away if he pulls this one out. Maybe Charlie Jones can teach them The Secret Of Beating Minnesota All The Time.
Probably not though. I’m betting on the trend.
Buffkomodo: If Minny was a top 10 team, it’s an easy Purdue blowout. Minnesota is only ranked 21st so Goophers roll.
Kind of...: It’s a testament to how good Minnesota has looked that this just screams “Purdue out of nowhere.” That said, the Gophers are built to get a lead and hold teams at arm’s length. Minnesota, 34-20.
RockyMtnBlue: I don’t like how Purdue matches up against this Minnesota team. I don’t like Purdue’s history in this series. Minnesota 35, Purdue 24.
Your idiot author had Purdue winning the West at one point
This poll is closed
Oh shit Minnesota might actually be pretty good!
Meh. Minnesota isn’t bad.
They don’t call it Purdue Harbor for nothin’!
(4) Michigan Wolverines @ Iowa Hawkeyes
11:00am | FOX | Michigan -10 | O/U 43
Straight-Up: Michigan 13-2
Against the Spread: Michigan 9-6
MaximumSam: Good lord. This game is a Pickers Nightmare. Iowa can’t score, except on turnovers and safeties. And hey, Michigan has a young quarterback who is great at everything and also fumbles and is known for trying to fit the ball into tight spaces. And the game is at Kinnick, where Iowa is like 6-0 against the spread against top 5 teams lately, and 5-1 straight up. Still, I can’t pick the Iowa offense to accomplish anything. Michigan 18, Iowa 10.
misdreavus79: Maryland, of all teams, showed Michigan can be mortal if you force them to beat you. Iowa, unlike Maryland, has the ability to actually force you to beat them. I don’t see Blake Corum running for 250 yards on this team, so the question is “can J.J. McCarthy prove Harbaugh right?” Of all the East teams, Michigan is still the one that matches up best against this Iowa defense, and this time around the game is in Kinnick. Iowa 11, Michigan 10
WSR: Michigan wins when their defense outscores the Iowa defense. Maybe they’ll get to double-digits.
Thumpasaurus: The Michigan offense, if not better, is certainly not worse than last year’s. The Iowa defense, while not worse, is certainly not substantially better than last year’s. The Michigan defense is a little softer, but the Iowa offense has completely collapsed in on itself. This feels like 27-0.
Buffkomodo: Oddly, I find myself rooting for Michigan to utterly destroy the Hawkeyes. I don’t know why, but it’s how I feel. Michigan flattens Iowa who gets less than 50 passing yards.
Kind of...: I’d give misdreavus credit for an inspired pick, but he’s just taking that score from a recent MNF game, no? It’s at Kinnick, but not at night, so Iowa only covers: 17-9.
MNW: Picking Iowa here basically tells me you have not actually watched the Hawkeyes at all this year. Or that you are going for a reverse jinx. There is, quite simply, no other possible reason I can think of to choose one of the historically worst offenses I've watched. And I have watched Hunter Johnson as my team's opening day quarterback. Michigan, 24-3.
RockyMtnBlue: I hate that stadium so Goddamn much. Iowa 10 (the score is defensive, of course), Michigan 9.
This poll is closed
Remember the conference title game last year? Yeah. Like that.
Rock fight of rock fights, but Michigan pulls it out.
Iowa. Have I mentioned I hate that Goddamn stadium?
Rutgers Scarlet Knights @ (3) Ohio State Buckeyes
2:30pm | BTN | Ohio State -41.5 | O/U 60
Straight-Up: All Deathstar
Against the Spread: Rutgers 9-6
MaximumSam: Hey, wasn’t the spread 41 when Harbaugh and Stanford took down USC? Hey, I gotta write something here. OSU 49, Rutgers 17
misdreavus79: It’s going to be hilarious when Rutgers loses to Ohio State by a smaller margin than Wisconsin. Ohio State 45, Rutgers 14
WSR: Jesus. This is how we treat Rutgers after forcing them to watch Iowa football?
Buffkomodo: Ohio State. Next.
Thumpasaurus: It’s just too many points for a Rutgers team that likes to hold the ball.
MNW: Exactly right. We will see Schiano and Gleason dial up the misdirection running plays, Rutgers will try to make it a little interesting, but this is a "sit on the ball and regroup next week" kind of game.
That assessment changes if Ohio State can just take the top off the Rutgers defense three or four times with huge plays. But I have to think Rutgers, in their hearts of hearts, just wants to keep this game in front of them and lose by a respective margin. Buckeyes, 42-7.
Kind of...: Don’t know if they’re just being nice to Schiano, but OSU has taken their foot of the gas vs. Rutgers the last few years. OSU 48-10.
RockyMtnBlue: Rutgers isn’t the total doormat they used to be. It doesn’t matter. Ohio State 49, Rutgers 3
Oh Rutgers I’m so sorry.
This poll is closed
Deathstar by millions because Deathstar.
Deathstar by only 40 or so.
Sure. Rutgers beating a 41pt spread in the Shoe is a thing that could happen.
Northwestern Wildcats @ (11) Penn State Nittany Lions
2:30pm | ESPN | Penn State -25.5 | O/U 52.5
Straight-Up: All Penn State
Against the Spread: Penn State 10-5
MaximumSam: Look, Northwestern sucks. There’s no getting around that. I can’t say I have any faith that they will match up with Penn State, but I have to think there is a little soul left in them that will keep the game interesting for three quarters. PSU 35, Northwestern 21
misdreavus79: The prophecy is almost fulfilled. Northwestern has successfully lost to every non-conference foe. Now, all they have to do is lose their requisite regular season game against a team from the East on the road. The West is then theirs. Penn State 56, Northwestern 17
WSR: Who’s the sick bastard at the B1G HQ with the scheduling computer that’s putting these snuff films together?
Thumpasaurus: This feels like something really stupid happens and Penn State trails at halftime, but then Northwestern doesn’t score again.
Buffkomodo: Penn State. Next.
Kind of...: WSR, you ask, I answer:
PSU is not quite a machine, though, so NW covers: 34-17.
RockyMtnBlue: God above, NW is bad. Sweet baby Jesus, NW bad. By all that is holy and sacred on the Earth, NW is a bad, bad, bad football team*. Penn State 38, NW 3
* It’s not plagiarism. I was simply inspired by Jonathan Ross in a really detailed way.
MNW: You could have added 10 points to this line and I still would have considered Penn State. This has every inkling to me of a Northwestern team that will not hesitate to quit if things go pear-shaped early.
Did you see what Duke did to Northwestern with speed and athleticism? Penn State brings that in spades. A couple big plays early and the 'Cats are completely out of this one. Penn State, 45-10.
Can’t we just pretend this one got played and move on?
This poll is closed
James Franklin shows he’s worth $70M
James Franklin sucks, but nobody could lose to this NW team.
This is step 1 in NW’s run to the West title because even years and stuff.
Michigan State Spartans @ Maryland Terrapins
2:30pm | FS1 | Maryland -7.5 | O/U 59.5
Straight-Up: Maryland 12-3
Against the Spread: Maryland 9-6
misdreavus79: Boy oh boy this will get ugly, won’t it? Maryland 35, Michigan State 10
WSR: Is this a game that confirms what we think about Sparty or give us all sorts of questions about Maryland (and Michigan)?
Buffkomodo: This will be fun for everyone but GA. I honestly think Maryland is able to exploit that D enough to win. A touchdown favorite is much but Sparty has looked like utter ass recently so I get it.
Thumpasaurus: If Tagovailoa is healthy, he’s the superior quarterback. I have Maryland winning. If Michigan State can’t get their offense going against this defense though? Better make some non-football plans for bowl season.
MaximumSam: A couple weeks ago I asked: what is Sparty? Answer: a pile of crap. I can’t say I have full faith and credit in Maryland, but they have receivers and a quarterback, two things MSU looks helpless to stop. Maryland 32, MSU 15
Kind of...: The calendar will have turned, so if Maryland drops this, they are officially September’s team. They’ll try, but they won’t. Terps 28-23.
RockyMtnBlue: Maryland looked pretty good against Michigan last week. Sparty looked like a train wreck against Minny last week. I am not fooled. God doesn’t love me that much. Michigan State 34, Maryland 24
MNW: This is my turning point on Maryland. Their playmakers are impressive and it feels like there is a belief around the Terrapins this year.
But the calendar has turned to October. Now, every single week, Maryland will face a team that is going to line up, run the ball between the tackles, and try to wear you down. Can they take that kind of a beating, week in and week out?
I make this prediction fully acknowledging what I saw Minnesota do to Michigan State last weekend. Wild Maryland can hit some explosive plays to do that, I don't know that they can do the grinding down of the Michigan State defense as efficiently as Minnesota is built to do. Add to that some of the continued mental lapses the Locks-era Terps are known for, and...
Man, I would not mind being proven wrong. Sparty, 28-23.
A showdown of East powers(ish)
This poll is closed
RMB is stupid and pessimistic. Maryland rolls
RMB is stupid and pessimistic. Maryland in a tight one.
Shoulda listened to RMB (he’s still stupid and pessimistic)
Indiana Hoosiers @ Nebraska Cornhuskers
6:30pm | BTN | Nebraska -3.5 | O/U 61.5
Straight-Up: Indiana 9-6
Against the Spread: Indiana 12-3
misdreavus79: I’m sure someone thought this would be a good game when the schedules were made. It’s the only explanation I can come up with to justify the sole primetime spot. Indiana 49, Nebraska 45
WSR: God, I wish I could watch this game. It’s going to be just nauseating. The best part will be the chaos that occurs because of the incompetent leadership on each side.
Buffkomodo: Read my article as this is a must win for Indiana.
MaximumSam: The bottom of the B1G is pretty pitiful indeed. But Indiana has shown more life than Nebraska and beaten a decent team in Illinois, so that’s the only tiebreaker I can find. Indiana 26, Nebraska 20
Thumpasaurus: Despite having avenged them already, the Hoosiers continue to seethe over the time Scott Frost complained about them dragging down his strength of schedule. They wanted this game. They knew about the buyout. They had this circled. They were going to fire the killshot that ended the Scott Frost era.
They’ll be no less intense. When it comes to motivation, Indiana has all of it. My understanding from a Texas insider is that Husker QB Casey Thompson is phenomenally talented, but quits the second something starts to go against him. If this game is won by which QB Has Got That Dawg In Him, Indiana by a million.
Dead Read: Urban Dictionary defines Hopium as the metaphorical substance that causes people to believe in a false hope. That’s all you really need to know when you consider my pick here.
Kind of...: Nebraska had a bye week. Either they’ve cleansed or metastasized. I’ll go with the latter. Hoosiers 31-24.
RockyMtnBlue: Ok, sure, Nebraska has been next-level dreadful this year. But Frosty’s gone and they’ve had a bye week and their building is still a place you don’t really want to play. Nebraska 31, Indiana 24
MNW: I middled this, as I am fairly confident that I know nothing about either team except that they are probably bad. Indiana's running backs are impressive enough that they can move the ball in Nebraska, Nebraska's athletes are better to the point that they should be able to...
...god I realize the trap I've fallen into. Too late. Nebraska, 35-32.
THIS is the big10’s sole primetime game this week?
This poll is closed
Shockingly, jNebby has found the answer!
Even more shockingly, jNebby wins a close game!
Don’t be ridiculous. jNebby doesn’t win football games.