Big Ten Predictions: Week of Sept. 24

Rohan Nadkarni

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With the Big Ten still out of conference play for Week 4 of the college season, teams like Wisconsin and Nebraska are picking on non-BCS schools in an attempt to maintain their undefeated records. However, despite the slate of non-BCS schools on the docket for Week 4, this week could spell doom for some big schools. Northwestern and Purdue are idle this week, with the Wildcats recovering from their road loss to Army, while Purdue coasts after its trouncing of Southeast Missouri State. Without further ado, the Daily’s very own Rohan Nadkarni presents this week’s picks. (Predicted Winner in CAPS)

Louisiana-Monroe at IOWA

Let’s start with an easy one. Iowa should win this game handily over a ULM team coming off a loss to Texas Christian University. Last week, the Hawkeyes appeared to be in trouble after falling behind 24-3 to Big East power (now ACC member-in-forming) Pittsburgh. But Iowa rallied for the biggest comeback in school history, with junior quarterback James Vandenberg throwing for 399 yards. This week, I expect Iowa to start fast and finish strong to avoid another potential embarrassment at home. Junior wideout Keenan Davis, with 10 catches for 129 yards last week, and sophomore halfback Marcus Coker, complete the Hawkeyes’ talented offense, which should have no problem with the Warhawks.

Eastern Michigan at PENN STATE

Joe Paterno could coach this game from a resort in Tahiti and Penn State would still have no problem against Eastern Michigan. However, keep an eye on the Nittany Lions’ offense, which only scored 25 points combined in the last two weeks. After putting up just 11 against a strong Alabama team, PSU squeaked out a win over Temple, scoring only 14 points. The Nittany Lions’ defense will keep them in games, and Eastern Michigan will not offer the same threat as the last two opponents.

North Dakota State at MINNESOTA

Following in line with other Big Ten schools scheduling tough, compelling games at home, Minnesota takes on North Dakota State this week. However, the Golden Gophers do get credit for traveling to USC in Week 1 and giving the Trojans a hell of a game, so this gimme is a bit more forgivable. Once again, expect the home team to come out on top as Minnesota should have no problem capturing this contest. Golden Gophers first-year coach Jerry Kill will man the sidelines after his seizure scare two weeks ago in a loss to New Mexico State. With Kill’s first win at Minnesota coming last week against Miami of Ohio, the Gophers appear to finally be on track.

Central Michigan at MICHIGAN STATE

Last week, the Spartans were outplayed by Brian Kelly’s Notre Dame team, as Fighting Irish quarterback Tommy Rees found his footing against Michigan State. To make matters worse, the Spartans were not able to capitalize after Notre Dame lost two straight close games leading up to Saturday’s matchup. Instead, Michigan State fell to an unranked team. Now, the Spartans could be facing a turning point before conference play even begins. Facing another unranked opponent this week, the Spartans should have better luck. Come out upset after last week’s loss, blow an easy win, and spiral out of control, or right the ship quickly, put away Central Michigan, and prepare for a chance at Big Ten glory. I predict the Spartans to follow the latter path.

NO. 9 NEBRASKA at Wyoming

So far, the Big Ten’s newest member could potentially be its best. Look out, because here come the Cornhuskers. With only #6 Wisconsin ahead of them in the Big Ten, Nebraska is putting its faith in dual threat quarterback Taylor Martinez, who continues to deliver this season. This week, Martinez and the Cornhuskers travel to Wyoming, where the MWC team is undefeated after a road win over Bowling Green. Despite the nice win last week, the Cowboys’ other two wins, home victories over Weber State and Texas State, hardly impress. Nebraska will roll over Wyoming, with Martinez having another big game after throwing for two scores last week. At this pace, (the other) NU could find itself in the inaugural Big Ten Championship game during its inaugural season in the conference.

Western Michigan at NO. 24 ILLINOIS

The Fighting Illini remain a polarizing team. They have crept into the top 25, but Internet bloggers still have scorn for a team that dominates one week and comes out flat the next. However, last week’s home win over Arizona State was no joke. The Sun Devils were caught off guard by the Illini’s swarming defense, which tallied six sacks. Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase was efficient, throwing for 135 yards on 11-of-15 passing. Head coach Ron Zook needs to keep up the aggressive defense and keep Scheelhaase working within a small-risk offense. With their fourth straight home game to start the year, the Illini have the potential to keep moving up in the rankings with another win in Champaign this week. The team does need to be wary, since this is the very definition of a trap game, following a big win against Arizona State and with a Homecoming bout against rival Northwestern looming next week. If the Illini employ a businesslike approach, they should not have many problems taking care of business against Western Michigan.

INDIANA at North Texas

The Hoosiers travel to Rickperryvakia to take on North Texas, one of the few remaining teams in the country that separates Oklahoma from Mexico that does not want to jump ship from its conference. Does anyone else find it ironic that the state which threatened secession has two prominent football programs (Texas and Texas A&M) which are trying to end their marriage with the Big 12 and cruise to greener pastures Heather Mills-style? But for now, North Texas remains at home, where the Mean Green face a tough matchup from a school more known for its basketball program. I see Indiana winning a closely contested battle and maybe even some chants of ‘Hoosier mama?’

South Dakota at NO. 6 WISCONSIN

God bless the Dakotas for accepting the challenge this week and traveling to Big Ten country. However, much like its northern counterpart in Minnesota, I see another struggle in store for the state that may or may not have given us a Fanning. Wisconsin remains at the top of the conference after demolishing Northern Illinois last week. The Badgers have yet to score less than 35 points this season and are playing at home for the third time in four weeks. Transfer quarterback Russell Wilson is playing lights out for Wisconsin, marking the greatest thing to hit the state since sliced bread and Nutella. Looking ahead a little bit, if all goes right,
this week should set up a matchup of undefeated teams when Nebraska and Wisconsin meet next week.

COLORADO at Ohio State

Before moving to Evanston, I lived in beautiful, sunny South Florida, where I chose the Hurricanes as my favorite sports school. So let me apologize for saying that I hate the Buckeyes. Last week’s Buckeyes loss to the Canes was 10 years overdue from the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl Tragedy of 2001. That being said, I still think Ohio State, Jim Tressel and Terrelle Pryor took too much heat for what amounts to players trying to make a little cash from a completely flawed system. Last week, the suspensions took a toll on the Buckeyes, as Ohio State’s offense stumbled to six points under its new quarterback duo. Losing players while Miami regained starters from its own scandal suspensions, the Ohio State defense wilted in the heat against Jacory Harris and Lamar Miller. Although the Buckeyes are coming home, head coach Luke Fickell still has to deal with an incomplete roster and an intense spotlight. With all of the negative energy in Columbus, the Buffaloes are primed for an upset. Colorado will attack a Buckeyes defense that will be on its heels for the majority of the game. But this may not be the biggest upset of the week…

SAN DIEGO STATE at No. 22 Michigan

Last week, Michigan put away Eastern Michigan with relative ease. But my mind keeps taking me back to the Wolverines game against the Fighting Irish. Although Michigan pulled off a miraculous victory in one of the greatest football games I’ve witnessed, some aspects of the game were lost in the win. Denard Robinson may be the most exciting player in football, but against Notre Dame he still threw three interceptions, and finished the game with a less than 50 percent completion percentage. Forget the Eastern Michigans of the world; in his last big game, Robinson had some visible struggles. As Michigan head coach Brady Hoke attempts to turn Robinson into a more conventional, under-center quarterback, it reveals the more unpolished aspects of Robinson’s game. The Aztecs enter the game with a Samsonite full of motivation, as most players go up against the man who recruited them, last year’s San Diego State head coach Brady Hoke. For the Wolverines, with Big Ten play on the horizon, they may overlook this game ever so slightly. For SDSU, this could be the biggest game of the year for some players, the contest that’s been circled on the calendar for months. Expect another fine match in The Big House, but this time, the underdog road team will come through.

rohannadkarni2015@u.northwestern.edu

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