Big Ten picks for Week 6
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
One of the comments on my most recent picks review noted that from here on out, I'll be lucky to go above .500. The reader is probably right. Things are getting much tougher, and our good pal parity is the reason why.
The Big Ten might not have multiple national title contenders or a large group of Heisman Trophy candidates, but there are no terrible teams in this league and many matchups are fairly even (see below). Wisconsin's loss at Michigan changes the complexion of this week's showcase game against Ohio State, and Iowa's desperate need for a victory could bring a stronger performance in East Lansing.
The season record could take a beating this week. Lots of close games.
Michigan State 24, Iowa 23 -- The teams are similar in both style and statistical rankings, and they should produce a down-to-the-wire matchup at Spartan Stadium. Things are getting ugly at Iowa as the heat is being turned up on head coach Kirk Ferentz and his coordinators Ken O'Keefe and Norm Parker. The Hawkeyes will be ready for this one, and if their veteran defensive line can contain Heisman Trophy candidate Javon Ringer, my prediction will be wrong. But Ringer will do just enough damage to top Iowa and the Big Ten's No. 2 back Shonn Greene.
Minnesota 38, Indiana 31 -- This has shootout written all over it, with both teams ranked in the league's top half in scoring offense. Both starting quarterbacks, Indiana's Kellen Lewis and Minnesota's Adam Weber, are dangerous on the move. The difference is the passing game, where Minnesota has the edge with Weber and All-Big Ten performer Eric Decker. Indiana's secondary remains a bit banged up, and Weber will take advantage for another big day in the dome.
Penn State 41, Purdue 27 -- Daryll Clark and the dangerous Penn State offense will pass their first true road test of the season against a Purdue team that will once again be without star linebacker Jason Werner and possibly starting safety Frank Duong (sprained knee). The Boilers have played well at Ross-Ade Stadium, where they should be 3-0 this season, but the offense hasn't found the end zone enough (only 13 touchdowns this season) and faces an underrated Penn State defense.
Illinois 27, Michigan 24 -- Another very tough game to pick. Michigan has some momentum after its dramatic comeback against Wisconsin, but I just can't see Illinois dropping to 2-3. The Wolverines' defense can only bail out the offense for so long, and getting outscored 72-37 in the first half just doesn't cut it. Carlos Brown and Junior Hemingway will be missed, and Illinois beats Michigan for the first time since 1999 behind Juice Williams and Arrelious Benn.
Ohio State 24, Wisconsin 21 -- Camp Randall will be rockin' and Wisconsin always plays well at home, but Ohio State has turned a corner with the return of running back Chris "Beanie" Wells. Both Wells and quarterback Terrelle Pryor will test Wisconsin's speed on defense, which seemed to drop off last week against Michigan. Wisconsin should get a boost with H-back/tight end Travis Beckum finally at full strength, but Ohio State's defense stands strong and forces a late turnover that proves to be the difference.
Season record: 38-7