Brian won the regular-season predictions contest and made me a poorer man Friday night at Harry and Izzy's in Indianapolis (at least he ordered pork chops, not steak). But when it came to the title game forecast, just call me Nostra-Rittenberg, as I correctly pegged Michigan State to upset Ohio State in the Big Ten championship.
Here's a look at our predictions from last week and those of former players Dan "Boom" Herron (Ohio State) and Jason Strayhorn (Michigan State).
Ohio State vs. Michigan State
Bennett's pick: Ohio State 27, Michigan State 24
Rittenberg's pick: Michigan State 30, Ohio State 28
Actual score: Michigan State 34, Ohio State 24
20-20 hindsight: Both of us were in the ballpark with the score predictions, and I would have nailed Michigan State's if the Spartans had settled for a field goal rather than a touchdown in the closing minutes (darn you, Jeremy Langford). Brian correctly predicted that Ohio State would have its lowest points total of the season and struggle against Michigan State's "No Fly Zone" secondary. He also had Michigan State starting fast behind quarterback Connor Cook, who turned out to be the game's MVP. But his forecast of a big fourth quarter for Ohio State fell short, as Michigan State held Braxton Miller in check and surrendered only 25 yards in the final 15 minutes.
I expressed some concern that Ohio State, making its Big Ten title game debut and facing its toughest opponent in years, could be a bit shaky, which turned out to be true as Michigan State jumped ahead 17-0. Then again, I predicted Ohio State would take an early lead and Michigan State would force two turnovers, neither of which turned out to be true. I correctly pegged Spartans wideout Keith Mumphery for a touchdown catch, but his teammate Bennie Fowler didn't get one. Miller's go-ahead touchdown run came in the third quarter, not the fourth, and Michigan State didn't need a game-winning field goal in the end.
Now for our guest forecasters
While "Boom" Herron's prediction of a 31-17 Ohio State win went bust, Strayhorn correctly picked his Spartans to prevail and came just 34 yards shy of nailing Cook's career-high passing total. Michigan State's perceived weakness, the pass game, turned out to be stronger than Ohio State's (pass defense).
The next set of predictions will come your way before bowl season kicks off.