Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Ultimate Big Ten 2012 road trip: Week 10
By Brian Bennett and Adam Rittenberg
Our ultimate Big Ten road trip now moves into November as we enter the true stretch drive of the season. After a monster Week 9, this slate of games is a little less appetizing, but there are still plenty of tasty matchups in true football weather.
Once again, we are picking the places we would go each week if we set our own itineraries at the beginning of the season, which we do not do in real life. But a blogger can dream.
Week 10 games
Illinois at Ohio State
Iowa at Indiana
Michigan at Minnesota
Penn State at Purdue
Nebraska at Michigan State
(Byes: Northwestern, Wisconsin)
Brian's pick: Penn State at Purdue
Nebraska-Michigan State might be the best game on the docket, but I've spent whole lot of time with those teams on this trip and need to mix things up. So I'm going with my first glimpse of the Boilermakers, who might just be ready to surprise some people this season. Plus, I haven't seen Penn State since Week 2 of the trip, and I'm guessing the Nittany Lions will improve as the season wears on under first-year head coach Bill O'Brien.
If you'll recall, this was a pretty good game in 2011 in State College, so these two teams could be fairly evenly-matched this year. Both could very well still be in contention for the Leaders Division berth in the Big Ten championship game at this point in the year, with Ohio State ineligible and Wisconsin not looking like a team that will run away and hide from its competition. The Nittany Lions should have a great defense, led by Gerald Hodges and that impressive linebacker corps, while the Boilers have revamped their 'D' and could get a tremendous senior year from defensive tackle Kawann Short. While neither have been offensive juggernauts of late, Purdue should be better with healthy, experienced quarterbacks, and O'Brien should bring Penn State into the 21st century with his playcalling.
Add it all up, and Ross-Ade Stadium looks like a good place to be on the first weekend of November.
Adam Rittenberg's pick: Illinois at Ohio State
I agree that while Nebraska-Michigan State likely will be the most important game in Week 10, it's a week where you can mix it up a bit. I've only seen Ohio State once, and I'd like to take a peek at the Fighting Illini under new head coach Tim Beckman. Like Purdue, Illinois could be a sleeper team in the Leaders Division, but it will need to make a statement win against Ohio State, Wisconsin or Penn State. The Illini get both Wisconsin and Penn State at home, but they can shake up the division race with an upset in C-Bus.
Some might wonder why I'd want to see an Ohio State-Illinois duel after watching last year's slog in Champaign, in which Ohio State won despite attempting only four passes and completing just one. Well, unless Jim Bollman sneaks into The Shoe, Ohio State will be much more fun to watch on offense this time around against the Illini. Quarterback Braxton Miller should be pretty comfortable with the system by this point, and he'll be tested by a talented Illinois defensive front seven led by end Michael Buchanan and linebacker Jonathan Brown.
An interesting subplot is Beckman going up against his old boss and close friend, Urban Meyer. "We're both very competitive," Beckman told me last week. "I'm sure he's happy I'm in the league, and I'm happy he's in the league." Illinois often gives Ohio State trouble in the battle for the Illibuck. Get me to Columbus.
Previously on the road trip ...
Week 1: Adam at Boise State-Michigan State, Brian at Michigan-Alabama
Week 2: Brian at Penn State-Virginia, Adam at Nebraska-UCLA
Week 3: Adam at Notre Dame-Michigan State, Brian at Cal-Ohio State
Week 4: Brian at Michigan-Notre Dame, Adam at Michigan-Notre Dame
Week 5: Adam at Wisconsin-Nebraska, Brian at Ohio State-Michigan State
Week 6: Brian at Nebraska-Ohio State, Adam at Nebraska-Ohio State
Week 7: Brian at Iowa-Michigan State, Adam at Wisconsin-Purdue
Week 8: Adam at Michigan State-Michigan, Brian at Michigan State-Michigan
Week 9: Brian at Michigan-Nebraska, Adam at Michigan State-Wisconsin