Friday, March 22, 2013
Ultimate Big Ten road trip: Week 8
By Brian Bennett and Adam Rittenberg
When a horse wins a big race like the Kentucky Derby, people usually say it had the perfect trip. We're seeking our own perfect trip through the Big Ten this fall.
Now, perfection is nearly impossible to achieve in reality. There are budgetary concerns, editors' calls and other considerations to deal with. But we're imagining what it would look like if we had complete travel nirvana, picking the most interesting 2013 Big Ten games per week to attend while trying to create as much variety in our coverage as possible.
Here are our potential destinations for Week 8:
Indiana at Michigan
Iowa at Ohio State
Minnesota at Northwestern
Purdue at Michigan State
Wisconsin at Illinois
Bye weeks: Penn State, Nebraska
Brian Bennett's pick: Iowa at Ohio State
Uh, I guess? On paper, this is wildly underwhelming and makes me wonder if we can convince our editors to go anywhere on Oct. 19. You never know, though, which teams will emerge out of nowhere as unlikely contenders and which ones will flop, so what we think we know could be totally wrong.
For now, I'm pretty much going by process of elimination. I just saw Northwestern in Week 7 and have seen Purdue twice already. I covered Indiana in Week 6 and don't like the Hoosiers' chances in the Big House. I also would have seen Wisconsin twice. So that leaves Iowa-Ohio State, which could be a dog of a game if you just went by 2012 records. But this might be my only chance to get an up-close look at the Hawkeyes and find out how Kirk Ferentz & Co. respond to last year's 4-8 disaster. They'll have a new quarterback -- whether that's Jake Rudock, Cody Sokol or C.J. Beathard -- and hopefully someone will still be upright to play running back this late in the season.
The real appeal here, of course, is the home team. I will only have visited Ohio State once so far, and though I figure to come back later in the season (and maybe in Week 9), this is a team that could be in the national championship hunt. If given a choice between some lackluster-looking games, I'll go see Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde and Ryan Shazier and Bradley Roby do their things. While keeping an eye on the TVs and hoping one of these other contests proves interesting.
Adam Rittenberg's pick: Indiana at Michigan
Talk about a snoozer slate. I worry that we'll be staying home a lot in October. Boo to the double bye. The Indiana-Michigan game could be interesting, though, and I've yet to see Kevin Wilson's squad in 2013. Hear me out. Indiana took significant steps in Wilson's second season -- even if its overall record (4-8) didn't reflect it -- and should be equipped to have a more complete team this season. With eight home games on the slate, IU should make a bowl this fall. Its offense should be among the Big Ten's most dangerous after Indiana scored 30 points or more six times in 2012, including a 49-point effort against Ohio State.
Like many defenses, Michigan has had some troubles with up-tempo spread offenses, and Indiana should provide a good test for the Wolverines, who are looking for playmakers after losing star linebacker Jake Ryan to an ACL tear earlier this week (Ryan could be back by this game, but it's highly unlikely). Safety Thomas Gordon, cornerback Blake Countess and the rest of Michigan's defensive backs will have their hands full with Cody Latimer, Kofi Hughes, Shane Wynn and the rest of Indiana's pass-catchers. At the very least, the game should provide some offensive fireworks as Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner puts up big numbers as a starter late last season and should be even better in 2013.
Yes, I realize Michigan has won 17 straight against Indiana and 32 of the teams' last 33 meetings. Indiana hasn't won at the Big House since 1967. But these two offenses should provide plenty of entertainment, and it will be interesting to see who steps up for the defenses as both (Indiana much more so than Michigan) have some question marks. This one won't be the same without Bill Lynch. I'll throw some chewed gum on the field during the game in his honor.
Week 1: Adam at Northwestern-Cal, Brian at Purdue-Cincinnati
Week 2: Brian and Adam at Notre Dame-Michigan
Week 3: Brian at UCLA-Nebraska, Adam at Wisconsin-Arizona State
Week 4: Adam at Michigan State-Notre Dame, Brian at Purdue-Wisconsin
Week 5: Adam at Wisconsin-Ohio State, Brian at Wisconsin-Ohio State
Week 6: Adam at Ohio State-Northwestern, Brian at Penn State-Indiana
Week 7: Adam at Penn State-Michigan, Brian at Northwestern-Wisconsin