Big Ten: Adam DiMichele
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Much like the Big Ten itself, the picks continue to avoid a bad week. The score predictions were way off once again, but with a 7-1 record and the lone blemish a 1-point decision, I'll take it. The Big Ten is turning into a defense-oriented league -- at least outside of State College, where Penn State continues to roll -- so expect some lower scores this week as conference play begins.
Time to review the picks:
- My pick: Northwestern 30, Ohio 24
- Game result: Northwestern 16, Ohio 8
- 20-20 hindsight: I've come to accept bizarre games from the Wildcats, but this one set a new standard. Suddenly the defense is dominant and the offense stinks? That was certainly the case against Ohio. Quarterback Boo Jackson didn't provide the test I thought he would, as Northwestern forced him into repeated mistakes and generated four takeaways. The Wildcats' superb defensive effort rescued quarterback C.J. Bacher, who threw four interceptions.
- My pick: Minnesota 42, Florida Atlantic 39
- Game result: Minnesota 37, Florida Atlantic 3
- 20-20 hindsight: I thought I'd have some fun and pick Minnesota to win by the same score in which it lost last year's meeting against FAU. Guess the Gophers didn't see the humor. They absolutely destroyed the defending Sun Belt champs, as a much-improved defense forced turnovers and quarterback Adam Weber continued to surge. After committing seven giveaways last year, Minnesota won the turnover margin, 4-1. My apologies to Gopher Nation for underestimating your team.
- My pick: Ohio State 42, Troy 10
- Game result: Ohio State 28, Troy 10
- 20-20 hindsight: This ended up being one of the closer score predictions, though Ohio State's ability to underwhelm still seems stunning. Credit freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor for a very impressive debut, but Ohio State entered the fourth quarter leading by just four points. I'm sure most will predict a lopsided result when Ohio State opens Big Ten play against Minnesota, but I've learned my lesson.
- My pick: Penn State 41, Temple 17
- Game result: Penn State 45, Temple 3
- 20-20 hindsight: I keep waiting for Penn State's defense to falter, but it keeps coming up big. Linebacker Navorro Bowman (5 TFLs, 3 sacks) led the charge in his first career start as the Lions defense picked up an offense that started a bit slow. It was Stephfon Green, not Derrick Williams, who had the big offensive day for Penn State, and Temple QB Adam DiMichele ended up being knocked out of the game in the first quarter.
- My pick: Iowa 24, Pitt 20
- Game result: Pitt 21, Iowa 20
- 20-20 hindsight: The closest pick of the week turned out to be my only misdiagnosis, as Pitt outlasted Iowa at Heinz Field. Panthers running back LeSean McCoy got the best of Iowa's defense when it mattered most with a 27-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter. But the Hawkeyes still aren't getting enough production from their quarterback position, and it might be time to scrap the rotation and settle on a leader.
- My pick: Purdue 45, Central Michigan 41
- Game result: Purdue 32, Central Michigan 25
- 20-20 hindsight: It wasn't the offensive surge I predicted, but the game still provided plenty of entertainment value. Purdue's secondary is better than many forecasted, and the Boilers finally came through in the clutch after Central Michigan appeared poised to steal a road win. Curtis Painter had a solid performance, but the Chippewas' seemingly vulnerable defense limited Purdue to just 16 first downs and 344 yards of offense.
NOTRE DAME-MICHIGAN STATE
- My pick: Michigan State 31, Notre Dame 28
- Game result: Michigan State 23, Notre Dame 7
- 20-20 hindsight: It was wishful thinking to call this "the best game of the day," as Michigan State grinded out a win behind a physical defense and superstar running back Javon Ringer. The Spartans' defense held Jimmy Clausen and Notre Dame's long-range passing attack in check for most of the game, keeping the Fighting Irish off the scoreboard for three quarters. Once again, Ringer was fabulous, becoming the first Spartans player to record back-to-back 200-yard rushing performances.
- My pick: Ball State 45, Indiana 42 (OT)
- Game result: Ball State 42, Indiana 20
- 20-20 hindsight: Indiana came into the game untested, and it showed. The Ball State offense tore through Indiana's defense despite losing star wideout Dante Love to a tragic and terrifying injury in the first quarter. The Hoosiers didn't hold up their end of the bargain, as quarterback Kellen Lewis threw two inte
rceptions and the offense shut down in the fourth quarter.
Byes: Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois
Season record: 35-4
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Only eight games on the slate this week, but there's no shortage of subplots, especially on the defensive side.
Let's take a look:
1. Ringer vs. the world: Notre Dame will do all it can to stop Michigan State's Javon Ringer on Saturday (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET). Ringer likely can expect to see eight or nine men in the box, as the Fighting Irish dare Brian Hoyer to beat them. The overloading still might not be enough, as Ringer has racked up 417 rushing yards and seven touchdowns in his last two games.
2. Pryor's coronation in Columbus: Terrelle Pryor and Todd Boeckman will split snaps for Ohio State against Troy, but this game is a chance for the freshman to take control of the offense. If Pryor continues to show good poise and playmaking ability, he'll continue to be featured when the Buckeyes enter Big Ten play. Boeckman will get his opportunities as well, but with the top goal off the table for the Buckeyes, they have to look toward the future.
3. Iowa D takes on real McCoy: The Hawkeyes have already collected eight takeaways without allowing a touchdown this season, but they face their first major test in Pitt running back LeSean McCoy. Expect McCoy to run away from Iowa star tackles Mitch King and Matt Kroul, which will put pressure on less proven players to step up.
4. Indiana on the defensive: I've already heard from several furious Hoosiers fans about my upset pick of Ball State against their unproven team. Let's see if an improved Hoosiers defense proves me a fool when it faces dynamic quarterback Nate Davis and FBS receiving leader Dante Love. There's no doubt Kellen Lewis will make plays for Indiana, but the team's fate, as usual, rests with the defense.
5. Northwestern chases history: Nonconference losses have been Northwestern's biggest bugaboo, even during the program's renaissance in the mid-1990s. The Wildcats can sweep their nonleague slate for the first time since 1963 by beating Ohio at home. It won't be easy, as the Bobcats are much better than their record indicates and athletic quarterback Boo Jackson spells trouble for an improved Northwestern defense.
6. Tiller gets record: Joe Tiller already should be Purdue's all-time winningest coach, but his team lost another winnable big game last Saturday against Oregon. Tiller sets the record this week as Curtis Painter and the Boilermakers pick apart a Central Michigan defense that looks overmatched against BCS foes. Dan LeFevour makes the game interesting for a while, but Purdue beats the Chippewas for the third straight time.
7. Gophers secondary tested: No one would mistake Minnesota's nonleague schedule for, say, Washington's, but the Gophers deserve a ton of credit if they go 4-0 after winning one game all of last season. Standing in their path is Florida Atlantic quarterback Rusty Smith, who will perform much better than he did in the rain last week in East Lansing. Minnesota's new-look secondary of Tramaine Brock, Traye Simmons, Marcus Sherels and Kyle Theret have shown good playmaking skills so far and need continued progress against the Owls.
8. Iowa quarterback Jake Christensen: Coach Kirk Ferentz seems to be telling Christensen, "Take the job already, will ya?" The junior gets a great chance to do so on the road against a desperate Pitt team already knocked off its preseason perch. Christensen steadied the offense in the clutch last week against Iowa State but will need to make more pressure plays against the Panthers.
9. Penn State's defensive line: Coach Joe Paterno admits his team hasn't faced any adversity so far this season, at least on the field. Temple quarterback Adam DiMichele should be a good challenge for Penn State's defensive linemen, who have held together nicely despite injuries, dismissals and suspensions. Paterno also should address the status of linemen Maurice Evans and Abe Koroma after the game.
10. Michigan State safety Otis Wiley: Wiley once again looks like the guy who led the team in tackles (94) and pass breakups (10) as a sophomore in 2006. The Spartans need him at his peak against Notre Dame because of lingering personnel issues in the secondary. Fighting Irish quarterback Jimmy Clausen will look to stretch the field with Golden Tate, and it's up to Wiley to limit the damage.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Things are about to get tough. The cupcake games (read: easy picks) are evaporating, so it's time to get serious. I'm coming off a solid week record-wise but need to do a bit better with the scores. Fortunately, Saturday's weather forecast looks good in Big Ten territory, so the offenses should be back to normal.
A lot of nail-biters this week.
Northwestern 30, Ohio 24 -- This has the makings of a trap game for the Wildcats, who haven't swept their nonconference games since 1963 and face a winless Ohio team that could easily be 2-1. Elusive quarterback Boo Jackson will test an improved Northwestern defense, but he'll make some mistakes down the stretch. Northwestern might start slow on offense and fall behind, but C.J. Bacher is at his best with his back to the wall and makes enough plays to win.
Minnesota 42, Florida Atlantic 39 -- Those who watched last year's game will understand the significance of the score. Don't expect the same Florida Atlantic team that got shut out in the rain last week at Michigan State. Quarterback Rusty Smith and the Owls surge in the Metrodome. But this is a different Minnesota team, one that deserves a little more faith from me. Adam Weber and Eric Decker hook up for a touchdown in the final minute as the Gophers go 4-0.
Ohio State 42, Troy 10 -- Running back Chris "Beanie" Wells will be limited if he plays at all, and the Buckeyes' offense could start slowly. All eyes will be on the quarterbacks as Todd Boeckman and Terrelle Pryor split snaps for the second straight game. Both quarterbacks will make some plays and the competition will continue into Big Ten play. Troy's athletic quarterback Jamie Hampton could provide some initial trouble for the Buckeyes defense before it locks down.
Penn State 41, Temple 17 -- Joe Paterno is talking up Temple, and the Owls could make Penn State's starters work a little longer than a quarter or two this week. But there's no way Temple can contain all of Penn State's weapons. Wideout Derrick Williams takes his turn at putting up big numbers as the Spread HD offense ignites in the third quarter. Temple quarterback Adam DiMichele will be a good test for a patchwork Lions defensive line.
Iowa 24, Pitt 20 -- I made the mistake of putting Pitt in my preseason Top 25 poll, so I'm not going to let Wanny burn me again. This one could go either way, as Iowa really hasn't been tested yet. The key matchup features Panthers star running back LeSean McCoy against Iowa's defensive line, led by tackles Mitch King and Matt Kroul. Iowa could use two quarterbacks again, but junior Jake Christensen makes a big play late to secure the win.
Purdue 45, Central Michigan 41 -- The teams' third meeting in just over a year will be just as entertaining as the previous matchup at the 2007 Motor City Bowl. Purdue still doesn't know how to win big games and could have a hangover from last week's missed opportunity against Oregon, but Central Michigan really struggles to stop BCS teams. The Chippewas have allowed an average of 51.4 points in their last seven games against BCS foes. That bodes well for Curtis Painter.
Michigan State 31, Notre Dame 28 -- This could be the best game of the day, and I hope it is since I'll be there. Michigan State tries to control the clock with running back Javon Ringer and puts pressure on a questionable Notre Dame defensive line. Fighting Irish quarterback Jimmy Clausen counters by stretching the field against a suspect Spartans defense. The slight edge goes to Michigan State, which becomes the first team to win at home in the series since 2000.
Ball State 45, Indiana 42 (OT) -- The Cardinals will be pumped for this one, and star quarterback Nate Davis and FBS receiving leader Dante Love fluster a Hoosiers secondary that could be without standout safety Austin Thomas. No Big Ten team has been tested less than Indiana so far, and though Kellen Lewis will move the ball against Ball State, a late-game miscue will prove costly.
Byes: Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois
Season record: 28-3
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Conference play kicks off next week with several exciting matchups, but five Big Ten teams are trying to round out the non-league slate on a good note. For the second straight year the league is shaping up to have more bowl-eligible teams that available slots, so winning these early games is paramount for squads like Northwestern, Indiana and Minnesota. The Hoosiers get back into action after a week off, and Ohio State returns to the field, hoping to turn the page on the USC flop.
Here's a look at what's on tap Saturday.
Ohio at Northwestern (noon ET)
Don't be fooled by Ohio's 0-3 record. The Bobcats built leads against Ohio State and Central Michigan the last two weeks and could be Northwestern's toughest non-league test. The Wildcats are fighting some history, as they haven't had a perfect nonconference season since 1963. Non-league stumbles kept Northwestern out of bowl games in 2004 and 2007, so a win here would be huge. The Wildcats' improved defense will have to contain Bobcats quarterback Boo Jackson, who set a school record with 413 total yards last week.
Florida Atlantic at Minnesota (noon ET)
The Gophers should have plenty of motivation in this one after losing to the Owls last fall in Miami. After going 1-11 in 2007, Minnesota would be two-thirds of the way to bowl eligibility with a victory. But it won't be easy, and the Gophers shouldn't expect to see the same Rusty Smith who completed just 8 of 34 passes in a downpour last week at Michigan State. Smith will challenge a Gophers defense that missed tackles against Montana State and allowed 463 passing yards in last year's contest with the Owls.
Troy at No. 13 Ohio State (noon ET)
It will be an interesting day along the banks of the Olentangy River. How will Ohio State be received after crumbling at the L.A. Coliseum? Will there be a hangover or a new fire with this team? The Buckeyes might take out their frustration on Troy, a solid Sun Belt team that is 2-0 despite losing its star quarterback (Omar Haugabook) and its star offensive coordinator (Tony Franklin). Regardless of who plays running back, it's important for the offensive line and quarterback Todd Boeckman to settle into a good rhythm. Terrelle Pryor likely will continue to see more playing time as Ohio State tries to build momentum before league play.
Temple at No. 16 Penn State (noon ET)
It's been a tough two weeks for Temple, which lost on a Hail Mary against Buffalo and an overtime touchdown against Connecticut. The Owls won't get much sympathy from a Penn State team that has won three games by an average of 43 points. At least the Lions should be tested by a solid Temple offense led by quarterback Adam DiMichele, who leads the team in both passing (204.7 ypg) and rushing (39 ppg). Former Penn State captain Al Golden will make his first appearance at Beaver Stadium as Temple's coach.
Iowa at Pitt (ESPN2, noon ET)
The Hawkeyes have looked fabulous at home, particularly on defense. Their first voyage away from Kinnick Stadium brings new challenges, namely a Pitt team that desperately needs a win to avoid being branded a bust and putting coach Dave Wannstedt on the hot seat. The game's key matchup pairs Pitt star running back LeSean McCoy against an Iowa defensive line anchored by four-year starters Mitch King and Matt Kroul. The Hawkeyes remain unsettled at quarterback and should get some answers -- good or bad -- at that position against the Panthers.
Central Michigan at Purdue (noon ET)
These teams have to be sick of one another. Saturday marks their third meeting since Sept. 15, 2007, with Purdue winning both previous contests. The Boilers' big-game blues continued last week against Oregon, but another matchup with a quality team provides a chance for redemption. Central Michigan's defense struggles against BCS foes, so Curtis Painter should be able to get on track. The key will be whether Purdue's defense continues to make plays in the red zone against Dan LeFevour. A victory makes Joe Tiller Purdue's all-time winningest coach.
Notre Dame at Michigan State (ABC, 3:30 ET)
The Spartans look like the better team, but in this series it rarely matters. The road team has won the last seven meetings, stretching back to 2001, and Michigan State must only remember its 2006 collapse in the rain to recognize that anything can happen. Notre Dame's improved offense will challenge the Spartans, who shut out Florida Atlantic but will need a strong performance from a patchwork secondary to stop Fighting Irish deep threat Golden Tate. Expect another big game from Spartans running back Javon Ringer, but quarterback Brian Hoyer will have to make a few big plays as well.
Ball State at Indiana (7 p.m. ET)
This should be one of the day's most exciting games, as Indiana gets tested for the first time this season. Ball State quarterback Nate Davis ranks sixth nationally in passer rating (189.4) and will look for Dante Love, the nation's leading receiver (144.3 ypg). Indiana counters with Kellen Lewis, who has been terrific so far, averaging 248 yards of total offense per game. Add in the subplot of Hoosiers coach Bill Lynch facing the team that fired him in 2002, and this is a game you don't want to miss.
Byes: Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois