Big Ten: picks

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

This is why I didn't major in math.

Thanks to John from Des Moines, Iowa, for pointing this out:

Adam, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you wrote on your picks today that you're 29-11 for the season. I've been comparing my picks to yours, and they didn't add up, so I checked. You're only 27-11 (.711). I'm beating you by 2 games right now :)

Thanks, John, for pointing out the error. The change has been made. And I highly doubt John is the only one beating me this year. It's been a rough one.

Big Ten picks for Week 12

November, 13, 2008

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

The weather forecast around the Big Ten calls for snow, rain and wind on Saturday. Here's hoping this forecast turns out a little sunnier. November has been a dark and dreary month for the picks so far (5-6).

Penn State 48, Indiana 7 -- No hangover here, as the Nittany Lions respond from last week's somewhat surprising loss to Iowa by beating up on a beat-up Indiana team. The Hoosiers' secondary has been decimated by injuries, and Penn State will look to revive its big-play offense before Michigan State comes to town next week. Expect big games for Daryll Clark and do-it-all wide receiver Derrick Williams.

Ohio State 28, Illinois 21 -- Those who watched last year's game will appreciate the score prediction. Illinois always plays the Buckeyes tough and will do so again in a desperate situation, but Ohio State simply doesn't lose Big Ten road games. Plus, the Buckeyes are hitting their stride on offense to complement a defense that has played well since the USC game. Running back Chris "Beanie" Wells and cornerback Malcolm Jenkins have big games for the Bucks.

Iowa 23, Purdue 17 -- The Hawkeyes could struggle early after an emotional win last week, and Purdue's defense has done a good job against traditional offenses this season. Joe Tiller rotates quarterbacks Justin Siller and Curtis Painter and has some success, but Iowa running back Shonn Greene proves to be too much with his 11th consecutive 100-yard rushing game. Iowa's defense clamps down late to seal the win.

Northwestern 27, Michigan 24 -- Easily the toughest game to pick this week. It's tempting to say Michigan has turned a corner with a complete performance against Minnesota last week. Both teams are banged up on offense, and Northwestern hasn't taken many risks with quarterback Mike Kafka at the helm. But the Wildcats have been more consistent on both sides of the ball, and Michigan has had some trouble with spread offenses. Both teams are prone to turnovers, but Michigan commits the critical giveaway in the fourth quarter.

Wisconsin 27, Minnesota 14 -- Minnesota will play hard in this heated rivalry and the score could be closer, but it's hard to see the Gophers keeping pace without star wide receiver Eric Decker (high ankle sprain). Wisconsin should be on a three-game win streak -- the Badgers totally gave one away in East Lansing -- and seem to be gaining confidence on offense. The bottom line is one team runs the ball well, while the other can't get the ground game going. Running backs P.J. Hill and John Clay lead the way for Wisconsin.

Bye: Michigan State (9-2, 6-1 Big Ten)

Season record: 61-16 (79.2 percent)

Big Ten picks for Week 11

November, 6, 2008

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

After going 2-3 in a wild Week 10, my chance for redemption has arrived. The weather could be a major factor in three of the four outdoor games, as rain and potential snow showers are forecasted for Iowa City (where I'll be), East Lansing and Evanston. It'll be room temperature in the Metrodome and Ford Field.

Here's the rundown.

Ohio State 28, Northwestern 13 -- It's simply not a good matchup for Northwestern, and though the Wildcats' much-improved defense could keep things close for a while, Ohio State eventually breaks through behind running back Chris "Beanie" Wells. Northwestern still has injury issues at key positions -- check back later for the official injury report -- and Ohio State's defense seems to be hitting its stride in the second half of the season. This won't be nearly as ugly as the last three seasons, but the Buckeyes prevail.

Wisconsin 31, Indiana 21 -- Both teams have been big disappointments, but Wisconsin's offense appears to be finding a rhythm with quarterback Dustin Sherer and running backs John Clay and P.J. Hill. Indiana's defense continues to regress outside from a few players (Matt Mayberry, Jammie Kirlew), and the Badgers' ground game will be too powerful. Indiana's hopes hinge on its ability to attack the Wisconsin secondary with young wideouts Tandon Doss and Damarlo Belcher.

Michigan State 23, Purdue 14 -- Bad weather could turn this one into the Javon Ringer show, especially since the Michigan State senior running back is recovering well from a stomach virus. Purdue got going last week behind Justin Siller, but the quarterback spot remains unsettled and Michigan State's defense will capitalize on a banged-up Boilermakers offensive line. It won't be pretty -- then again, it never is with Michigan State -- but the Spartans survive on Senior Day.

Minnesota 28, Michigan 17 -- The Wolverines don't have much to play for and likely will be without starting quarterback Steven Threet. At least they have history on their side, never having lost in the Metrodome. Minnesota comes off a tough loss, which in the past would trigger a collapse, but the Gophers have stronger leadership this year, from the head coach on down. Tim Brewster said this won't be a real rivalry until Minnesota starts winning. The Gophers get the job done, using their familiar formula of forcing turnovers and capitalizing for points against a mistake-prone Michigan team.

Illinois 38, Western Michigan 31 -- This is a tough one. Illinois hasn't won consecutive games since Sept. 6-13. The Illini have had some internal discord and head into an odd environment -- Ford Field, which won't be close to capacity -- to face a high-powered Western Michigan team. Quarterbacks Juice Williams and Tim Hiller both have big days, but Illinois' secondary forces a critical takeaway in the fourth quarter to seal the win.

Penn State 24, Iowa 14 -- The bad weather and the bye week lead to a slow start for Penn State, but Daryll Clark gets things going by attacking Iowa down the field with senior wideouts Derrick Williams, Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood. Iowa boasts an excellent defensive front seven that can limit the run game, but Clark will have some deep options. Iowa will be fired up at home, but without much offense besides running back Shonn Greene, the Hawkeyes fall short.

Season record: 58-13 (81.7 percent)

Big Ten picks for Week 6

October, 2, 2008

Posted by'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

Bye: Northwestern