Thursday, October 20, 2011
Predictions: Big Ten Week 8
By Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett
Seven weeks into the season, and we're all tied up.
Rittenberg's 16-for-16 start to Big Ten play has drawn him even with Bennett, a Cardinals fans who is looking more like the Atlanta Braves by the week. Hey, given Bennett's dominance in Big Ten fantasy football, we wanted to give you some drama down the stretch.
Five games are on the Week 8 slate, and there appear to be some tricky ones.
Let's get to the picks!
INDIANA at IOWA
Brian Bennett: The Hoosiers nearly upset the Hawkeyes in Bloomington last year, but I don't think IU can do the same in Iowa City. James Vandenberg, Marvin McNutt and Marcus Coker all enjoy big days as Iowa starts to put together a little winning streak ... Iowa 38, Indiana 17
Adam Rittenberg: Indiana has given Iowa some trouble the past two years, and it will be interesting to see how the Hoosiers receivers respond after being called out by coach Kevin Wilson this week. Ultimately, Iowa's offense is far too powerful. McNutt gets the touchdowns record and Coker builds on his strong performance from last week ... Iowa 35, Indiana 17
NO. 23 ILLINOIS at PURDUE
Adam Rittenberg: Purdue did some nice things last week and could pull off the upset, but Illinois' playmakers on defense will make the difference in this one. Whitney Mercilus and Michael Buchanan gets after the Boilers' quarterbacks, and while Ralph Bolden has a nice day, the Illini pull out a close one as Nathan Scheelhaase has a big fourth quarter. ... Illinois 24, Purdue 21
Brian Bennett: I don't expect Scheelhaase to throw two interceptions again. And A.J. Jenkins will have a much better day. Purdue seems to be getting closer, and a win here wouldn't surprise me. But I think the Illini just have a few too many playmakers and will escape. ... Illinois 27, Purdue 23
NO. 13 NEBRASKA at MINNESOTA
Brian Bennett: This one could get real ugly, fast. Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead each run for 150 in three quarters of play, and the Blackshirts get to have some fun against a struggling Gophers offense. ... Nebraska 58, Minnesota 7
Adam Rittenberg: I don't see things getting that bad, but Nebraska won't be sweating it out in Minneapolis. The Huskers run it plenty, but Martinez and his receivers also build some confidence against Minnesota's flimsy defense. Minnesota's offense makes some big plays here and there, but Nebraska cruises. ... Nebraska 44, Minnesota 17
NO. 21 PENN STATE at NORTHWESTERN
Adam Rittenberg: Northwestern's back is against the wall, and this is an absolute must-win for Dan Persa and his fellow seniors. Persa is due for one of those ridiculous performances, and he gets it at home against his home state team. While Penn State boasts a great defense, the Lions haven't been impressive on the road this season and are due for a loss after escaping last week against Purdue. Calling the upset ... Northwestern 24, Penn State 21
Brian Bennett: Any team that can score 21 points against Penn State has a chance, and Northwestern can certainly do that. But the Wildcats defense is playing so bad that I'm not sure it would matter. Silas Redd runs over the Wildcats and Matthew McGloin tosses a pair of touchdown passes to get No. 408 for Joe Paterno. ... Penn State 28, Northwestern 17
NO. 6 WISCONSIN at NO. 16 MICHIGAN STATE
Brian Bennett: The Spartans' defense is going to cause some problems for Wisconsin, with or without the personal fouls. But you don't stop the Badgers as much as you slow them down. Russell Wilson stays cool under pressure, and Wisconsin overcomes some East Lansing demons with a big second half ... Wisconsin 31, Michigan State 21
Adam Rittenberg: Third-down efficiency will be huge in this game, as Wisconsin leads the Big Ten in conversions and Michigan State leads the league in preventing conversions. The Spartans get some stops early, but Wilson and the Wisconsin offense settles into a rhythm in the second and third quarters. The Badgers simply don't beat themselves, and they'll make fewer mistakes than Michigan State to win a big one. ... Wisconsin 30, Michigan State 24
BYE: Michigan, Ohio State
Bennett: 49-13 (.790)
Rittenberg: 49-13 (.790)