- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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What time is it? Prediction time, whoop.
Three weeks remain in the regular season, and Brian Bennett needs them to be very good ones. He trails Adam Rittenberg by four games in the season standings. If Bennett can't mount a late surge, Rittenberg promises to make him a poor man at St. Elmo in Indianapolis the eve of the Big Ten title game.
Five games are on the slate this week, so let's begin.
WISCONSIN at INDIANA
Brian Bennett: It's the biggest Indiana game in almost 20 years. Unfortunately, the Badgers are about to turn the Cinderella Hoosiers back into a pumpkin. Wisconsin will struggle to get much going in the passing game under new quarterback Curt Phillips, but it won't matter as Montee Ball and James White lead a 300-yard rushing effort and Bret Bielema's team clinches a berth in Indy. ... Wisconsin 31, Indiana 24
Adam Rittenberg: Hoosier Nation should be fired up for this one, and Indiana will ride the momentum to an early lead on a Cody Latimer touchdown catch. But Wisconsin eventually will settle down and start controlling the line of scrimmage, displaying the necessary sense of urgency. The line will wear down the Hoosiers in the second half, and Ball and White will combine for 210 rush yards and three scores. Phillips will make some key throws down the stretch as Wisconsin prevails to secure a spot in Indy. ... Wisconsin 34, Indiana 27
No. 24 NORTHWESTERN at MICHIGAN
Adam Rittenberg: This one will be closer than the oddsmakers think, as Northwestern matches up decently and should be a bit healthier following the open week. But Michigan's defense will do enough to slow down Kain Colter and Venric Mark, who will combine for two first-half touchdowns but not much after that. The Wolverines' big-play pass game will come alive behind Devin Gardner, who will fire two more touchdown passes as Michigan remains perfect at home under Brady Hoke. ... Michigan 23, Northwestern 17
Brian Bennett: Denard Robinson will play some but split time with Gardner at quarterback. Both are effective enough to lead Michigan to a victory because the Wolverines' defense knows how to slow down a running team. Jake Ryan will force a key second-half fumble, and Michigan will keep its Legends hopes alive. ... Michigan 30, Northwestern 21
PURDUE at IOWA
Brian Bennett: Somebody has to win between these two scuffling teams, and I've got more confidence in Iowa than a dysfunctional Purdue outfit right now. James Vandenberg and Kevonte Martin-Manley will hook up for a pair of scores, and the Hawkeyes' defense will shut down the Boilers after their usual early score. ... Iowa 24, Purdue 13
Adam Rittenberg: I guess we're contractually obligated to pick a winner here, huh? OK, well here it goes. Purdue will have its typical great first drive and jump ahead on an Antavian Edison touchdown catch from Robert Marve. But Iowa eventually will take control on its home field behind Damon Bullock, who will record 120 rush yards and two scores. Vandenberg will start slowly but come alive in the second half as Iowa hands Purdue a sixth Big Ten loss and ensures the Boilers won't be bowling for the second straight year. ... Iowa 27, Purdue 19
PENN STATE at No. 18 NEBRASKA
Adam Rittenberg: This will be a good one, as a Penn State team that has been very good on the road faces its toughest test against a Nebraska squad eying Indianapolis (and maybe Pasadena). The Lions will jump ahead early, as they typically do, when Zach Zwinak completes a long scoring drive with a touchdown run. Nebraska will respond and the teams will trade leads during the second half, but the Huskers' spread will prove to be too much for Penn State. Kenny Bell will bounce back from last week with two scoring receptions, and Matthew McGloin will throw a costly interception in the fourth quarter. ... Nebraska 30, Penn State 28
Brian Bennett: It's a matchup of the top two passers in the Big Ten in Nebraska's Taylor Martinez and McGloin. I have to keep repeating that sentence to believe it. Nebraska is the smart pick here, especially at home, but I am down in the picks contest and need to come up with a Hail Mary. So I'll go with the Penn State upset, thinking the Cornhuskers could be due for a letdown after three straight emotional games. The Lions will get up early on a couple of McGloin touchdown passes, and Nebraska will be unable to complete one of its patented comebacks as Penn State grinds out the clock with the power running game and some safe throws to its tight ends. ... Penn State 27, Nebraska 24
MINNESOTA at ILLINOIS
Brian Bennett: My picks have been pretty bad this year, but going against Illinois has served us both well all season. Even at home against a banged-up Minnesota offense, I just don't see how the Illini can get over the hump. Philip Nelson will hit John Rabe for a pair of scores, and the Gophers will get the road win to clinch bowl eligibility. ... Minnesota 24, Illinois 14
Adam Rittenberg: I'm tempted to pick Illinois, as Minnesota hasn't scored well in Big Ten play at all. But the Illini have too many problems right now, and I don't think they can put it together against a Gophers team that needs to secure bowl eligibility before a tough closing stretch. After stubbing their toe in the red zone on their first drive, the Gophers finally will get it together behind running back Rodrick Williams. Illinois will respond and take a fourth-quarter lead, but a roughing-the-passer penalty will set up Minnesota's game-winning drive as Nelson finds Isaac Fruechte in the end zone. ... Minnesota 23, Illinois 20
Michigan State and Ohio State are both off.
Adam Rittenberg: 61-18 (.772)
Brian Bennett: 57-22 (.722)
1011dAdam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett