Four Downs: Predictions, thoughts & more

All eyes are on Evanston for the Ohio State at Northwestern game in what shapes up as an interesting Week 6 of the Big Ten season.

To prep for the first full-blown Saturday of Big Ten action, check out the latest incarnation of my Four Downs feature, with predictions, thoughts, truths and more. After reading this, you’ll be smarter. You have my 100 percent guarantee.

4 PREDICTIONS

1. Michigan isn’t going to just win over Minnesota. Michigan is going to win big over Minnesota in the battle for the Little Brown Jug. The Wolverines have sat around for two weeks listening to how they are fortunate to be 4-0 after those sleepy victories vs. Akron and UConn. Michigan wants to make a statement. Brace yourself.

2. Braxton Miller is going to have a big night passing vs. Northwestern. The guy’s arm looked to be in midseason form last Saturday night vs. Wisconsin. Did he really miss almost three games? The Wildcats are last in the Big Ten vs. the pass (307.5 ypg) and have permitted eight touchdown tosses.

3. The winner of the Michigan State at Iowa game will need just three touchdowns to win. I don’t see either offense gaining much traction. In fact, a defensive or special teams touchdown may be the deciding factor. Michigan State is No. 1 in the Big Ten in total defense (188.8 ypg); Iowa is No. 2 (265.6 ypg).

4. Penn State will rush for over 250 yards vs. Indiana. This is a horrid Hoosier rush defense that’s last in the Big Ten, allowing 247.8 yards per game on the ground. Foes also are averaging 5.1 yards per carry. I sense Bill O’Brien is gonna have a lot of Zach Zwinak left, Zach Zwinak right and Zach Zwinak up the middle.

4 THOUGHTS

1. Illinois could throw a scare into Nebraska. The Fighting Illini have an exciting offense built around the quick-passing game of new coordinator Bill Cubit. And senior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase has been an excellent triggerman. He also has a nice array of weapons at wideout, tight end and in the backfield.

2. There isn’t a better offensive tackle in the Big Ten than Michigan’s Taylor Lewan. And there isn’t a better defensive tackle in the Big Ten than Minnesota’s Ra’Shede Hageman. I hope they line up across from each other often on Saturday in the Big House.

3. The Ohio State at Northwestern game may come down to whoever has the ball last. Really. I think each defense will struggle to stop the other team’s offense. Points could be plentiful in an exciting, high-scoring contest.

4. True freshman running back Derrick Green is going to have a big game for Michigan. Brady Hoke has been talking about getting more backs involved to help Fitz Toussaint. Green is a big, physical runner who can batter the Minnesota defense. I think Michigan wants to throw as few passes as possible to win this game. So, expect a lot of handoffs to Toussaint, Green, fellow true freshman Deveon Smith and some veterans, too.

4 TRUTHS

1. Purdue made the right call by pulling Rob Henry and inserting promising true freshman Danny Etling. Henry never was a fit at quarterback; the guy is a safety and was recruited as such by almost every school. Etling is a talented youngster who provides Purdue with what it needs now more than anything else right now: hope.

2. The Michigan State at Iowa game will feature the two best linebacking corps in the Big Ten. Check out the studs that will be on display. For the Spartans: Taiwan Jones, Denicos Allen, Max Bullough. For the Hawkeyes: Christian Kirksey, James Morris, Anthony Hitchens.

3. If Ohio State wins at Northwestern, it will cruise all the way to the season finale at Michigan unbeaten. Check out the Buckeyes’ schedule between now and then: Iowa, Penn State, at Purdue, at Illinois, Indiana.

4. Minnesota has to find a way to pass better—or it will struggle to win the rest of the season. How bad is it? The Golden Gophers are last in the Big Ten in pass offense (111.2 ypg). Minnesota is completing just 52 percent of its passes and has only two touchdown tosses.

4 JOCKSTRAP GAMES

What’s a “jockstrap game,” you ask? All a team needs to do is throw its jockstrap onto the field and—voila!—a victory will appear.

1. Penn State at Indiana

2. Georgia State at Alabama

3. Louisville over Temple

4. Oregon over Colorado

4 FACTOIDS

1. In his first year at Kent State in 2011, Darrell Hazell started 1-6 and then had a bye before winning five of the last six games. Hazell’s Purdue team is 1-4 as it takes a bye this Saturday.

2. 0, rushing touchdowns allowed by Iowa in 2013. Saturday’s foe Michigan State has allowed just two.

3. 5, games in a row Indiana has scored 28 or more points. That’s the Hoosiers’ longest such skein since a six-game run in 1988.

4. 16, wins in a row for Penn State vs. Indiana. The only active winning streaks longer within the Big Ten are Ohio State vs. Indiana (18) and Michigan vs. Indiana (17). Nebraska has beaten Minnesota 16 times in succession.

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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2 Comments

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Ben on 10/4/2013 @ 5:30pm EDT Said:

Ok, thats the 3rd week in a row that you have talked so highly of UofM… dont forget what happened the other two weeks.

Doug on 10/4/2013 @ 8:33pm EDT Said:

Ben, Tom still thinks Gardner is a good QB even though he has more picks then TD’s, he just can’t help himself.