Four Downs: Predictions, facts & more

It’s that time of the week, time for four predictions, four thoughts, four truths, four jockstrap games and four factoids.

That’s right ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for Four Downs. Are you ready for it? Here we go!

4 PREDICTIONS

1. After a lackluster effort at Wisconsin last Saturday, Northwestern is going to come out motivated vs. Minnesota. Don’t read too much into the consecutive losses for the Wildcats. They got beat by arguably the two best teams in Ohio State and Wisconsin. No shame in that. It’s time for NU to get back on track—with or without dinged up Kain Colter and  Venric Mark.

2. Wisconsin is going to run for a lot of yards at Illinois. Lots and lots of yards. In fact, I think the Badgers can beat the Fighting Illini with three plays: run right; run left; run up the middle. Yes, it’ll be that simple. Enjoy it, Melvin Gordon and James White!

3. Ohio State is going to struggle with Iowa. That’s right. The Hawkeyes are going to give the Buckeyes all they can handle. Yes, Iowa has had issues vs. the pass, but the Hawkeyes have a physical front seven that will make rushing yards difficult to come by and force Braxton Miller to pass. And if Iowa plays some tempo offense and can establish the run, this game may be up in the air as the fourth quarter opens.

4. Michigan is going to make every effort to run, run, run and then run some more vs. Indiana. Will it work? I don’t know. I do know Penn State wanted to do the same thing to the Hoosiers two weeks ago and left Bloomington with 70 yards rushing on 38 attempts and with a numbing 44-28 loss. So, what am I trying to say? I don’t know.

4 THOUGHTS

1. If Indiana can get up by 10 or 14 points on Michigan, the Hoosiers may have a good chance to beat the Wolverines for the first time since 1987. This Michigan offense is not built to play from behind. And if it has to try to match points with the Hoosiers, Michigan could be in trouble. Interesting.

2. Minnesota is going to miss having Jerry Kill on the sideline. I don’t care what any Gopher spin doctors say. This team needs his presence. But when will he come back? Minnesota began the year brimming with the hope of a 4-0 start; it has lost two in a row—with more losses likely to come.

3. Michigan State is the fastest-rising program in the Big Ten. Sorry, Ohio State. The Spartans’ discovery of an offense to go along with the league’s best defense makes this a dangerous team. In fact, it may make Michigan State the best team in the Big Ten. There, I typed it.

4. It sounds like Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez may be back from a turf toe that kept him out the last three games for the Cornhuskers’ next game, at Minnesota on Oct. 26 after a bye this week. But will he be the same? It seems those injuries never really get better until the offseason. I’m thinking if the Huskers have to ride Tommy Armstrong III the rest of the season, they’ll be OK.

4 TRUTHS

1. I don’t think Michigan is going to get its rushing issues solved this season. The staff is desperately searching for solutions up front. I would think the best players already have been playing, right? Are true freshmen REALLY an answer on any line? C’mon. It may be time for the Wolverines to abandon their desire for a power-rushing attack and just revert to a “Denard Robinson” style offense. That’s what seems to be working best for Devin Gardner. Hey, it’s OK to admit defeat.

2. Purdue will be lucky to score at Michigan State. The only way it happens is if the Boilermakers score on special teams or defense. The only chance the Purdue offense scores will be if the MSU defense has a breakdown/blown assignment. No way this offense marches 10-12 plays for a touchdown against this defense in Spartan Stadium.

3. This new playoff committee? It won’t be controversy-free. When the group of 13 on the committee has to draw the line between Team No. 4 and Team No. 5, there is going to be loads of howling. And no amount of justifying, pie charts, diagrams etc., is going to quell the jilted fan base of Team No. 5. I was bummed to hear the committee won’t have a “dry run” in 2013. Why not? It makes no sense not to “test drive” the committee and its criteria—whatever it is.

4. This bye comes at a good time for Penn State. The Nittany Lions can heal up and prep for a nice final month coming off a crazy four-overtime win vs. Michigan that—frankly—Penn State had to have after the loss at Indiana. I know I wouldn’t want to have to play at Penn State. Illinois and Purdue still must wade into Beaver Stadium. And, too, must Nebraska on Nov. 23. Hmmmm.

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. Michigan State over Purdue

2. Alabama over Arkansas

3. Baylor over Iowa State

4. Oregon over Washington State

4 FACTOIDS

1. 15, Big Ten losses in a row for Illinois. Only Northwestern (38 in a row from 1978-82), Indiana (19, 1959-62); Minnesota (19 from 1982-84); Wisconsin (19 from 1989-91); Northwestern (17, 1913-15) and Iowa (16, 1964-66) have had longer droughts.

2. 2, Wins for Michigan State at home in 2012, when the Spartans went 2-5. MSU is 4-0 this year at home.

3. 13, giveaways for Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner—10 picks; 3 fumbles lost. Only Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday has more with 14.

4. 64, passing yards Illinois’ Nathan Scheelhaase is from his total for all of 2012. His 16 completions of 25-or-more yards have been a help.

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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