Fours Downs: Truths, thoughts & numbers

Once again, Saturday is almost here and I’ve rolled up my sleeves and cranked out four downs worth of football predictions, thoughts, and truths about Week 13 of the Big Ten football season. Why four downs? Because in this post we never punt.

I’ve given you my game previews (watch out for Minnesota, folks), and we posted some semi-fantastic picks along with the rest of the BTN.com team. The best of Week 13 is also up, and you had some great letters in my mailbag this week, too. For instance, can Michigan State beat Ohio State?

So here now is what’s running through my mind one day away from six more Big Ten football games.

PREDICTIONS

1. Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde will run for at least 200 yards—maybe more—vs. Indiana. He is coming off a 246-yard effort at Illinois. Hyde has rushed for 100 yards in five games in a row, averaging 13.9 and 10.3 per carry in each of the last two games. No way, no how this Hoosiers defense will tackle him.

2. Illinois’ dubious 20-game Big Ten losing skid will end! That’s right! The Fighting Illini will dump Purdue for their first conference victory since a 41-20 triumph at Indiana on Oct. 8, 2011. Exhale, Tim Beckman.

3. Penn State will find a way to win at home vs. Nebraska. Yes, the Nittany Lions have struggled on the road, falling at Indiana, Ohio State and Minnesota. But they are tough at home, where they have fallen only to UCF. Not sure what the mind-set will be of Nebraska, as it comes in off the home loss to Michigan State. This game seems to be a bigger deal for the Nittany Lions, being Senior Day and all.

4. Northwestern is going to give Michigan State all it can handle. This is a prideful Wildcats team that wants to end its six-game losing streak. The Spartans are coming off two emotional victories, vs. Michigan and at Nebraska. Will MSU be up for this game in sleepy Evanston? The Spartans lost last year, 23-20, to the Wildcats in East Lansing. Before that, Michigan State had won four in a row vs. NU. It last lost two in a row to Northwestern in 2000-2001. I think MSU may not get control of this game until the fourth quarter.

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THOUGHTS

Northwestern ‘s schedule 2013
Date Opponent Result / Time
8/31 at California 44 – 30
9/7 vs. Syracuse 48 – 27
9/14 vs. Western Michigan 38 – 17
9/21 vs. Maine 35 – 21
10/5 vs. 4 Ohio State 30 – 40
10/12 at Wisconsin 6 – 35
10/19 vs. Minnesota 17 – 20
10/26 at Iowa 10 – 17
11/2 at Nebraska 24 – 27
11/16 vs. Michigan 19 – 27
11/23 vs. 13 Michigan State 12:00 ET
11/30 at Illinois 3:30 ET

1. Wisconsin and Minnesota may combine for 80 rushes. This Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe will be a physical, ground-and-pound game that will be everything an Oregon-Baylor game wouldn’t be—three yards and a lot of clouds of dust.

2. I can’t recall a meltdown as epic as Northwestern’s. In 2011, Illinois began the season 6-0 and then lost six in a row before winning a bowl game. This season, the Wildcats opened 4-0 and have lost six in a row. A loss at home to Michigan State would extinguish NU’s bowl hopes in a season that began with such promise.

3. Back in August, I never thought Iowa would be the ascending team when it met Michigan. But, that’s the case. Iowa beat Michigan three times in a row before falling last season in Ann Arbor, 42-17. So, the Hawkeyes don’t fear the Wolverines. In fact, Iowa is 3-1 vs. Michigan in the last four meetings in Iowa City. I will be surprised if Iowa loses. In fact, there’s a good chance the Hawkeyes could win out—they finish at Nebraska–and go 8-4.

4. Will Indiana ever beat Ohio State again? Seriously. The Ohio State-Indiana series is the definition of “lopsided.” Since the Hoosiers won in 1951, the Buckeyes are 49-2-2 vs. Indiana. The two IU wins were in 1987-88 and the two ties were in 1959 and 1990. And most times, the outcome of these games hasn’t been close. This week’s meeting could be particularly ugly, as OSU looks for style points in its BCS title game quest.

[ MORE: Watch live pregame Field Pass cameras from Michigan vs. Iowa at 11 a.m. ET on BTN2Go ]

TRUTHS

1. Michigan will struggle mightily to run the ball on Iowa. The Hawkeyes are No. 5 in the Big Ten vs. the run (130.0 ypg); Michigan has the No. 11 rushing attack (135.7 ypg). This is a tough, physical Hawkeye front seven that the spotty Wolverine front won’t be able to block consistently.

2. The Buckeyes will bury the Hoosiers, looking to score some style points on IU to impress BCS pollsters. The fewest points Ohio State has scored this year is 31 vs. Wisconsin. It has scored 56 or more in each of the last three games.

3. Purdue will set a new season-high for points scored in a Big Ten game a week after notching a league-season-high 21 when Illinois comes to West Lafayette. But it won’t matter, as the Boilermaker defense will allow at least one more point.

4. Have you taken a close look at who Northwestern has beaten? Check it out: Cal is 1-10 overall and 0-8 in the Pac-12; Syracuse is 5-5, 3-3; Western Michigan is 1-10, 1-6. The best win? Vs. FCS Maine, which is 10-1, 7-0.

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JOCKSTRAP GAMES

1. Ohio State over Indiana

2. Wisconsin over Minnesota

3. Stanford over Cal

4. Oregon over Arizona

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NUMBERS

37-3. You’re looking at the combined record of the four teams that have beaten Iowa this season.

30: It’s the number of times Devin Gardner has been sacked. No Michigan quarterback in the BCS era has been sacked more times in a season.

37: That’s how many games in a row Nebraska has rushed for at least 120 yards. The only school with a long skein is Army (47).

45.5: That’s the number points Illinois has allowed per game in Big Ten play this season, the most since Northwestern gave up 46.3 points per game in conference play in 1989.

***

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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Show Comments (3 Comments)
3 Post Your Comment
Ben on 11/22/2013 @ 3:40pm EDT Said:

I think Wisconsin is going to need more than a jockstrap to beat the Gophers in Minneapolis. LOL

James on 11/22/2013 @ 5:06pm EDT Said:

At the beginning of the article you say “watch out for Minnesota, folks.” Then you put Wisconsin over Minnesota as one of your “Jockstrap games,” meaning they have no chance of winning. Which is it Tom?

CFSaturday on 11/22/2013 @ 5:32pm EDT Said:

Man Tom you must not think that highly of Nebraska, they are probably the most resilient no quite team in the B1G. They also just put up more yards than any team on the best D in the country while turning the ball over 5 times. Now you have them dropping both of there final games to Penn State and Iowa. I don’t agree with your assessment.

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