Buy or Sell: Ohio State can still make playoff?
Here is what I’m buying and selling as we enter Week 9.
Ohio State can still make the four-team playoff?
Buy. There is no need for the Buckeyes to panic. Yes, Ohio State needs to evolve its passing game after the Buckeyes got dumped 24-21 at Penn State on Saturday night. Where are the big-play wideouts? And the offensive line needs to plug some leaks, too, as J.T. Barrett was sacked six times. But Ohio State still can win the Big Ten. And, make no mistake about it: A one-loss Big Ten champion is most likely a lock for a playoff spot. In fact, in his weekly projections, Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com has Ohio State as the No. 4 seed in the playoffs.
Wisconsin is the best two-loss team in America?
Buy. And, it’s not even close. The others to consider are Florida State, Auburn, Oklahoma and Tennessee. Wisconsin’s two losses are about as high-quality as you can get, falling 14-7 at Michigan and 30-23 in overtime vs. Ohio State. Paul Chryst’s team plays great defense and has a balanced offense. And it seems to be getting better each week. I would not be shocked if Wisconsin wins the rest of its games, beginning with a visit from Nebraska this Saturday.
Michigan State will make a bowl?
Sell. I don’t see it happening. After opening 2-0, the Spartans have lost five in a row, falling to Wisconsin, Indiana, BYU, Northwestern and Maryland. The last time MSU lost five in a row is when it began the 1991 season 0-5. Michigan State will need to go 4-1 in its last five games to finish 6-6 to guarantee bowl eligibility. The remaining games: Michigan; at Illinois; Rutgers; Ohio State; at Penn State. Do you see four wins in there? It is quite a fall for a program that won the Big Ten last year and went to the playoffs while winning 10 or more games five times in the previous six seasons. Mark Dantonio’s last losing season was a 6-7 mark in 2009. This looks like his second.
Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson is the hottest QB in the Big Ten?
Buy. The sophomore is emerging in 2016 after showing promise in 2015. The last three games, Thorson has been spectacular, hitting 24-of-43 passes for 285 yards in a 24-14 win vs. Indiana on Saturday. He became the first Northwestern signal-caller since at least 2000 to throw three or more touchdown passes in three consecutive games. NU has won three in a row after beginning the season 0-2. This team will be a factor in the West race, as the offense has come to life the last three weeks, notching 116 points. Thank Thorson, who has nine TD passes and just one pick in the last three tilts.
Nebraska will be the next unbeaten Big Ten to lose?
Buy. We saw Ohio State go down on Saturday, falling in stunning fashion at Penn State to ruin its perfect record. Don’t be surprised if the Cornhuskers are next, as Nebraska plays at Wisconsin on Saturday. The Huskers have lost the last three vs. the Badgers, including three in a row in Madison. NU is 1-4 vs. UW as a Big Ten member. Wisconsin has pounded NU in Madison, winning 48-17 in 2011 and 59-24 in 2014 and also took a 70-31 decision in the 2012 Big Ten title game. The next week, the Huskers play at Ohio State and finish the season at Iowa, so it’s probably just a matter of time before NU falls. Michigan is the other Big Ten unbeaten, and the Wolverines play at slumping Michigan State, losers of five in a row for the first time under Mark Dantonio. Michigan also travels to Iowa, but its most deadly game remaining is the finale at Ohio State. Don’t be shocked if the Wolverines are 11-0 when they arrive in Columbus.
Purdue won’t win another game?
Sell. I loved the energy and passion that the Boilermakers played with at Nebraska. Sure, Purdue lost—as usual, falling 27-14. But the Boilers led 14-10 at halftime and trailed just 17-14 entering the fourth quarter vs. an unbeaten Nebraska squad. And the Boilermakers played with spirit and reckless abandon, as if they had nothing to lose—which Purdue doesn’t. Interim head coach Gerad Parker knows how to connect to players. And, it shows. A team that believes in itself and its coach can overcome some talent deficiencies. Purdue will win again in 2016. In fact, it may win two more times. Check out the remaining schedule: Penn State; at Minnesota; Northwestern; Wisconsin; at Indiana.