Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, November 4, 2011
November will serve as a de facto playoff of sorts for the conclusion to the Big Ten?s first season of 12-team, two-division football. Four teams remain in the hunt in the Legends, while three are in the mix in the Leaders (full Big Ten football standings here). Michigan?s trip to Iowa highlights the opening salvo of this important month. Here?s a look at my pick for that game and the others for this first Saturday of November.
Michigan at Iowa. Let?s go ahead and call this what it is: A Legends Division elimination bout. If the Wolverines lose, most will write it off to the fact this is a team in transition under a new coach. If the Hawkeyes lose, alarm bells will sound louder for a team already limping from a stunning loss at Minnesota last week. Long story short: This is more of a must-win game for Iowa than Michigan. But it doesn?t matter, because Michigan is the better and more confident team.
Tom?s pick: Michigan.
Northwestern at Nebraska. Yes, the Wildcats are coming off an impressive offensive performance in a win. But that was at Indiana, perhaps the worst team in the Big Ten. This, ladies and gentlemen, is Nebraska, perhaps the best team in the Big Ten. If the Huskers aren?t the best, they certainly are the hottest. Nebraska has won three in a row, beginning with an historic comeback victory over Ohio State followed by two suffocating defensive efforts (combined 17 points at Minnesota and vs. Michigan State) that have conjured memories of former standout Blackshirt defenses.
Tom?s pick: Big Red. Big.
Purdue at Wisconsin. A visit from a dysfunctional Boilermaker team may be just what the doctor ordered for an ailing Badger team that has seen its national title hopes squashed with consecutive losses on last-second touchdown passes the last two weeks. The odds of that happening a third week in a row? Slim. The chances of Purdue being able to outscore this formidable Wisconsin offense? Fat. State Street Brats will be packed by halftime.
Tom?s pick: Wisconsin.
Indiana at Ohio State. Two teams traveling in hyper speed in opposite directions. The Hoosiers are sinking fast; the Buckeyes are rising faster a certain teen pop sensation with a bowl haircut. Buckeye QB Braxton Miller completed just 1-of-4 passes earlier this year in a win at Illinois. He may not have to even attempt a pass to beat Indiana.
Tom?s pick: Look, I love an upset as much as the next guy. But it ain?t happening here, people. It?s O-H-I-O State.
Minnesota at Michigan State. That sigh of relief you just heard was Sparty, happy to be finished with the obstacles of October that included games with Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Nebraska. No school should have had to navigate a brutal stretch like that. But Michigan State emerged on the other side 3-1 in the month, still in the thick of the Legends Division race. The Golden Gophers are coming off an upset win over Iowa. Michigan State knows that. It also knows it can?t afford a second loss in a row after getting muted and muzzled at Nebraska.
Tom?s pick: Michigan State.