I went 2-2 last Saturday. So close to doing better. My two losses were by a combined four points. I was three and a half points away from getting the cover in one of the losses, and only a half point in the other. Frustrating, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. I’m used to it by now.
My predictions and pre-game comments can be found on my previous post, dated 10-3 (PREDICTIONS WEEK 6).
My Current Overall Record: 4-5
Iowa 48 Minnesota 31
Closing Line: Iowa -7
FTC Prediction: Iowa 27 Minnesota 10
My ATS Pick: Iowa -7
I predicted Indiana to win, 27-10. I hit the point spread exactly and got the ATS win, but this game didn’t go anything like I thought it would. I obviously expected better defense from both teams, particularly Iowa. The Hawkeyes did start two freshman cornerbacks for the first time, though. Apparently the starters were injured according to some reports. Offensively, I expected Iowa to make most of its hay on the ground, but the Hawkeyes struggled in that regard. I was right about which team was better/more talented though, although at times it was frustrating to watch as I had to sweat out the Iowa cover. I mentioned in my prediction write up that Iowa QB Nate Stanley has been more accurate with his longer passes this season. And that is correct. Stanley threw some nice passes in this game. But I also insinuated that Stanley has grown from last season into a QB who has a grasp on the game situation as pertains to getting the win. I’d like to rescind that. This is the same ol’ Stanley, same ol’ Iowa. Again, Stanley has a great arm and threw some great passes, four of ‘em for touchdowns. And I will admit that I tend to be hyper-critical of the teams I’m betting on, but Stanley did make some foolish mistakes at critical junctures in this game. This will be more costly against better teams. I expected Minnesota Freshman QB Zack Annexstad to struggle against the Iowa defense, and in some regard he did as he threw three interceptions. But he also had much more success than I predicted as he threw three touchdown passes as well. Both of these statistics have to be tempered a bit, I think. Some of the success should probably be attributed to the aforementioned lack of experience at the Hawkeyes cornerback position, and the interceptions can be attributed to Annexstad’s penchant for throwing the ball up for grabs when no one is open. And “up for grabs” is an understatement. Some of his passes are 50/50 balls at best. HC P.J. Fleck is gonna have to get that corrected. But overall, this wasn’t a terrible performance against a good Iowa team. Fleck had a good strategy, I think: test the young Iowa secondary on offense and on defense stop the run and make Stanley beat you. Just wasn’t quite enough to get the win.
Michigan 42 Maryland 21
Closing Line: Michigan -17.5
FTC Prediction: Michigan 24 Maryland 14
My ATS Pick: Maryland +17.5
I predicted Michigan to win, 24-14. This game was delayed about an hour or so due to weather. There must have been reports of a cloud in Canada because when they finally switched over to the game, the sun was shining brightly. I’ll apologize for that snide comment, but I’m old school. The younger generation probably can’t appreciate this, but back in the day, they played football in the rain. On natural grass. It was real tackle football and everybody but the kicker got muddy. It was kinda cool, I think. Anyway, back to this game. This game wasn’t as close as I predicted, but I still almost got the backdoor cover. A late pick six served up by Maryland QB Kasim Hill killed me. In fact, Hill killed me throughout most of the game. He’s young and probably has a lot of potential, but so far I’ve seen none of it. And I’m not too sure about his heart. I judge a QB’s heart by how he reacts to throwing an interception. The QB has to at least attempt to make a tackle in that situation because he’s usually the first to know the ball has been picked off. I’ve seen Hill throw two pick six’s this season, and both times he was half-heartedly jogging after the defender/ball carrier. And when Maryland inserted Hill’s backup, Tyrell Pigrome into the lineup, Pigrome broke off a long run into the open field and took a slide about 25 yards from the end zone because a couple of Michigan secondary defenders were closing in. Sheesh. Bring in Max Bortenshwager I was saying. And this is what I was alluding to in my prediction write up. Maryland has some talented players but some of ‘em lack that “winner’s attitude”. The Terps were penalized 12 times, which I’ll admit probably isn’t all that unusual under today’s rules, but still, more discipline is needed on this team if they are to be successful because Maryland has some very good players. And not all lack heart, I should say. There a few good players, especially on defense, that bring it every play. LB Tre Watson and CB Antoine Brooks immediately come to mind. Michigan got off to a slow start, but eventually wore the Terps down. I expected Maryland’s defense to fare better, and the Terps defenders played hard, but I didn’t account very well for the Wolverines size advantage in the trenches, which was very apparent when the teams lined up against each other. Michigan QB Shea Patterson played very well, and seems to be improving with each game. And if he keeps it up, Michigan may just have a say after all in this conference race.
Wisconsin 41 Nebraska 24
Closing Line: Nebraska -17.5
FTC Prediction: Wisconsin 45 Nebraska 17
My ATS Pick: Wisconsin -17.5
I predicted Wisconsin to win, 45-24. This was a tough loss for me as I was only half a point away from getting the cover. And Wisconsin had most of it covered by halftime as they went into the locker room with a 20-3 lead. I was almost spot on with Wisconsin’s score, and I even mentioned my concerns in my prediction write up that I may be one touchdown light on my Nebraska score and, sure enough, I was. But for the most part, my predictions turned out to be fairly accurate. Wisconsin did put together long, time consuming scoring drives and only punted three times. And Nebraska did show signs of improvement on offense. The thing that frustrated me the most, and what kinda surprised me, was the Wisconsin defense. I knew coming in that this season’s version isn’t as good as the Badgers defense of the past few seasons, but the Wisconsin defense was borderline awful in the second half of this game. Absolutely no pass rush, and Nebraska receiver JD Spielman was wide open play after play. It was frustrating to watch because I knew Wisconsin would score just about every possession, and the point differential kept going back and forth between a Wisconsin 24 point lead, which gives me the cover, to a Wisconsin 17 point lead, which gives me the loss. Now there’re a few things that should be considered before I throw the Wisconsin defense under the bus. One, the Badgers DBs were dropping like flies. They already came into the game missing a starter due to injury, and lost more in this game to injury and a tackling…er, I mean targeting call. And two, as I said, Nebraska’s offense did play better, probably its best game of the season. Three, it’s very possible, after building a cushion, Wisconsin went vanilla as to not show too much to Michigan, Wisconsin’s next opponent. And finally, I have to remind myself that Wisconsin doesn’t care like I do about the point spread. The Badgers had a comfortable lead and the offense was doing well, so they only rushed four players against five blockers, and tried to keep everything in front of them, particularly Nebraska QB Adrian Martinez, who is a dangerous runner. It wasn’t effective, but that may have been the thought process. Nonetheless, I think this Wisconsin defense is going to have some troubles against the big boys of the conference. Next Saturday’s game comes to mind. And Wisconsin QB Alex Hornibrook, who I thought may have turned a corner given his last outing against Iowa, turned in yet another pedestrian performance as he was off target on several throws. Nebraska still has trouble stopping the run, so there’s still a lot of room for improvement on the defensive side of the ball. But the offense is coming along. Martinez is the real deal- he threw some nice passes in this game. And he’s a threat running the ball, although he didn’t have to take of running much in this game. He had all kinds of time to throw as the O-line did an excellent job in pass protection. And the Huskers introduced an electrifying freshman RB named Maurice Washington. A big step forward for the offense in this game, I’d say.
Northwestern 29 Michigan St. 19
Closing Line: Michigan St. -10
FTC Prediction: Michigan St. 24 Northwestern 21
My ATS Pick: Northwestern +10
I predicted Michigan St. to win, 24-21. Aside from picking the wrong team, my prediction write up was pretty accurate and good enough to get me the ATS win. I gave Michigan St. the slight edge because they were at home, but otherwise I saw this as an evenly matched game, despite the opposite win-loss records. Northwestern played great defense for most of the game, and the O-line did a good job in pass protection. But aside from that, this was the Clayton Thorson show. The Northwestern QB epitomized the often used phrase “put the team on his back” as he torched the Michigan St. defense for 373 yards and three TD passes. The Northwestern running game only produced eight yards. I mentioned that Thorson, along with his counterpart in this game, Michigan St. QB Brian Lewerke, is good but can be erratic. Thorson threw the two interceptions I called for (Lewerke threw the one interception I called for as well), but one of the picks really wasn’t his fault as it bounced off of the receivers hands. But to be fair, Thorson has to throw the ball so often when it’s obvious the Northwestern offense has no other way to be successful, he’s bound to throw at least some bad passes. But he didn’t throw many bad passes in this game. I’m not always right in my preseason predictions, but I’ll go ahead and play an “I told you so” card when I am right about something that most don’t see coming. And I told you Michigan St. isn’t top 20 worthy. They’re good, just not that good. The Spartans were without their leading receiver in this game, and star RB L.J. Scott still wasn’t ready to play. Not having Scott hurts, Michigan St. doesn’t appear to have another serious threat at the RB position. Not having their leading receiver may have been a blessing in disguise, though. It forced the Spartans to utilize WR Felton Davis more often and it paid off. Davis was outstanding. I mentioned in previous posts that I couldn’t understand why Michigan St. didn’t go to Davis more often, and this game shows why I would say that. Lewerke played OK, but wasn’t outstanding. And towards the end of the game, Lewerke faced too much pressure from the Northwestern pass rush to have much of a chance. Michigan St. will be ok, and with improvement in pass protection and a healthy L.J. Scott, could still be a threat to knock off any team remaining on their conference schedule. In fact, I’d still say Michigan St. could beat Northwestern five out of ten times. This just wasn’t one of those times.
Illinois 38 Rutgers 17
Closing Line: Illinois -5
FTC Prediction: Illinois 23 Rutgers 16
My ATS Pick: Pass
I predicted Illinois to win, 23-16. I had a very good feeling about Illinois winning this game, but had some concerns about this game being the first road trip for a young Illinois team. I also didn’t quite completely trust the Illini yet, and wasn’t on board with the possibility of re-inserting the now healed starting QB (which did occur) when the second stringer had been playing well. Consequently, I was low on my predicted score for the Illini. Aside from that, my prediction was pretty accurate. Returning QB A.J. Bush played well and adds even more to the stable of Illinois running threats. RBs Mike Epstein and Reggie Corbin enjoyed the success on the ground I called for and the defense, while still a bit weak against the run, held up well against a below average Rutgers offense. Which brings us to another reason I was confident in the Illini; Rutgers is below average. Well below. But not as bad as a few weeks ago, I’ll give ‘em that. Defensively, the Scarlet Knights couldn’t stop the run, despite having success in that regard the week prior in a loss to Indiana. But then, the defense gave up a lot of passing yards in the Indiana loss. Credit the DC for overloading his players to stop at least one aspect, but it’s a double edge sword for Rutgers. Stop the run and get torched through the air, or stop the pass and get torched on the ground. Offensively, it appears that it doesn’t really matter how many interceptions QB Artur Sitkowski serves up, the Scarlet Knights are going to stick with him regardless. Sitkowski has a strong arm and can make some nice throws at times, but the kid is a turnover dispenser as he threw three interceptions in this game, bringing his total to 11 after only six games. Still, Rutgers isn’t as bad as they were a few weeks ago; they have a couple of good RBs and as I said, Sitkowski can make some nice throws when they’re to his own team. But nonetheless, this Rutgers team is easily the worst in the conference so far. The general perception is that the Illini would be Rutgers only competition for that spot, and we saw what happened.
Ohio St. 49 Indiana 26
Closing Line: Ohio St. -26.5
FTC Prediction: Ohio St. 37 Indiana 14
My ATS Pick: Pass
I predicted Ohio St. to win, 37-14. I hit the point spread exactly, but my score for both teams was a little low. Otherwise, my prediction write up was spot on, except maybe I didn’t give Indiana QB Peyton Ramsey enough credit. Or, I gave the Ohio St. defense too much credit. I called for Ohio St. to be flat. I think they were. I called for the game to be relatively close going into the fourth quarter. It was. I pointed out that Ohio St. has the more talented players and called for that to win out in the end. It did. I called for Ohio St. QB Dwayne Haskins to, as opposed to the prior Saturday against Penn St., have time to set his feet and return to form as a deadly passer. He did. Getting back to Ramsey and the Ohio St. defense; it’s not that I didn’t show Ramsey any love in my prediction write up- I expected him to play well and he did. In fact, he played great. I just figured Ohio St. to be able to close quicker on some of his passes. This didn’t really happen. Ohio St. played poorly on defense. Again, I think some of this can be attributed to the Buckeyes nursing a hangover from the big the win the week prior, but still, I’m not so sure this team, particularly on defense, is as great as advertised. I don’t keep much of an eye on teams outside the Big Ten, so I can’t say for sure if the #3 ranking is warranted or not. There’re only a couple of games left on the conference schedule that pose any kind of threat to the Buckeyes, and they’ll probably be favored by around two touchdowns in both. But at this point, I wouldn’t call either a Buckeyes slam-dunk win. Indiana played admirably, as they have been all season, and won’t be an easy out for anyone on their remaining schedule. They’ll need Ramsey to stay healthy, though. This team doesn’t have much of a running game.