I went 0-1 last Saturday. Lost another one by half a point.
My predictions and pre-game comments can be found on my previous post, dated 10-11 (PREDICTIONS WEEK 7).
My Current Overall Record: 4-6
Northwestern 34 Nebraska 31 OT
Closing Line: Northwestern -3.5
FTC Prediction: Northwestern 42 Nebraska 24
My ATS Pick: Northwestern -3.5
I predicted Northwestern to win, 42-24. My concerns about this game came to fruition as I lost another ATS pick by half a point. My concerns were based on what I thought was a strange point spread considering a winless Nebraska team was playing on the road against a team who went toe to toe with a top ten team and recently beat another ranked team. And just as strange was the opening line moving from nine points down to 3 in a couple of days. I haven’t seen such unusual line movement since a couple of times last season in games involving….Northwestern. Anyway, leaving that peculiarity as it is and getting to the game: Even though I was only a half point short and a couple of breaks in overtime from getting the cover, I was way off on my prediction in this one. I attributed (and consequently discounted) Nebraska’s offensive improvement the week prior against Wisconsin to poor defense by the Badgers. As it turns out, the Huskers are moving along offensively better than I gave them credit for. QB Adrian Martinez and company had Northwestern on their heels most of the game utilizing an up-tempo spread offense, making the Wildcats defense look slow and tired. And while Northwestern finally came alive near the end of the game and got the win, I was surprised to watch the Wildcats offense only put seven points on the board in the first half against a defense that, prior to this game, had been hideous. I suppose Northwestern could have been flat, it would make sense if they were, but I think the reality is that Nebraska is, in fact, improving at a high rate. I’ve got to hand it to HC Scott Frost for that. Frost is frustrated, but if he can do some recruiting it appears he has an offensive scheme that can be very effective against the Northwesterns of this conference. In fact, given the rate of progress, if this game were a couple of weeks later in the season, the Wildcats might have been blown out. I get that Northwestern lost its star RB and is struggling in the running game. But only seven offensive points in the first half? Against this defense? Northwestern’s success relies solely on the right arm of QB Clayton Thorson, and for the last two weeks, Thorson has come through. But there’s not much margin for error when exclusively throwing the ball into tight windows. Every QB has an off game once in a while.
Michigan 38 Wisconsin 13
Closing Line: Michigan -10
FTC Prediction: Michigan 31 Wisconsin 19
My ATS Pick: Pass
I predicted Michigan to win, 31-19. As I said in my prediction write-up, I was pretty confident Michigan was going to win this game. I maybe showed Wisconsin too much respect as Michigan won by even more points than I predicted, but otherwise, my predictions were fairly accurate. Michigan’s Shea Patterson was the most successful QB on the field as he was able to take advantage of Wisconsin’s depleted secondary. For a while there, Wisconsin’s defense actually did play better than what they showed the week prior against Nebraska, but eventually wore down late in the third quarter and the floodgates were open from there. Wisconsin QB Alex Hornibrook did struggle and threw two interceptions where I called for one pick and a strip-sack fumble, although the last interception can pretty much be attributed to the Michigan pass rush. Wisconsin did have some success on the ground, but obviously not enough to keep up with Michigan’s scoring output. This season’s version of Wisconsin isn’t as good as last season’s – the defense isn’t as dominant and Hornibrook hasn’t shown much improvement so far. Michigan is starting to hit its stride due in large part to the progression of Patterson. The Wolves are certainly upper echelon and are capable of beating any team in this conference, but whether they will or not remains to be seen. We’ll find out soon enough. Michigan has some tough games remaining on the schedule. Tougher than this one against the Badgers, I think.
Purdue 46 Illinois 7
Closing Line: Purdue -10
FTC Prediction: Purdue 41 Illinois 34
My ATS Pick: Pass
I predicted Purdue to win, 41-34. I don’t want to say it was “frustrating” to watch the Illinois offense. I’ll save that word for the games I bet on. But as someone who predicted and was looking forward to a close game, I’ll use the word “annoyed”. Too much A.J. Bush. Illinois has two great RBs who have been having success all season, they’re facing a Purdue team who is lousy against the run, and now alla sudden the Illini are gonna feature a Johnny-come-lately QB who ain’t that good. RBs Reggie Corbin and Mike Epstein carried the ball a COMBINED seven times. Bush had 20 carries (for 24 yards) – and he ain’t that good. The Illini had Bush throwing on first down on several occasions—and he ain’t that good. Bush finished 12 of 25 for 170 yards. I don’t want to throw Bush completely under the bus. He is an unpaid college kid doing the best he can, although I would suggest he’s selfish as he kept the ball on virtually every read option. But I will throw the Illinois coaching staff under the bus. And back over ‘em a few times. Even the announcers, who have to be somewhat kind, were identifying this strategy as a problem. So it was obvious to the announcers, it was obvious to the Purdue defense, and it was obvious from the couch. It was obvious to everyone except the Illinois coaching staff. HC Lovie Smith was quoted as saying “We just couldn’t get (Epstein) involved”. Couldn’t get him involved?? How ‘bout you give him the ball, coach? Epstein had one carry the whole game. As you can see, my predicted score for Purdue was pretty accurate. The Boilermakers enjoyed the offensive success I called for against a poor Illinois defense. The Illinois offense, facing a poor Purdue defense, didn’t live up to their end mostly for the reasons I pointed out. Again, I don’t want to bury Bush here. When I say “he ain’t that good” I mean he’s no Trace McSorley or JT Barrett, i.e., the kind of QB you can rely on to carry the offense. Bush can very successful as a PART, as in not all, of the Illini offensive package. It just boggles my mind that the Illinois coaching staff couldn’t figure this out. And it’s going to make predicting the next Illinois game difficult because I don’t know if they’ll have it figured out by next Saturday.
Iowa 42 Indiana 16
Closing Line: Iowa -3.5
FTC Prediction: Iowa 30 Indiana 27
My ATS Pick: Pass
I predicted Iowa to win, 30-27. I expected Indiana to make a game of this, particularly while at home, but it didn’t happen that way. I did hold back on calling for a “breakthrough” Indiana win, though. I referred back to when the Hoosiers had a similar shot at home against Michigan St., and remembered that Indiana was outclassed talent-wise in that game. Same deal in this one. Indiana is getting close, but still aren’t ready for prime time. I still think Indiana is closer to Iowa’s level than it appeared in this game. I’d say this was one of Iowa’s better games of the season, and this was not one of Indiana’s better efforts. Nonetheless, Iowa is definitely the better team. Iowa QB Nathan Stanley torched the Hoosiers secondary for six TD passes on his way to a career day. I am making a note for future reference, though, that Stanley did throw a couple of foolish interceptions (one was negated by penalty), something he’s prone to doing; which could be costly against better competition. Indiana still struggles to run the ball, and QB Peyton Ramsey doesn’t have the arm to carry the whole load against a defense as good as Iowa’s. Indiana’s defense didn’t play as well as I expected either, particularly in the secondary. Iowa appears to be at the top of their game, and they’ll need to be for the rest of the games on their schedule (with the exception of maybe one). All of ‘em are very winnable, but none are slam-dunks. And I’m still waiting for the annual head-scratching sub-par performance.
Michigan St. 21 Penn St. 17
Closing Line: Penn St -13.5
FTC Prediction: Penn St. 31 Michigan St. 20
My ATS Pick: Pass
I predicted Penn St. to win, 31-20. I pointed out that Penn St. may be taking Michigan St. a bit lightly, given the Spartans loss the previous Saturday against Northwestern. And I think there may be some truth in that. But I also think it should be considered that Penn St. may not be quite as good as advertised. The Nittany Lions resume doesn’t look quite as good given Ohio St.’s recent struggles against lower level conference teams. As I said, Penn St. doesn’t really have many big names on the roster other than QB Trace McSorley and RB Miles Sanders. But I would still call Penn St. upper echelon in this conference. The Nittany Lions could have won this game if a couple of breaks had gone their way. Michigan St. HC Mark Dantonio pulled out all the stops with a “nothing to lose” approach calling for an assortment of trick plays and daring play calls, some of which worked, some that didn’t. The Spartans pass defense played better than the week prior, and aside from a long TD run by Sanders, played well enough against the run. Penn St. QB Trace McSorley didn’t play badly, but he wasn’t able to dominate the game with the big plays that we generally see from McSorley. Michigan St. ran the ball better than I expected and WR Felton Davis had the big game I called for. Davis caught the game winning TD in the closing seconds. QB Brian Lewerke played about as I expected- good but erratic. He made some great plays, including the pass to Davis. Lewerke only threw one of the two interceptions I called for, but during the last two drives of the game he threw right into the hands of Penn St. defenders who dropped the ball. If the Penn St. defenders make the catch, the Nittany Lions win this game.
Maryland 34 Rutgers 7
Closing Line: Maryland -23.5
FTC Prediction: Maryland 45 Rutgers 17
My ATS Pick: Pass
I predicted Maryland to win, 45-17. I have to report that I didn’t see much of this game at all. The television schedule lined up in a way that this was one four games played in the 11:00 slot, and two were in the afternoon– leaving me only one evening game and subject to ABC’s excessive commercials and Chris Fowler’s snarky comments. But all reports indicate this game went pretty much as I predicted. I did check in on this one about midway through the second half and saw that Maryland had already pulled its starters. I predicted the Terps to be up 24-3 at half and the actual halftime score was 24-0. Rutgers didn’t score as much as I thought they would but QB Artur Sitkowski did serve up the three interceptions I predicted, and one more for good measure to make it a total of four. Nice win for Maryland, I guess. Rutgers isn’t much of a barometer. I’d be surprised if the Scarlet Knights aren’t 20-plus dogs in all of the remaining games on their schedule.
Ohio St. 30 Minnesota 14
Closing Line: Ohio St. -30
FTC Prediction: Ohio St. 48 Minnesota 17
My ATS Pick: Pass
I predicted Ohio St. to win, 48-17. For the second week in a row Ohio St. wasn’t as dominant as I expected. Or as dominant as the oddsmakers expected for that matter. I called for Ohio St. to be up by three TDs by halftime, but they only led by four points going into the locker room. Are the Buckeyes playing down to the competition, or are they just not as good as advertised? A little of both I suspect. And when you’re at the top of the hill, you’re going to get everyone’s best shot. But after this game, I’m starting to lean more towards the “not as good as advertised” theory. Minnesota is a team on the rise and HC P.J. Fleck is doing an excellent job, but a national title contender should not be struggling against this team at home. As we saw all across the country, many of the top teams suffer a blip on the radar against inferior competition. Some even lose, and credit Ohio St. for not having done that so far. But the Buckeyes already had their mulligan the week prior Saturday against lower level Indiana. The defense hasn’t been playing at the level anticipated coming into the season, and that could be costly in the next couple of games, again, against teams the Buckeyes should easily beat. I think Ohio St. will win those games, but I might have to knock my predicted point spreads down a bit until further notice from the Buckeyes defense and O-Line. Minnesota turned in an inspired performance, but don’t have the overall talent to keep up with Ohio St and finally succumbed in the end. The D-Line played well and QB Zack Annexstad showed he can be very good, but he has to be more careful throwing into coverage. Annexstad threw two more interceptions in this game, bringing his season total to seven, all of them in the last three games, which happen to be the Gophers only losses of the season.