I went 0-0 last Saturday. As I explain at the bottom of my prediction posts, in order for me to make a play (or wager), I need a seven point differential between my predicted point spread and the Vegas closing line I’m offered on Saturday. None of the games qualified this week.
My predictions and pre-game comments can be found on my previous post, dated 10-17 (PREDICTIONS WEEK 8).
My Current Overall Record: 4-6
Nebraska 53 Minnesota 28
Closing Line: Nebraska -5
FTC Prediction: Nebraska 35 Minnesota 30
My ATS Pick: Pass
I predicted Nebraska to win, 35-30. I was light on my predicted score for Nebraska and thus significantly off on the margin of victory. But there were a few areas where I was accurate. Nebraska did jump out to an early lead 14-0 lead in the first quarter before Minnesota was able to get some stops and get back into the game.
And, as predicted, the Gophers were able to trade scores in an offensive shootout, but never did catch Nebraska. I was wrong about Minnesota QB Zack Annexstad throwing three interceptions. Annexstad didn’t throw any, but then, he was removed from the game after the first half due to injury. His replacement, Tanner Morgan, played well and from the couch appeared to be a better QB than Annexstad. Nebraska QB Adrian Martinez was outstanding completing 25 of 29 passes and, as predicted, did not throw any interceptions. Minnesota has now dropped to 0-4 in the conference, but hey, top to bottom, this season’s version is a tough conference for the mid to lower level teams to find wins. Nebraska is on the rise, but would certainly be grouped pretty close to the same level as Minnesota, so this has to be disappointing loss for the Gophers. But Minnesota has a couple of winnable games coming up, so I would expect them to keep rowing. I’m kind of curious about the QB situation if Annexstad turns out to be healthy enough to play again. As I said, Morgan looked pretty good. Nebraska finally faced a conference team they could beat and got their first win. The offense looks great, mostly due to the play of Martinez. Not only can Martinez throw, he’s an elusive scrambler/runner with speed. The Nebraska defense is poor, though. I noticed that HC Scott Frost had his starters in late in the fourth quarter to score the game’s final TD. Maybe this was paranoia given his team’s late meltdown the week prior against Northwestern. But, from the couch, it looked like Frost was running up the score.
Penn St. 33 Indiana 28
Closing Line: Penn St.-14
FTC Prediction: Penn St. 31 Indiana 17
My ATS Pick: Pass
I predicted Penn St. to win, 31-17. A late Indiana TD with only seconds left in the game made my predicted final score not as accurate as it could have been. But my prediction write up mostly captured the gist of this game as it pertains to the scoring, I think. While Indiana was not the first team to score, the Hoosiers were in this game to the very end. Indiana did run the ball better than I expected, though. But I’m kinda thinking this speaks to Penn St.’s defense as much as it does to the Hoosiers running attack. I was surprised to see Indiana HC Tom Allen pull starting QB Peyton Ramsey in favor of Michael Penix. Ramsey had been playing well all season, and didn’t do anything significantly wrong in this game, so why the change? I found out soon enough. Penix has a stronger arm and appeared to be an even better QB than Ramsey. But eventually Penix was injured, so we only got a limited sample of what he can do. The Indiana defense, as expected, played well at times but couldn’t completely contain Penn St. QB Trace McSorley. I’ve been saying this throughout the season, but with each passing week it’s becoming even more apparent that McSorley is pretty much the whole show when it comes to Penn St.’s offense, aside from maybe RB Miles Sanders. The Penn St. defense didn’t play quite as well as I expected- Indiana really hasn’t been running the ball all that well lately, but the Hoosiers racked up 224 rushing yards in this game. As I alluded to in my prediction write-up, there isn’t as much separation between Penn St. and mid to lower level Indiana as most might have assumed prior to the season, or even as little as a month ago. The most impressive thing on Penn St.’s resume is a one point loss to Ohio St. And we’re finding out that playing Ohio St. close isn’t as impressive as it appeared to be at the time. The Nittany Lions will get their chance to improve on their resume soon enough. They’ve got a tough stretch of games coming up.
Iowa 23 Maryland 0
Closing Line: Iowa -9
FTC Prediction: Iowa 24 Maryland 21
My ATS Pick: Pass
I predicted Iowa to win 24-21. The line movement saved me on this one as I would have bet on Maryland if the point spread was 10 points or more, as it was earlier in the week. But the line dropped to 9 points on Saturday morning, so I backed off. My predicted score for Iowa was right there, although the Hawkeyes offense had a bit more success than I expected. The Maryland defense played ok, but my concerns came to fruition as the Iowa O-Line was able to get enough push to consistently allow its RBs to gain about four to six yards a crack. Consequently, Iowa was able to eat a lot of clock with long, time consuming drives. Iowa QB Nate Stanley struggled in the passing game, but that could be attributed to high winds. Where my prediction was mostly off target though, was when Maryland had the ball. I expected some of Maryland’s speedy playmakers to break free on some long runs from time to time, but this didn’t happen. Ever. The Iowa defense was outstanding and had an answer for every play Maryland dialed up. Which mostly was just a lot of jet sweeps or plays off of jet sweep action. It was obvious Iowa studied the game film ‘cuz Iowa defenders were out on the edge waiting on Maryland ball carriers pretty much every time. And as I pointed out, Maryland QB Kasim Hill hasn’t been consistent as a passer coming into the game. Hill had no chance in this game against the wind and the Iowa defense. I guess I’m going to have to dial it back on Maryland; I keep overestimating the Terps. Iowa returned some defensive starters from injury and consequently is looking great. QB Nate Stanley is having a good season, but he threw another drive killing interception in this one. I know I keep saying this, but previous seasons have left me scarred, I guess. As good as this team looks – and they currently look to be at or near the top of the list- I don’t trust Stanley or Iowa. I keep thinking they’re gonna lay an egg at some point. But then, I would have thought that would have happened by now, so maybe it ain’t gonna happen.
Wisconsin 49 Illinois 20
Closing Line: Wisconsin -24
FTC Prediction: Wisconsin 38 Illinois 17
My ATS Pick: Pass
I predicted Wisconsin to win, 38-17. My predicted score would have been right there if they stopped playing after three quarters. But they kept on playing and Wisconsin put up more points than I called for. But much of this game played out as I predicted, the biggest difference being that Illinois wasn’t quite as successful running the ball while Wisconsin was even more successful than I figured. And I also called for Illinois to be within a TD of the Badgers in the third quarter. I was kinda close, though. The score was 28-17 up to about halfway through the third. But the outcome of this one was really never in doubt. Wisconsin was pretty much running over the Illinois defense and, as expected, became even more successful as the game went on. Illinois turned the ball over five times in snowy weather and eventually pulled starting QB A.J. Bush after throwing two interceptions. His replacement, M. J. Rivers really didn’t ignite much improvement to the Illinois offense, though. Wisconsin QB Alex Hornibrook threw three TD passes, but also threw two interceptions. Once again, I was not impressed with Hornibrook’s accuracy in the passing game. For a while there, Illinois was showing signs of improvement. But the last two games have to be considered a step back, I think. I saw nothing in this game to change my assessment either way of Wisconsin. The Badgers are certainly good enough to beat the likes of Illinois at home, but the defense isn’t as good as it’s been in recent seasons and Hornibrook hasn’t really improved much from last season. Might’ve even regressed some.
Michigan 21 Michigan St. 7
Closing Line: Michigan -7.5
FTC Prediction: Michigan 27 Michigan St. 17
My ATS Pick: Pass
I predicted Michigan to win, 27-17. There was a pregame confrontation to set the tone for this rivalry game, but about midway through the first quarter, play was stopped and the teams were sent to the locker room with sun-glare on their helmets and shadows on the turf. It looked like it might rain so they quit playing. Then it did rain. Then the rain stopped but they had to wait a while longer in case it rained again. It didn’t, so the players returned to the field and started playing football again. There was more rain later in the game, which may have affected the passing game a bit, but apparently it was the type of rain that can’t produce lightning, so they kept on playing. Or they might have just said to heck with it, we ain’t going through that drill again. My predicted score for Michigan St. was off the mark, but my prediction write up was otherwise fairly accurate. The Michigan St. defense did play well, but Michigan QB Shea Patterson was good enough at the right times to help put enough points on the board to cover Michigan St.’s scoring output. Most notable was a beautifully thrown scoring strike to WR Donovan Peoples-Jones that covered 79 yards. That throw alone could pretty much represent the missing ingredient I referred to in my prediction write-up. Patterson otherwise played ok, but not particularly great. He didn’t have to. He just had to execute plays, make good decisions, not turn the ball over, and let his defense do the rest. Which he did, and yes, his defense did the rest. The Michigan St. offense could only muster one TD on a trick play after recovering a fumble deep in Michigan territory. I had a feeling QB Brian Lewerke would take better care of the ball than usual, which he did. I called for only one Lewerke interception but he didn’t throw any. But aside from that, Lewerke struggled badly as he only completed five passes out of 25 attempts. Credit Michigan’s outstanding defense, though. And it also should be considered that Michigan St.’s receiving corps is depleted due to injury, and that the Spartan’s best WR, Felton Davis, left the game with an injury. This was the hard fought defensive battle I expected, and as also expected, Michigan was the better team. Michigan St. has nothing to be ashamed of, though. The Spartans showed up to play.
Purdue 49 Ohio St. 20
Closing Line: Ohio St. -12.5
FTC Prediction: Ohio St. 38 Purdue 28
My ATS Pick: Pass
I predicted Ohio St. to win, 38-28. Can’t say I’m all that surprised here. I danced all around this upset in my prediction write-up, but couldn’t pull the trigger. Much of what I said came to fruition, except it was amplified even more so. The only thing I was completely wrong about was the Purdue defense. Or the Ohio St. offense, if you want to look at it that way. Aside from their previous game against lowly Illinois, Purdue really hasn’t played good defense all season. But the Boilermakers D showed up big time for this one in holding one of the top offenses in the country to three points through three quarters. Purdue has been red hot on offense though, while Ohio St. has been struggling on defense. Again, just how much so was amplified in this game. Actually, while the signs were there for both teams, a Purdue win wasn’t quite as predictable as an Ohio St. loss. Where the assumption was that Ohio St. was flat, or playing down to competition in a game against lower tier Indiana a few weeks ago, the same kind of performance the following week against Minnesota had me thinking, “Hey, wait a minute, these guys can’t be flat every week”. And then Penn St.’s loss to Michigan St. led to the deducement that Ohio St. may not have been tested much at all this season. The Buckeyes have a few more tests left on the schedule against teams better than Indiana and Minnesota. Ohio St. has the talent, so they could still win out. But yet another loss or even two is not out of the question. Great win for Purdue but it’ll be challenging for the Boilermakers to maintain the momentum next Saturday. College kids don’t play so well after a big win like this.
Northwestern 18 Rutgers 15
Closing Line: Northwestern -20.5
FTC Prediction: Northwestern 34 Rutgers 10
My ATS Pick: Pass
I predicted Northwestern to win, 34-10. Well, what can you say about Northwestern? Only 18 points against last place Rutgers? Looked like QB Clayton Thorson was throwing more than just the football. Just kidding. I think. Actually, when I went back and reviewed my prediction write-up, I found that I pretty much had my finger on the pulse of how flat Northwestern would be coming into this game; I just figured Rutgers was so bad it wouldn’t matter. Rutgers did play better at home, and Northwestern was sluggish. I was wrong about a couple of things, though, one of which ultimately doomed my predicted large margin of victory- Rutgers QB Artur Sitkowski didn’t throw his usual multiple interceptions. In fact, Sitkowski didn’t throw any picks. And as it turns out, Northwestern can run the ball against at least one team whatsoever. For most of the game, Northwestern was at the mercy of Thorson’s right arm. And why not? That’s been the formula for success all season. Northwestern went into halftime trailing, but only by five points. All the Wildcats needed was for Thorson to come out of his funk for a series or two, or even a play or two. Should be enough to regain the lead against one of the worst defenses in the conference. But Thorson was so bad the Northwestern coaching staff had to take the ball out of his hands in order to save the hopes of a division title. So they turned to RB Isiah Bowser. Never heard of him before, but the Bowser rushed for over 100 yards and scored the game winning TD. And Thorson finally did connect on a couple of key passes during the go ahead drive. Rutgers obviously played one of their best games of the season and almost got the upset. I’m not sure going forward how much I can assume the Scarlet Knights pass coverage has improved. In a one week span they’ve suddenly got shut down cornerbacks? Not so sure about that. This was classic Northwestern. It’s always been difficult – since Pat Fitzgerald became the HC – to predict the Wildcats yo-yo performances throughout each season. Just when you think they’re good, they’re not. And vice-versa. Can’t trust ‘em either way.