somehow we're only 124th
Many who've conersed with me in the UM blogosphere know that I have a bit of a gambling problem that peaks during the college football and basketball seasons. Some of those folks have encouraged me to post picks and more pointspread information. I am not that comfy with posting picks as I dont want to be perceived as a tout and I am uneasy about people just following along. Its an adrenaline rush when its my money, but its stressful when I know it involves others. But, I've long held that gambling is a hobby of mine. So is writing. Combining them on this blog with pointspread thoughts on our Big 10 games once league play begins seems like a good compromise. I hope to have fun with this. However, let me offer a couple caveats:
1.) I am putting dough on these games, but in most cases it will be less than my usual bets as some of these games I wouldn't be interested in if not for this column. I'm nothing more than a $50 or $100 per play kind of guy, so make your guesses as to how much less I am going on these, unless stated otherwise.
2.) I am sticking to the Big 10. I dont think readers, nor the proprietor of this blog, would like me promoting my "50/50 chance lock of the year in the sun belt conference." The Big 10 gives this some relevancy for the blog
3.) Blindly following plays may be hazardouse to your wallet. Please dont forget that. With that out of the way, here we go:
Minnesota at Ohio State. Line OSU -18.5, O/U 47: I am a believer in the improved Gophers. They're running Brewster's spread offense with efficieny with just two turnovers on the year and TO ratio of +11. Last year, they were among the country's worst in that department. They went a dominant 4-0 in OOC play after going 1-3 against the same level of compeition last season. The key is are the better off to give the Bucks a game in Columbus today? I think they are, to an extent. Ohio State is still making themselves over in Tyrelle Pryor's image. They are a work in progress, but I think we can see some offensive explosion from them today as Pryor gets more comfortable and Beanie Wells returns. They're avergaged 19 ppg in their last three games and they could double that against the shaky Gopher D. But, I think Minnesota is going to some damage today. There's something not right about this OSU D so far this season. They seem vulnerable and have had a hard time getting opponents off the field this year. Minny comes with more weapons and a better QB than, say OU or Troy did. I think Weber can make plays downfield and get this team into the endzone more often than those clubs did. If the Gohpers can break even in the turnovers, I think they make this a fourth quarter game. However, OSU remains a big play D and I can see a Marcus Coleman acrobatic pick here and a Lauranitis touchdown there turning this into a rout. I feel strongly the winner of this game will score into the 30s and the loser has an excellent shot of sneaking into the 20s. The winner is OSU home games has averaged 35.5 ppg in the last 17 games at the Horseshoe.
Pick: Over 47
NW at Iowa. Line: Iowa -8, O/U 42.5. There was a time where I would not think twice about putting big money on the Hawkeyes at home. They had been on a 24-8-2 ATS streak at Kinnick Stadium, but are just 5-9 there since the start of the 2006 season. The bloom is off this money making rose. The Cats are actually 6-5 straight up versus Iowa in their last 11 matchups, which is indicative of the fact that Wildcat coaching staffs over the years have always keyed on Iowa as a rivalry game. They won 21-7 on this field two years ago. Northwestern is better than they were two years, while Iowa is worse. Bacher has struggled so far for the Cats and what was expected to be a pretty good offense has been clunky. I dont really expect it to start humming on the road against a gutty Iowa defense, but I think it will still outplay the Iowa offense thats in worse shape and has identitiy issues at QB. In addition to taking the points, I have the total as well. How in the world are six touchdowns going to be scored in this game?
Pick: Northwestern +8, Under 42.5
Michigan State at Indiana. MSU -8 O/U 51. I hate taking road chalk. Its a recipe for disaster. However, I dont see any way that IU stops the Ringer train this afternoon. Ball State dominated them on the ground last week, so you gotta think MSU can just gash the Hoosiers all day with the power run. IU was scared of Nate Davis at QB last week, so they overcompensated their gameplan. At least thats the meme coming out of Bloomington. I dont even think if they focus wholly on Ringer that that would work or slow Sparty's roll in this one. Despite some interesting individual talent on the D, IU is nothing more than an average MAC team on that side of the ball, especially in its front seven. MSU will push them around all day and a conservative gameplan from D'Antonio keeps this from getting out of hand. Still, I see MSU winning with a score similar to last week's effort. They win by double digits.
Pick: MSU -8
Purdue at ND. Line: ND-1, O/U 42.5. I know, its out of conference, but I will include those frm here on out because there's not that many of them. Besides, this is a nifty little NW Indiana rivalry. I've attended several of these games and one thing I've learned is that Purdue has a close resume to Michigan's as far as Murphy's Law striking them down when they square off with the Leprechauns. Not a huge fan of Purdue's program as they really haven't done anything in several years. Heading into the year, they were only 3-16 straight up against teams that eventually went to a bowl game. Two of those wins came last year against Central Michigan, with the second being the actual bowl game. This year, they've lost to likely bowl team Oregon, but beat likely bowl team CMU again. I just cant take this team to win against a team I believe is bowl caliber, even if it is just Armed Forces Bowl caliber. Throw in the fact this game is on the road in a place where they've only won once in their last 15 tries and I am reluctantly on the Irish this afternoon.
Pick: ND -1
Wisconsin at Michigan. Line: Wisco -6, O/U 42. One of my personal rules is to always take Michigan when they're an underdog. In the last 10 years, UM is 13-7 ATS as an underdog. Hey. 65 percent is something to look for when wagering. But, these numbers get better. Since this is not the WLA and the maestros of propaganda can not censor these numbers, I'll say, UM is 1-4 ATS as a dog against OSU in that stretch. So, they are 12-3 ATS against all other comers as a dog this decade. Those are numbers I will gamble on. As far as breaking this game down, ask this: Is Michigan better off heading into this game than they were last year going into Madison? Heart and Soul Hart was in street clothes, Henne could not move his arm, giving way on the third possession to Mallet, who strung together one of the five worst QB performances in the history of the school. The D and coaches yawned their way through the game like an NFL Week 17 game when you have the playoffs clinched and a postseason game the following week. I think mentally and physically this team is much better prepped to play the Badgers and I dont think Wisconsin is really any better than they were last year. Threet may make some mistakes and bad throws, but Everidge can match those numbers. As long as UM doesn't crap down its pant leg in the opening sequences (man, I wish I could gamble on how many times I will utter that phrase this season), I dont doubt they'll be there with a chance to win in the fourth quarter. Hey, I'll be at the game, betting on the home team, what can go wrong?!?!?
Pick: UM +6
Illinois at Penn State. Line: PSU -15, O/U 55. When this line came out over the summer, Penn State was an 8-point favorite. This line has ballooned because of the dominating efforts of PSU. I think that line is inflated purely on public perception alone and not on what really will transpire on the field. I still feel like the Illini have playmakers all over the place on defense and their front will be by far the most physical team PSU will have played. I think the young QB Clark can be coaxed into making mistakes and the power running game that has walked all over the likes of Temple and Coastal Carolina will find the slogging much tougher today. Juice led his team to a win in the Horseshoe last year, so I think he can make more than enough plays today to keep this one close. The Illini are 7-1 ATS as a dog in Big 10 play in Juice's starts. I'll ride that today.
Pick: Illinois +15
Thats my Big 10 card for the day. A couple of totals, two road dogs, a road favorite, a home dog and a home favorite. There's a little bit of everything in the grocery bag, lets hope it holds a winning record. The OSU over and UM pick will be regular plays on my regular card. Illinois might be as well, depending on how the day goes. The rest are just small, for fun plays. Flaming is allowed if these picks go down in flames, by the way.
Its safe to say nobody saw last night's upset coming. Oregon State, despite being a program that gets much better as the year progresses, had not shown much this year. Not only were they blown out by Penn State, but they let Stanford march up and down the field on them en route to losing the season opener. I know I did not expect it. OSU has been a solid bowl team under Mike Riley, but I felt they were rebuilding and a good bet to finish well in the bottom half of the league standings. Still, I DVRed the game to watch the Trojans. I was unable to start watching until past 11 o'clock because of prior commitments, but I still figured I'd get to bed early with the Trojans tucking it away by half or something. It turned out to be an amazing game, proving once again just how great and unique college football is compared to the other sports we follow. Last night was a seismic event in the CFB world, and you just dont get those at random in the other sports. So, I am a little bleary-eyed at work this morning, but still pretty ramped up about the game to offer a few thoughts on the outcome.
- The loss for USC is too early in the season to totally eliminate the Trojans from BCS Title game contenion. However, make no mistake, this is a major blow and the human voters will make them pay for this one throughout the season. Conventional wisdom says the Big 12 and SEC are far and away the best leagues right now. I can't see USC (or the Bucks, for that matter) ever being ranked ahead of legit 1-loss teams from those leagues. However, when the Trojans were undefeated, they looked to have a hammer lock on one of the title game invites. We had a race for one spot, opposite USC. Thats no longer the case as we have a whole new ball game in the BCS chase. On the broadcast last night, Chris Fowler said the chase is "energized" in the wake of USC's loss. Thats a perfect word. Logically, we're headed for a Big 12 vs SEC game for all the marbles with each league strong enough to allow for a 1-loss team into the title game. USC (and Ohios State) really need teams from at least one of those leagues to all have 2 losses in order to get back into the mix. And, that's if the Trojans and Bucks win the rest of their games. Thats a big If.
- Next week's poll ought to be interesting. Who in the world will be #1? The Trojans were the near unanimous #1 this week. But, with no obvious next choice, expect those votes to be tallied all over the place. We might see every team in the top-10 get at least one first place vote. Alabama, unranked at the start of the year, could very well be #1 this week if they can go into Athens and beat the Bulldogs. Meanwhile, even a team ranked in the second 10, like Penn State, might find themselves hauling in a series of first place votes. This will be one of the crazier votes of the regular season in recent memory, and you know we're destimed for another bizarre outcome over the weekend to further muddy the waters. As far as USC, I expect them to fall hard and out of the top 10. How can any pollster, with a straight face, put USC ahead of any of the other teams currently in the top-10?
- Since the start of last season, this makes nine times an unranked team has beaten either the #1 or # 2 ranked in the country. The Beavers are the first team with a losing record to beat a top ranked since Michigan State pulled the trick against Michigan in 1990. That was the famous Desmond Howard Interference No Call game. Brutal. Now I need a drink.
- Already this season, we've seen four legit BCS Title Game contenders go down in flames: Clemson, West Virginia, Ohio State and USC. You could even throw in trendy darkhorse ECU after the Pirates were upset last week as another fallen contender. Thats a lot of heady carnage. And, we're not even in October yet.
- The early meme in the wake of this game has been 'oh my, just how good is Penn State?' Thats a viable thought considering how the Nittany Lions thouroughly dismantled the Beavers a couple of weeks ago. But, I want to play this forward and look at it the from a different angle. Consider that in six days these same Beavers travel to Salt Lake City to take on the Utah Utes. I had discared the Beavers chances in that game, but its obviously time to reconsider. OSU getting off the mat and becoming everyone's darling can only benefit Utah. Originally, who thought the Utes would get any points from the voters based on a possible win there? Now, it could end up being a bigger feather in their cap than winning at the Big House. I think there's a more than decent chance that if Utah and BYU run their repsective tables, that a spot in the BCS Title Game will be on the line when those rivals square off in late November. Suddenly, OSU gets a tangible SOS boost in the eyes of the voters because of next week's game. Its another Thursday Night ESPN special, but for the Utes to take advantage of it, they must take care of business. Suddenly, that business looks a whole heckuva lot tougher.
- How about the game for Jacqueez Rogers. Its not as much the 187 yards rushing or over 200 total yards, but he carried the rock 37 times! Who knew this little dude could be a workhorse like that. When the Beavers lost to Stanford in the opener, this kid was the only thing that impressed me about OSU. He does remind me of Mike Hart in the fact that he is always getting positive yards, although he seems faster and more of a threat in the passing game than Hart. Whats really worth mentioning is that this kid, from SW Texas, was "just" a 3-star recruit (per rivals) and ranked as the #26 all purpose back in the country--16 spots behind our own Texas freshman Sam McGuffie. Yes, thats right, an electron sized, three-star recruit dominated the top ranked team in the country. Perhaps we can stop hand wringing over the "stars" assigned to our recruits and stop going all Chicken Little everytime Michigan signs a 3-star. I'll take a roster chalk full of Jacqueez Rogers, thank you very much. Of course, he limped off the field last night. Hopefully, it isn't serious because the dude is going to be a very big weapon for the Beavers.
- Interesting note on the Vegas Line from last night's game. Obviously, USC did not cover the -23. However, the second half line was -14.5 for the Trojans. USC covered that, thanks to that shank extra point by the Beavers in the closing minutes of the game. Crazy stuff and I am sure there was a lot of hotting and hollering going on in sports books up and down the strip as that was unfolding.
Those following my diaries know that I am more than a little interested in the point spreads of these games we follow. And, I have been tracking some of UM's lines for their future games.
It is with great shock that I report UM is being installed as slight favorite in South Bend.
At Carib Sports--the only place where I am registered that I could find where you could bet tonight on Saturday's game--UM is -1. Lets think about this line:
Summer line: ND -3.5
Adjusted line after Week 1: ND -8.5
Actual line of Game Week: UM -1
I have not seen such a turnaround before. Surprisingly (or not so when you really think about it), most of those summer lines stay true to form.....its scary how accurate those are to the actual line months in advance.....anyway, yeah, you'll see a 1 or 2 point swing over the course of the season, but this line movement is unreal. A five point swing after the first week of games. Then, a 9.5 point swing in the other direction after the 2008 ND team unveiled itself.
To me, it seems that the public and oddsmakers remain confused as what to expect out of both of these outfits. We'll see how this line moves as money begins pouring in now that game week is here. I believe we'll see Irish money come in and eventually the line will be ND -1 or -2. Not sure how anybody can expect anything for sure out of either team. But, it is basically the same ND offense vs the same UM defense as last year and that did not go well for ND. UM got 8 sacks last year and come into this game with 9 sacks and as many TFLs in two games. Also, in three seasons, Weis has only generated three leigt TDs against UM's stop troops. Maybe the experts feel people will remember that and to get even money on both sides have to make UM a small favorite? I dont know.
Think about it: There are savvy betters out there with UM +8.5 tickets in their pocket while all other UM backers would have to lay a single point. I am sure Go Blue Toledo is one of those shrewd betters. Just busting your chops, buddy.....lol.
Also, USC is favored by 10.5 over Ohio State, a line shift up from +4.5 when the line first came out in July. In the other important Big 10 OOC Saturday, Wisconsin is -1.5 at Fresno, after opening at Wisco -3.5.
Thoughts?!?!?! Lets hear them.
Michigan will attempt to get its first win of the season tomorrow against the Miami Ohio Redhawks and, despite last week's struggles, oddsmakers are factoring a comfy Wolverine win. They've installed Michigan as a 14-point tomorrow against Miami. My first thought is can Michigan even score 14 points? Wait, dont answer that.
Seriously, I'd just take two long marches down the field for TDs tomorrow just to prove the team can do it. Covering the spread or winning handily would be nothing but gravy. The line has not budged all week. Perhaps people aren't willing to fade the Wolverines just yet in the matchup because Miami was a disappointment in their opener versus Vandy. Playing at home, Miami was favored in the game and the line grew from -2 to -4 in the week leading up to the contest. A lot of people backed a MAC division favorite against an bottom tiered SEC team. A lot of people lost as Vandy outclassed Miami from start to finish.
The experts in the desert, however, are expecting the public to bet against Michigan all season long and have adjusted some of their lines accordingly. The site I use to get future lines had released over the summer a spot on three of Michigan's games, their road contests at Notre Dame, Penn State and Ohio State. Those lines remained largely unchanged in the lead up to the season opener. After opening week, the book took down all their future lines for the rest of the season and after a couple days of deliberation re-posted them to take into account new public perceptions after the first weekend of games. All three of Michigan's games on that board have changed dramatically. Lets take a look:
9/13 at Notre Dame. Opening Line, ND -3.5. Current Line, ND -8.5. Wow, i dont really know what to say here. A full 5-point leap in the spread. I about fell off my chair when I saw that. I am suspicious about this line as we dont even know what the Irish really has to offer yet this year. They are 20-point favorites in their opener tomorrow against San Diego State. If they struggle in that game, next week's line will probably come down a point or two. But, what if ND blows the doors off of the Aztecs tomorrow? They might be double digit favorites against Michigan when game week rolls around. From a betting standpoint, I like seeing Michigan the underdog in this matchup. The favorite has only covered the spread five times since the modern series resumed in 1978 and the underdog actually has a winning record straight up in this game in that time frame. Let this sink in: Notre Dame has not played a game since ending their worst season ever with a 3-9 mark. Yet, in order to entice the public to bet Michigan next week, oddsmakers feel the need to install ND as almost a double digit favorite. Yikes!
10/18 at Penn St. Opening Line, PSU -9.5. Current Line, PSU -13. Much like the above logic: Michigan has not lost to PSU in a decade, but in order to entice people into dropping some cash on the Maize and Blue, oddsmakers have made them nearly 2 touchdown underdogs.
11/22 at OSU. Opening Line, OSU -14.5. Current Line, OSU -18. Like the PSU game, this line has jumped by 3.5 points. Right now, the oddsmakers are saying this looks to be the biggest mismatch in the hisotry of this great rivalry.
Other things of import:
We now have a line on the Michigan St-Michigan game to be played at the Big House on 10/25. Remarkably, Michigan is a 1-point favorite right now.
Next week's clash of titans between OSU and USC is off the board. Originally, USC was a 5-point favorite, but its reasonable to assume this game has been pulled from the board while the Beanie Wells' status remains a mystery.
The only other line I saw that differed much from the original line from over the summer was in the Florida-Georgia game in early November. Originally, Florida was favored by 1 point, but that line has jumped siginficantly to -4.5. The Bulldogs lost their top run stuffer for the season and that appears to have been enough for the oddsmakers to finally label one of these teams as a distinct favorite in the contest.
Otherwise, not the most groundbreaking news, but I figured some readers might like to see how the odds have shifted on Michigan games based on their opening result.
I am sure that comes as no surprise to anyone. A quick perusal through the main stream media sites like ESPN, CFN as well as the blogosphere reveals that the Utah Utes Bandwagon tomorrow afternoon is pretty much damn well full. Now, I am not here to ring up those short sighted fools for blindly taking the Boys from the Beehive State. Despite most going against UM tomorrow, an interesting meme is developing as I read through a lot of those predictions. Many are going with the Utes, but also mentioning a caveat somewhere along the lines "Michigan will be much better than people expect this season, but they'll fall just short of the more experienced Utes." Ok, so at least thats an improvement after most of the off season where a lot of people expected us to be bedfellows with Indiana in the Big 10 standings.
What I want to talk about here, however, is the point spread. Michigan is still favored, so obviously when all these experts are picking Utah to win, they're gobbling up the points as well. Utah is the prototypical publid dog, one whose bark sounds so attractive and tough that everyone and their mother collars it. The line movement of this game bears that out.
Back in a UV in the middle of summer, Brian linked to the Las Vegas Sports Consultants, a handicapping forum and research site, that had released an initial line of UM -7 over Utah. In a subsequent diary, I theorized that line would not be valid for very long. Since LVSC is not an actual site where you could place I bet, I said expect that when the real books come out with a line, to see something much smaller, perhaps as close to a field goal. The public would subsquently jump on Utah and drive the number down even farther.
I was kinda, sorta correct. The first official live line I saw was 5.5 at various offshores from BoDog, Pinnacle, 5Dimes and Sportsbook.com. It took about two weeks of August betting, but the line plunged at all those sites to 3.5. It has stayed firm at the number for the second half of this month. This morning I am seeing that the hook has, at least temporarily, been chopped off and UM is an even 3-point favorite. We'll see if it dips below three. I might be interested at that point as the public keeps buying Utah. I am a big fan of fading the room, mostly because I have never met a cash poor bookie.
In each of the last two years, the Utes--always a solid underdog--have failed miserably against a BCS school in the season lid lifter. In both those games, vs UCLA and Oregon State, the Utes struggled putting up points. Despite the quality of Brian Johnson at QB, they wont be lighting up the scoreboard tomorrow. Utah also gave up 22 sacks in their six regular season games vs bowl opponents last year, so I think our pass rush will be a big factor.
Of course, the real rub is that nobody is expecting either team to score much. I know, not really breaking news, is it? Tomorrow's Over/Under total is either 40 or 40.5, depending on the book. That is the lowest total on the board for the entire weekend. I cant remember any other time where the Michigan game had this low a total put on it and was the lowest on the board. There are a couple of games in the 41.5 to 42.5 range, but just about every other game has at least another TD added to the O/U line.
While the actual line for tomorrow's game has been plummeting all August, the lines for Michigan's "games of the year" this season have stayed steady. I did a separate diary that broke down the lines released for the ND, PSU and OSU games. Those lines have not budged at all and remain with Michigan decided underdogs: +3.5 vs ND, +9.5 vs PSU and +14.5 vs OSU.
I can guarantee these lines will change dramatically based on tomorrow's actual UM performance. If Michigan lays an egg, those lines will rise. Heck, even if they lose close, I think the public will basically have the expectation that UM is heading towards a ND '07 disaster and look to fade the Wolverines until proven otherwise. Considering OSU and PSU will win their games tomorrow by a combined score of 97-9 and ND does not play (which means they can only look better in the minds of the pundits....lol), a Michigan loss will set off more alarm bells than are going on now. But, if they win and look good in the process, many folks might re-evaluate and consider investing in the Wolverines. That is esepcially the case for the ND and PSU games. As much as I would like to grab close to double digits when they play PSU, I would settle for a line of less than a TD because that would mean Michigan is already outperforming the expectations of the experts in the desert and Joe Public.
Its become a trendy thing for college football pundits to produce bowl projections during the preseason. So, with only hours to go before the preseason melts into the real season, I figured I would join the crowd and offer my own projections, at least for the Big 10. Feel free to rake these guesses over the coals as much as you want. I welcome the discussion. I will be updating these throughout the year, but those will be projections based on how the season is actually playing out. These are my own predictions, but they will appear next to future projections in order to create some comparison fodder as the season progresses. We'll see how it stacks up. So without further adieu, here we go:
The first task of these bowl projections is determing if the Big 10 will received multiple BCS Bowl bids. Even as everyone pans the league, its still a pretty good bet the conference will notch two spots in the big money bowls. The Big 10 has earned two BCS bids in three straight seasons, five of the last six and in seven on the first ten years of the BCS existence. The league does not need to send a team into the title game for this to happen either. Check out 1998, 1999, 2003 and 2005 seasons as examples of this. This fact is pertinent to the following predictions as I dont feel a Big 10 team will be playing for all the mythical marbles come January.
Rose Bowl: Ohio State. Any regular idiot can slate the Bucks into the National Title Game, but I am no regular idiot. The Bucks fall twice this year, likely at USC and at Wisconsin, and a relieved nation can breathe easy knowing OSU will be out of the national title picture. The Big 10, however, will pay for it as the Bucks, with the pressure off, demolish everyone in their path over the second half of their schedule including a, gulp, fifth straight win over arc----nope, I just cant finish typing that sentence. Pasadena has not seen the Bucks in over a decade and never with the Sweater Vest leading the troops. They'll be there on New Year's Day. They'll square off with Oklahoma and get off their BCS Bowl losing streak, while continuing the Sooners.
Sugar: Penn State. While I hardly think the Nittany Lions are world beaters, I think its an easy road map to follow as far as them landing in this plush bowl. The slate is pretty easy early on, and PSU should be 6-0 heading into their showdown in Madison. They'll lose that game and at Ohio State later in October, but as long as they can end the Happy Valley nightmare that is the Michigan losing streak, they'll still be in strong contention for a BCS bid heading into November. They close with at Iowa, Indiana and MSU. They'll sweep those--the MSU game will be an amazing contest in possibly Joe Pa's final home game. Sugar Bowl officials wont pass up the chance of hosting Paterno at the site where he's had some of his more historic moments. That allure will be so strong that they'll get tabbed over a more deserving Badger squad, despite its head to head win over PSU. No worries, their Bourbon Street foe, Georgia will make them pay.
Capital One: Wisconsin. They should get a BCS bid, save for the politicking described above. This team is good enough to earn a split in September road games at Fresno and at Michigan. I'm calling their upset at home versus OSU. Will they have enough in the tank to beat PSU the next week? Honestly that could go either way. I see trouble in November in East Lansing, a result that will keep them from both the Big 10 title and a BCS bid. Despite being double digit underdogs, the Badgers will be leading LSU into the fourth quarter before succombing to a series a fourth down conversions by the Man in the Hat.
Outback: Michigan. I dont need to explain it dammit. Lets just put down 9-3, and have another swig of this Ufer-tastic Maize and Blue Kool Aid. Bring on Auburn. War Eagle this muthafucka! Michigan cruise to another win over the SEC in postseason play. And, yes, I have a whole keg of Kool Aid.
Alamo: Michigan State. I really like the Spartans this year. Think they do the league proud and spring the upset Saturday night in Berkeley. Heck, lets give them a 6-0 start (although the home team in the ND-MSU series has lost seven in row, so L'il Bro might want to consider protecting the 50-yard line from a Leprechaun flag planting). It's a whole new era in East Lansing, right? Ah, no. The team comes out 'Oh No Sparty' flat and drop a game at Northwestern as well as losing to OSU and UM (natch). But it is a new era at MSU and Dantonio gets them to rally and upset Wisconsin. They'll fall to 7-4 with the PSU loss and square off with Texas in the Alamo Bowl. It will be a Burnt Orange win, but closer than the experts think.
Champs Sports: Illinois. Seems like a low projection for a team that many have rated highly heading into the season. But, I dont like Illinois schedule. They could be better this year than last year, but their schedule will work against them. An uphill climb in the opener against Missouri, road games at UM, Wisconsin and Penn State and, oh yeah, good luck trying to beat Tressel two years in a row. This team could not avoid the upset bug last year losing an ugly 10-6 game to Iowa, so there's no reason to think that wont happen again somewhere along the line. It would not be a surprise to see this team 4-4 going into November. But, they would be the best .500 team in country. A win over Northwestern in the finale will give them a 7-5 record and this trip to Orlando. Juice Williams will be their MVP in a win over Miami that will give the Illini a lot of momentum as they gear up for a run at the 2009 league title when the schedule is set up a lot better for them.
Insight: Minnesota. The Gophers finished winless in league play last year. Obviously this is a risky pick. But, if they can get through the first four weeks undefeated (next week's game at Bowling Green will be an early swing game for this projection), Minnesota will be 6-5 heading into their finale at home against Iowa. The Gophers will have too much offense for the Hawkeyes and their 7-5 record puts them in the same bowl that Indiana, last year's dormant to bowl team story of the season, played in. In one of the more entertaining bowl games of the season, the Gophers will fall to Colorado in a shoot out.
Motor City: Northwestern. The Wildcats have the look of their 2005 bowl team. I project a 4-0 out of conference record. Combined with a duplication of their 3-5 league mark last year, that gives them a 7-5 record and a trip to Detroit to play Central Michigan. The Chips will leave one step away from being the Buffalo Bills of the Motor City Bowl, losing their third straight in this contest. Bacher will sling pass for pass with LaFleur, but Tyrell Sutton in his final collegiate game will go for over 200 yards in the win.
Iowa, Purdue and Indiana will not go bowling. Iowa just lacks consistency and are no longer an untouchable team at home. Their loss to Minnesota in the closer drops them to 6-6 and out of the post season. Purdue cant beat good teams. While most figure them to be an easy entrant into the bowl season, I see a team that is just 3-15 against bowl teams the last three years. Two of those wins came last year, against Central Michigan. They wont have four wins at the end of October. They'll prevent a losing season by winning their rivalry game at home with Indiana, but all that will do is close the Tiller era with a 6-6, bowlless season. As for Indiana, they will be doing well to equal last year's 3-5 league mark. Even if they do that, however, I dont think they'll go 4-0 in non conference play as I smell a CMU upset on the first of November. Optimistically the Hoosiers can be 6-3 after nine games, but a three game losing streak (Wisconsin, at PSU, and at Purdue) will knock them back to ,500 and out of a bowl.