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The Big Ten (11) Preview: Week Four

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Each week of the 2009 college football season, I will be examining all of the games that a Big Ten team plays in. All kickoff times are ET and all poll numbers are from the coaches poll as provided by ESPN. Week 4 is as follows:

Overview of Week 3
Last week, I obviously missed quite a few big games. I missed on some of my upset picks (Akron over Indiana and Minnesota over Cal, to name two), and missed other upsets. Basically, except for the easy and solid picks, I really sucked last week, going 6-4 for the overall wins. Overall, the entire Big Ten did average, going 6-4 against their opponents.

Indiana @ #22 Michigan
Ahhh Michigan, the team that went just 3-9, last year seems to be on a comeback. A win this week against conference foe Indiana will guarantee a better record than last year, which is what Rich Rod really needs. The Wolverines will be looking to use their freshman quarterback Tate Forcier to keep the defense on their toes, while using their running backs to rack up more yardage. Michigan got 380 yards on the ground last week, while Indiana, though holding the yards allowed down, looks very week in their defensive lines.

Look for a run-based offense from the Maize and Blue, with Forcier occasionally throwing to open up the field, to literally pound Indiana into the soil. Indiana 10, UM 31. This game will be televised on ESPN2 at 12 p.m. Saturday.

Michigan State University @ Wisconsin
Last week's loss to Notre Dame is the second loss of the year for the Spartans, and both were within a field goal. While they are looking forward to be a winning team again, the strong defense of undefeated Wisconsin, combined with the power of Camp Randall Stadium, should give MSU a pause. Though both teams have a potent offense, they both also have a very porous defense. 300+ yards allowed each game is a travesty, especially when you are up against tiny schools that are not even in the FBS. I expect a shootout, but also anticipate that the hometown crowd will help Wisconsin take the game. MSU 35, Wisconsin 42. This game will be televised on ESPN at 12 p.m. Saturday.

Northwestern vs. Minnesota

If one were simply to look at games shared, then that person needs to pick Minnesota in this contest. Northwestern lost to Syracuse by a field goal, while Minnesota beat them by a field goal (in overtime). Alas, however, football games are not played in the past and on paper, rather on the field of green (or, in Idaho, blue). On that field, both of these teams tend to allow as many yards as they gain, and they both like turning the ball over. I see a slug-fest in this week's game, as they will both lose possession and make major mistakes. However, I believe that Minnesota is a better team overall, and that should help them overcome the hometown crowd. Northwestern 10, Minnesota 13. This game will be televised on BTN at 12 p.m. Saturday.

#11 The Ohio State University vs. Illinois
Illinois is a team with split personalities – they have a great offense and a horrible defense, both getting/allowing 400+ yards a game. They are also a team that loves to get penalized and turn the ball over often. OSU, on the other hand, is the exact opposite. They have an amazing defense, and a pretty potent offense (when Pryor decides that he is a quarterback). They also are a team that manages the clock well and doesn't turn the ball over often. However, like Illinois, they like to be penalized. You can expect to see Illinois' high powered offense shut down by the Buckeye's defensive line. You can also expect to see Pryor attempting to air the ball out for some practice, as OSU should have an easy hold on the game. OSU 34, Illinois 9. This game will be televised on ABC at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

#4 Penn State vs. Iowa
Last year, Iowa pulled the upset and took down the unbeatable Penn State. Though they are hoping to do it again this year, I really don't see that happening. Iowa, who is undefeated, has allowed easy touchdowns and was almost knocked off by field goals (hey, that is how they beat Penn State last season). Penn State, on the other hand, has been dominating their games, and simply been racking up the yards, and the score, while holding their opponents to a touchdown or less each game. I fully expect Penn State to continue to dominate, and they should easily handle the Hawkeyes. Penn State 42, Iowa 17. This game will be televised on ABC at 8:00 p.m. Saturday.

Will this happen again?

Purdue vs. Notre Dame
As the only non-conference game this week, Purdue has a lot to prove to the country. They almost beat Oregon in Oregon, and then lost another close game at home against Northern Illinois. Norte Dame, who is 1-1 against the Big Ten this season, would be a juicy target to beat. Notre Dame themselves, having been in two close games, are looking to get back into the spotlight. Sure, they still got some votes in the polls, but they were extremely disappointed with their loss to Michigan and will be using this week's game as a spring board back into the top 25. Look for a strong passing game from Notre Dame against a weak secondary from Purdue. Notre Dame 28, Purdue 10. This game will be televised on ABC and ESPN at 8 p.m. Saturday.

Overall, I expect week 4 to be a pretty bland week for the Big Ten. All of their main teams will win, and the teams that are supposed to will do so. Their one non-conference game, Purdue against Notre Dame, will be a loss for the conference. That said, however, the Big Ten will be getting plenty of airtime on national TV, and that should help them out in their standings.

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About Robert M. Barga