November 10, 2012

Around the Big Ten: Week 11 Pick 'Em

As we reach the home stretch of the regular season, every prediction takes on added importance in the weekly prognostication battle between staff writer Andy Reid and intern Kevin Minor.

Reid sits two games above .500 hundred overall, and one game above the lowly intern in the standings.

Andy Reid: 13-11
Kevin Minor: 11-13

Without further ado, here are the picks ...

Wisconsin at Indiana: Point spread = Wisconsin -7

Andy Reid: Enough is enough. It has been plenty of fun to play the "What If?" game about Indiana winning this thing and going on to play in the Big Ten Championship Game. But it's not going to happen. Indiana has the worst defense in the Big Ten (428.1 points per game) and, more importantly, the worst rush defense in the league (208.4).

Although the Hoosiers may put up some points in this one, the Badgers are going to control the clock and wear them out.

Score: Wisconsin 38, Indiana 24

Kevin Minor In what could be the biggest home game for Indiana in the past 20 years, Memorial Stadium might be rocking.

The Rock is no Camp Randall, and the Hoosiers are still a sub-.500 team, but IU, a program that hasn't been to the Rose Bowl since 1968, controls its own destiny to Pasadena. That has to excite the masses Bloomington, right?

Wisconsin will score points on a porous Indiana defense, but Kevin Wilson's squad has a potent offense, averaging over 33 points a game and a conference-leading 299.9 passing yards per game, and has repeatedly shown that it will not back down from anybody.

Plus, I need to pick up some games on Andy.

Not only does Indiana cover the spread but - gulp - defeats the Badgers to pave a path to Indianapolis.

Score: Indiana 38, Wisconsin 32

Purdue at Iowa: Point spread = Iowa -4.5

Andy Reid: One of these two teams will probably play themselves out of a bowl this weekend. The Boilermakers must win out, which, with Illinois and Indiana to close out the year, isn't unthinkable. If Iowa falls to Purdue, it would have to beat Michigan and Nebraska to make a bowl - and that's not happening.

Neither team is particularly good at anything, but Iowa's offense has not proven it can consistently move the ball on anyone. Which Boilermakers are going to show up: the ones that gave Ohio State such a scare or the ones that rolled over and died the last two weeks?

I'm taking Purdue, because it's the Big Ten - so why not, right?

Score: Purdue 21, Iowa 20

Kevin Minor: Has Purdue quit on head coach Danny Hope? After playing dead the past two weeks, the answer is probably yes.

Purdue the worst team in the Big Ten that doesn't dress in Orange and Blue and, with Hope's tenure in West Lafayette most likely over after the season, I can't envision the floundering Boilermakers charging out of the tunnel ready to beat the world, or even the Hawkeyes.

Iowa has been far from great itself, but I am uncertain PU could even escape a bye week unscathed.

In a game that no one outside of West Lafayette or Iowa City cares about (and that is being generous), Purdue's five game losing streak extends to six.

Score: Iowa 21, Purdue 10

Minnesota at Illinois: Point spread = Minnesota -3

Andy Reid: Despite a 35-13 loss to the Wolverines last weekend, Minnesota is showing a lot of fight and improvement this year. The results will continuously improve, because Jerry Kill is a good coach.

Illinois on the other hand… Well, let's just say the jury is still out on Tim Beckman.

The Fighting Illini are last in the Big Ten in scoring offense, scoring defense, total offense, rushing offense, pass efficiency defense, punt return average, sacks against and third-down conversions,

No matter the spread, I'm taking the other guys when Illinois is involved.

Score: Minnesota 35, Illinois 20

Kevin Minor: There is no need to reiterate the statistics Andy already mentioned about the abysmal Illini.

I will keep it simple, they are bad ... real bad.

Minnesota, on the other hand, has battled hard all season and, with a win, clinches bowl eligibility for the first time since 2009.

Freshman quarterback Philip Nelson has been solid for the Gophers, completing 54.7 of his pass attempts for 537 yards and six scores against only two interceptions since earning the starting spot, and UM is 4-1 in Champaign since 1995.

Look for Jerry Kill's squad to storm Memorial Stadium against an uninspired Illinois team and win in dominating fashion.

Score: Minnesota 31, Illinois 14

Penn State at Nebraska: Point spread = Nebraska -7

Andy Reid: Michigan fans are going to want to pay particularly close attention to this game. In the last two weeks of the season, the Cornhuskers face Minnesota and Iowa - where losses don't seem likely. The Wolverines' chances of making it to Indianapolis would be greatly enhanced with a Nebraska loss to the Nittany Lions.

But can Penn State pull it off?

Matt McGloin leads the Big Ten in passing by 50 yards per game (270.7 yards per game to second place Taylor Martinez' 215.7).

If Penn State can find an early rhythm on offense, look out. In the end, I see Nebraska winning, but Penn State will keep it closer than the spread indicates.

Score: Nebraska 28, Penn State 27

Kevin Minor: While the Huskers have everything to play for at Memorial Stadium, the Nittany Lions have proven all season that finding motivation is far from a problem for a group of players and coaches looking to rebuild a once-proud program.

Nebraska relies heavily on the run, leading the conference with 296.6 yards per game, while former New England Patriot quarterback coach Bill O'Brien's PSU squad relies heavily on the arm of fifth-year senior quarterback Matt McGloin, who leads the Big Ten with 270.7 passing yards per game.

On a normal day, this would be a fascinating chess match between two teams with very different offensive philosophies. But on Saturday, with heavy rains and winds of 30 mph or more expected in Lincoln, it could turn into a war of attrition much more suited to the team with the better ground game.

Penn State will battle, but NU pulls away late in the elements, but doesn't cover.

Score: Nebraska 24, Penn State 21

Out of conference game of the week

Andy Reid: UCLA at Washington State - Point spread = UCLA -16.5

UCLA has been on a roll since dropping a disappointing game to Cal a month ago - and now, with the sudden implosion of Los Angeles' other football team, the Bruins can smell blood. With a strong finish, UCLA will have a shot at Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

On the other side, you have Washington State, whose coach, Mike Leach, has caused a bit of a circus this week by calling out the Cougars' lack of effort and suspending superstar wideout Marquess Wilson.

The Bruins will win his one, big.

Score: UCLA 45, Washington State 14.

Kevin Minor: Louisville at Syracuse - Point spread = Louisville -1.5

These out-of-conference picks have been the biggest detriment to my record this season, so I am going to pick an easy one this week.

The fact that an undefeated Louisville sqaud that has conquered the SEC, ACC, Conference USA and Big East this year is only a 1.5 favorite over a 4-5 Syracuse team, which lost to Minnesota earlier in the season, is absolutely absurd to me.

The Cardinals have something special brewing under the direction of head coach Charlie Strong and sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater - whose 2,434 passing yards, 70.4 completion percentage and 18 touchdown passes should be getting him much more Heisman buzz.

The Carrier Dome can be a difficult place to play when the crowd is into it, but I predict Louisville sends a majority of Orange fans heading towards the exits by the end of the third quarter.

Score: Louisville 42, Syracuse 24

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