Corey Andry (12:31 pm) @CoreyAndry

Last Saturday’s matchup between Texas A&M and Alabama presented me with a slight conundrum as an LSU fan. Of course, like most fans of SEC teams, I love to gloat over the conference’s five consecutive BCS National Championships. Furthermore, I understand the benefit that each SEC team receives from such a streak.

However, knowing that LSU’s most hated foe was the SEC’s best, if not only, shot at a national title this year, I was forced to choose between SEC supremacy and my hatred for Alabama. Ultimately, I chose SEC supremacy but to no avail. “Johnny Football” and the Aggies pulled off a great win over the Tide and left them on the outside of the national title picture… for now.

So what are the SEC’s chances of a sixth straight national title?

I don’t believe a one loss SEC champion, whether it is Alabama, Florida or Georgia, has chance to edge out any of these top three teams should they remain undefeated. Thus, the only chance for an SEC national title is that two of the top three teams lose.

#1 Kansas State seems like the least likely to stumble. The Wildcats have passed some significant tests with flying colors and really only have one more left. This week they play a bad Baylor team. Then they will have two weeks to prepare for #15 Texas at home. Texas has the offense to give themselves a chance in that game, but with a lackluster defense, odds are slim that Texas could go into Bill Snyder Stadium and actually beat Snyder himself. Chance of losing – 20%

#2 Oregon seems most likely to stumble. The Ducks have rolled over pretty much everybody with that Lamborghini offense including three ranked opponents. However, their last two games might be their two biggest tests with #16 Stanford in Eugene this weekend and then #16 Oregon State in Corvallis on November 24th, where the in-state rivals will get a chance to shoot down the Duck’s title hopes. Don’t forget that Oregon will also have to play a PAC 12 championship game against either UCLA or USC. Chance of losing – 55%

#3 Notre Dame, as I have said all year, could fall to anyone. Their two remaining games include a less than mediocre Wake Forest at home and a west coast trip to Los Angeles to play USC. Wake Forest should be a none threat, but Notre Dame is more than capable of shooting themselves in the foot. The USC game seems like a dream dasher waiting to happen. Matt Barkley’s senior year has not been anything it was supposed to be, but a game against Notre Dame at home on prime time national television is a great chance to redeem some of that. Notre Dame should be very wary of this game. Chance of losing – 35%

Should two of these three teams lose, the one loss SEC champion will almost assuredly slide into the #2 ranking. Chance of an SEC team making the title game – 30%
 
 
Picture
My B1G Game of the Week: #6 Ohio State vs. Wisconsin
Zach Clark (12:44 pm) @Zach_TSB

Saturday: 

Northwestern (+7) [7-3] vs. Michigan State (-7) [5-5]

2011 Records: Northwestern 6-7 and Michigan State 11-3
Game Time: 12:00 PM Eastern
Channel: ESPN2/WatchESPN
Prediction: Northwestern 13 – Michigan State 24

With Northwestern dropping its last 3 out of 5 and Michigan State losing its last 3 out of 4, both teams enter Week 12 looking to turn things around and end the 2012 season strong.  Despite the Wildcats’ impressive 7-3 record, they are surprisingly .500 in B1G play and face an elite 11th ranked (points against) Spartan defense on Saturday at noon.  Mark Dantonio may have his flaws as a head coach, but I strongly believe that two weeks preparation for an average Northwestern offense provides ample time for Dantonio and a tough Spartan defense to effectively game plan for Wildcat playmakers Kain Colter and Venric Mark.  I see a close game early, but the Spartans surely covering the 7-point spread.

Iowa [4-6] vs. #23 Michigan [7-3]

2011 Records: Iowa 7-6 and Michigan 11-2
Game Time: 12:00 PM Eastern
Channel: ESPN/ESPN 3D
Prediction: Iowa 10 – Michigan 34

Coming off heartbreaking 3-point losses to both Indiana state powerhouses (Indiana and Purdue), this deflated Iowa team should extend their 4-game losing streak to 5 in Ann Arbor this Saturday.  The Hawkeyes have consistently ranked in the 100’s for points scored, and they now sit at 104th in the country, averaging 20.8 points per game.  The lone bright statistic Iowa ranks well in, points against (29th), is more of an indicator of B1G offensive mediocrity than Iowa defensive dominance.  The Wolverines, on the other hand, have won 5 out of their last 6, all with effective backup quarterback Devin Gardner.  Despite Denard Robinson’s status yet again being unclear for Week 12, I fully expect Michigan to roll over the Hawkeyes at home. 


 
 
Picture
Could This Be Jake Stoneburner’s Breakout Performance?
Zach Clark (11:13 am) @Zach_TSB

Saturday:

Iowa 17 Northwestern 28

My Prediction: Iowa 14 – Northwestern 24
Most Shocking Statistic: Turnovers: Iowa 0 – Northwestern 2
My Northwestern MVP: QB Kain Colter (6/9-80 yards-1 touchdown-1 interception, 26 rushes-166 yards-3 touchdowns)

Fortunately for the Wildcats, the Hawkeyes provided a great opportunity for the Kitty Kats of Evanston to get back on their feet.  As expected, Northwestern won by a double-digit deficit.  Iowa’s key man Mark Weisman struggled, rushing 9 times for 21 yards and catching 2 passes for 20 yards.  Shockingly, despite achieving more 1st downs, gaining over twice as many passing yards, and turning the ball over 2 less times, the Hawkeyes were dominated from start to finish.  I had the rare opportunity to speak with a native Iowan and Hawkeye student this past weekend after the game.  After I politely suggested that it may be time for the Hawkeyes to move on from the Kirk Ferentz era, she looked at me like it was the most outrageous thing she had ever heard.  As long as Iowa fans keep up that attitude regarding Mr. Ferentz, the Hawkeye program will be committed to B1G mediocrity…

Indiana 31 Illinois 17

My Prediction: Indiana 38 – Illinois 14
Most Shocking Statistic: Total Yards: Indiana 292 – Illinois 372
My Indiana MVP: RB Stephen Houston (21 rushes-71 yards-2 touchdowns, 2 catches-16 yards-1 touchdown)

I started off hot on Saturday, coming close to predicting the winner and correct score of the first two games of the day.  Despite outgaining the Hoosiers by 80 yards, the Illini were wrecked by 2 touchdowns.  Shockingly, the Illini cannot blame the loss on the turnover ratio, as they only turned the ball over once more than Indiana.  Additionally, Illinois was vastly more successful on 3rd down, converting 7/17 compared to Indiana’s 1/13.  Fans in Champaign desperately want this season to come to an end.  In fact, some have already begun to call for Tim Beckman’s head.  He’ll be given a couple more years at least, but he’ll have to drastically improve this squad if he wants to stick around for much longer.  As I’m reminded by some Illini faithful, the Illini are still bowl-eligible!  All it would take is victories over our Buckeyes (in the ‘Shoe…), Minnesota, Purdue, and Northwestern.  Yeah, right…

 
 
Picture
My B1G Game of the Week: #20 Michigan vs. Nebraska.
Zach Clark (9:23 am) @Zach_TSB

Saturday:

Iowa (+6.5) [4-3] vs. Northwestern (-6.5) [6-2]

2011 Records: Iowa 7-6 and Northwestern 6-7
Game Time: 12:00 PM Eastern
Channel: ESPN2/WatchESPN
Prediction: Iowa 14 – Northwestern 24

After devastating blows in week eight, both the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Northwestern Wildcats enter week nine looking to build some late momentum in 2012.  The Hawkeyes have struggled mightily to put points on the scoreboard, and I expect that to continue, as Northwestern lost a heartbreaker last week but held the impressive Nebraska offense to 12 points under their season average.  Without breakout running back Mark Weisman’s full health and stellar play, I believe Iowa has no shot in this one.  I see Northwestern defeating the Hawkeyes at home, avenging their depressing week eight home loss to Nebraska, and covering the 6.5-point spread.

Indiana (+2) [2-5] vs. Illinois (-2) [2-5]

2011 Records: Indiana 1-11 and Illinois 7-6
Game Time: 12:00 PM Eastern
Channel: Big Ten Network
Prediction: Indiana 38 – Illinois 14

In Indiana’s 5 losses this season, they lost by 4 points or less in 4 of them.  Despite this poor luck, they average 34.7 points/game and are primed to break their 5-game losing streak and defeat the Illini.  Even though Indiana has the 93rd ranked defense (points allowed), the Illini’s 114th ranked offense (points for) shouldn’t be able to get anything going.  I see a blowout victory for the Hoosiers, as this seems to be a popular bet in Vegas this weekend.

 
 
Picture
Kenny Guiton Leads the Buckeyes to Victory
Zach Clark (9:37  am) @Zach_TSB

Saturday:

Purdue 22 – #7 Ohio State 29

My Prediction: Purdue 17 - Ohio State 38
Most Shocking Statistic: Ohio State: 4 Turnovers
My Ohio State MVP: QB Kenny Guiton (6/11-77 yards-1 touchdown-1 interception)

As we all observed, it took a miracle for the Buckeyes to defeat the Boilermakers in week eight.  See TSB’s take on the instant classic for extensive review, but backup quarterback Kenny Guiton was the star of the game, leading the Buckeyes on an improbable 7-play, 61-yard drive to bring the Buckeyes within 2 points.  After a miraculous touchdown completion to WR Chris Fields, Guiton again went to the air for a successful 2-point conversion completion to TE Jeff Heuerman.  Even more shocking, Fields’s 3 receptions for 44 yards and a touchdown mark his first catches of the 2012 season.  I can’t say I was overjoyed with the win, but it does feel great to have an undefeated record and a "healthy" Braxton Miller heading into week nine’s showdown at Penn State.

Minnesota 13 – Wisconsin 38

My Prediction: Minnesota 14 - Wisconsin 28
Most Shocking Statistic: Rushing Yards: Minnesota 96 Wisconsin 337
My Wisconsin MVP: RB James White (15 rushes-175 yards-3 touchdowns)

Not surprisingly, the Wisconsin Badgers easily took the 2012 Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe over the Minnesota Golden Gophers.  The dominating running back tandem of James White and Montee Ball was simply too much for Minnesota to handle, as each rushed for over 150 yards and at least 2 touchdowns.  Offensively for the Gophers, freshman 3-star recruit Philip Nelson got the start, passing for 149 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions.  If injuries to quarterback's MarQueis Gray and Max Shortell persist, expect Nelson to be thrust into the fire once again.  Nelson’s unexpected 2012 playing time may serve useful later in his career if and when he earns the Gophers’ starting role.

 
 
Picture
My B1G Game of the Week: Michigan State vs. #23 Michigan
Zach Clark ( 8:47 am) @Zach_TSB

Saturday:

Purdue (+18.5) [3-3] vs. #7 Ohio State (-18.5) [7-0]

2011 Records: Purdue 7-6 and Ohio State 6-7
Game Time: 12:00 PM Eastern
Channel: ABC/ESPN2
Prediction: Purdue 17 - Ohio State 38

In a game where the Boilermakers have bested the Buckeyes in 2 of the past 3 years, Coach Meyer, fueled with anger from his team’s defensive performance against Indiana, plans to make a statement and beat-down the Boilermakers in Columbus.  I predict, although not too difficult of a task with Purdue’s 3 sub par quarterbacks, that Luke Fickell will finally make the necessary adjustments and limit Purdue to minimal offensive output.  So far in 2012, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Marshall all shredded the Boilermakers defense for 38 or more points, and I expect the Buckeyes to do the same.  I’m hesitant to take the Bucks in the 18.5-point spread, but they very well could get it done.  Some key Buckeye recruits plan on attending this one, and Coach Meyer will do his best to impress, as he did very successfully for the Nebraska game…

Minnesota (+16.5) [4-2] vs. Wisconsin (-16.5) [5-2]

2011 Records: Minnesota 3-9 and Wisconsin 11-3
Game Time: 12:00 PM Eastern
Channel: ESPNU/WatchESPN
Prediction: Minnesota 14 - Wisconsin 28

In the famed battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe, the Golden Gophers and the Badgers square off for the 65th time this Saturday.  Overall, the Badgers lead the series 37-24-3, and I expect them to increase their hold on the rivalry series this Saturday.  Finally Wisconsin is starting to roll, and returning Heisman finalist Montee Ball looks like he’s returned to true form.  The Badgers’ offense, although disappointing at many times this year, shapes up to be the toughest offense Minnesota has faced thus far in 2012.  With reoccurring injuries to Minnesota QB MarQueis Gray and inconsistent play from backup QB Max Shortell, the Badgers should roll.  For the sake of the B1G, I’d like to think Wisconsin is “back,” but could it just be that they played a poor Purdue defense?  We’ll find out soon. Look for whomever comes out victorious to be wielding a massive wooden axe minutes after the game ends…

 
 
Picture
Urban Meyer and Kevin Wilson discuss the shootout in Bloomington
Zach Clark (1:59 pm) @Zach_TSB

Saturday:

Iowa 19 – Michigan State 16


Most Shocking Statistic: MSU K Dan Conroy 3/3 FG with a long of 24 yards

My Iowa MVP: RB Mark Weisman (26 rushes-116 yards-1 touchdown)

Looking at the statistic sheet, Iowa and Michigan State appear to have played identical games.  Iowa had 12 first downs while MSU had 14, Iowa was 6/19 on 3rd
down while MSU was 6/18, Iowa averaged 3.6 yards/rush while MSU averaged 3.8, Iowa controlled the ball for 30:01 minutes while MSU did for 29:59, and both teams committed one turnover.  As expected after glancing at those eerily similar numbers, the game took 2 overtimes to be completed.  The teams traded field goals in the first overtime, and an intercepted tipped pass from MSU QB Andrew Maxwell sealed the Spartans’ fate.  The Hawkeyes are thriving off walk-on transfer RB Mark Weisman’s play, as this marked the 4th straight week he rushed for over 100 yards and scored at least 1 touchdown.

Northwestern 21 – Minnesota 13

Most Shocking Statistic: Northwestern 3rd Down Efficiency: 1/9

My Northwestern MVP: RB Venric Mark (20 rushes-182 yards-2touchdowns)

Refusing to give in to a B1G losing streak, the Northwestern Wildcats held strong and defeated the pesky
Gophers.  This game was very close to being the 2nd B1G game of the  day to reach overtime, as Northwestern had to fight off a late Gopher drive in the 4th, forcing QB Max Shortell to throw the ball out of the endzone on 4th and goal.  This margin of victory seems much too little, considering Minnesota turned the ball over 3 more times than Northwestern.  Again providing electric, clutch play for Northwestern was RB Venric Mark, as he went completely untouched for 2 scores from 26 and 48 yards out


 
 
Picture
Carlos Hyde with a Four-Touchdown Performance.
Zach Clark (10:57 am) @Zach_TSB

Saturday:

Michigan State 31 - Indiana 27

My Prediction: Michigan State 31 Indiana 14
Most Shocking Statistic: Michigan State: 0 turnovers, 410 total yards, 3/3 4th downs
My Michigan State MVP: WR Aaron Burbridge (8 catches-134 yards)

Either the B1G is that bad where Michigan State can play a pretty clean game and nearly lose to Indiana, or Indiana is a much, much better team than I thought.  Either way, the Hoosiers blew this game, as they were up by 10 points with 8 minutes to play.  True freshman wide receiver Aaron Burbridge, in his best game of his young career, had 8 catches for 134 yards and marked the first true freshman to ever go over 100 yards receiving for Michigan State.  I have been very disappointed in Coach Mark Dantonio’s inability to prepare this talented Spartan team for an easy B1G schedule, and Indiana will look to build on its fairly impressive play as the season progresses.

#24 Northwestern 28 - Penn State 39

My Prediction: Northwestern 21 Penn State 17
Most Shocking Statistic: 4th Quarter Points Scored: Northwestern 0 Penn State 22
My Penn State MVP: QB Matt McGloin (35/51-282 yards-2 touchdowns)

With the Nittany Lions taking down the Wildcats, the Buckeyes are the only remaining undefeated B1G team in 2012.  Coming back from a 17-28 deficit with 10 minutes left in the game, Penn State soared back with 2 touchdown passes from McGloin and a touchdown run from RB Michael Zordich.  As a result of this impeccably strong 4th quarter play, Penn State ended up dominating the time-of-possession battle, 39:17 to 20:43.  It seems as if this heavily sanctioned Nittany Lion team has taken on the demeanor of their coach and haven’t yet given up on the season.  Anytime a team is playing like they have nothing to lose, they are very dangerous.  Penn State will be looking to ruin opposing teams’ seasons in their remaining 2012 schedule.

 
 
Drew Thurman (3:09 pm)

We are at the halfway point of the season, and it hasn't been a pretty first half of the season for the B1G Conference. The non-conference schedule set the tone as the conference claimed only one win against Top 25 competition, that being Michigan State over Boise State. Now, for the first time ever, the conference was shut out of the Coaches Poll. Not one ranked team! While it comes with an asterisk, as Ohio State is undefeated at the moment, it still is a huge embarrassment for the conference.

I say all of that to set up things as I give you the rundown of where the conference stacks up. At this point it really is hard to distinguish who is truly separating themselves from the rest of the pack.

1. Ohio State (6-0, 2-0): After squeaking past Michigan State and putting up 63 points on Nebraska, the Buckeyes have put themselves head and shoulders above the rest of the conference. Braxton Miller is a legitimate Heisman candidate, and Urban Meyer's offense appears to be finally hitting its stride. While the defense is still a question mark, they have proven to be the most consistent team thus far. Too bad for the conference that they can't represent them come bowl season.

2. Penn State (4-2, 2-0): After a horrendous 0-2 start, the Nittany Lions have reeled off four straight wins including giving Northwestern their first loss this past weekend. Bill O'Brien is proving what a quality coach he is, and he has Matt McGloin playing the best football of his career. They also seem to have a solid core of leadership that has helped this team respond from all the adversity. Beaver Stadium is also a huge home field advantage and could play a factor down the stretch.

3. Nebraska (4-2, 1-1): While Saturday was not good for the Huskers' stock, they still have played some of the better football in the conference thus far. They are the top scoring offense in the B1G and at any moment Taylor Martinez and company can go off, especially if they don't turn it over. While the defense has been a big letdown for Bo Pelini, his team definitely is loaded with talent. The bad news, they could drop in the rankings if they don't step it up. Their next four games are against Northwestern, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State.

 
 
Zach Clark (9:38 am) @Zach_TSB

Saturday:

Michigan State (3-2) vs. Indiana (2-2)

2011 Records: Michigan State 11-3 and Indiana 1-11
Game Time: 12:00 PM Eastern
Channel: Big Ten Network
Prediction: Michigan State 31 Indiana 14

Although Indiana has proved they can put up respectable numbers on the scoreboard without stud injured QB Tre Roberson, I think this week, against Michigan State, the Hoosier offense runs into a wall.  The Spartans rank 12th in the nation in points against, giving up only 12.8 points/game.  In my opinion, Indiana will be lucky to put up two touchdowns against a stout MSU defense.  Further cementing my prediction and case for the Spartans to cover the 15.5-point spread, Indiana ranks 72nd in the nation in points against, giving up 27.0 points/game.  I assure you this- there is not one (or even several at once) Hoosier defender than can stop the powerful, athletic Le’Veon Bell.  Expect Bell to have another highlight reel game against a poor opponent, making Andrew Maxwell’s job easier. 

#24 Northwestern (5-0) vs. Penn State (3-2)

2011 Records: Northwestern 6-7 and Penn State 9-4
Game Time: 12:00 PM Eastern
Channel: ESPN/ESPN 3D
Prediction: Northwestern 21 Penn State 17

It’s never easy playing in Happy Valley, especially when a ranked team comes to town and the Nittany Lions have something to prove.  Vegas has set the line at 2 points favoring Penn State, but I think the Wildcats can get it done.  My respect for Coach Pat Fitzgerald has never been a secret, and I believe he has the unique ability to ignore the scrutiny his team faces and lead the Wildcats to victory in hostile territory. Additionally to bolster the Wildcats, RB Venric Mark has established himself a lethal threat on the field, amassing over 500 yards on the ground (5.3 yards/carry) and 7 touchdowns (5 rushing/1 receiving/1 returning) through five games.  Hopefully my judgement in picking Northwestern isn’t too far clouded by my hope that the B1G actually has one “very good” bowl-eligible team…