October 6, 2012

Around the Big Ten: Week 6 Pick 'Em

The TheWolverine.com's weekly pick 'em battle between staff members Andy Reid got off to slow start in the first week of Big Ten play, with both prognosticators posting losing records. Reid leads by a game heading into the second week of conference competition, but much can change over the course of a long and unpredictable season.

Standings:

  • Andy Reid: 3-4
  • Kevin Minor: 2-5

    Without further ado, we present you the picks ...

    Michigan State at Indiana: Point Spread = Michigan State -16

    Andy Reid: The Spartan offense has struggled against good defenses (scoring just 17 points against Boise State and three against Notre Dame). It's struggled against questionable defenses, like Ohio State. And it has struggled against downright poor defenses, scoring just 23 points against the No. 115 total defense in the country, Eastern Michigan.

    But Michigan State diversified the attack a little bit last week, racking up 269 passing yards against the Buckeyes. The Spartans should be able to move the ball easily against the Hoosiers. And although Indiana has proven it can score points in bunches, coach Kevin Wilson does not yet have the program in a position to compete with physical teams like Michigan State. I'm taking the Spartans to cover, easily.

  • Score: Michigan State 34, Indiana 14

    Kevin Minor:If there is one thing the Hoosiers can do, it is score. Despite the looming quarterback controversy in Bloomington following the loss of starting sophomore quarterback Tre Roberson early in the season, IU leads the Big Ten in passing offense (311.0 yards per game) and ranks third in scoring offense (34.2 yards per game), but they have not seen a defense even close to that of MSU's.

    Although the Spartans have struggled offensively, a porous Hoosier defense that yielded over 700 yards a week ago should be just what the doctor ordered for offensive coordinator Dan Roushar's and company. Junior quarterback Andrew Maxwell was efficient in a 17-16 loss to Ohio State a week ago, completing 22-of-42 passes (52.3 percent) for 269 yards and a score, and the Hoosiers do not have the horses up front to contain junior running back Le'Veon Bell, who leads the conference with 131.0 rushing yards per game.

    Michigan State keeps the coveted Old Brass Spittoon in East Lansing in convincing fashion.

  • Score: Michigan State: 42, Indiana: 21

    No. 24 Northwestern at Penn State: Point Spread = Penn State -3

    Andy Reid: Penn State has surged back from an ugly 0-2 start, notching three straight wins over Navy, Temple and Illinois. Those three teams have a combined one win against FBS competition (Illinois 24-7 over Western Michigan). Against BCS conference schools, they're a combined 0-6 and have lost by an average score of 37.3-11.8.

    So the Nittany Lions have beaten up on some pretty mediocre opponents. Northwestern is definitely not mediocre. Junior running back Venric Mark is ninth in the country in all-purpose yards, with 176.8 per game. Expect a steady diet of him and for offensive everyman Kain Colter to beat the Nittany Lions defense as a runner and pass catcher.

  • Score: Northwestern 27, Penn State 24

    Kevin Minor: The Wildcats have been on an absolute tear lately on offense, stockpiling a school-record 704 yards a week ago against Indiana. But Penn State is not Indiana.

    Despite all of the distractions surrounding Beaver Stadium, first-year head man Bill O'Brien seems to have righted the ship, at least for the time being.

    The PSU defense, spearheaded by fifth-year senior linebacker Michael Mauti, ranks second in the conference in sacks (14) and should provide the toughest test to date for NU's two-head quarterback monster of junior Kain Colter and sophomore Trevor Siemian.

    The difference in this game will be the matchup between Penn State fifth-year senior quarterback Matt McGloin, who leads the Big Ten with 243.4 passing yards per game, and a Northwestern secondary that ranks dead last in the conference in pass defense (289.0 yards per game).

    This one has all of the makings of a high-scoring thriller. PSU keeps its unlikely momentum rolling in Happy Valley.

  • Score: Penn State 31, Northwestern 27

    Illinois at Wisconsin: Point Spread = Wisconsin -11.5

    Andy Reid: With the way the Badgers have played thus far, it's hard to pick them to cover a 14-point spread against anyone. But Illinois has done everything it can to make it easy to pick Wisconsin in this one.

    In the Fighting Illini's last three games against FBS competition (losses to Arizona State, Louisiana State and Penn State), they have been outscored 132-45. The offense looks lost, the defense atrocious. On special teams, Illinois is No. 113 in the country in punt returns, No. 105 in kickoff returns and No. 77 in field goal percentage.

    There is nothing this team can do right. Wisconsin wide receiver Jared Abbredaris will have a big game, and the Wisconsin run game should be able to get going.

  • Score: Wisconsin 38, Illinois 14

    Kevin Minor: This game has all the makings of one of an old-fashioned slobber-knocker that will be pleasant on the pupils of no one. Both of these teams trot out absolutely hideous offenses that will most likely will remain in the doldrums of conference stat books for the entirety of the 2012 season.

    Illinois has been listless, ranking 11th in total offense (349.8 yards per game), above only - you guessed it - Wisconsin (309.2 yards per game). The Badgers looked like a defeated team in the second half of a catastrophic collapse in a 30-27 loss to Nebraska last week - a game in which they led 27-10 midway through the third quarter, and rank 112 out of 120 teams in third down conversions (20-68, 29.4 percent).

    This one won't be for the faint of heart, and I would be surprised if either of these team put up 16-total points. Illinois covers in an uninspired effort by both squads.

  • Score: Wisconsin 12, Illinois 6

    No. 21 Nebraska at No. 12 Ohio State: Point Spread = Ohio State - 4.5

    Andy Reid: Ohio State is a funny team right now. The Buckeyes are jacks of all trades, masters of none; they do not rank higher than third in the Big Ten in any offensive or defensive category other than fourth-down conversions.

    But they've kept on winning.

    With a primetime kickoff - at home - against the Cornhuskers, I don't expect that to change, though it's going to be closer than the experts think. I'm taking Ohio State to win, but Nebraska to cover.

  • Score: Ohio State 31, Nebraska 28

    Kevin Minor:Nebraska makes the trip across the Midwest to Columbus for the first time since 1956, and I predict the bus ride home will be filled with glee. In a rousing second-half comeback against a serviceable Wisconsin defense last week, the Huskers displayed just how potent they can potentially be when all cylinders are running.

    Sophomore I-Back Ameer Abdullah, who leads the conference in total yardage (178.6 yards per game) and ranks second in touchdowns (7), very well may usurp 2011 All-Big Ten performer Rex Burkhead for the starting spot in NU's backfield. At the very least, this gives NU a potent three-headed ground monster alongside junior quarterback Taylor Martinez.

    Nebraska leads the Big Ten in scoring offense (44.8 points per game), rushing offense (305.8 yards per game), and pass efficiency (167.6), but the Buckeyes offer the stiffest defense the Huskers will face so far this season. After holding the conference's leading rusher, Michigan State junior Le'Veon Bell, to just 45 yards on 17 carries (2.6 yards per carry), OSU's defense will take the field with confidence, and sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller will be a huge threat to a Black Shirt defense that is yielding over 150 yards of offense a game.

    This one is a toss-up, but an electric atmosphere under the lights gives OSU the advantage, but not the cover.

  • Score: Ohio State 25, Nebraska 21

    OUT OF CONFERENCE LOCK OF THE WEEK

    Andy Reid:

    Clemson at Georgia Tech: Point Spread = Clemson -10

    I'm taking Clemson to cover.

    In four of Florida State's five games this year, the Seminole defense has given up an average of 144.5 yards and 5.75 points. Those are absurd numbers. The fifth game, though, was against Clemson, which ripped the Florida State defense for 426 yards and 37 points.

    Georgia Tech, on the other hand, has been a sieve on defense. Middle Tennessee State racked up 510 yards in a 49-28 hammering of the Yellow Jackets last week. Georgia Tech has been outscored in the second half (plus overtime) of all but one game against FBS competition this year.

    The Yellow Jackets' tricky triple option may give the shaky Clemson defense problems in the early goings. But expect the Tigers to pull away in the second half and cover easily.

  • Score: Clemson 51, Georgia Tech 24

    Kevin Minor:

    Arizona at No. 18 Stanford: Point Spread = Stanford -9.5

    I am dabbling in a little bit of Pac 12 action with an all too familiar face manning the sidelines. No. 18 Stanford (-9.5) is a big, mean team that will play furious after being upset in Seattle by Washington a week ago.

    Rich Rodriguez-coached have struggled against burly, smashmouth teams in the past, and will do so again against a Cardinal team desperately needing a win to keep pace with the conference front runners.

    Arizona ranks ninth in the conference in scoring defense (28.4 points per game), 10th in total defense (451.2 yards per game) and 11th in rushing defense (166.8 yards per game). Stanford should be able to bludgeon the Jeff Casteel-led defense on the ground, and literally run away with this one,

  • Score: Stanford 48, Arizona 25

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