Tony's Tip Sheet – Big Ten Edition
by Tony Gerdeman
We are a week out from Rivalry Week, but there are still plenty of rivalries being played this week. I like to call this week “Paul Bunyan Week”, because every Big Ten team is playing for something or other named after Paul Bunyan. For instance, Illinois and Purdue are playing for “Paul Bunyan's Manure Shovel”, and if you've ever seen Babe the Blue Ox, you know that that's a pretty hefty shovel.
It should be a pretty good week of Big Ten football this week, provided you don't count Rutgers, Maryland, Purdue or Illinois in that group.
Thursday November 21
Teams: Rutgers (5-4) at #18 UCF (8-1)
Time (TV): 7:30 pm (ESPN)
Cheer For: Rutgers
Being from New Jersey, I assume Rutgers will one day play for Paul Bunyan's Car Door Jimmy Tool. Tonight, however, they are playing for pride. And while people from New Jersey may not have any self-respect, they still have pride. Per usual, however, it won't matter. UCF 37 – Rutgers 23
Saturday November 23
Teams: #13 Michigan State (9-1) at Northwestern (4-6)
Time (TV): 12:00 pm (ESPN)
Cheer For: Michigan State
If you are a Buckeye fan, you are now an honorary Spartan. Congrats on your big win over Michigan a couple of weeks ago. This is a classic spot for Sparty to choke one away, but when it comes to choking, Northwestern is the chokingest bunch of chokes who have ever choked. The bad news for the Wildcats is that Michigan State has developed an offense that complements their defense very well, which makes it unlikely for Northwestern to pull off the upset. There is also the small fact that Northwestern could find a way to lose at Tic Tac Toe when they're given the first three moves. Michigan State 34 – Northwestern 14
Teams: Michigan (7-3) at Iowa (6-4)
Time (TV): 12:00 pm (BTN)
Cheer For: Michigan
Face it, an 8-3 Michigan team would be a better victory for the Buckeyes than a 7-4 team. Though, if we're being honest, neither really matters. For that reason, feel free to root against Michigan if you want, which you do. The Wolverines went with their freshman running backs last week with moderate success. Though with the way Michigan has run the ball of late, “moderate success” is far beyond our wildest dreams. I do think Iowa's defense will need to blitz Devin Gardner some in order to get him thinking about pressure even when it's not there. If they don't pressure him, Michigan will win. That being said, I think they get after him enough to force him to throw a couple of interceptions, which doesn't necessarily require a lot of force. Iowa 27 – Michigan 24
Teams: Illinois (3-7) at Purdue (1-9)
Time (TV): 12:00 pm (BTN)
Cheer For: Illinois
This is the 119th time that these two teams have played for Paul Bunyan's Manure Shovel. There have been so many classic memories from this rivalry. I remember watching Mike Alstott running around with the shovel after a big win and pretending to shovel up ox dung. It started a tradition that continues to this day. The joy on the players' faces as they shovel invisible poo is what makes college football so great. There is nothing else like it. Illinois 38 – Purdue 24
Teams: #19 Wisconsin (8-2) at #25 Minnesota (8-2)
Time (TV): 3:30 pm (ESPN)
Cheer For: Wisconsin
The Paul Bunyan Axe. Generally, that's all Minnesota ever has to play for during a football season. This year, however, they are in the mix for the Legends Division championship. They'll need Michigan State to lose out, but the good thing for the Gophers is that they get the Spartans next week, so they could actually have some say in how things turn out. This will be the stiffest test for the Gophers this season, and I expect it to be too much for them. Wisconsin is not without its flaws, but Minnesota won't be as fortunate as they have been during their recent winning stint. I think Minnesota will be able to make it close, but as is generally the case, the Badgers will pull away thanks to Melvin Gordon and James White. Wisconsin 38 – Minnesota 27
Teams: Nebraska (7-3) at Penn State (6-4)
Time (TV): 3:30 pm (BTN)
Cheer For: Penn State
One of my least favorite rivalries is this one – the Battle for Paul Bunyan's Carpetbag. I'm sure I'd like it more if the two teams were at their height, but they're not, and I'm not sure when they will be again. Nebraska lost at home to Michigan State last week, which leads me to think that they might be fixing to quit a bit. Penn State, on the other hand, has no postseason, so their regular season carries more importance. The question will be whether or not Penn State can stop running back Ameer Abdullah. He's the only player in the conference who has rushed for 100 yards in every Big Ten game this year. I think he'll get another 100, but it's time for the reigning Big Ten Coach of the Year to win one for his team. Penn State 30 – Nebraska 27
Teams: Boston College (6-4) at Maryland (6-4)
Time (TV): 3:30 pm (ESPN3)
Cheer For: Maryland
Boston College running back Andre Williams leads the nation in rushing with 1,810 yards this season. He's been pretty much unstoppable, especially of late. We can't rightly expect Maryland to stop him because they're Maryland, so we have to wonder if they Terp offense will be able to outscore Boston College. They scored three points against Syracuse two weeks ago, and then won at Virginia Tech in overtime last week, so who the hell knows with these guys. Why am I still writing words here? Boston College 24 – Maryland 23
Teams: Indiana (4-6) at #3 Ohio State (10-0)
Time (TV): 3:30 pm (ABC/ESPN2)
Cheer For: Ohio State
As you know, RV magnate Tom Raper is a staple of both Ohio and Indiana, so it only makes sense that these two teams play for Paul Bunyan's RV. John Cooper struggled early in his Buckeye career in his quest for the RV, but eventually turned things around, and Ohio State has held onto the RV for well over a decade now. Last season, Indiana mounted a comeback against the Buckeyes, and made things much tighter than they should have been. Because of that, I don't expect the Buckeyes to let up on the Hoosiers this weekend – especially not with the coveted RV on the line. Ohio State could run the ball every time in this game, point to where they'll be running, and still run for 250 yards. As it stands, they should probably rush for over 400. Ohio State 66 – Indiana 28
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