Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Repairing the Predict-o-tron

Note: this is a post I needed to make anyway, but is coincidentally going to be featured as my entry to the Carnival of College Football for this week. The theme is "Crow or Eat Crow" and is intended to give you, the college football blogger, a place to talk about your best and worst predictions. This edition is probably going up just before 8 am Central time tomorrow, so if you have something you'd like featured, submit it here!

I'll admit I'm something of a Big Ten homer. When I have trouble filling out spots numbers 23, 24, or 25 in my Blogpoll ballot, I look to the Minnesotas and Michigan States well before the Boise States and Northern Illinoises. A lot of this, I suppose, has to do with the fact that the teams in the Big Ten beat each other up every year. Rare is the year when the conference champion emerges from the fray undefeated. While that hints at the existence of "parity" or "top to bottom strength" or something of that nature, it certainly doesn't mean such a thing exists. Let's face it; sometimes good teams lose to bad teams, and that's that.

This year, there appears to be a single good team in the Big Ten and a larger-than-average pool of bad teams. Empirical evidence in the form of the first two weeks' results suggests this. But before last Saturday, that's not the way I saw it! Let's take a look at what I thought was going to happen and what actually transpired. It's sure to amuse.

The statement: Western Illinois at Wisconsin, New Hampshire at Northwestern: Neither game is worthy of mention. This is not Colorado Buffalo Big XII North football. This is the Big Ten, where we roll up our D-IAA opponents and smoke them. Blowouts both.

Reality sez: Hahaha! First prediction brings teh funny!!!1 While UW's beating of WIU could be considered a blowout, it was a sloppy one. As for Northwestern, they wound up dropping their game to New Hampshire ... by 17 points. Ugh. Any team that loses to Northwestern from here till the end of the season ought to think things over.

The statement: Central Michigan at Michigan: expect a score like Michigan 28-49, Central Michigan 0-7

Reality sez: Not that far off, but I was hedging big time. Michigan 41, CMU 17 was the final. I suppose I gave Michigan's defense too much credit. That might be bad news for them come Saturday on their trip to see Weis's boys.

The statement: Illinois at Rutgers: The Illini are still in prissy D-IAA mode. Rutgers 28, Illinois 20

Reality sez: The sentiment was correct but the score was way, way, way wrong, with Rutgers blanking the Illini 33-0. This team in Champaign is not good.

The statement: Eastern Michigan at Michigan State: John L. Smith did not have the troops ready to play last week. With thousands of upset critics watching his every move, the team will play to its potential this week. Michigan State 56, Eastern Michigan 24

Reality sez: Sure looked like I was going to be wrong when the Eagles started to mount a comeback, scoring 14 points in 27 seconds in the dying minutes of the first half and adding a field goal to make the score 24-20 in the third quarter. But then Drew Stanton realized that Matt Trannon is tall and the Spartans blew up, winning 52-20. I'll pat myself on the back for this one.

The statement: Miami (OH) at Purdue: 35 points to Indiana State? Joe Tiller has really lost his edge. I don't know anything else about this matchup and I'm tired of writing filler so Purdue 31, Miami 28

Reality sez: Looks like I gave the Boilermakers too much credit. They were taken to overtime by the Redhawks and almost lost. What we do know about Purdue is that they will be in a battle every game this season -- and most of those battles won't go their way.

The statement: Iowa at Syracuse: Not a trap game, since Syracuse sucks. Iowa wins easily. Iowa 38, Syracuse 6

Reality sez: In all fairness, unless you're on scholarship with the Hawkeyes, you couldn't have seen this one coming. I did not know how big a role Drew Tate's abdomen was going to play, and nobody else did either. Two overtimes? Wow. It is very encouraging to see that Iowa is completely impotent without Tate and that Albert Young can be neutralized by even the poorest defense.

The statement: Indiana at Ball State: Read that again -- Indiana at Ball State. Now that's just pathetic. Indiana 35, Ball State 10

Reality sez: Evidently Muncie is a far more hostile environment than anticipated. The Hoosiers had to mount a fourth-quarter comeback to beat a bad MAC team by one point. IU 24, Ball State 23 was the final.

The statement: Minnesota at Cal: Now here's an intriguing matchup. Cal couldn't get anything going offensively against Tennessee last weekend, but that's because Tennessee's coach believes in playing defense. Glen Mason doesn't, and Glen Mason's team won't. It's a shootout and the home team wins. Cal 52, Minnesota 41

Reality sez: Another case of giving a Big Ten team way too much credit. Minnesota kept it close for a while thanks to a kick that was returned for a touchdown, but ultimately ended up losing 42-17. Again: it's good to see that a mediocre team can trounce someone on UW's schedule. We like to win.

The statement: Penn State at Notre Dame: Look for PSU to blitz early and often, and for Quinn to fail to get into a rhythm. But due to the Lions' lackluster offense, this one will be tight till the end. Call it Penn State 13, Notre Dame 9.

Reality sez: Evidently the only people who didn't watch game film from Notre Dame's near-loss at Georgia Tech were on the Penn State coaching staff. The pattern all day was drop back, get lit up, repeat. I was correct about the lackluster offense, though, which allowed hilarious tallies like "Notre Dame 41, Penn State 3" to remain on the scoreboard until garbage time. The final was ND 41, PSU 17.

The statement: Ohio State at Texas: [I]n the end, [Texas's] compromised defense and their freshman quarterback will cost them the game. In the biggest game of the year so far, Ohio State 33, Texas 27

Reality sez: Dead on with the analysis, but evidently I thought that the freshman quarterback wasn't going to hurt the 'Horns that much. Ohio State is a frightening team and will run the table barring, say, an audit of the Athletic Department's petty cash fund.

So, in summary: the Big Ten is not so great, and I am bad at predicting. For laughs, let's rank the teams best to worst:

Great teams
Ohio State - obviously

Decent to possibly good teams
Michigan - haven't won convincingly yet
Wisconsin - ditto
Michigan State - played 6 sluggish quarters but might be awake now
Penn State - got embarrassed, but by a potential BCS team
Iowa - needs Tate

Special teams
Minnesota - just plain exploited by a team that barely scored against Tennessee
Purdue - can score points, but got taken to OT by the MAC and gave up 35 to Indiana State
Indiana - almost got burned by their MAC opponent
Illinois - smoked by Rutgers
Northwestern - lost to their D-IAA opponent. AT HOME.

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