The Illini General's Football Picks

Once again, my NCAA and NFL picks were just a little off the mark. I struggled in college (1-3-1 last week and 15-19-3 overall) and nearly broke even in the pro league (6-7-1 last week and 19-26-1 overall). It's a good thing I'm not getting paid for being right. Read here for all the details as I look to bring myself back to respectability.

Illinois Fighting Illini (2-2 overall, 0-1 conference) vs. #20 Wisconsin Badgers (4-0, 1-0)
Saturday, October 2nd, 2004
1:00 PM Central (Tape Delayed Wisconsin Public Television)
Badgers by 14.5

Illinois gets to play yet another undefeated team this week. Seven days after standing toe-to-toe with the Purdue Boilermakers, the Illini travel north to Madison, Wisconsin and the newly renovated Camp Randall Stadium. Hopefully, Illinois can give the Badgers their first loss in the spiffed up place.

The two teams are the exact opposite of each other. Illinois' defense seems to have trouble tackling opponents. Wisconsin's defense knocks multiple quarterbacks out of games. Illinois' offense can run and pass over the defense of the #15th ranked team in the country. Wisconsin's star halfback has missed time with an eye injury. Shouldn't he just put on a pair of Kareem goggles and hit the field?

Last week, the Illini showed they can hang with one of the top teams in the conference and the country. However, that game was at home. This game will be in a hostile road environment. Also, Purdue uses finesse to win games. Wisconsin uses about as much finesse as an 800 pound gorilla.

If Illinois can be competitive with the Badgers, I will still hold out hope for a Motor City Bowl bid. If Illinois can steal a victory, I'm setting my hopes higher: the Music City Bowl. If they get blown out, at least the Illini basketball team has a tournament in Las Vegas during that time of year.

Wisconsin Badgers 23, Illinois Fighting Illini 13. This game is being tape delayed on Wisconsin Public Television. The broadcast will air after "Brett Favre's Reading Rainbow" and before "Science Time with Bo Ryan."


#18 Michigan Wolverines (3-1, 1-0) vs. Indiana Hoosiers (2-2, 0-1)
Wolverines by 18.5

If this were a basketball game in 1992, I could see why ABC would want to televise this contest. However, this is a football game in 2004 and ABC is showing it as part of its regional coverage this Saturday. I think the folks at the network might have overestimated the Hoosiers after their win against Oregon.

Michigan Wolverines 33, Indiana Hoosiers 16. Just once in my lifetime, I would like to see this game mean something in the Big Eleven standings. I'm not going to hold my breath, though.


Michigan State Spartans (2-2, 1-0) vs. Iowa Hawkeyes (2-2, 0-1)
Hawkeyes by 7.5

The fans are going crazy in East Lansing after the Spartans thrilling comeback victory over Indiana. The fans in Iowa City are just crazy. After a big preseason ranking, the Hawkeyes have come back down to Earth after two straight losses. There was lots of hype and there has been little substance. That sounds an awful lot like Steve Alford's stay with the basketball program at Iowa.

Iowa Hawkeyes 24, Michigan State Spartans 14. Kirk Ferentz has something else in common with Alford. They both won't be employed at Iowa for much longer. Ferentz will be going to the NFL, while Alford will be going to the unemployment line.


#15 Purdue Boilermakers (3-0, 1-0) vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (3-1)
Purdue by 3

Purdue looks shaky on defense after last week's barnburner with Illinois. Notre Dame looks tougher than they have in a long time by reeling off three straight wins after laying an egg in the opener at BYU. If Purdue has a lead at the end of the game and Joe Tiller tries to score when he doesn't need to, Touchdown Jesus might not be very forgiving.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish 26, Purdue Boilermakers 25. The last time Purdue won in South Bend, Joe Tiller's mustache was in style.


#6 Ohio State Buckeyes (3-0, 0-0) vs. Northwestern Wildcats (1-3, 0-1)
Buckeyes by 11.5

It looks like the professional sporting events in Chicago this weekend won't mean much in the long run. This game probably won't mean much, either. Both teams should be extremely careful, though. Football teams in Chicago seem to have injury problems.

Ohio State Buckeyes 28, Northwestern Wildcats 17. If Bears reserve quarterback Craig Krenzel wants to win again, he should probably join the coaching staff at his alma mater, Ohio State.
Penn State Nittany Lions (2-2, 0-1) vs. #19 Minnesota Golden Gophers (4-0, 1-0)
Golden Gophers by 14

Penn State might be the only football team in the country with more injuries than the Bears. The Nittany Lions lost their first two quarterbacks early on in their loss to Wisconsin. They might lose a few players off their defense when Minnesota running backs Marion Barber III and Laurence Maroney run them over.

Minnesota Golden Gophers 30, Penn State Nittany Lions 14. Joe Paterno might want to get the prescription updated on his glasses or else Barber and Maroney will just be a blur to him.


Philadelphia Eagles (3-0) vs. Chicago Bears (1-2)
Sunday, October 3rd, 2004
12:00 PM Central (FOX)
Eagles by 9

This game could be over by the time Jillian Barberie gives the weather forecast on the pregame show. The Bears are a scrappy bunch, but all their best players are hurt. New starting QB Jonathan Quinn should have his wife, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, provide treatment to his injured teammates.

The injury situation is so bad for Chicago, that some former Bears are even starting to feel the effects. Steve McMichael strained the arm that he uses to lift his beer. Mike Ditka broke his jaw, which he needs to chomp on his gum. Doug Buffone pulled his tongue muscle while hosting his show on The Score.

Things might even extend to the fans this weekend. Something tells me that I will suffer a headache during the game.

Everything has gone smoothly for the Eagles this year. That will stop sometime and everyone will want to be reminded why they brought in Terrell Owens. But, for now, the Eagles are winning big and the feisty Philly fans are happy. All that changes the second they lose a game they should win.

Philadelphia Eagles 31, Chicago Bears 21. I hope everyone enjoys the beginning of the Jonathan Quinn era. I get the feeling that you might enjoy it better under the influence of serious amounts of alcohol.


New York Giants (2-1) vs. Green Bay Packers (1-2)
Packers by 7

I think the Colts just scored another touchdown against Green Bay. If this were 2001, the Packers would be worried about facing Kurt Warner just one week after getting torched by Peyton Manning. It's 2004 and the Pack defense is probably licking their chops over the chance to knock out Warner and face another Manning.

Green Bay Packers 24, New York Giants 20. Memo to Packers head coach Mike Sherman: Lose the bowling shirt!


Washington Redskins (1-2) vs. Cleveland Browns (1-2)
Redskins by 3

Remember how so many people were high on these two teams after their opening week victories? Yeah, all that goodwill is gone. The Browns found out this week that tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. will miss the rest of the year. However, Winslow was welcomed into the Mouthy Tight Ends from Miami Who Get Hurt Early On Club by founder Jeremy Shockey.

Washington Redskins 19, Cleveland Browns 15. If Redskins coach Joe Gibbs needs some extra protection for his quarterbacks, he might want to call his old buddy, NASCAR driver/street fighter Tony Stewart.


New England Patriots (2-0) vs. Buffalo Bills (0-2)
Patriots by 5.5

Last year, the Bills destroyed the Patriots 31-0 on the first weekend of the NFL season. The Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl, so Buffalo must have gone deep into the playoffs, right. No, they went 6-10. I guess what they say is right; anybody can win on any given Sunday. Except for Buffalo this Sunday, since they can't beat New England.

New England Patriots 28, Buffalo Bills 17. Using historical data, I think Buffalo has a good shot at losing the game 13-10. On their current pace, they will lose every game 13-10.


Oakland Raiders (2-1) vs. Houston Texans (1-2)
Oakland by 2

The Texans were picked by many to be the team who had a poor season last year and make the leap to the playoffs this season. With two early losses, Houston doesn't appear to be that team. The Raiders were picked by many to have an old quarterback break his neck. Rich Gannon accomplished that feat after a hit by Tampa's Derrick Brooks broke a vertebra in his neck.

Oakland Raiders 22, Houston Texans 18. I think the Raiders will be better off without Gannon and with Kerry Collins under center. Collins fits the Raiders bad boy image. Plus, he doesn't have a bad neck.


Indianapolis Colts (2-1) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-0)
Colts by 4

As reported above, the Colts have scored again on Green Bay. The NFL schedule maker's vendetta against Peyton Manning continues as Indy faces undefeated Jacksonville. As far as strong teams with bad offenses go, I would rank the Jags behind the 2000 Ravens and the 2001 Bears.

Indianapolis Colts 27, Jacksonville Jaguars 20. If the Jags hold the Colts under 10 points, then I might be willing to push them ahead of the 2001 Bears. It would really hurt me to do that, though.


Cincinnati Bengals (1-2) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1)
Steelers by 3.5

It's a battle of the quarterbacks of the future, as Cincinnati's Carson Palmer takes on Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger. As long as there is not an October blizzard, Roethlisberger will have a much nicer field to play on then he did for his first start against Miami. Of course, the Steelers won the game played in a hurricane, so they might want the grounds crew to flood the field at Ketchup Stadium.

Pittsburgh Steelers 17, Cincinnati Bengals 15. After a third loss, Palmer realizes he'd rather be at USC than Cincinnati. Seriously, if it takes you four games to realize you'd rather be in Los Angeles than Cincinnati, you must have taken some serious shots to the head.


Atlanta Falcons (3-0) vs. Carolina Panthers (1-1)
The flag is dropped on the race for the lead in the NFC's NASCAR division. The pole-sitting Falcons have gotten off to a quick lead, as the Panthers are drafting behind the Saints. Look for these teams to trade some paint on defense and stall their engines on offense.

Carolina Panthers 9, Atlanta Falcons 7. As always when these two meet, the winner takes home the Dale Earnhardt Memorial Hubcap. It's not the Illibuck Trophy, but it's a start.


New Orleans Saints (2-1) vs. Arizona Cardinals (0-3)
Saints by 3

The Cardinals have long been ridiculed for their lack of defense, but this year the offense is just as much to blame for their winless start. Arizona's defense held the Mike Vick Experience to just six points, but that doesn't mean much when the offense only scores three points. If the Cardinals want to jumpstart their offense, they need to sign Rod Tidwell.

New Orleans Saints 21, Arizona Cardinals 19. I'm sure Cuba Gooding Jr. would be there if the Cardinals would just show him the money. Heck, he could even bring in his brother who played the running back on "Playmakers."


New York Jets (2-0) vs. Miami Dolphins (0-3)
Jets by 5.5

There used to be a time when the Jets could never win against Miami. All that changed when Hurricane Wannstedt blew into South Florida. Now, it's Miami who can't win. Not just against the Jets, but against anybody.

New York Jets 23, Miami Dolphins 16. Wanny should show the guys a copy of "Ace Ventura" because that's the only time we'll see the Dolphins in the Super Bowl anytime soon.


Denver Broncos (2-1) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-3)
Broncos by 3

The Tampa Bay Super Bowl reunion tour continues. One week after Gruden's gang met up with old pal Warren Sapp in Oakland, former Tampa defender John Lynch returns to town. Not much with Lynch has changed. He's still getting fined by the league for his hits. It's just that now when the league gets a letter complaining about the fine, Lynch sends it from Denver instead of Tampa.

Denver Broncos 23, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 21. John Gruden should make some more angry faces. That might motivate his team to actually win a game. But, what do I know? I'm just a hack with an over-inflated sense of how funny I am.


Tennessee Titans (1-2) vs. San Diego Chargers (1-2)
Titans by 3

Titans' starting quarterback Steve McNair bruised his sternum in last week's loss to Jacksonville. If McNair can't start, backup quarterback Billy Volek will take the snaps for Tennessee. Heck, against the Chargers, country music superstar George Jones could take the snaps and sneak away with a 3-point victory.

Tennessee Titans 18, San Diego Chargers 16. If any Charger defender gets close to Jones, he could hit them with a guitar or a bottle of whiskey. However, the Titans shouldn't have to worry about a defender getting close to the quarterback.


St. Louis Rams (1-2) vs. San Francisco 49ers (0-3)
Rams by 3.5

Isn't it great that the two nationally televised night games this week involve busts from Missouri? I think it's ironic that the 49ers stadium was renamed Monster Park this week. The Niners offense was pretty scary against the Seahawks last week. I think it's safe to say that San Francisco won't go another 27 years without being shutout.

St. Louis Rams 21, San Francisco 49ers 17. Was Monster Park really the best they could come up with? It sounds like the name of an abandoned amusement park that Scooby Doo and the gang would go to look for ghosts.


Kansas City Chiefs (0-3) vs. Baltimore Ravens (2-1)
Ravens by 5

There's nothing like winding down after a hard Monday at work with what figures to be a terrible football game. You could fit the Grand Canyon in the gap between Baltimore's defense and Kansas City's defense. If the Chiefs keep underachieving, head coach Dick Vermeil and defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham could find themselves being left at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Baltimore Ravens 30, Kansas City Chiefs 18. I think that after losing again, the Chiefs are going to have a case of the Mondays.


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