Post Pre-Season Thoughts/Predictions

With the exception of Purdue playing Notre Dame on October 1st, the Big Ten non conference season is over. The "big three" Ohio State, Iowa and Michigan all limped out of the pre Big Ten season with losses. And is MSU a condenter or pretender? Josh Turel tells all, plus gives his predictions for this Saturday's conference games.

Michigan State hype?
I'm not totally sold their Notre Dame win was as a significant a victory as some may make it out to be. Notre Dame heading into the Michigan State game had beaten up a Pittsburgh team we now know is in serious trouble and has yet to win a game. Then the Irish came into the Big House and played well enough to beat Michigan although Michigan did a great job of beating themselves. Michigan State had the offense to expose Notre Dame's defense but I don't think defeating Notre Dame is that much of a surprise or revelation about Michigan State. It affirmed what we all know: they can score and cannot stop others from doing it back to them. They won a shoot-out -- surprised? Nope. It was kind of ironic to watch that Notre Dame game. The Irish scored on a play (which was not called a touchdown) from the one yard line, then fumbled the ball … sound familiar? Much like Chad Henne scoring two games ago only to have it not called and then fumble the next play. The difference being, Notre Dame scored and fumbled on the same play, plus they capitalized on most of their opportunities which Michigan obviously did not. Unfortunately, the Irish couldn't finish the deal in overtime. While the media saw a team that could contend for a Big Ten title, I still see a team that's walking an extremely narrow tight rope. First and foremost, this team begins and ends with Drew Stanton. He's had problems with staying healthy in the past with his high-risk style and an injury to him takes this team out of contention instantly in my opinion. The offense, fully healthy, is very potent. They are statistically the best offense in conference after three games. Problem is, as we've seen over and over again, DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS. Frankly, Michigan State does not have a defense to carry them to a conference crown. They currently rank 10th in conference in total defense and 93rd nationally after getting shredded by Brady Quinn and co. To me, if you go into every game trying to win a shoot out, you're going to get caught eventually. The secondary has already surrendered over 1,000 yards through the air and rank 115th in pass defense. Granted they had to play Hawaii, which loves to throw the ball, as well as Notre Dame, but that is unacceptable.
The Spartans have their best chance to beat Michigan this season. The game is at home, Michigan has a long list of injuries and the Spartans actually have something to play for this season other than beating the state's best program. Should be a great game in two weeks.

Northwestern RB Tyrell Sutton
Back at the end of June, I mentioned Sutton in an article I would like to bring up again.
"For the past few years I've heard people who have Tyrell Sutton play say that he's one of the best players in Ohio, if not the best player. I thought what many others did: if so, where are the offers? Where is the attention for Ohio's Mr. Football. I didn't believe it. Now after seeing him dominate an All Star game, I ask the same questions but I am a Tyrell Sutton believer. Folks, I've seen Grady run, and I can tell you there is not much difference. Power, moves, the inability of defenders to bring him down. The kid is a huge sleeper in my opinion."
Three games into his freshman season at Northwestern, behind an offensive line that is both inexperienced with only one returning starter, he is the conference's third leading rusher with 62 carries for 416 yards (6.7 avg.) and six touchdowns. Definitely a kid to pay attention too.

Interesting Stats

I am really not sure what to think of Ohio State. I didn't buy the national championship talk, though I was a bit surprised they lost to Texas. Heading into the season there was talk of a high octane offense, but after three games the Buckeyes rank dead last in the Big Ten in total offense. They've only managed 1012 yards gained, 337.3 (10th place is Indiana with 415.3 yards a game) and only seven touchdowns. The talent is certainly there but will they pick it up?

After three games, Michigan has the conference's top ranked defense. The Wolverines rank 1st in total and scoring defense. They've surrendered a 789 yards on defense, four touchdowns and 263.0 yards allowed a game, all conference lows. Can they keep it up?

The league's most vulnerable defense may be Northwestern's which is dead last in total defense. The Wildcats have given up 14 touchdowns, 103 points and an average of 517.0 yards a game.

Michigan State ranks high in just about all of the offensive stats again. The Spartans rank first in total offense (557.3 yards a game), 2nd in scoring offense (45.0), first in passing offense (319.7 yards a game) and third in rushing (237.7 yards a game).

Michigan and Minnesota are tied for the conference lead in turnover margin with +4. Illinois, Penn State and Iowa are tied for last, all with -3.

Penn State and Wisconsin are tied for the league lead in sacks with 12 each.

Iowa is the team least penalized team with 9 penalties for 67 yards. Michigan comes in 2nd with 12 penalties for 79 yards. Interesting that Purdue, despite only playing two games so far is the Big Ten's most penalized team with 19 calls for 162 yards. That an average of 81 yards a game! Ouch!

Michigan's has the lowest "opponent penalties" stat, only 10 penalties have been called on Michigan opponents. Northwestern opponents have been flagged 30 times for an average of 97.3 yards a game.

Conference Predictions:

Illinois @ Michigan State
The Spartans need to stay focused coming into this "sandwich" game. Coming off a victory to the Irish and looking to play Michigan next week, the Spartans should tune up on the Illini.
MSU: 31, Illinois: 13

Penn State @ Northwestern
Typical Paterno style, the Lions have been beating up on an easy schedule and it should continue with Northwestern. The Wildcats can't stop anyone on defense, which bodes well for Penn State which moved the ball pretty well against shabby defenses to this point. The Lions have a stout defense to slow down Tyrell Sutton and the Wildcat offense, so expect a Penn State victory.
Penn State: 27, Northwestern: 13

Minnesota @ Purdue
This is a nice undercard to Ohio State vs. Iowa, as one of those teams will have their early optimism dashed. Purdue plays the easiest schedule by far of anyone in conference, missing OSU and Michigan while getting Iowa at home. Minnesota is one of the few teams on Purdue's schedule that could snatch a victory. This should be a close game: Purdue's defense is strong once again this season and they will need it against a very strong offensive team in Minnesota. Minnesota's defense is still suspect in my book however. With a balanced team, the Boilermakers get the W.
Purdue: 28, Minnesota: 24

Iowa @ Ohio State
Well both teams took a hit to their high hopes with early losses; Ohio State's was to a quality opponent however. This game could obviously go either way but I expect the Buckeyes to avenge last year's embarrassing lose with a close victory in the ‘shoe.
Ohio State: 24, Iowa: 21

Indiana is idle this week

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