FTW! is the BHGP weekly guide to Big Ten football watching and wagering.
Ohio State vs. Southern Cal (7:00, ESPN)
Why Watch? The future of the Big Ten Conference and college football in general is at stake, right? After all, if USC beats Ohio State in the 'Shoe with a true freshman at quarterback, it's just the latest sign that a Big Ten team will never beat another team ever again. And if Ohio State manages to win, it's because they were playing at home against a freshman quarterback. Damned if you do, right?
Also, it should be a stellar game. USC looked their typical Death Star-like selves last week in a blowout win over San Jose State. OSU looked pedestrian against Navy. With that said, OSU had the far superior opponent running an oddball scheme and a coach who spent the entire week telling the press he didn't want a blowout. Take it with a grain of salt.
Why Pass? There is no reason. The other late games are eminently avoidable, and this game really will set the meme for the upcoming season (and, if we're lucky, force the Los Angeles Times to shut their buffet-fed pieholes for the rest of the year).
Who Ya Got? Southern Cal -7, O/U 44.5. You're telling me I can get 7 points to take Ohio State at home against a freshman quarterback with one start under his belt? And they're not playing the 1985 Chicago Bears? And that line moved 4 points in USC's direction last week? Concerns over the running game aside, I'll take that every time.
Michigan vs. Notre Dame (2:30, ABC)
Why Watch? This game is like a schadenfreude drip (honestly, how often can Notre Dame call its opponent pretentious?), and both teams looked like world beaters last week. Notre Dame has the makings of something special: Freakish upperclassman hypertalent across the board, with the unmistakable galvanizing aroma of their coach's seat melting nearby. Michigan gets its first chance to prove its competence.
That, or they both suck.
Why Pass? Again, no good reason. Iowa-ISU will be finished by that point. You'll be drinking one way or the other. There are no other Big Ten games. The other mid-afternoon top 25 games are against cupcakes (well, except for #5 Nebraska's tilt against #4 Arkansas State). This is the afternoon's biggest contest.
Who Ya Got? Notre Dame -3, O/U 48. Again, give me the home dog (are you really telling me Notre Dame would be a deserving double-digit favorite at home?) I'll also take the over, given last week's performances by these two offenses.
Minnesota vs. Air Force (6:00, BTN)
Why Watch? Minnesota opens up their new stadium in style, hosting the #1 team in the country in prime time with television coverage and everything! It should be a nice hour of distraction from the ABC pregame show before the big one kicks off in Columbus. Also, Air Force runs the option, and the option is awesome.
Why Pass? Pass? Pass? Who said anything about passing? The option, people! THE FUCKING OPTION!
Who Ya Got? Minnesota -3.5, O/U 48.5. Both those spreads are in line with my expectations. A couple of locations have moved the line to Minny -3, which is tempting. That half-point is huge, though, and I'm not touching that game for more than a field goal.
Penn State vs. Syracuse (11:00, BTN)
Why Watch? Syracuse looked frisky last week against Minnesota, right up until Greg Paulus committed his most recent turnover, but in fact the Orange was playing with fire throughout that game. Throw into quintuple coverage against Minnesota and you'll probably live to see another day. Throw into quintuple coverage against Penn State and you'll pay with your life. Unfortunately, even though it holds a 10-37 record since 2005, the 'Cuse is probably PSU's toughest non-conference test.
Why Pass? There's something I was meaning to do at 11:00 on Saturday...
Who Ya Got? PSU -28.5, O/U 51. I've made a decision: Every time Penn State has an over/under over 50, I'm taking the under. This is going to pay off my car.
Wisconsin vs. Fresno St. (11:00, ESPN)
Why Watch? Fresno has been a realtively consistent out-of-conference opponent for Wisconsin, and has always proven a difficult draw for the Badgers. In 2001, Fresno lost by 12 in Madison. In 2002, Fresno lost by 2 in Madison. Last year, Fresno lost by 3 at home. Now, on the return leg, Fresno might be poised to break through. That, or Wisky will grind them into the ground again.
Why Pass? Again, check the time. You have more important things to watch. Preferably in a dimly-lit room with a bottle of whiskey and a loaded revolver. Have I mentioned I hate this week?
Who Ya Got? Wisconsin -8.5, O/U 52.5. I can't recall seeing an 8.5-point line ever before, but I'm taking it. Give me Fresno and the points for the reasons mentioned above.
Purdue at Oregon (9:15, FSN)
Why Watch? After watching Iowa dismantle ISU and Ohio State restore honor and dignity to the midwest-at-large, you'll need a nightcap. Something smooth, with beautiful undertones to match the choreography of the show flashing in front of you. I'm talking jet sweeps and four-wide formations, folks. This late at night, you don't need anything that will sock you in the mouth; conveniently, Oregon already took care of that for you.
Why Pass? You should probably be out drinking. Or hanging from the rafters of your garage.
Who Ya Got? Oregon -12, O/U 58.5. I don't like the idea of Purdue on the road late at night; I especially don't like the idea of these teams getting to the over. Parlay Oregon and the under, and expect the jet lag to take its toll on the Boilers.
Michigan State vs. Central Michigan (11:00, ESPN2) -- Michigan State catches LeFevour (the under in this game looks really, really good, by the way)
Illinois vs. Illinois State (6:00, BTN) -- It's like Iowa/Iowa State, only with much more suck.
Northwestern vs. Eastern Michigan (11:00, BTN) -- The Northwestern Cupcake Parade continues.
Indiana vs. Western Michigan (11:00, BTN) -- Ladies and gentlemen, your 2009 Western Michigan Big Ten Win of the Year!