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FTW! Week Three

FTW! is BHGP's weekly preview of Big Ten watching & wagering.

Minnesota vs. Cal (11:00, ESPN)

Why Watch?  Jahvid Best, who is so fast they make Benny Hill tribute videos of him at normal speed.  He's so fast that he enters the end zone before the quarterback's cue to snap the ball reaches the center's ears.  He's so fast that he lined up in the wildcat formation, threw a pass 60 yards downfield, and caught it himself.  And he's up against one of the most porous run defenses of the past decade (maybe slightly improved this year, to be fair).  Throw in a heavy dose of Chris Spielman in the booth and a dash of Brewserfreude, and this could be an enjoyable cocktail before the main course at 2:30.

Why Pass?  No reason.  The only other game marginally worth watching might be Ohio State-Toledo, and we've seen that snoozefest before.

Who Ya Got?  Cal -13.5, O/U 52.5.  I know what you're thinking: early kickoff for a favored west coast team on the road and crossing two time zones is generally a recipe for failure.  But Jeff Tedford put his team on a Thursday flight and got them to Minneapolis early, so that they could adjust to the time change before gameday (something he neglected to do before last year's debacle at Maryland).  Given the massive talent gap between these two and the measures taken to nullify jet lag, take Cal and lay the points.

Michigan State at Notre Dame (2:30, NBC)

Why Watch?  You know our opinion on preseason slobbering: We have none of it.  So when both teams in this game were subject to preseason hype that appeared at first blush unwarranted, then dropped games as favorites in week two, we knew this one would tell us a lot.  This isn't just about finding out about Notre Dame or Michigan State; we'll know more about Michigan's true ability (especially on offense), Central Michigan's legitimacy, and even Arizona's defensive strength.

Why Pass?  Of course, it's on while Iowa's playing Arizona and their defensive strength, so there are plenty of reasons to miss it.  Fire up the DVR.

Who Ya Got?  Notre Dame -10, O/U 55.5.  The line is, in large part, the result of MSU's last-minute meltdown against CMU last week, but it was a fluke loss in an obvious look-ahead situation.  I think MSU keeps it close enough with the defense to cover the spread and hold it under 55, but doesn't have the offensive firepower to win outright.

Northwestern at Syracuse (6:00, ...)

Why Watch?  ...

Why Pass?  Because you can't watch it!  It's not on television!  This is how bad it is for Northwestern: The Big Ten Network would rather show a replay of Penn State-Temple at 6:00 than air this game live.

Who Ya Got?  Northwestern -3, O/U 46.5.  Is Northwestern really any better than Minnesota?  My mind says no, but my heart says fuck both of them.  If Paulus wasn't so very, very bad in his first two starts (his decisionmaking has made Austen Arnaud look like John Elway), I'd take the Orange.  As it is, I'm going with Fitzgerald's defense and laying the points.  The over/under is untouchable.

Ohio State vs. Toledo (in Cleveland) (11:00, ESPN+)

Why Watch?  If you can find it, you get a chance to see how Ohio State's defense does against its third wildly different offense in three weeks, Aaron Opelt and the all-new Toledo spread which dropped 54 on Colorado.  It could be a preview of what OSU plans to do against Michigan, which is more run-centric but equally dangerous.

Why Pass?  Well, that breakout performance was against Colorado, so there's a good chance the Toledo offense is simply mediocre.  Also, it's going to be damn near impossible to find this game outside Ohio without ESPN Gameplan.

Who Ya Got?  Ohio State -21, O/U 59.  Neither of those are typos.  Ohio State has a quarterback without an arm and a defense that held Southern Cal to bupkis through 50 minutes.  OSU also flat-out refuses to get its score-running on (and probably couldn't do it if they want, what with the complete abdication of the forward pass).  Take Toledo and the under, and count the winnings.

The Others

Wisconsin vs. Wofford (11:00, BTN) -- Two W's enter.  Only one leaves.
Purdue vs. Northern Illinois (11:00, BTN) -- NIU played Purdue tough; some upset potential here.
Penn State vs. Temple (11:00, BTN delayed until 6:30) -- It's the only BXI game on at the time, I guess.
Michigan vs. Eastern Michigan (11:00, BTN) -- Denard Robinson should get some time.  Might be worth a peek.
Indiana vs. Akron (2:30, ESPNU) -- Indiana becomes the second Big Ten home underdog of the young season. Unlike OSU, however, they're playing against rampant mediocrity.