This past Wednesday night, I was talking about the Iowa Hawkeyes with a guy I’ve never met before at a local wing establishment/hole in the wall bar called The Jug Handle Inn. This is not an occurrence I’ve come to expect in New Jersey or Philadelphia really. For the most part, football talk is relegated to “Tha Birds”. Every now and then, I’ll have a Penn Stater tell me they always hate having to play against the Hawkeyes, but really, that’s about it. No “Go Hawks”. No “It’s Great to be a Hawkeye”. Just a whole lotta college football “meh”.
I blame you Rutgers.
So when this strange gentleman with his sleeve of tattoos and dirty one-size-fits-all black on black Oklahoma Sooners hat wanted to talk Iowa ball, I couldn’t pass it up.
Tony, who’s originally from a little north of Dallas, noticed my polo and politely waited for me to take a sip of my ice cold Miller Lite before leaning over to ask me if the Hawkeyes have it in them again to win straight up against Michigan.
I took two more gulps from the greatest watered down, economical pilsner around (even letting a little trickle down the fresh new beard I decided to grow), gave him a “HELL YEAH” and jumped right into my podcast voice as I listed off every single reason why Iowa was the true team to be reckoned with in the Big Ten West and why Michigan is the biggest pretender.
He let me go on and on and on and on, nodding the whole time. Even giving me a little smirk. This dude loves Iowa ball, I thought. He’s eating this up. I might as well drive him to Atlantic City right now so he can drop $500 on the Hawkeyes outright. My confidence seemed to grow inside of me with every little tilt of the head. Why shouldn’t he? I’m speaking #FACTS while chugging suds. What more credibility does a stranger really need than that?
When I finally stopped talking, he finally leaned in and said, “I like how confident you are, you’re passionate. But you do know Harbaugh doesn’t lose at home to anyone BUT Ohio State and Michigan State right?”
The way he let “BUT YOU DO KNOW” linger in the air crushed my heart into a tiny paper ball.
Yeah but... like... wait... what? How do you even know this, TONY? What do you even know, TONY? You don’t know anything, TONY! YOU’RE A LIAR, TONY! FU YOU TONY! GO WATCH YOUR BIG 12 FOOTBALL AND LEAVE ME ALONE, TONYYYYY.
Turns out...Tony’s not a liar. He’s not a liar at all. In fact, he’s 100% correct. And I hate him for it. Jim Harbaugh and his Walmart khaki pants are 27-4 in the Big House during his tenure as head Michigan Man with the four losses ONLY coming against Ohio State and Michigan State. That’s it. Everyone else comes into Ann Arbor and leaves town with a big fat stinking “L”.
Of course, I’m not changing my pick or my confidence level, despite feeling slightly rattled. But, in terms of gambling, those types of runs are usually something you want to bet on, not against. Throw in the fact that Michigan (as of this writing) is only a -3.5 favorite (AKA neutral site pick ‘em) and got their asses kicked into oblivion against Iowa 2.0 (Wisconsin) and well, what exactly am I supposed to do with all of this excess information?
Bet Iowa outright. That’s what.
Screw Tony and Harbaugh’s home record. That record was then. This is now. While Michigan is STILL trying to figure out what their offensive identity is (but hey, Josh Gattis will be on the sideline coaching), Iowa has an offense unlike we’ve ever seen before. Plus, Iowa has won five of their last six games against the Wolverines.
How about THAT stat, Toe-KNEEEEEE!
To me, this is a Boa Constrictor game for Iowa. All three phases working together as they slowly wrap themselves around the Wolverines. Maybe it’s a hurry here, a stunt there. Maybe it’s a third-and-22 pick up that sucks the air out of the fans in the arena. Maybe it’s a 55-yard punt. Maybe it’s a field goal right before the half with Iowa getting the ball back to start the third. With each of those little moments, things start to get harder and harder to navigate for Michigan until sometime in the fourth quarter, Shea Patterson goes POP.
Pick-6, DJ Johnson.
Don’t be afraid of this game. Be afraid next week. But not now. Michigan is that little league team you used to play that had legit talent but it was chock full of cry babies. And what happened when you played the cry babies? When you jump all over them, they start to lose control of their emotions. They start making errors. They start throwing their gloves and helmets and crying in the dugout when EFFING BRIAN strikes out with the bases loaded.
Meanwhile, your team just stoically continues making plays in key situations and lifts each other up. Even Kevin makes a play in right field and Kevin NEVER makes plays in right field.
Iowa +3.5. DO IT.
Per usual, I went way longer with my introduction, but at least I stuck to sports this week. Here are the rest of my Big Ten Picks (in bold):
Maryland -12.5 @ Rutgers
On the pod this week I bought into the “Rutgers gets up for the interim coach and Rutgers finds away against a Maryland team that can’t throw the football anymore” narrative. I hate that narrative now. Rutgers is just a horrid football team and Maryland has some life at least in their run game and tries to be explosive offensively. I’m probably going to tease down Maryland, but I’m comfortable with them winning by two touchdowns.
Purdue @ Penn State -28.5
Purdue is so banged up and Penn State’s defense (as I’ve been touting since Week 1) is legt AF. This is a heap load of points, but taking Purdue just isn’t smart.
Kent State @ Wisconsin -35
Jonathan Taylor probably has between four and ninety three touchdowns in this one and Jack Coan gets the fanbase back on his side. We may even see a little Graham Mertz and, dare I say, a little QB controversy?
Illinois @ Minnesota -14
BRANDON PETERS WILL END THIS GOPHER CHIRADE... or at least make you some money in a losing effort. Illinois’ defense should be able to bend but not break against the Minnesota run game. And Peters should be able to dissect the Minnesota D just enough to win you some cash on this two touchdown line.
Northwestern @ Nebraska -7.5
This is about a point and a half too high for me. If the line was 6-6.5 I’d bite on Nebraska. But it’s not, and Nebraska along with their coach have a lot left to prove. Maybe I’m buying into last weeks defense performance against Wisconsin a little too much, but we are officially in Patty Fitz SZN. He’s built his entire reputation on coming up big in moments like this. Would you be shocked if this starts the Northwestern run?
Michigan State @ Ohio State -20
Woooooof Sparty. Probably the best all around defense in the Big Ten and one of the worst offenses. This seems like a lot of points to lay down, but you have to assume that Ohio State should figure out a way to score between 21-28 points on a bad day. So, the question is, do you think Brian Lewerke can lead Michigan State down the field to score 10-ish points to cover the spread?
Yeah... I don’t think so either.