This is a big weekend for Wisconsin.
The Badgers have done little to impress, but they really haven't had to. Akron and Marshall put up little resistance, and Fresno State basically gave the game away.
This week, everything changes.
The Big Ten season starts. If Wisconsin wins the next eight games (or seven of them, probably), they're going to a big-time bowl game. It's probably too much to ask, but optimism reigns supreme this time of the year.
Michigan is the first obstacle. As you read in the VEQ exchange, neither Brian nor I are totally enamored with our teams. I see Michigan as being a bit more flawed than Wisconsin, but both teams have holes that the opponent can exploit with a strength.
The Wolverines should be able to pressure Wisconsin QB Allan Evridge, and their line will pose problems for P.J. Hill, who needs to be able to reach the second level to be effective. If he has to spend all day trying to run over Michigan's linemen because Wisconsin isn't blocking them, it could be a rough outing.
Meanwhile, Michigan's linebackers and safeties are extremely vulnerable. Good luck tackling Hill when he gets to you, and good luck covering a healthy Travis Beckum. Oh, and Garrett Graham, too. Don't forget about him.
I'm very concerned about Wisconsin's linebackers and secondary against Michigan. The line might shut down the run game, but I am not confident that Michigan's receivers will be totally held at bay. The tackling has been shotty so far, and Michigan is going to live on their ability to make big plays out of innocent-looking short passes.
Wisconsin is probably the better team, and I'll reluctantly take them, even on the road. Keep in mind, though, that the Badgers haven't won at the Big House since 1995. That's not a good thing.
The pick: Wisconsin
On now to my other selections. I'll start with all the Big Ten games.
Last week: 12-5
Minnesota at Ohio State -->Hats off to Tim Brewster for leading this team to a 4-0 start. They have a lot of work left to prove themselves in the Big Ten, where they went 0-8 last year. Beating Montana State by 12 isn't going to show me you're ready to beat Ohio State in Columbus.
Gopher fans probably want to hang their hat on tOSU's beatdown loss to USC and their rather underwhelming performance against Troy. I would respond by saying that USC is better than a team you could put together with the absolute best players combined from the Gophers' first four opponents.
Terrelle Pryor is the quarterback now for the Buckeyes, and we get to see him work with Beanie Wells for an extended period. Wells is back from his Week One injury, and not a moment too soon, because you can see how important he is to the Buckeye attack. This won't be 45-0, but it will not be a Gopher win, either.
The pick: Ohio State
Northwestern at Iowa -->Iowa is having QB problems. Northwestern is 4-0, but like the Gophers, the Wildcats haven't beaten anyone good yet.
I'm not sure what to make of this Iowa team. They have some impressive skill players, but Jake Christensen has been a disaster at QB, prompting a change this week to Ricky Stanzi. It's not going to solve everything for this scattershot offense.
Northwestern actually has some tools on defense for a change, mainly with the line. They can really rush the quarterback, and I think they can cause major problems for Iowa's offense.
The pick: Northwestern
Michigan State at Indiana -->The Hoosiers were blown out by Ball State last week, and Michigan State is quietly pretty impressive. The Spartans have a well-balanced offense and an underrated defense. I said in the preseason previews that I thought Indiana was in trouble this year. I'm unfortunately right on that one. The Hoosiers will be lucky to win two more games all year.
The pick: Michigan State
Illinois at Penn State -->Amid all the hype over Ohio State, the Nittany Lions have been able to stay under the proverbial radar. They may have the league's best offense, and the defense - admittedly untested so far - appears to have enough speed and talent to compete with tOSU.
Illinois is a work in progress. I like their defense, but Juice Williams is still not very good at throwing the ball. That's important for a quarterback.
The pick: Penn State
Purdue at Notre Dame -->I don't care that Notre Dame beat Michigan. They aren't very good. Again. Someone should alert the administration, because they sure as hell weren't ever this bad under Tyrone Willingham.
The pick: Purdue
Other games (home team in CAPS)
CLEMSON over Maryland
OKLAHOMA over Tcu
GEORGIA over Alabama
Colorado over FLORIDA STATE
South Florida over NORTH CAROLINA STATE
NEBRASKA over Virginia Tech