Originally posted on Midwest Sports Fans  |  Last updated 9/5/13
After eight (!) FBS teams lost to FCS teams in college football’s opening weekend the sporting blogosphere was full of nattering about how these FCS games are no-win situations for the FBS teams. If you lose, it’s humiliating but if you win, well, you were supposed to, so what’s so great about that? There was a general consensus that these games are, without a doubt, the worst thing ever. I can think of one thing worse: try being the next opponent of a team that just lost to an FCS squad. Two Big Ten teams find themselves in that situation this week. Ohio State will face San Diego State, fresh off a loss to Eastern Illinois, while Michigan State takes on South Florida, a team that didn’t just lose to McNeese State but got pantsed by them. Ohio State is the No. 2 or No. 3 team in the country. If SDSU can’t beat an FCS team, then the Buckeyes should easily win by, say, 84 points, if they truly deserve to be ranked so highly. You and I both know that a margin of victory greater than 30 points constitutes complete dominance of one team by another. You and I also know that everyone will be looking at the score of that game very closely. If the Bucks don’t deliver a complete beat-down, it will be seen as a sign that they’re weak and overrated, and so will the rest of the Big Ten even though the it hasn’t been considered one of the three best conferences in college football for a half decade or longer. You can blame it on the transitive property. The mathematical rule that says: If a is greater than b and b is greater than c, then a is greater than c. That rule is perfectly good and useful in math, but it doesn’t always hold up in football. Teams often improve from Week 1 to Week 2. You’d expect a team that lost a cupcake game to hit the practice field with a renewed sense of purpose, eager to prove that the loss was a fluke and not a sign of general ineptitude. That won’t stop anybody from expecting Ohio State to utterly annihilate San Diego State. Fortunately, nobody in his or her right mind would expect Michigan State to beat anybody by more than three touchdowns or so. To the games. Cincinnati at Illinois Speaking of unfortunate scheduling quirks, here is the first of three games where a Big Ten team takes on an opponent faced by another Big Ten team in the opening week. So if you were dying to find out whether Illinois is a better team at home than Purdue is on the road … why? Anyway, the answer is that Illinois is better, because Purdue looked like something somebody fished out of Satan’s vacuum cleaner last week. The pick: Cincinnati 34, Illinois 27 Navy at Indiana There’s fun, and there’s watching two diametrically opposed yet equally goofball offenses go up against each other. All the more enjoyable if neither team actually plays defense. The pick: Indiana 44, Navy 30 Missouri State at Iowa One way I like to judge defenses is by trying to guess the biggest halftime lead I can possibly imaging a team squandering against any opponent. That’s perhaps a bit unfair since a skilled and aggressive offense can influence how tightly its defense plays, but that’s football for you. Alabama and LSU have 10-point defenses. Put either team up by 10 at the half against anybody and I’d expect them to hold on. Michigan State has a 14-point defense. They’re almost as good as Bama or LSU but expecting MSU’s offense to score three times in a half is asking for too much. Iowa has a 23-point defense, but Kirk Ferentz thinks it has a 15-point defense, and that’s a big part of why Iowa has now lost seven games in a row. So it’s imperative that the Hawkeyes take it to Missouri State on Saturday. Winning isn’t going to be enough, the Hawks need at least a three-score margin of victory and a good performance from quarterback Jake Rudock if they’re going to get anybody to buy in to the notion that they’re a better team than they were last year. A flat, narrow win won’t change any minds. Fortunately for Iowa, Missouri State just isn’t that great at football. The pick: Iowa 34, Missouri State 17 Notre Dame at Michigan I remember watching these Notre Dame-Michigan games during my Saskatchewan boyhood with my good friend Mark May. We’d run out into the backyard afterwards and reenact what we’d just seen. He’d pretend he was Bubba Smith. I’d pretend I was Roman Gabriel. We’d both shotgun a couple cans of Surge and play 3DO all night, or at least until Conan came on. Good times. The pick: Michigan 28, Notre Dame 24 South Florida at Michigan State You know the saying: “If you have two quarterbacks, you don’t have a quarterback.” Here’s a new one for you: “If you have four quarterbacks, like Michigan State does, your coach is going to start getting cold calls from realtors.” The pick: Michigan State 21, South Florida 13 Minnesota at New Mexico State Great news for the Gophers: the road team has usually done very well in this series! Seriously, the Gophers didn’t exactly dazzle against UNLV last week but they did come across as a team that might be pretty good if it can just tighten up some of its loose floorboards. The defense is just far too dependent on Ra’Shede Hageman, who is fantastic but can’t do everything himself. NMSU will be a bit more challenge than the Gophers might want but competition in September creates competitors in November. The pick: Minnesota 40, New Mexico State 18 Southern Mississippi at Nebraska Remember my talk about defenses and halftime leads? Nebraska has a 40-point defense, even taking Taylor Martinez into consideration. Especially taking Taylor Martinez into consideration. The pick: Nebraska 56, Southern Mississippi 31. Syracuse at Northwestern Here’s the second game where a Big Ten team faces a team that played a different Big Ten team last week. This time the questions are a little more compelling: Is Northwestern better than Penn State? Does the possibility that Kain Colter and Venric Mark might not play change that equation? And why did it take Wikipedia to tell me that Kain Colter’s first name is Theodis? I feel like I should have heard that before now. Anyway, the answer to the questions: Yes, it is; no, it doesn’t change it that much; and they’ve probably mentioned it 34 times on GameDay, but I don’t watch GameDay. The pick: Northwestern 31, Syracuse 20 San Diego State at Ohio State I can’t be the only person who remembers that Urban Meyer knows how to play to the pollsters and also isn’t afraid to run up the score, can I? The pick: Ohio State 63, San Diego State 16 Eastern Michigan at Penn State If college football was Subway, Eastern Michigan would be the permanent $5 footlong. The pick: Penn State 34, Eastern Michigan 0 Indiana State at Purdue This is the third Big Ten game against an opponent that a different Big Ten team played in week one. That is the only interesting fact about this game. The pick: Purdue 27, Indiana State 24 Tennessee Tech at Wisconsin I’ll let somebody else make a joke about what passes for technology in Tennessee. I’m more worried about next week when a 2-0 but totally untested Wisconsin team heads to Arizona State for a night game. The pick: Wisconsin 48, Tennessee Tech 7 Follow Mark on Twitter. 140 characters not enough? Email Mark at pickbigten(at)gmail(dot)com. The post Pickin’ On the Big Ten, Week 2: Transitivity Bites appeared first on Midwest Sports Fans.
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