Last week was not a good week to be a college football prognosticator. Nine of the BCS Top 25 lost in Week 10. In addition, two top-ranked teams—Iowa and Nebraska—were one play away from losing, but hung on to win against lower-ranked teams who played more effective football for the better part of the game.
The reality of college football hit home last Saturday, underscoring that parity means there are no easy wins for any program, ranked or not. No football team is guaranteed a win on any given Saturday.
That is what makes college football so exciting to fans, players and the media.
It is also why the legion of sage soothsayers wear turbans––bald from pulling out their hair week after week.
This week offers another slate of critical clashes as another guest prognosticator, Ryan Sparrow, steps up to the plate to take a whack at Zultan’s appointed task––picking winners in Week 11.
Last week’s prognosticator, Phillip Murphy, suffered from near-miss syndrome which sent 15 of you to the head of the class. The list, as well as the accompanying accolades, are included at the conclusion of this article.
Be sure to make your picks for Week 11––your opportunity to enjoy praise and prizes if you outguess the Mighty Zultan’s stand-in. With less than a month remaining in the regular season, the chances for glory grow dimmer.Take a chance now and join in the fun.
Game 1: (13) Iowa (7-2, 4-1 Big Ten) at Northwestern (6-3, 2-3 Big Ten)
Surely, Iowa will not take the field against Northwestern with the same mindset that almost hamstrung them during Week 10 against the Indiana Hoosiers. Northwestern, however, has won four of their last five contests against the Hawkeyes. It must be viewed as a true trap game for Iowa. Luckily, the Hawkeyes will play the Cats in Evanston. Northwestern this season has been more vulnerable at home.
The Wildcats, who led Penn State 21-0 late into the second quarter, may be in a very angry mood––after losing 35-21 last Saturday. According to guest prognosticator Ryan Sparrow:
If there has been one team Iowa struggles against, it’s Northwestern. This year's Iowa team has not played down to their competition (I wrote this before the Indiana game) and I think Iowa will revenge last season's defeat.
Game 2: Indiana (4-5, 0-5 Big Ten) at (7) Wisconsin (8-1, 4-1 Big Ten)
Wisconsin also wobbled a bit out of the gate in their game last weekend against the Purdue Boilermakers. The Badgers finally righted the ship in the second half for a solid win. This week, Wisconsin welcomes the Indiana Hoosiers into Camp Randall, where the Badgers hardly ever lose.
Their record in the last six seasons stands at 41-4.
Indiana, who almost engineered the upset of the season last weekend against Iowa, will be looking to make the Badgers suffer. Mr. Sparrow feels:
This game will feature the passing offense from Indiana and the rushing offense from Wisconsin. In the end, Wisconsin is just too talented to lose to a bad Indiana team.
Game 3: Minnesota (1-9, 0-6 Big Ten) at Illinois (5-4, 3-3 Big Ten)Last Saturday, Illinois was perhaps one play short of winning a game on the road in Ann Arbor. The Illini would have also become bowl eligible with that win.
This week, they have the opportunity of making postseason play a reality by defeating Minnesota. Chances are very good that they will do that. Ryan agrees, stating:
Illinois has been the surprise team in the Big Ten this season. Most polls picked them 10th in the Big Ten to start the season, and I would not be surprised if they ended up fifth. Poor Minnesota looks like they’d be lucky to win any Big Ten games this season, and maybe for the next few seasons as well.
Game 4: Michigan (6-3, 2-3 Big Ten) at Purdue (4-5, 2-3 Big Ten)
With injuries to key players derailing Purdue ambitions, the Boilers cannot seem to muster enough offense to score points down the stretch. According to Sparrow:
Another fast start to the season for Michigan and then they begin Big Ten play and just can’t compete. Purdue has many injuries to key positions; and other than an upset at Northwestern and a win against Minnesota, I can’t see Purdue winning another Big Ten game this season.
Game 5: Penn State (6-3, 3-2 Big Ten) at (9) Ohio State (8-1, 4-1 Big Ten)This appears to be the most intriguing of the Big Ten matchups in Week 11. Although Ohio State must be favored to win at home over an unranked Penn State team, you cannot discount the fact that Penn State has won their last three games, essentially turning their season around.
Ohio State is coming off a bye week––no doubt, well-rested. And, under Jim Tressel, well-prepared to take care of the visiting Lions. Mr. Sparrow adds:
Ohio State might be looking past Penn State to a tough Nov. 20 matchup against Iowa.
But at home against a Penn State team that looks to be making a QB switch, the Ohio State defense will lead the way to victory.
Ohio State wins
Game 6: San Diego State (7-2, 4-1 MWC) at (3) TCU (10-0, 6-0 MWC)
TCU seems to be a monolith for any team daring to meet them on the football field. This weekend, they face a very competent San Diego State team that has enjoyed a great deal of success in 2010.
When the Aztecs confront TCU on Saturday, however, they are 26.5-point underdogs, according to oddsmakers. Sparrow interprets that as follows:
San Diego State has been playing very well this season. They lost a close battle at Missouri in Week 3 and another close loss at BYU in Week 5. Unfortunately, San Diego State’s great play is nowhere near the caliber of a BCS-bound TCU.
Game 7: (19) Mississippi State (7-2, 3-2 SEC) at (12) Alabama (7-2, 4-2 SEC)The thing about rankings is that, regardless of the ranker, the starting point evolves from a hangover clouded by a team’s reputation. That's because primary expectations are based on last year’s results.
It is not an unrealistic way to begin, but it explains how certain ranking organizations harken to past results and grant those teams with prior success more leniency than teams just making their way in.
Which brings us to Mississippi State vs. Alabama this weekend. The whole country expects The Tide to be the team they were in 2009. As Mr. Sparrow reiterates:
Mississippi State gave Auburn its toughest challenge of the year, and their only other loss is against a good LSU team. Alabama is coming off a tough loss and needs to win in hopes to play in a BCS bowl. Alabama won’t lose this one at home.
Game 8: Texas Tech (5-4, 3-4 Big 12) at (16) Oklahoma (7-2, 3-2 Big 12)
Luckily for the Sooners, they will face Texas Tech in Norman. Bob Stoops and the Sooners need to win out in order to climb back up in the polls and end the year on a respectable note, after previously being ranked No. 1 by the BCS. The end result of Saturday’s game, according to the Sparrow:
Texas Tech might be able to score some points against Oklahoma, but their defense is so bad they will not be able to stop Oklahoma. Oklahoma will find enough defense to get the easy win.
Game 9: USC (6-3, 3-3 PAC-10) at (18) Arizona (7-2, 4-2 PAC-10)Arizona fell by the wayside as a contender in the Pac-10 after the drubbing they received at the hands of Stanford 42-17. Arizona’s stiff defense not only bent, it broke. The Cardinal cavorted for 510 yards of offense.
This week, USC visits Arizona in Tucson, where the Wildcats will be licking their wounds.
If Arizona is to maintain their hold in the rankings, retaining a shot at a decent postseason bowl game, they must win this game against the Trojans. Can the Wildcats hold on at home? Ryan says:
USC is playing better than expected after the NCAA probation and loss of scholarships––on offense at least, because their defense has been just terrible. Arizona should be able to score points against USC, and the defense will be good enough to stop Matt Barkley.
Game 10: (10) Oklahoma State (8-1, 4-1 Big 12) at Texas (4-5, 2-4, Big 12)
This is the year for all teams who once suffered at the hands of this team to stomp on Texas while they are down. Surely, the Longhorns never gave any of them a break, as Texas climbed to the top of the BCS Polls. Still, pride has a way of surfacing, and perhaps Texas has one more surprise before they bury this season deep in the past. Mr. Sparrow contends:
Texas still has a good defense, but is not good at all on offense. Oklahoma State is just the opposite, where they have a great offense and a bad defense. Oklahoma State can both run and pass, which will provide a big challenge for the Texas defense. I don’t believe the Texas offense will be able to score enough to win.
Oklahoma State wins
The Rest of the Story in Week 11
Ryan Sparrow, the guest prognosticator for Week 11, tells us:
I am a 1999 graduate of the University of Iowa. I am, of course, a huge Hawkeye fan, but also of college football in general. I enjoy looking at the team matchups, stats and then watching and evaluating teams each week.
Decide if you agree with Ryan’s picks in Week 11 by making your own selections. Time is running out on this season, so join in now to receive your dose of well-earned applause and a chance for a prize at the end of the season.
Last Week, 15 of you out-guessed Phillip Murphy, who offered his picks for Week 10––the week that saw so many upsets. The really courageous and clever ones in Week 10 were:
Rick "Turk" Steffens—Wilton, IA
Ryan Sparrow—Channahon, IL
Dennis Ristau—Eleva, WI
J.R. Shook—Des Moines, IA
Jack Darland, Jr.—Cedar Falls, IA
Eric Stipp—no city given
Sreedhar Thota—Greeley, CO
Eric Ludwig—Des Moines, IA
Chris Seberg—New Brighton, MN
Keverly Swantz—Kalona, IA
Corey Fletcher—Whitesboro, TX
Ken Ripp—Eau Claire, WI
Dave Krueger—Omaha, NE
Kenneth Zuerner—Iowa City, IA
Ryan Gott—no city given
One more guest prognosticator is up for next week. Tune in to see who it is and what surprises are in store for Week 12.
Published on Bleacher Report and Sports Then & Now by JA Allen.