September 28, 2010
These MAC teams accomplished what the SEC, Pac-10, and Big East conferences could not––confound the All-Seeing One by bringing out previously hidden talent to overrun the supposedly more talent-laden Big Ten teams––Purdue and Minnesota.
But now, as conference play gets underway, the prognostication game grows deadly serious. There are no more gimmes on the horizon, for all appearances to the contrary.
The lopsided scoring by the top-ranked Big Ten teams over cupcake opponents is over. This begins the run for conference titles and other guarantees of glory in the postseason.
Zultan has never dipped below .500 in his two-year stint forecasting games; but this could be the week.
Don’t miss your opportunity to outguess the Seer of Seers. Make your own picks for Week 5.
But, be warned, Zultan has polished up his crystal ball, tweaking his football radar as he readies himself for that all-important first step in Week 5.
Game 1: Big 10 - Ohio State (2) at Illinois
The Ohio State Buckeyes (4-0) are perfect on the season. Their toughest opponent to date was No. 12-ranked Miami. The Buckeyes handled the Hurricanes, 36-24, in Ohio Stadium, sending them back to the Sunshine State without a victory.
The Ohio State throttling of Eastern Michigan in Week 4 seemed way over the top––but perhaps was sent out as warning to future Big Ten opponents. Don’t mess with the Buckeyes.
Illinois (2-1) will host the Buckeyes in Memorial Stadium. After opening their season with a loss to Missouri, the Illini defeated both Northern Illinois and Southern Illinois. Now, as the floodgates open and Ron Zook and his team have to face the top dog in the Big Ten right off the bat, chances are that this
Illinois team will not be able to hold back the Buckeyes, nor will they be able to score against the potent Buckeye defense. Zultan picks the Buckeyes to prevail over the Illini, but says the game will not be an embarrassment to the improving Illini.
Game 2: Big 10 - Michigan (19) at Indiana
The Wolverines managed to hang on to win over UMass (3-1), which fielded a very good team but in a lesser conference. The same can be said about last week’s opponent, Bowling Green (1-3), out of the MAC. The Wolverines first Big Ten opponent is Indiana, whose offense sparkles but whose defense leaves something to be desired.
Like Michigan, Indiana (3-0) has not exactly faced primo opponents so far this season. The Hoosiers' three wins really tell us little about the state of their game in 2010. Saturday’s matchup will occur in Bloomington, and Indiana’s quarterback Ben Chappell, who has enjoyed back-to-back 300-yard games, throwing nine touchdowns and zero interceptions, will lead an impressive Indiana offense onto the field.
The real question in this contest does not center on the running ability of Michigan quarterback Robinson or the passing ability of Indiana quarterback Chappell. The bottom line rests on the play of the defense and special teams. Which football team has the better overall defense and the more effective special teams, especially the kicking units?
Zultan feels that the edge will go to Michigan in this contest because of the Wolverine depth on defense. The Wolverines will prevail in Bloomington.
Game 3: Big 10 - Penn State (22) at Iowa (17)
After Iowa redeemed themselves at the expense of the Ball State Cardinals, winning their contest in the friendly confines of Kinnick Stadium, 45-0, life seemed to return to normal for the Iowa faithful. The loss to the Arizona Wildcats in Week 3 begins to fade in importance now that the Big Ten season gets underway.
Penn State, however, did not have such an easy day last Saturday, as they trailed the Temple Owls at halftime 13-9. Temple had the game won in the first half, but in the second half, the real Penn State defense took the field and shut out the Owls. Temple’s Bernard Pierce, who scored twice on the Lions, left the game with a right ankle injury and, after that, the Owls sputtered on offense.
Most of Penn State’s offense came off the toe of kicker Collin Wagner, who scored on a record-setting six field goals, although Evan Royster gained 187 yards on the ground. The fans relaxed only after Penn State finally scored a touchdown in the waning moments of the game.
But Penn State has not shown the “right stuff” so far this season––although upsets are always possible.
This will not happen against Iowa, who is champing at the bit to show that the Arizona loss was a fluke. Iowa will win this one at home against Penn State.
Game 4: Big 10 - Wisconsin (11) at Michigan State (24)
After hanging on by a thread to defeat Arizona State in Week 3, the Badgers (4-0) annihilated the Austin Peay Governors, 70-3, as they should have in Week 4. Wisconsin has played only once on the road in Las Vegas, defeating UNLV, 41-21.
Michigan State (4-0) had their big win in overtime over Notre Dame (1-3), after which coach Mark Dantonio suffered a heart attack. He has still not rejoined the team. The true test for both these teams comes on Saturday when the Badgers travel to East Lansing to face the Spartans in their Big Ten opener.
Kirk Cousins is an adept and experienced quarterback, as is his counterpart for the Badgers, Scott Tolzien, who also exhibits depth and competence in engineering the Badger running game. The difference in this contest will be defense and turnovers. If the Badgers can hang onto the ball, they should win this game because they have the better defense.
On a wing and a prayer, Zultan picks the Badgers to win this one on the road.
Game 5: Big 10 - Northwestern at Minnesota
You have to wonder when the Minnesota Gophers (1-3) are going to find release from their self-imposed prison of under-performance, breaking free into the sunlight. This is one dead-in-the-water team unless someone or something propels them out of the hole they have dug for themselves. A good start for the Gophers would be defeating the Northwestern Wildcats (4-0) when they visit the TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Saturday.
Yet a team that cannot defeat South Dakota or Northern Illinois at home will be hard-pressed to upend a Pat Fitzgerald-coached team.
Northwestern could not conceive of a better start than 5-0. Zultan would be a fool to pick the Gophers over the Wildcats and, after Week 1, Zultan refuses to be the fool again. He will side with the other experts and pick Northwestern to win this road contest against Minnesota.
Game 6: Big 12 - Texas (21) at Oklahoma (8)
That must be the biggest upset of the week and maybe of the 2010 season. The reason––five Longhorn turnovers. Too much for any team to overcome. Now the Longhorns must play both Oklahoma (4-0) in Dallas as a pivotal game in the Red River Rivalry, and follow that up with a trip to Lincoln to play the No. 6-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers (4-0).
Oklahoma has not looked overly impressive to date, although they have hung on to win each of their four non-conference games, playing generally to the level of their competition. Most of all, the Oklahoma defense has allowed some big plays against them, keeping teams who should not bother them in the game.
The inconsistency on defense is a worry as Oklahoma heads into the the meat of the Big 12 season.
For the Longhorns, it is hanging onto the ball and avoiding miscues and turnovers.
So who will win the game on Saturday in Dallas? Zultan favors the Sooners, who have found a way to win every game even giving up big yards.
The All-Seeing One will go with Oklahoma to win on Saturday.
Game 7: SEC - Florida (7) at Alabama (1)
Mama told me not to come...is what the Florida Gators will be singing at the conclusion of this game in Tuscaloosa on Saturday. Alabama’s offense seems to be gaining in potency as the season wears on.
Running back Mark Ingram is back and looks solid once again along with sophomore RB Trent Richardson.
Alabama’s QB Greg McElroy continues to improve, having completed 70.9 percent of his passes, including seven touchdowns. The Alabama defense is giving up the fewest points per game at 9.8. The Crimson Tide has made eight interceptions, four at the hands of safety Robert Lester.
Florida, under coach Urban Meyer, has struggled with offensive mechanics, suffering miscues on snaps, enduring 14 fumbles. Out of all the mistakes, Florida has only turned the ball over six times. The offensive line appears to be holding up well, allowing only two sacks of QB John Brantley so far in 2010.
The Gators so far have a balanced running and passing attack. On defense, Florida is forcing turnovers––14 in all for the season. The Gators' aggressive, attacking defense will hope to hurry Alabama into making mistakes.
These are two fairly evenly matched teams, but Zultan picks the Alabama Crimson Tide to keep the home fires burning bright by winning at home over the forlorn Gators.
Game 8: PAC 10 - Stanford (9) at Oregon (4)
Both of these teams are well-coached units with powerful offenses. The Ducks, however, were burned by Arizona State for 597 yards, exposing some vulnerability on Oregon’s defense. Stanford, on the other hand, has revealed no similar weakness in their well-tuned defensive arsenal. The Cardinal, of course, has the ability to put up 500 yards of offense as well.
This is a season-defining game for both Pac-10 teams with a chance for Oregon, if they win, to solidify their top-five spot in the BCS, keeping them alive in the conversation for the BCS championship game.
Stanford, on the other hand, by defeating Oregon in Eugene could find themselves replacing Oregon in the top five.
Zultan must take the speedy Ducks at home to run over the Cardinal of Stanford in Week 5.
Game 9: ACC - Miami (16) at Clemson
The Miami Hurricanes (2-1) must travel to the home of their ACC rivals, the Clemson Tigers (2-1), this Saturday. Miami is coming off a substantial win over Pittsburgh, 31-3. After suffering a setback against Ohio State earlier in September, Miami is hoping to solidify its position by winning on Saturday––allowing them to move steadily into the top ten rankings.
The Canes are riding their early-season success on the back of a stifling defense, leading the nation in tackles-for-loss. The Hurricanes are aiming for inclusion in the ACC title game in December.
Clemson, on the other hand, is still stinging over their lost opportunity as they fell to Auburn in overtime, 27-24, on September 18. They also lost their quarterback Kyle Parker to bruised ribs, but were fortunate to have a bye week in order to allow him plenty of time to heal before this week’s contest against Miami.
The main battle will center on the Tiger offensive line trying to keep Miami’s pass rush in check, protecting Parker and allowing the passing game to flourish.
Maybe Clemson has enough to prevail, but Zultan feels that it is Miami’s turn to win this one on the road as the Canes blast their way to the top of the ACC.
Game 10: PAC 10 - Washington at USC (18)
Last year the Washington Huskies upset the then No. 3-ranked USC Trojans in Seattle, 16-13. That game marked the beginning of a fall by the perennial powerhouse team from Southern Cal.
This year, USC (4-0) rode a perfect non-conference record into the Pac-10 season, having beaten Hawaii, Virginia, and Minnesota before upending Washington State last weekend. Now they prepare to welcome the Washington Huskies (1-2) into LA Memorial Coliseum on Saturday.
Will revenge motivate USC?
The Washington Huskies suffered a real beatdown at the hands of the Nebraska Cornhuskers on September 18, losing 56-21 at home. Ouch! True, the Huskies are rebuilding, but they have surprised a couple of teams in the last two years with coach Steve Sarkisian at the helm. This year, however, the Huskies will not sneak up on Southern Cal. The Pac-10 remains the mystery conference, with teams losing a couple then springing back to knock off ranked teams.
The ebb and flow of Pac-10 fortunes leaves Zultan a little queasy.
Washington, so far, has looked anemic. Further––it is hard to tell about USC because they have not played a team with any starch, yet. Since the Trojans will be playing at home, Zultan picks USC to stay perfect at 5-0 heading into Week 6.
The Results Show
Zultan’s powers were particularly potent in Week 4.
Only two managed to outguess the All-Seeing One:
(1) At 14-0: Marshall Ungethuem—Alexandria, VA.
(2) At 13-1: Les Adkins—Columbus, OH.
Try your hand this week by casting your picks, mustering all your mental reserve to defeat Zultan in Week 5.
Zultan dares you once again to try to outguess him, and be eligible to win prizes as well as seeing your name in print for thousands, or hundreds, to read.
Published on Bleacher Report and Sports Then & Now by JA Allen.