By: Jamie Samuelsen
Welcome to “Home Finale Weekend”!
Both Michigan and Michigan State close out their home slates with dates against Iowa and Northwestern. When the season began, these were viewed as ceremonial games that would give a chance for the seniors to soak in one last Saturday. They’d be easy wins that would most likely spring either the Spartans or the Wolverines to the Big Ten Championship game.
Yeah, that would have been fun.
Instead, MSU vs. Northwestern is serving as a de facto Gator Bowl playoff game (and no, I’m not making that up.) And Michigan needs to win just to somehow keep hope alive that Nebraska might lose one of its final two games to either Penn State or Iowa. Of course, Michigan would have to go on the road and beat Ohio State next Saturday too. Seeing as that game will serve as OSU’s bowl game, the odds would seem rather long.
So what are we playing for then? (Other than Herm Edwards famous “We PLAY to win the game!”) For the Spartans, it’s simple. They’re looking to finish the season on an upswing. They wouldn’t mind actually winning a Big Ten home game (0-3 thus far at Spartan Stadium). And Northwestern is that pesky team that has given MSU fits over the years. Same deal for Michigan. Iowa has taken the last three games from UM. The Wolverines would also love to finally return to the site of many of Lloyd Carr’s glory days with the program – the Capital One Bowl in Orlando.
Still plenty to play for in our weekly picks. Thanks to a 2-0 Saturday, I tightened things up a little bit more with Ryan Wooley who is threatening to become the first person ever to lead our picks battle from wire-to-wire. (Seeing as this is the first year that we’ve ever done this, that’s not exactly a herculean effort, but it still bears mentioning.) Wojo picked Indiana to cover at home against Wisconsin last week. The Hoosiers lost 62-14. The spread was not 48 ½. It was seven. Wojo was 0-3.
NORTHWESTERN (+7) AT MICHIGAN STATE – The Spartans enter off a BYE. The Wildcats enter off a brutal, heartbreaking, frustrating gag job loss to Michigan. You tell me which team is in better shape. Northwestern ran the ball quite successfully against Michigan thanks to QB Kain Colter and RB Venric Mark. (Memo to the MSU student newspaper – if NU wins, don’t think about using the headline – “Kain is Able”. It’s been done. Trust me.) Northwestern is susceptible to the pass, particularly the desperation heave down the middle of the field as the clock is winding down. The question is, can Andrew Maxwell throw that heave. I say he can’t. At least not frequently enough. PICK – NORTHWESTERN
WOJO – MICHIGAN STATE
WOOLEY – NORTHWESTERN
IOWA (+17) AT MICHIGAN – I like Denard Robinson. I admire Denard Robinson. And I shudder to think where the Michigan football team would be without Denard Robinson. (And if you say, “LEADING THE FRIGGIN’ LEGENDS DIVISION” I may take a poke at you.) So it pains me to say this. But Denard Robinson has become the Brandon Inge of the Wolverines. Inge famously divided Tiger fans into arguing factions. Some felt that he was a gritty, gutty ball player who represented the Detroit work ethic. Others felt that he was a .200 hitter who struck out too much and talked to the media a lot. Robinson is one of the most dynamic players in college football history. He just can’t throw very well. And some Michigan fans think that whole “throwing” thing has held back the program. Robinson will play his last game at Michigan Stadium Saturday. Word is that his fellow seniors plan to untie their shoes in his honor. And Devin Gardner plans to overthrow his first five receivers as a tribute. (SEE? Now you’ve got me doing it too!!!!) PICK – MICHIGAN
WOJO – MICHIGAN
WOOLEY – IOWA
PACKERS (-3 ½) AT LIONS – Dominic Raiola said this week that it was ‘disrespectful’ to count the Lions out of the playoff race. Unfortunately for Dom, this has less to do with respect and more to do with math. Only six teams make the NFC playoffs. And five of those spots are pretty much out of the Lions reach (the other three division winners, the Packers and the Bears). So the Lions are looking UP at the likes of Seattle, Arizona, Dallas, New Orleans, Ohio State, Brother Rice and Minnesota for that sixth slot. It’s not that I disrespect the Lions. I just have a healthy amount of respect for how difficult it is to leapfrog all of those teams particularly with how brutal the schedule is heading down the stretch. The brutality starts Sunday as the Packers come to town fresh off a BYE. Mike McCarthy is 11-1 against the Lions. And Aaron Rodgers averages better than 300 yards a game against this defense. I have a sinking feeling that this is where the secondary really starts to get exposed. PICK – PACKERS
WOJO – LIONS
WOOLEY – PACKERS