Heat Checks and Hail Marys - Football Heats Up Fall Temperatures

By: Mike
October 11, 2022

Mike Cagley, Co-Host of the Big Sports Radio show

October 10, 2022

The Big Ten East is rolling along according to the preseason predictions of the majority of the media and fans. #5 Michigan, #3 Ohio State and #10 Penn State sit atop the East with a combined 8-0 record. Maryland and Indiana sit at 1-2. Rutgers and a surprising Michigan State are at 0-3 at the bottom of the East. Only the Spartans have drastically broken from preseason expectations.

The Big Ten West standings have been turned on their head. The overachieving #24 Fighting Illini are tied for the division lead at 2-1 along with Purdue (living up to expectations) and Nebraska (who has already fired their head coach). At the bottom of the pack are Iowa and Wisconsin (neither used to this position in the standings basement), along with Northwestern, all at 1-2. The division is wide open and anyone can win it including two teams - Nebraska and Wisconsin - who've both already fired the head coach that started the season running the team.

Heat Check #1 - Two B1G Games in the Big Ten

At 12 pm eastern/11 am central the Big Ten will have the eyes of America focused squarely on two high powered clashes.

In the Big Ten East, the #10 Penn State Nittany Lions (5-0) will travel to #5 Michigan (6-0) to determine which team will challenge the Ohio State Buckeyes for east supremacy. Despite showing slight cracks in their armor last week, the Wolverines are 6.5 point favorites to win the game. With two other games featuring top 10 matchups, with a little good fortune Michigan might move up with a victory. A Penn State victory would certainly catapult them up the rankings. This is the 4th time that the Nittany Lions have been 5-0 under coach James Franklin.

In the Big Ten West, there is another battle raging at the same time. The #24 Fighting Illini (5-1) will be hosting the Minnesota Golden Gophers (4-1). The Gophers are coming off their first loss (to Purdue) and a bye week to take on the Illini. The Gophers won't be hurting for motivation. They are looking to spoil the Illini Homecoming in similar fashion to what the Illini did to the Gophers last year when the Illini defeated Minnesota 14-6. Neither team can afford a second loss in a log-jammed Big Ten West.

My only complaint as a Big Ten football fan is the Illinois-Minnesota game should've been moved to the Saturday night Big Ten game to allow for fans to watch both games live.

Heat Check #2 - Two Other Games to Watch

The Big Ten is full of key matchups this week.

Maryland (4-2) travels to Indiana (3-3) and neither team can afford a third loss in the Big Ten East. Even at 2 losses, they're pretty much out of the race, but a 3rd loss essentially eliminates them from even a mathematical chance. Even worse, in a division with few easy games, 6 wins to earn bowl eligibility isn't a guarantee. Maryland is in the better position for a bowl berth considering they play the Northwestern Wildcats and Rutgers Scarlet Knights later in the season. A win today would take a lot of pressure off of both teams.

Nebraska (3-3) visits Purdue (4-2). Neither team wants to lose this game and fall a game behind the Illinois-Minnesota winner. Both teams have seen bad days earlier in the season. Nebraska fired head coach Scott Frost and then were destroyed in their next game against Oklahoma. Yet, they're back in first place in the division. Purdue also looked bad, losing late to both Penn State and Syracuse. And like Nebraska, the Boilers find themselves in position to control their destiny, at least until the Big Ten championship game.

Heat Check #3 - Can Mel Tucker Reverse Michigan State's Slide?

The Michigan State Spartans were expected to contend in the Big Ten East, not sit in the East basement without a win in the conference approaching mid-October. With three losses already, any chance to win the Big Ten East is out the window. At the same time, bowl bids are invaluable, recruiting gets a shot in the arm with each bowl appearance, the team gets extra weeks of practice to develop players and the program has the opportunity to bring in extra revenue.

Mel Tucker has to apply the breaks to a 4-game losing streak. Lose to Wisconsin and the Spartans enter a bye week with lots of time for finger pointing along with fan and media questions swirling endless around the team. When the action starts up the Spartans face potential losses in the form of games against Michigan and Illinois in consecutive weeks. The time is now for Tucker and the Spartans to win.

Fall weather is starting to cool of the temperatures outside, but in the Big Ten, the competitive heat just starting to fire up.




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