Remember the first time you saw this picture — if you’ve seen it — and thought to yourself, “someone’s going to get killed catching a post pattern.”? Well, apparently the Big Ten — and the NCAA — thought the same thing, and Illinois and Northwestern will play their game today at Wrigley Field like you used to play in your backyard — always going toward the “good” end.
No, your eyes aren’t fooling you there. That is the goalpost attached to the wall at Wrigley. The wall that literally cuts into the paint of the end line.
The good news for Northwestern, Illinois and the Big Ten is that this mess of a field has drawn a lot of attention to a game that really doesn’t mean anything. People will tune in to see the wall in the endzone, and how the teams react to always going the same way.
It’s not the only game that is using a baseball field to create attention and ratings, as Notre Dame will play Army at Yankee Stadium tonight. The thought of these two playing at Yankee Stadium — even though it’s the new Yankee Stadium — has evoked a lot of memories of this historical rivalry. And these are two programs that love it when you’re focusing on history, because their history is a lot better than their present.
Both games are pulling in huge money for tickets, probably just for the spectacle. But even on a weak day in college football, neither game is big enough to crack the top five games of the week.
I had a pretty good day last week, going 4-1. I swung and missed on Florida vs. South Carolina, because for some reason I believed a Steve Addazio-led offense could score 21 points. How silly of me.
No. 7 Wisconsin at Michigan, noon: This game is really intriguing to me for a few reasons. Wisconsin, of course, is coming off dropping 83 points on Indiana a week ago (for the record, I have no problem with college teams scoring a million points on opponents. In a system where you have to overly impress to move ahead instead of beat the team ahead of you, that’s what happens). Michigan, of course, gave up 65 points two weeks ago to an Illinois team that doesn’t have an offense as good as Wisconsin’s. Really, other than Purdue, Michigan’s given up a ton of points to every Big Ten opponent it’s faced. So what can the Badgers do today? How many points can they score with John Clay actually in the lineup? And while they’re scoring points, can they stop Michigan and Denard Robinson/Tate Forcier? It may take until 5 p.m. to finish this one, but I imagine it will be fun to watch. Pick: Wisconsin 52-41.
No. 9 Ohio State at No. 20 Iowa, 3:30 p.m.: The interesting thing about this game is that Ohio State has had slow starts in all of its big games this year. Iowa, meanwhile, is a team that seems to feed almost exclusively off of momentum (see: Michigan State game). The Hawkeyes are coming home after losing to Northwestern, and are likely out of the Big Ten title hunt. They’re a wounded animal, which is dangerous, especially early on against a slow-starting team. But if I’ve figured this out, I’m sure Jim Tressel has, too. I think he’ll have his team ready to weather the early storm in Kinnick, and then it will simply come down to Terrelle Pryor having to make plays down the stretch. Pick: Ohio State 21-20.
No. 16 Virginia Tech at No. 24 Miami, 3:30 p.m.: The Hurricanes haven’t really skipped a beat with Stephen Morris taking over for the injured Jacory Harris at quarterback. But that was against Maryland and Georgia Tech. Now he’s going to have to deal with a red-hot Virginia Tech team, led by Bud
Black’s Foster’s (wrong Bud. Wrong sport) defense. If Morris can get things going early, and Miami’s athletic defense can corral Tyrod Taylor, the Hurricanes have a shot. If the Hokies get going early, however, and rattle the freshman, it could be a long day. Pick: Va Tech 24-17.
No. 13 Arkansas at No. 21 Mississippi State, 7 p.m.: Who would have thought we’d be paying this much attention to Mississippi State this season? Off the field, the Bulldogs brought all of this upon themselves by going public with the Cam Newton allegations. Not saying they’re wrong, just pointing out that there’s nobody else to blame if the players feel there are off-field distractions. On the field, all of the attention seems to be stemming from beating Florida a month ago. Sorry, but that’s not something that deserves attention this year. Pick: Arkansas 31-21.
No. 8 Nebraska at No. 19 Texas A&M, 8 p.m.: A&M is riding high into this one, on a four-game win streak with wins over Oklahoma, Baylor and Texas Tech (it also beat Kansas, but that doesn’t really need to be mentioned). The Aggies had lost three straight prior to that, and would keep themselves in the Big 12 South race with a win today. Nebraska’s an interesting team, as it either looks lights out, or meh. The Huskers squeaked out an overtime win against a better-than-expected Iowa State team two weeks ago, and only scored 20 points against Kansas last week. The normally impenetrable Husker defense has hit some rough spots this season, and faces a tough task against Jerrod Johnson. If Taylor Martinez and Roy Helu can get the ground game going, Nebraska will be fine, because that defense will get a few stops against the Aggies, and Johnson will stop the offense himself a couple of times. Pick: Nebraska 28-20.