Pre-Snap Reads: The Fake Punt Previews Weak Four of Big Ten Football

This week, conference action finally begins…maybe.

Noon

UNLV @ OSU -40.5

The recipients of the Bovada Scholarship in Predictive Modelling at UNLV get to set one line each year as part of their senior capstone projects, and the future bookie Runnin’ Rebels installed themselves as heavy dogs in this one. With good cover, we should say. UNLV lost week 1 in humiliating fashion to FCS Howard, surrendering the largest point-spread loss in history (and making some of those savvy Bovada Scholars quite a lot of money) and making believers out of us. But what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, and apparently what happens there is terrible football, because the Runnin’ Rebels redeemed themselves away from home in Moscow the next week against future FCS Idaho, winning 44-16. Now, coming off a necessary bye week and some much-needed partying up and down the Strip, UNLV faces the Buckeyes, knowing that their only chance is that it’s on the road.

Sadly, the ‘Eyes won’t see it that way, and sadder still will be the fact that this is your only noon game. Prepare for the consummate model of statistical efficiency from Urban’s boys this weekend. We see Dobbins taking 9 carries for 126 yards and 2 TDs, Weber adding 8 carries for 17 yards…and 2 TDs, and Barrett puts up a statline that will make you Hornibrook, say 20-21 for 191 yards and 2 TDs. Buckeyes cover, and old Art wins enough to buy the whole prison sportsbook a shot of Goldschlichter.

 

Afternoon

Rutgers @ Nebraska -11.5

Rutgers on a winning streak faces Nebraska on a losing streak, and the Scarlet Knights have the Cornhuskers right where they want ‘em, regardless of what any misguided Rutgers fans drum up about a Big Red Scare. Rutgers has nothing to lose against Nebraska, except the football game; meanwhile, Nebraska’s already lost an AD, and something wretched is coming Lincoln’s way

The Scarlet Knights are coming off a convincing win against Morgan State and the NCAA, escaping with a 65-0 win against the former and a soft failure-to-monitor penalty from the latter, levied for indiscretions that occurred in antediluvian times.

Even with his opponent suffering so much turmoil, Rutgers OC Jerry Kill insists that the Scarlet Knights will get Nebraska’s best shot. “This is their bowl game,” Kill told reporters, invoking his theory that Rutgers is every team’s circled game on the schedule.

Coach Kill has secret motives to be amped up, as well. Nota bene that Nebraska defensive coordinator and former UConn head coach Bob Diaco refused to hire Kill as his OC, leading to Diaco’s firing.

We predict that Kill has kept his best stuff in reserve for this first Big Ten road test, and that with Tre Bryant out and Stanley Morgan questionable, Knights will ride into town and burn the remaining harvest, and they’ll Blackshear all the sheep before King Johnathan buries the remaining Husker soldiers deep within the Trough of Bolin.

Georgia Southern @ Indiana -24

After two games, the Indiana offense is reason for consternation among the Hoosier faithful. Dick Lagow followed up his stat-stuffing performance against Ohio State with a festering turd of an abbreviated game against Virginia. Ultimately, it fell to backup QB and Zander-Diamont-understudy Peyton Ramsey to show the Hoos where the -ier goes. While Urban Meyer apparently didn’t think Lagow could throw, evidently Bronco Mendenhall didn’t know Ramsey existed. With one QB who can’t help the running game, and one QB who can’t really pass so well, Tom Allen decided to use the impromptu hurricane bye week to work with both QBs on the offense’s biggest liability. “We’re most vulnerable on our pick-6 coverage,” said Allen, adding how disappointed he was with Lagow’s form tackling last week. “We’ve been working on that in practice.” The Hoosiers had both QBs taking turns form tackling each other before spending about 45 minutes each day on a drill Allen invented where they purposely throw interceptions and then chase down the DB. “I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen this week, and I feel confident with either guy out throwing interceptions.”

Since Georgia Southern is coming off a dog of a loss, 22-12, to New Hampshire, the pick-6 coverage probably won’t make much difference this week. Lagow will start and be pulled after taking a sack in the endzone to surrender a safety, and Ramsey will follow up with his own pick-6 where GSU safety Josh Moon runs right through the QB’s pathetic arm tackle. Eventually Simmie Cobbs begins taking direct snaps from the pistol formation, with Luke Timian behind him, and the Hoosiers prevail 49-9.

UCF @ Maryland -3.5

UCF hasn’t played a down of football in September. But their win against FIU on August 31st was impressive, and spoiled Butch Davis’s debut, one of many such blueballings that week.

Maryland coach DJ Durkin has used that time to scout the Knights comprehensively. We even hear that the moment UCF QB Pete DiNovo announced his intention to transfer to Illinois, Durkin slid into his DMs for tips on how the Knights were scheming against Maryland…

The Terps will need all the help they can get. Though Maryland is coming off a bye after breaking in Kasim Hill in a Towson tuneup, it still feels like this one will be close, Vegas knows. We predict UCF covers, and maybe wins, this week’s most important nonconference game.

Michigan @ Purdue +10

What a bogus line. In preconference weeks, Purdue has been everything Michigan hasn’t: impressive. Even in the loss to Louisville, Purdue’s defense converted some skeptics, while their transformation to a dynamic offense has made a Fuller House family out of Blough, Herdman, and Anthrop.

Shrines to Wilton Speight have seen a similar drop in attendance (though enrollment is up at the Donovan Peoples-Jones Temple). On offense, Michigan is a sensitive, misunderstood beta male whose idea of a strike in the red zone is a completion for -1 yard (though they’ll accept a called-back touchdown as a moral victory).

Indeed, this is the most beta offense the Wolverines have trotted out since Rich Rodriguez’s first season — which provides us a great cultural touchstone in M-’Due’s quasi-rivalry.

In 2008, a 2-6 Michigan team entered West Lafayette to play a 2-6 Purdue team a week after the Wolverines lost 35-21 to Michigan State at home, effectively handing the rivalry over to MSU for nearly a decade.

Justin Siller has a humdinger of a fantasy game against Michigan’s Purduian excuse for a defense, running for one touchdown and throwing for three. Yet it still takes one of the great trick plays in modern B1G history to give the M corpse its final stab.

If Purdue is to win this weekend, it will require a trick play on that level, something to which Tim Drevno can only raise his Keystone Light from the OC booth. We foresee Michigan, while not covering, surviving a close one that relies on Josh Metellus channeling another great M-’Due contest and making an Ernest Shazor-like play.

Evening

Penn State @ Iowa +12.5

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Penn State has become the most fun team in the Big Ten.

So what is Iowa? Does a Hawkeye fan think in terms of fun? Or is following Iowa football like going to church: a good sermon you remember for one night, a bad one you forget as it’s happening…

It will be lots of fun to see Iowa choke the fun and life out of Penn State’s offense. Ira predicts the Hawkeyes will cover that spread; that they are a sneaky good team (that beat a sneaky good 2-1 Iowa State team in overtime, which required them to do something very un-Iowa: come back from down ten in the fourth); and that, keyed on Barkley and Gesicki, the Iowa defense will force Trace McSorley to overcome his aversion to throwing to actual wide receivers, which he’ll somehow fail to do in a Hawkeye upset.

But that’s just Ira. Biff and Petya are going with the “smoke and cover” prediction for this matchup, even at night in Kinnick Stadium. Only a top 5 Michigan team would lay an egg in such a scenario. PSU wins 41-27 even without any completions to Nittany Receivers, and Iowa scores on almost every offensive possession, except they’re always 38 yard Miguel Recinos field goals…9 of them.

The real story takes place off the field, across the street, where a growing protest movement of Chinese dissidents is demanding the Ferentzes start treating the Wiegers like human beings.

Notre Dame @ Michigan State +4

Into Spartan Stadium walks a festering wound, a swollen and infected hair gland. Brian Kelly, a rancid pox on the ass of college football, is chafed nearly to bursting. His Irish have already spent their one-point loss on Georgia — exactly the kind of close, competitive loss that would magnify the Irish fanbase’s befuddlement about what to do with Kelly.

All the boil needs is a strong Lansing, and Brian will get it from the Spartans, who are pissed off generally and don’t really care that they beat Notre Dame last year. They lost every game last year; in their heads, they lose every game, and everybody makes fun of them. But they’ll see. They’ll all see.

And we’ll all see the last game of the Kelly era at Notre Dame, which will be perfect timing as the Mike Riley era ends in Nebraska. Be certain that Riley, hired to replace Kelly, would prove the perfect salve for that irritated fanbase. He would do so mediocre, in fact, that the Irish may decide to bring him on officially.

Illinois +5.5 vs. bye week

Illini football players under Lovie Smith, especially the sophomores who’ve been there all his time, have learned to hate the notion of football. Football wrecks a perfectly good opportunity for golf or reading that decent new WWII book. Through three games this year, the Illini have certainly played like a team that hates football. This group, more than any B1G team, is ideally suited for the concept of the bye week. This is the perfect Netflix and Chillinois weekend. And only once they exhaust the latest season of Narcos, Chayce Crouch, Jeff George, and Pete DiNovo plan to drag race to decide who’s the starting QB going forward. Lovie could only be prouder of his guys if he weren’t away in South Carolina on a golf trip with former Bears Olin Kreutz, Lance Briggs, and Brian Urlacher.

Image via Penn State/BY-NC-ND 2.0.