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

It’s Friday, which means Purdue is playing Ohio at home in one of the biggest games this Friday. And if you all thought that we were going to come in here and in five days sprinkle some fairy dust on these game previews, then you’re wrong.

Or maybe that’s just a new generation of excuse. At any rate, Maryland just scored 51 points on you, so here is your weekly dose of surreality.


Ohio at Purdue -4

The Boilermakers welcome to West Lafayette the Ohio Bobcats and former Nebraska head coach Frank Solich, AKA one of two Nebraska head coaches who were canned after winning 9 games. Purdue’s loss over Louisville was a lot more impressive than Ohio’s win at the hands of the hapless Hampton Pirates, an FCS squad that finished 5-6 last season, but Solich’s boys are the model of MAC consistency, finishing .500 or better every year since 2008. Purdue looks potentially legit, and what’s more, they boasted two of this week’s most promising waiver wire prospects. Dare we say that after last week, the Hazell Days of competent MAC teams licking their chops at an early season Purdue matchup are truly gone. Petya thinks the Boilerartisans win by three touchdowns behind Jackson Anthrax, but we’re not all as boilerish on the Bullermakers. More likely a 10-point win for ‘Due.




Cincinnati at Michigan -35

In his nationally televised Texas debut, Tom Herman, Urban Meyer’s purebred offensive protege, was devoured by a group of g1ant Terrapins. Further from the public eye, the adopted runt of Meyer’s defensive litter made an equally embarrassing debut for Cincinnati. The Luke Fickell Era began with a presumptive tune up against the worst program in the FCS, the Austin Peay Governors of Clarksville, Tennessee, about whom only two things need be known: their football team is 1-45 the last 4 seasons with a statement win against Murray State and the school was named for the governor who banned the teaching of evolution in 1925, prompting the Scopes Monkey Trial. Cincinnati played the creationist Governors close, winning 26-14 in the worst week one victory in college football, a result that does not bode well for the Bearcats’ hopes to shock the world.

Michigan should have beaten Florida 33-3, and Don Brown reportedly had to be restrained by several members of the defensive line at halftime as he tried to maul Wilton Speight. Bet on Brown’s defense hunting Bearcats into extinction on Saturday. This, after all, has all the look of a man eating his last meal. Michigan by eight touchdowns.

FAU at Wisconsin -32

After last week’s 42-19 loss to Navy and this week’s matchup with powerhouse Wisconsin, Lane Kiffin’s Florida Atlantic team will be pining for next week’s Bethune-Cookman game…or at least a decent afterparty to numb the pain. A week after the Navy triple-option bored Kiffin into a comparable numbness, the Wisconsin attack will hit like a baseball bat to the back of the head (which Kiffin, literally, suspects at any moment, or should). Assuming Wisconsin fixed its offensive malaise issues and jumps out early, we do not put it past Kiffin to quit at halftime and become someone’s OC. Jonathan Taylor seizes the primary RB role in Bradrick Shaw’s absence, and Chris James feels bad about screwing over our friend Alan’s fantasy team last week, redeeming himself with an 80-yard touchdown on one carry. Paul Chryst, aghast at FAU’s lack of conditioning, calls a timeout mid-third-quarter and lines both squads up for a series of wind sprints. Kiffin is last spotted amongst the Owls’ dance team.


Northwestern -3 at Duke

Biff is the only member of the Fake Punt editorial staff to have thrown up in a public park in Evanston after a wedding this summer. As he did, he had one contemplation: what if, when Mike Krzyzewski dies and the evil is drained from his body, the cosmic balance will shift, and Northwestern Football, not Duke Basketball, will become the sporting world’s preeminent small academic athletic powerhouse? He shared this contemplation with Amanda, his date, who immediately vomited again.

Northwestern barely defeated Nevada in a game that looked unsettlingly like last year’s opener against Western Michigan. And that means two things: first, Madison native and Iowa alumnus Jay Norvell is going to be the next Minnesota coach; and two, Northwestern and Clayton Thorson exorcised their demons by not fumbling on the goal line on their way to a game-sealing score. It’s like the universe re-ran its simulation and this time it worked out better for the Wildcats, proving the old Northwestern adage: Win Eventually. So that means this year is the redo of the Illinois State game, with Durham a stand-in for Normal, and it couldn’t possibly make less of a difference, except that this will be the closest Northwestern gets to the site of a Rose Bowl this year, and they’ll treat it as such. The Wildcats prove Duke’s a peer in academics only and roll to a convincing win of a touchdown-plus.

Towson at Maryland

Having delivered the most shocking upset of week one, it would be un-chelonian of the Terps not to shrink back into their shells and turn a Towson tussle into a close game. Taking over for injured QB Tyrrell Pigrome against Texas and sealed the road win, true freshman QB Kasim Hill will be nervy in his first start (also Maryland’s home opener), and the Terps’ youth on defense will show in other ways. Towson bottles up the run game, and other appallingly stupid shit starts happening, muffed punts and pixie-dust. The Terps win, but too close for comfort, denying Texas fans the hollow consolation that at least they lost to a good team.

Iowa -2.5 at Iowa State

Kirk Ferentz has chewed Iowa State 18 times, going 9-9 in the aggregate, and he still can’t figure out what they taste like. “Recipe keeps changin’.”

Contrarily, ISU coach Matt Campbell chews sunflower seeds, and he thinks Iowa tastes like a runt about to get charred in the toasting process. The Cyclones’ advantages in the passing game — they have one — and at defensive back turn a close ballgame into a kicker’s duel. And while Oregon State grad transfer Garrett Owens is smooth from close, middle, and deep, the Hawkeyes blunder after a bonafide disaster from Miguel Recinos, whose negotiations with the head game that is kicking will end abruptly after the left upright shows…an unwavering disposition. Senior Keith Duncan will be trotted out to replace Recinos and miss badly himself. Finally the Hawkeyes, stunted again in the red zone, will eschew Recinos and Duncan, and Akrum Wadley, the game’s lone highlight, will try the game-tier from 34. Wadley will miss, the Cyclones will edge Iowa, and it will be Brian Ferentz spitting out the words “give credit to their defense” in a pained press conference.

3:30 PM:

Eastern Michigan +5 at Rutgers

Iowa-Iowa State is just the appetizer for Iowa’s Drake grads, who’ll throng Des Moines bars to cheer on Eastern and Rutgers once the CyHawk is settled. Call it the Drake Bowl. Rutgers coach Chris Ash is a proud Bulldog alum and Eastern coach Chris Creighton led Drake from 2008 to 2013, a successful tenure highlighted by a 17-7 victory over the Mexican all-stars in the 2011 Kilimanjaro Bowl, the first college football game played in Africa. Having played in the most famous game in Sheikh Amri Abeid Memorial Stadium history, Creighton is accustomed to the big stage, and won’t be intimidated by Rutgers and High Point Solutions Stadium.

Unless you hear Jerry Kill tell it. “I’ve been in the MAC…and Eastern Michigan will come in here and this will be their bowl game,” Kill said this week. In fact, Eastern Michigan hopes their bowl game will be their bowl game; unlike Rutgers, they played in one last season, losing the Bahamas Bowl to Old Dominion (Chris Creighton likes to get away for the holidays and does not accept domestic bowl bids). Now in Creighton’s 4th year, Eastern Michigan is a MAC team on the rise while Rutgers remains a B1G doormat dreaming of 3 or 4 wins. It’s more fair to argue then that this, the Drake Bowl, is like Rutgers’ bowl game, one of their best shots at an FBS win in 2017 (with apologies to Brook Bikelyn). Expect Kyle Bolin, Gus Edwards, and Janarion Grant to come out motivated and surprise the Eagles, who are surely taking this one for granted, looking ahead to the bigger Ohio, Kentucky, and Toledo games looming ahead.


Pitt at Penn State -20.5

Pitt needed more than 60 minutes to beat Bo Pelini’s young Tresseltown State squad in week one. They’ll only need 20 minutes to fall behind Penn State by 14 and never threaten. We fully expect the Lions to throw deep and try to make an impression on the committee, covering the spread by halftime and never looking back.


Indiana -3 at UVA

On paper it’s an innocuous matchup of B1G and ACC schools not known for football, but look deeper and what you’ll be confronted with are existential questions for the digital age. The search for Virginia football leads one to edge of the world, known and unknown, and the road is populated with characters like Brown Tito, Qias Omar, and Rick Reilly. You’ve heard of the Five People You Meet in Heaven, well these are the three failed search terms you encounter at the end of the sports internet.

Western Michigan at Michigan State -7

The only thing more pathetic than an underconfident MSU fan playing into the “Sparty, no!” caricature is an overconfident one unable to fathom a loss to Western Michigan. Yet the latter almost changed the tilt of the college football globe with a to-the-wire loss to USC last week, which was more impressive than Illinois’s win over Ball State, Purdue’s loss to Louisville, and Michigan State’s win over Bowling Green combined. Certainly MSU can lose, and they will.


4:30 PM:

Nebraska +14 at Oregon

It is time to stop dancing around the point and face it: Nebraska is going to get meatballed in this game. Oregon, in firing its coach, got immediately and drastically better than a program, in Nebraska, that has stuck with its no-face of a no-coach, or he with it, while bobbing in the middle of Obscurity Lake for two plus years. Royce Freeman, the only active FBS player with more career rushing yards than Justin Jackson, will shred a Cornhuskers defense that graciously allowed Arkansas State to gain 500 yards, and Mike Riley will spend the press conference paying compliment to his hotel’s maitre’d’s deep knowledge of Eugene history.

7:30 PM:

Oklahoma at Ohio State -7.5

In wringing out first-year coaches who try to make excuses about lack of personnel, Urban Meyer has denied Sooners coach Lincoln Riley his last and lamest way of explaining why the Sooners couldn’t at least lose close against the Buckeyes. As in the Indiana game, OSU will play like they’re mortal…for 2.65 quarters, tops. Then JT Barrett IV, who takes a little longer to get warmed up than his previous iterations, will remember Parris, and OSU will not just cover, it will make any of its remaining doubters feel depressed and stupid.

8 PM:

Western Kentucky -7.5 at Illinois

Shame on you, Lovie Smith, for allowing a CUSA team to come into a B1G stadium in September and be favored by more than a touchdown. Jeff Brohm’s old team will beat Illinois, perhaps badly, before his new one does.

10 PM:

Minnesota +2 at Oregon State

PJ Fleck has been acclimating his team to the Corvallis conditions steadily since he was hired, pushing curfew back a little each week, and slowly degrading the air quality in the Gophers’ practice facilities and weight room. For game week, to simulate wild-fire air, Fleck disabled the smoke detectors in his players’ dorms and apartments before setting small fires outside their rooms. Sadly, Fleck seems to have made one fatal mistake in his otherwise fastidious preparations: Corvallis is only two hours behind Minneapolis, and not three-and-a-half. In fact, no part of the United States is on a half-hour time zone, which begs the question: What time does PJ Fleck think it is? Does he think the Gophers are playing the Beavers in North Korea or Iran, where they do use half-hour time changes? Or perhaps that the game was moved to Newfoundland for air quality purposes? But most likely and woefully uncovered in the fawning media coverage of PJ Fleck’s “cult-ure” is the fact that he may have his own time zones. Whatever the reason, this mistake is a leak in the dam, a hole in the boat, a Fleck in the ointment. The Gophers will arrive late to the stadium, choke on the smoke, and fall asleep in the third quarter.


Image via Gust / CC BY-ND-NC 2.0