Big Ten teams on upset alert this weekend
Written by Matt Pargoff   

Previewing the Big Ten slate for the coming weekend, the number of high profile games is not what it was last Saturday, but there are still several intriguing matchups. In fact, there are only four of the 12 games that are particularly easy to call at this point and a few teams that need to be on guard for potential upsets.

Game of the Week

Notre Dame at Michigan State – In a battle of undefeated teams, No. 10 Michigan State will play host to No. 20 Notre Dame in the highlight game of the week in conference play. The annual matchup between the two teams seemed to tip in favor of the away squad a decade ago, but the last four meetings have all been won by the home team. Last season, Notre Dame shut down Michigan State’s run attack, holding the Spartans to just 29 yards on the ground. With a completely new passing attack in East Lansing, the Green and White will certainly have to put forward a better effort if they hope to knock off the Irish. Notre Dame won last year’s game in easy fashion, claiming a 31-13 victory. With the Spartans being favored to win this one, the game could easily end up in an upset.

Upset Alert

Northern Iowa at Iowa – This could be a far more dangerous game than Hawkeye fans realize. Then again, when your team is two games into the season and they haven’t scored a touchdown yet, maybe that level of awareness is heightened a bit. In two contests, Iowa has scored just 24 points on eight field goals. Meanwhile, Northern Iowa showed off some offensive fireworks in the second half against Wisconsin in the opening week to give the Badgers a scare. The FCS team took on Central State the following week, claiming a 59-0 victory. Given Kirk Ferentz’s history against in-state opponents, this game just screams “upset.”

Utah State at Wisconsin – We never would have called this during the off-season, but Wisconsin’s cupcake non-conference schedule is biting back. They struggled against Northern Iowa, lost to Oregon State, and after just two weeks of play head coach Bret Bielema fired offensive line coach Mike Markuson. As for Utah State, they may not be the pushover that athletic director Barry Alvarez thought (read: hoped) they would be when scheduled. The Aggies were 7-6 last season and started out this year 2-0. They are coming off an upset win over in-state foe Utah out of the Pac 12. While the Badgers are certain to be geared up after an embarrassing loss to the Beavers, this game could carry some intrigue to it.

Cal at Ohio State – This is the one game on the Big Ten slate that we are least comfortable in classifying. The Buckeyes could win in a blowout. But early season games against Pac 12 teams are notoriously unpredictable. Ohio State has won both of its contests in blowouts, but neither were against top-end opponents. Facing another BCS conference opponent will provide a tougher challenge and could reveal if the Buckeyes rapid ascension to No. 12 in the polls is well deserved. Jeff Tedford’s Golden Bears went to a bowl game last year, but they haven’t had fewer than four losses in a season since 2006. If Cal does manage to claim victory, it would certainly be a surprise to many in the college football world, but it is not outside the realm of possibility.


Boston College at Northwestern – The Wildcats would be considered the slight favorite in this game with victories over Syracuse and Vanderbilt, but it would not be a surprise to see the matchup go either way. Both of Northwestern’s wins were by close margins, coming down to late in the fourth quarter. Boston College gave Miami a close game to start the season in a loss, but blew out Maine last week. Granted, just how strong Miami is has come into some question in the last week, but the Eagles should be considered a legitimate threat to Northwestern.

Ball State at Indiana – The Hoosiers are impossible to judge at this point. They are 2-0, but both games were against incredibly weak competition. Indiana’s blowout of UMass should be a positive sign for Michigan fans, but their narrow victory over FCS opponent Indiana State may speak to some problems in Bloomington. Without quarterback Tre Robinson, who will miss the rest of the season with a broken leg, the Hoosiers could have their hands full with Ball State. The Cardinals are by no means world beaters, but they did score 27 points on Clemson. This game could go either way.

Western Michigan at Minnesota – Similar to Indiana, Minnesota is undefeated, but how much can you tell about a team with a blowout win over FCS opponent New Hampshire and a close win over UNLV. The fact that it took three overtimes to defeat UNLV does not speak particularly highly of the Golden Gophers’ squad. On the other side, Western Michigan is no pushover in the MAC. The Broncos managed to outgain Illinois in their opening contest, but four turnovers in enemy territory led to a loss. They dominated a game against FCS foe Eastern Illinois last week. It would not be a surprise to see Western come away with a win and would be tough to call that outcome an upset.

Navy at Penn State – Navy has only played one game this season. It did not go well. The Midshipmen travelled to Ireland to take on Notre Dame and left the Emerald Isle with a 50-10 loss on their record. With that in mind, they have had an extra week to recover, while Penn State is coming off its second devastating defeat in as many games. The Nittany Lions have struggled mightily to find any offense, scoring just 30 points total in two games. At the very least, that lack of production should keep the score very close and open the door for either squad to claim victory.

Safe at Home

There are four contests that stand out as particularly easy “walk-in-the-park” type games. Not much needs to be said about them. They are quality teams facing off against vastly inferior opponents. The list goes as follows….

•Charleston Southern at Illinois

•Arkansas State at Nebraska

•UMass at Michigan

•Eastern Michigan at Purdue

While each of the four Big Ten teams listed does have a loss on its record, the combined record of the four opponents listed is 1-7. The one win was Arkansas State’s five-point edge over Memphis. The Sun Belt Conference team did put up some points against Oregon in the second half of a blowout loss, but realistically, they will be overmatched against the Cornhuskers. These four games should all be blow outs.


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