Bold predictions for every B1G game in Week 9
That flew by, didn’t it?
The season that took forever to start is over quicker than a hiccup. We’ve already reached Week 9 and Ohio State and Northwestern are preparing to compete for the B1G title in Indianapolis, marking the second matchup between the two teams in three years with a league championship hanging in the balance.
It’s been a fun, unpredictable year so far. And although we had to see a few more games crossed off the schedule to close out the season (Purdue-Indiana and Michigan-Iowa), we should be entertained again this weekend.
Here’s a bold prediction for every game on the Week 9 schedule in the B1G.
Nebraska (2-5) vs. Rutgers (3-5)
Bold prediction: The Scarlet Knights get their first ever win against the Huskers
Rutgers has won 2 of its last 3 games and has a chance to win 4 B1G games this season, which would surpass its total of conference victories in the entire Chris Ash era. Plus, a 4-5 finish may be just enough to sneak the Scarlet Knights into the postseason this year, depending on how all that works out.
There’s been no consistency seen from Nebraska at really any point this season. The Huskers have had their moments, but you’ve never known what to expect from this team and I don’t expect that to change in Week 9. At the very least, we know Rutgers is going to fight like hell until the very end, and Nebraska has struggled with teams that play that way.
Nebraska owns the all-time series lead 4-0 against Rutgers, but the Scarlet Knights will get a victory this season.
Minnesota (3-3) vs. Wisconsin (2-3)
Bold prediction: Graham Mertz looks more like he did in Week 1 against Illinois
There’s no doubt that Mertz has been a completely different quarterback since those first two games of the season. Since completing 32-of-43 passes with 7 touchdowns and 0 interceptions in the first two games of the season, the redshirt freshman has thrown 5 interceptions with just one scoring strike. His completing percentage has hovered around 55%.
But, if there’s something to look forward to, Mertz will close out the seeing playing a Minnesota pass defense that is allowing 219 yards per game, with opposing quarterbacks hitting on 64% of their targets, with only 4 interceptions all year.
Mertz probably isn’t going to look as crisp as he did in Week 1 against Illinois. Those performances are impossible to replicate. But he should look good this weekend against a Gophers team that has struggled defending the pass.
Illinois (2-5) vs. Penn State (3-5)
Bold prediction: This one gets out of hand early in Penn State’s favor
Call me crazy, but I don’t think Illinois has much to play for. Lovie Smith was fired, the Illini haven’t won a game since Nov. 21 and they’re playing a Penn State team on a 3-game winning streak right now. If the Nittany Lions score a few quick touchdowns, it could get really ugly.
There is the chance that Illinois musters every bit of energy it has and plays the game of the season. There really isn’t anything to lose. But this is a bad matchup for two teams that are tending in opposite directions.
Penn State may be able to approach 50 points in this one.
Michigan State (2-5) vs. Maryland (2-3)
Bold prediction: Maryland runs all over Michigan State’s defense
Much like Illinois and Penn State, I think there’s more on the line for Maryland this weekend. A win, and the Terrapins finish with a .500 record and could be looking at a postseason trip. That would be huge for a program that finished 3-9 a season ago.
The Spartans have seen players opt out, declare for the NFL Draft and enter their names in the transfer portal. It’s part of the growing pains of enduring a coaching change. And for that reason, I’m not sure Michigan State’s defense has much to play for.
Jake Funk has been special all season, totaling 516 yards and 3 touchdowns in 5 games for the Terrapins. He may be in store for one more big game.
B1G Championship: #14 Northwestern vs. #4 Ohio State
Bold prediction: Justin Fields struggles against Northwestern’s defense
A few weeks ago, Fields had trouble against the Indiana defense, throwing 3 interceptions and getting sacked 5 times. Statistically, Northwestern has a better defense than the Hoosiers, allowing just 14.6 points per game, second-best average in all of college football.
Perhaps Fields is in better shape to handle a tough defense, having learned his lesson against Indiana last month. But the Wildcats have been successful against nearly everyone they’ve played this season, so I think they’ll be able to rattle Fields at least a little bit on Saturday.
Will it be enough for a massive upset this week? I’m not willing to go that bold just yet.