The Way We Watch: An irrefutable weekly ranking of the B1G's best games
With the exception of the Bingo craze that swept smoke-filled Catholic grade school gyms in the Chicagoland area, I’m primarily a solitary gambler. Strangers remain strangers at the blackjack table until one of my traveling party broaches the subject of Billy Joel. Several hands and a few rounds later each party is trading excel sheets of their favorite songs from “52nd Street” and “Glass Houses.”
Life is a little different in the sportsbook. There’s hooting, hollering, and enthusiastic table-pounding over bets with enough return to buy a second item off McDonald’s value menu. People keep to their own packs, bending the brim of their baseball cap with so much intensity to produce perspiration from two June’s ago and function in the sadness or elation of themselves, independent of emotions or the daily performance record of others.
There are others, there are always others. The people who support a team for the sake of passing the time between probation hearings. It’s best to avert your eyes from those people. Their screams and squeals are easy enough to decipher elation or misery after the second illegal procedure penalty. Keep to your group, have a second drink on standby, and don’t chase a bad play. There’s always the sanctity of the blackjack table, best reserved for conversations over “An Innocent Man,” after you lost the last leg of a three-team parlay.
Game #3: Minnesota vs. Northwestern, 11 am CST, ABC
The storyline fan in me trumps the football fan in me for this one. The game in Evanston for Minnesota is a good resiliency test for the Gophers. Last week’s loss to Iowa dashed any realistic shot at the College Football Playoff. With the Gophers souped up on motivational sayings and tales of resilience from the week of practice, the offense’s efforts to move the ball against a stingy Northwestern defense is the tell of the game.
Sports Betting in Big Ten Country
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The football fan in me hopes that Tanner Morgan clears the concussion protocol and finishes the season healthy (relative at this point of the season) for the game this week and next in Madison. A little splash of maroon and gold into the top of the Big Ten West standings has done college football good this year, and we’d need a nationwide callback on oars if the Gophers dropped two games in a row.
Game #2: Michigan vs. Indiana, 2:30 CST, ESPN
Indiana is almost, nearly, kind of, sort of, there. The Hoosiers won all of the games they were supposed to win and are on the brink of a nine-win season. There’s a jolt of energy when certain conference welcome mats gain bowl eligibility. Any shot of a look-ahead for the Wolverines were thwarted after Indiana battled Penn State in State College last weekend and covered the numbers assigned by the neutralizers in the desert.
For Michigan, precious yet clumsy Michigan, the conference’s precocious child with the coordination of a gimpy fawn that never seems to leave a season intact in the most recent years, there’s a definite buzz to the offense and the steady progress its made in the last stretch of games. It would be very Michigan, so very Michigan to see the Wolverines drop a game in Bloomington only to take Ohio State to the wire next weekend.
Game #1: Penn State vs. Ohio State, 11 am, CST, Fox
With apologies to M Club members, the game Saturday is the best consistent Big Ten contest the last three seasons. Throw in the return of Chase Young and the appearance of every desk show on television, no word on whether Chuck Todd will make the Skull Session, and we’re left with the best imaginable way to kick off Week 13.
Go ahead and hitch your entertainment preference to the Ohio State offense or defense, both sides of the ball offer the sort of playmakers to cause Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr., to overheat their second cell phone and hyperventilate into a Cricket. Penn State continues to fight just beneath the Buckeyes’ weight class, falling a few points short but impressive in each effort.
How Sean Clifford tries to pass downfield against the staunch defensive front of Ohio State is going to be the game’s featured attraction. Let’s set the over/under for quarterback sacks by Young at 1.5 and offsides penalties at .5. When the buzz of the first snap wears off, the extra time away will serve Young well and unleash a wave of defensive fury badly missed the last few weeks.