By Adam Hoge-
(CBS) So is this the week we find out if Illinois is for real?
The Illini host Ohio State in a game they should win. If they lose, I think a lot of concerns about this team will be realized. But how much stock can we put into a win? The Buckeyes have their own host of problems and are already 0-2 in the Big Ten. Unless Illinois blows Ohio State out, I’m not sure I’ll be able to buy the Illini even after a win Saturday.
Oh, and then there’s the part where I don’t think they will win.
Illinois has shown a lot of vulnerabilities while jumping out to a 6-0 start and I think it’s only a matter of time before they are exposed. While the Buckeyes blew a 21-point lead at Nebraska last week in a loss that could send their entire season into a tailspin, it would be irresponsible to ignore the fact that they were up 27-6 in Lincoln in the first place. For two and half quarters, the Buckeyes looked pretty damn good.
That makes this one really hard to predict because we don’t know which Ohio State team will show up in Champaign. If Jim Tressel was the head coach, I would expect the Buckeyes to be fired up after last week’s collapse. Of course, if Jim Tressel were still the head coach, they wouldn’t have blown a 21-point lead in the first place.
I don’t trust Luke Fickell. But I also don’t trust Ron Zook.
This one just smells like a game Illinois will blow and returning Ohio State running back Dan Herron will make the difference.
My pick: Ohio State 20, ILLINOIS 17
Now onto the rest of my picks where I am a perfect 10-0 in Big Ten play:
Home team in CAPS
IOWA 35, Northwestern 31
Yes, I know the Wildcats have the Hawkeyes’ number. But I also know Northwestern’s defense is a mess and Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg is set up to have a huge day. To be fair, Iowa’s defense hasn’t been great this season either, which is why NU will keep up, but fall just short on the road.
MICHIGAN STATE 24, Michigan 21
This should be a great game. I completely underestimated Michigan this year despite praising the hiring of Brady Hoke. But the Wolverines haven’t faced a defense like Michigan State’s yet this season and Denard Robinson has been living on the edge at times this season. The Spartans will win the turnover battle and win the game.
WISCONSIN 55, Indiana 10
Last year the Badgers won this game 83-20 and Bret Bielema was widely criticized for running up the score. The Badgers should be up big in the second half again this year, but don’t expect 80 points again. Wisconsin’s backups won’t dominate Indiana’s starters like they did last season.
PENN STATE 20, Purdue 6
This will likely be the most boring game of the weekend. Purdue will hang around because Penn State’s offense isn’t good enough to pull away, but in the end, it should be a comfortable win for the Nittany Lions.
Season record: 45-12 (10-0 Big Ten)
Adam is the Sports Content Producer for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the Bears, White Sox and college sports. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHogeCBS and read more of his columns here.