The game of the year in the Big Ten has arrived. Penn State visits Ohio State in an 8 EST ABC telecast. Between this and Game 3 of the World Series, the city of Philadelphia, with its large contingent of PSU fans, might well achieve levels of violent passion previously confined to European soccer games.
In sizing up these teams I think the Lions are a little bit better, but the question will be if they are sufficiently better to overcome homefield advantage. I expect Paterno to stack up against the run, to try and take away Chris Wells and force Prior to throw. The freshman has already stood up under pressure in directing a game-winning drive in Madison against a pre-collapse Wisconsin team. But his overall passing numbers are pretty limited. In the meantime, the Lions are a very balanced offensive team with no real weaknesses. On a neutral field, I would lean PSU's way. But I think Prior can get the job done at home when push comes to shove, given the Lion defense is really not an elite force. So in a great game, I think the Buckeyes pull one out by a 20-17 type score.
Michigan plays Michigan State in a 3:30 EST kickoff on ABC. This game is a big mismatch for the Spartans, but in a rivalry-type game, especially against a proud program, it never plays out that easy. Just as they did last week, I expect the Wolverines to come out and make some early statements, and to eventually hang in the game much longer then they were able to in Happy Valley. But they just don't have the weaponry to stay with Michigan State and the UM defense has not delivered on its preseason expectation to carry the load. Besides, MSU has plenty of motivation themselves. They need this win to stay in the lead for the Capital One Bowl and even more pertinent, they owe Michigan payback for a heartbreaking loss lost year (and, well, several others over the years) and then having Michael Hart refer to them as the "little-brother" school. Hart's quote in context wasn't quite as condescending as it might appear, but coaches are more ruthless then political strategists when it comes to material for the bulletin board. Look for MSU to have the all the juice it needs to hold off Michigan's early hits.
Notre Dame travels to Washington in an 8 EST kick on ESPN. This game has interest mainly as a battle between Charlie Weis and the man he replaced in Ty Willingham. The Huskies are winless thus far, so the Irish absolutely must have this game. They've got a very good shot at a Gator Bowl bid right now if they can get to 8-4, but there's no scenario where they get eight wins that doesn't include taking care of business here. I suspect ND will struggle a bit on the road, but the W-L record indicates that Washington isn't strong enough to take advantage.
**Editor's Note: Due to technical problems with my host company, I was unable to post links to hometown newspapers, as is customary on game previews and recaps.