We had a rare Friday edition of the Big Ten chat today, as I atoned for having to postpone the regular Monday chat. Luckily, readers hadn't already checked out for the weekend and instead brought some interesting questions. Here's a complete transcript, along with some highlights:
Thelen (Westphalia, MI): Hey, Brian, I think U-M bombs away tomorrow, especially down the U-M sideline where our coaches can "assist" the refs with the very complicated task of identifying pass interference. If we get two PI calls to each interception I think we win. Over/under numbers: 4 PIs 2 INTs
Brian Bennett: Thelen, I think Michigan's best strategy will be to try and throw it as much as possible. I've seen nothing this year that suggests the Wolverines will be able to mount any kind of running game other than Devin Gardner scrambles. Michigan State dares you to beat it with the pass, and if teams can get the calls like Notre Dame did, that can work. Going to be huge for Gardner to be precise on his throws.
Craig (Braintree, MA): It seems to me that the keys to the MN/IN game is Minnesota not turning the ball over and whether they can win the battle of the trenches.
Brian Bennett: I'm not too concerned about Minnesota winning the trenches. Huge advantage there for the Gophers. Key, I think, is maintaining long drives and scoring touchdowns off those drives. Keep the IU offense off the field as much as possible, and run the ball all day.
Jordan (Chicago): It seems that the 2010 Wisconsin-Iowa game sent those two programs headed into two different directions. Wisconsin has dominated since (well, they got a little lucky last year) and Iowa has really fallen off. I'm hoping my Hawks can pull it out this weekend for a little revenge and to gain some more momentum in restoring the program. What do you see as the most important issue facing Iowa in this game? Is the obvious with just trying to contain Wisconsin's run game?
Brian Bennett: There is something to that, though Kirk Ferentz said this week you could point to the 2010 Northwestern-Iowa game as well. But surely Wisconsin has had an edge as a program the past few years. Containing Wisconsin's running game is always job No. 1, and only Ohio State has been able to do it. I also think Iowa needs to be able to pass the ball effectively. Wisconsin is very good against the run on defense, though with a gimpy (at best) Chris Borland, that could help the Hawkeyes.
Jason (WI): Ha ... I guess I put too much thought into "who they played." MSU offense looked better against Illinois, Indiana and Iowa. I'll wait until they can score on any defense resembling "mediocre."
Brian Bennett: There's truth to that. But the simple eye test tells you that MSU is improved offensively. I mean, there were times last year and against bad teams earlier this year when the Spartans couldn't complete a forward pass against air. They definitely have more confidence now, and Connor Cook gives them a little swagger. My official prediction is MSU, 17-14, so that tells you how much offense I think there will be in this game.
Jay (Michigan): Chances Iowa beats Wisconsin?
Brian Bennett: Better than average, for sure. Iowa is at home and matches up pretty well with Wisconsin. The Hawkeyes' three losses this year have come to teams that are currently 23-1, so we may be underrating them a bit. Iowa is going to have to find more ways to score than it did last week against Northwestern, but it definitely has a chance to win this game. I think it will be close going into the fourth quarter.