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Before we begin, here's a few lasting images of Beaver Stadium from Saturday night. This might be as impressive as it gets there for a little while, and there happens to be an interesting online keepsake for the occasion.

A company put together a high-def, 360-degree panorama shot of the crowd from early in the first quarter. Check it out here. If you were in your seat, no matter how high up or how far from the field you were, the shot is detailed enough that you should be able to rotate and zoom in enough to find yourself. The images were taken from field level, but even from that sharp angle, I can see my big forehead sticking out way up in the press box.

People have already started finding their seat and tagging themselves. Think of it as a high-tech Where's Waldo. Except that everyone's wearing white or red. I was always terrible at those.

There's another more telling shot of that crowd though. Sports Illustrated used it as a (regional) cover shot for the issue that comes out this week. And it's a little different from the last PSU cover for the magazine, which came out in July.

Take a look for yourself:

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Interesting.

On to the games...

—derek

 

WEEK 10


MICHIGAN (5-3, 3-1 Big Ten)
 at MINNESOTA (5-3, 1-3 Big Ten)

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Noon, Saturday

TCF Bank Stadium,
Minneapolis, Minn.

 

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LINE: Michigan by 12.5. Now in a fourth season of watching Denard Robinson under center, Michigan players, coaches and fans alike have grown accustomed to seeing the little guy take some hits. It's a rare game where Robinson doesn't take a few moments to get up after a scramble, often heading to the sideline for a play or two. What they are certainly not used to is him going to the sideline and staying there. Robinson hurt his elbow in the second quarter at Nebraska last week and the game was just over. Completely and utterly. The defense actually kept the Wolverines alive, holding Nebraska's offense to three field goals in the third quarter before the Huskers finally put it away in the fourth. But without Denard, Michigan was just helpless. With highly rated former backup Devin Gardner playing receiver full-time this season, Brady Hoke turned to freshman Russell Bellomy. And the kid -- playing in front of a rabid corn-crazy crowd, bless him -- was just terrible, throwing as many passes to the Huskers (3) as he completed to his own teammates. Fortunately for the Wolverines, Robinson is expected to be back in the battle for the Little Brown Jug, swinging this dramatically in Michigan's favor. But there is indeed some optimism in Gopherland, an authentic buzz that wasn't even there when Minnesota opened the year 4-0. And that's because the Gophers' own freshman QB, Philip Nelson, had an excellent home debut, throwing three touchdowns in a rout of Purdue. This will be a much rougher day for the rookie, to be sure, as Michigan wins to keep pace in the Legends Division race.

No. 20 NEBRASKA (6-2, 3-1 Big Ten)
at MICHIGAN STATE (5-4, 2-3 Big Ten)

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3:30 p.m., Saturday

Spartan Stadium,
East Lansing, Mich.

 

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LINE: UNL by 2. Yeah, I might as well throw in the towel on prognosticating games involving the Spartans this season. Can't remember the last time I got one right. I certainly didn't think the team would just fall off a cliff in the spectacularly awful fashion that Purdue has, but there's a big gap between that and winning a game at Camp Randall. The overtime win over Wisconsin was far from pretty, but Michigan State hasn't played any pretty games so far this season. And that sure won't change this week. Nebraska can safely claim the title of the Big Ten's best non-sanctioned team right now, but even that could quickly change. The win over Michigan, while enormously important to claiming a spot in Indianapolis, is a bit hard to judge when the Wolverines' best player isn't on the field for more than half the contest. The Huskers, meanwhile, saw workhorse Rex Burkhead miss another game with a knee injury, and the senior has only finished one game this year that he's started. The senior remains day-to-day headed into this one. If he plays, he's in line for another painful day win or lose against an MSU defense that plays physical or downright dirty, depending on who you talk to. Most impressive for Nebraska is that the team still fields a top-10 rushing offense in the nation even without a healthy Burkhead. The Huskers continue to lead the Big Ten in scoring, rushing and total offense. So what gives in this one? Well, if Iowa could successfully grind out the Spartans on their home field, Nebraska should be able to pull it off, too. Of course, since I'm picking the Huskers here, that probably means Sparty will pull the win out somehow. 

IOWA (4-4, 2-2 Big Ten)
at INDIANA (3-5, 1-3 Big Ten)

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3:30 p.m., Saturday

Memorial Stadium,
Bloomington, Ind.



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LINE: IU by 1.5. This is what it comes down to in the sanctiontastic Leaders Division. Indiana is now realistically the only team that can challenge Wisconsin for the spot in the Big Ten title game. Yes, Indiana. The Hoosiers at 1-3 are in second place among eligible teams in the division, a game-and-a-half behind the Badgers. Find a way to beat the Hawkeyes here and IU actually hosts Wisconsin next week with a chance to jump into first place (technically) with the Badgers closing the year out against Ohio State and Penn State. When you put it that way, it almost sounds feasible, given how underwhelming the Badgers have been. But we're obviously getting way, way ahead of ourselves here. It took a year-and-a-half for Indiana to get just one Big Ten win under Kevin Wilson and now we're suggesting they win three or four more just to have a chance. But this is what passes for drama in the division for this particular season, unfortunately. Indiana's win came over a historically bad Illinois team last week. And while Iowa is far from impressive, the Hawkeyes at least have a pulse. Lose this one and Iowa's shot at a bowl games is in serious trouble. With games against Michigan and Nebraska to close out the season, Iowa would very much like to lock up that sixth win in the next two weeks with a sweep of the Hoosier state. The Hawks host Purdue next week. Iowa again is dealing with an injury to Mark Weisman, though top backup Damon Bullock returned to the field last week, topping 100 yards. James Vandenberg threw 38 passes last week thanks to a 25-point deficit in the second-half. He somehow managed just 5.6 yards a completion. Indiana, despite strong passing numbers, is still playing musical chairs at quarterback. It says a lot about both teams that Indiana finds itself favored in a Big Ten game, but the Hoosiers' mediocre defense will be worn down in an Iowa win.

ILLINOIS (2-6, 0-4 Big Ten)
at OHIO STATE (9-0, 5-0 Big Ten)

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3:30 p.m., Saturday

Ohio Stadium,
Columbus, Ohio

   

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LINE: OSU by 27.5. I'm not sure they can make that line high enough. It's officially time to start discussing this Illinois squad as one of the worst in recent Big Ten history. Which is patently ridiculous given that the Illini have a third-year starting quarterback and perhaps a few legitimate NFL talents on defense. It's almost impossible to justify firing a coach after just one season, but a strong case can be made against dumping the seemingly hopeless Tim Beckman. It won't happen, of course, because AD Mike Thomas would basically packing his own bags along with Beckman by admitting to such a colossal screw-up -- and costing the university a buyout on top of it. But there's simply no excuse for only scoring 17 points against Indiana at home. One cringes to think what the Illini will do against an Ohio State defense coming off of arguably its best performance of the season at Penn State. As much scorn as Illinois' play deserves, the Buckeyes deserve an equal amount of praise for not allowing the Nittany Lions to dictate the flow of last week's game. The much-maligned linebackers especially stepped up, with sophomore Ryan Shazier turning in the top game of his young career. The defensive line dominated PSU in the trenches and the athletic secondary wasn't beaten deep despite the defense keying on short and intermediate passes. Of course, it's a little trickier to get as motivated for a game like this at the end of 10 straight weeks of football. Ohio State is off next week before looking to close out an unbeaten season against Wisconsin and Michigan. So if Illinois scores a few touchdowns against an OSU squad eager to get to that well-deserved week of rest, I guess it wouldn't be a surprise. All that really matters here, though, is that the Bucks have Braxton Miller and Urban Meyer. And the Illini have Beckman. This one's a no-brainer.

PENN STATE (5-3, 3-1 Big Ten)
at PURDUE (3-5, 0-4 Big Ten)

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3:30 p.m., Saturday

Ross-Ade Stadium,
West Lafayette, Ind.


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LINE: PSU by 3.5. Full breakdown tomorrow. Lose your biggest game of the season, get dumped down onto ESPNU the next week. Them's the breaks. If you live in or around Wilkes-Barre and have digital cable from Service Electric like me, the game should be on channel 127. But flipping through the guide just now looking for it, I guess I don't have a subscription to whatever silly tier they have networks like ESPNU on. So you might want to check that out before Saturday and plan accordingly. But I digress. As far as the actual game goes, this one had all the makings of a tough trip, especially sandwiched in between two charged-up games against Ohio State and Nebraska for the Lions. But Purdue... Well, what can you really say about Purdue at this point? There was every possibility that the Boilers would simply quit after their big emotional surge against Ohio State failed. But to go from that to falling behind Minnesota -- Minnesota? -- by an incredible score of 44-7 barely in the second half is mind-boggling. Purdue AD Morgan Burke was forced to come out with a dreaded statement of support for the program on Monday in response to the deservedly harsh criticism doled out to Danny Hope. Burke's short release never actually mentions the coach but implores everyone to get to start having fun playing Boilermaker football. Good luck with that. The fun went out of Boilermaker football after Joe Tiller was nudged into retirement back in 2008, and the past three seasons under Hope have been mostly miserable. As it stands right now, you'd have to say Hope is the Big Ten coach least likely to be back next season. The latest search for a spark involved turning the offense back over to Robert Marve, who will make his first start under center since the opener, when Caleb TerBush was suspended. But Marve has appeared in almost every game already because of Hope's ineffective carousel at the position. So it's not a radical change. Much more concerning for the Boilers is the health of Kawann Short, who tweaked his ankle and sat out the second half against Minnesota. The big DT represents Purdue's best chance at disrupting the Lions' offense like Ohio State was able to do. Penn State will try to carry that first-quarter shutout streak through a ninth straight game and hope what could be a sparse crowd starts to turn on the home team.

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