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Brendan Smith Memorial Picks, Week 3.

Normally, I do major preview posts on NU's games - not this week, it's been hectic, so, nah. Sorry about that. Without further ado, here are your Big Ten/NU picks.

11 AM: Eastern Michigan @ No. 25 Michigan.
Watching EMU lose by 30 to Michigan will be tough for NU fans. It's like watching your friend hook up with a girl you thought you had a chance with, except it's really not like that at all, because its a football game.
Pick: Michigan.
Pick in a mascot fight to the death: I'm telling you, eagles have the tactical advantage against pretty any land mammal, except for, like bears, and elephants, and other stuff like that. They got wings and talons. Trust me on this one. EMU wins their second straight Big Ten game. Game, EMU. (Wolverine mascot death fight record: 1-2)

11 AM: No. 8 California @ Minnesota
I thought Air Force would give Minnesota a run for their money, and they did. And California could maim Air Force. This will be ugly, Minnesota's not much of a team despite their 2-0 record.
Pick: California.
Pick in a mascot fight to the death: Bear vs. Gopher is a major, major mismatch, and you probably didn't need me to tell you that. Game, California. (Golden Gopher mascot death fight record: 1-2)

11 AM: No. 5 Penn State @ Temple
I hope you guys don't like insightful analysis. Lou Holtz could pick this one.
Pick: Penn State
Pick in a mascot fight to the death: I generally give the edge to winged creatures, but owls just don't have the same tenacity eagles do, and although they are predators, they normally kill mice. Unlike the mouse, humans don't kill lions by luring them to walk into glue traps, so you can tell the lion will be more difficult for owls to kill. Meanwhile, lions are lions. Game, Penn State. (Nittany Lion fight record: 3-0.)

11 AM: Wofford @ Wisconsin
I scanned Wofford's recent schedules for an embarrassing loss to put in this section, and sure enough, they lost 70-24 against Appalachian State last year, and, uhhh, yeah, they're good and all, but, um, 70 is a lot of points. Wisconsin will get the W.
My guess as to what Wofford's mascot is, without looking: The eagle. Nah, yo, the Golden Eagle.
What it actually is: The terrier. That doesn't give me much confidence with regards to their chances in a mascot death fight.
Pick: Wisconsin
Pick in a mascot fight to the death: Badgers are surprisingly feisty, whereas terriers are adorable. Game, Wisconsin. (Badgers death fight record: 1-2)

11 AM: Northern Illinois @ Purdue
I really think Purdue is a team that you gotta watch out for. I thought they'd beat Oregon last week, and I don't think they'll be the tenth team in the conference like everybody's predicting. I mean, they're worse than NU, but, still, they'll do alright.
Pick: Purdue.
Pick in a mascot fight to the death: The Huskies beat the Badgers in week one, but they can't beat people. And Boilermakers are people. Game, Purdue. (Boilermakers mascot death fight record: 3-0)

11 AM: #11 Ohio State "@" Toledo, in Cleveland.
Nothing says "Toledo" quite like, uh, Cleveland, so, look for the hometown crowd to carry Toledo to a 56-20 loss. Toledo likes to give up lots of points, and Ohio State likes to score them.
Pick: Ohio State
Pick in a mascot fight to the death: Rockets can fly to to the moon. Buckeyes are nuts. Game, Toledo. (Buckeye death fight record: 0-3)

2:30: Michigan State @ Notre Dame.
Yeah, bad loss for Michigan State last week. If they win that game, I can give their lack of a good quarterback, running back, or, like, anything a pass and give them a W here, but, nah. They're not like last year's MSU.
Pick: Notre Dame.
Pick in a mascot fight to the death: Spartans and Fighting Irish like to fight. Except Spartans fight with weapons, and Fighting Irish fight old-timey boxing style. Game, MSU. (Spartans death fight record: 3-0)

2:30: Indiana @ Akron.
Indiana has looked bad against decidedly lower-level teams. Akron is a decidedly mid-level team, and Indiana's first road game of the year.
Pick: Akron.
Pick in a mascot fight to the death: After immediately giving the Zips a loss in their first matchup because I didn't know what a zip was, I decided to look it up this week. "Zip" is short for "zipper" because people made clothing with zippers on it in Akron. Their mascot is a female kangaroo. Game, Indiana. (Hoosiers mascot death fight record: 1-2)

2:35: Arizona @ Iowa.
To me, Northern Iowa is to the Hawkeyes as Eastern Michigan is to Northwestern. Both times, a team played way, way, way too close against a team they should have beaten easily. Both times, there was questionable game preparedness and play-calling on the parts of the better team. And both times, the better team won. This is a top 25 team that had a major, major hiccup against their first opponent of the year, and it'll haunt them in the rankings for a while, but it won't haunt them on the field.
Pick: Iowa
Pick in a mascot fight to the death: A preview of the NU-Iowa matchup later this year, my analysis is simple: One's inanimate, one's a cat. Game, Arizona. (Hawkeye mascot death fight record: 0-3)

6: Northwestern @ Syracuse.
This game will be tough. Really tough.
Our defense right now is a mess. Our d-line just got done getting owned by EMU and failing to tackle a guy named Dwayne Priest. Meanwhile, DeLone Carter and Antwon Bailey make a great running back tandem for Syracuse. This is a problem.
Mike Williams will be playing professional football next year. Sherrick McManis, who might be playing professional football next year, would generally be assigned to guard him, but he's sort of injured. Justan Vaughn, a guy who backs him up, is also injured. Therefore, guys like Jordan Mabin (good) Mike Bolden (hasn't really played) and Ricky Weina (also hasn't really played, but, yeesh) and hordes of others (potentially horrific) will be assigned to guard a preternaturally talented wide receiving beast, getting passes from Greg Paulus, who hasn't looked bad overall in his first few starts, and is learning on the fly. This is a problem.
Stephen Simmons, who has anchored our questionable running game this year, is, in fact questionable this week. This means guys like Arby Fields (ok) Jacob Schmidt (maybe on 3rd-and-two, but nowhere else) Scott Concannon (nope) will be taking snaps. This is a problem.
Mike Kafka has looked just above average. Against Towson and Eastern Michigan. This is a problem.
Our coaches haven't shown any signs that they'd like to call a successful football game. This is a problem.
But at the end of the day, last year, Northwestern rocked Syracuse, and let's look at what changed:
Andrew Robinson, who started at QB for the Orange, is now a backup tight end. He's been replaced by... an ex-Duke point guard. Meanwhile, CJ Bacher, has been replaced by somebody arguably better. This is good for us.
Last year, Mike Williams, didn't play. This year, he will. This is bad for us.
Our defense has looked shaky, but ultimately, is a very similar unit to the one we had last year, and which dominated the Orange. This is great for us.
Again, this isn't very in depth. But at the end of the day, we won by 20 last year, and could have won by more not enough has improved for Syracuse for me to think that we'll straight up lose.

Prediction: Northwestern, 24. Syracuse, 17.
Pick in a mascot fight to the death: The Orange are 0-2 against Big Ten opponents in the mascot death fight league, because they are a color. They're still a color. Game, NU. (Wildcats mascot death fight record: 1-2)

My picks last week: 6-5, pretty dismal. In my defense, Air Force, Fresno State, and Purdue came close to making my upset picks come true, but I was too risky. For once, I would've probably done better last week vs. the spread.

Projected Big Ten record this week: 7-3

Projected Big Ten mascot death fight record this week: 6-4. (Overall, 16-16.)