Five games that will define the Big Ten’s second half:
1 — Michigan-Ohio State, Nov. 24. Imagine the Wolverines being the last obstacle in Ohio State’s quest for an undefeated season. The Buckeyes could play spoiler, too, if Michigan needs a victory to get to Indy. The game’s at the Horseshoe. That’s the difference. Prediction: Ohio State 35, Michigan 27
2 — Michigan-Nebraska, Oct. 27. Chances are, the winner captures the Legends Division. Michigan has played better the past few weeks, but still hasn’t beaten a good team. Which Denard Robinson will show up — the All-American candidate or the guy who committed five turnovers at Notre Dame? Prediction: Michigan 31, Nebraska 28
3 — Ohio State-Wisconsin, Nov. 17. The Buckeyes’ biggest test. It’s also a huge opportunity for Wisconsin to regain credibility. If the Badgers can pull the upset, the Big Ten won’t be ashamed to send Wisky to Indy. Prediction: Wisconsin 24, Ohio State 21
4 — Nebraska-Iowa, Nov. 23. The Heroes’ rivalry would get a big boost if it determined the division title. It’s definitely possible considering Iowa’s soft schedule. Nebraska hasn’t been good on the road and Kinnick is one of the Big Ten’s toughest venues. On the other hand, Nebraska may have too many offensive playmakers for the Hawks to handle. Prediction: Nebraska 34, Iowa 24
5 — Michigan State-Michigan, Oct. 20. Nobody on the Michigan roster has beaten Sparty. That’s not the only reason the maize and blue want this one. Michigan State committed six personal fouls last year. Prediction: Michigan 27, Michigan State 14
>> You know I’m a stats guy. But sometimes stats don’t tell the story. For instance, Nebraska’s sacks and tackles for loss. NU leads the Big Ten in both categories. It’s top-2o nationally in both categories. There will be a TV announcer at some point this season that praises the Huskers’ defensive line, based on those numbers. Stats don’t always tell the story.
>> Creighton basketball is 15th in the preseason coaches poll. Much of the attention will be on Austin Chatman, the new point guard. But what the Jays need is a wing defender. I’m intrigued by redshirt Nevin Johnson, who supplies the Jays with athleticism on the wing they didn’t have last year. But sophomore Avery Dingman may be the best option. If either can turn into a reliable perimeter defender, Creighton has a chance to fix its 2011-12 deficiency.
>> I do not understand why MLB allows players like Matt Holliday to slide into second base with no regard for the middle infielder. I understand it’s baseball tradition. That doesn’t make it right. It’s not a clean play. It’s the equivalent of a gunner crushing a punt returner before the ball arrives. Why do umpires eject pitchers for throwing inside, but look the other way when Holliday completely misses second base and barrels into Marco Scutaro?
>> Did Sports Illustrated do the right thing putting Tyrann Mathieu on its cover? Clay Travis says the magazine is being hypocritical.
>> Big 12 basketball coaches are in Kansas City today for conference media days. This officiating nugget popped up on Blair Kerkhoff’s Twitter account: Big 12 hoop officials supervisor Curtis Shaw said “We want a block to be default call on a block-charge call.” Shaw is dead-on. You want to improve basketball immediately? Raise the standard for taking a charge. That’s how you encourage offenses to take the ball to the basket again. That’s how you keep star players out of foul trouble. There are far too many charges called at every level of basketball.
>> Alfonzo Dennard is emerging in New England. It’s been a rough year for Dennard, but he’s talented enough to help Bill Belichick for a long time.
>> Bruce Feldman looks at the 10 biggest games of college football’s second half.
>> Idaho State coach Mike Kramer is in trouble for pushing a player. I’d be angry, too, if I had to coach that team.
>> A-Rod’s absence continues to be a major story in this postseason.
>> Dan Wetzel scolds Nike and Livestrong for abandoning Lance Armstrong.