Which teams could crush Michigan’s dream for a repeat Big
Ten title?  With a little help from horror films, The Michigan
Daily ranks the threats.

Michigan Football
(Courtesy of Compass International Pictures)
Michigan Football
Michigan coach Lloyd Carr (TONY DING/Daily)

 

Ohio State

Scare factor: 10

“The Exorcist”

The Plot: Known by many as one of the scariest movies of
all time, “The Exorcist” features a 12-year-old girl
who starts exhibiting strange symptoms such as levitation and great
strength. The fans in Columbus exhibit hatred towards Michigan that
is horribly frightening, and recent Buckeye teams have been
anything but normal. For example, last week Ohio State gained just
137 yards offensively at North Carolina State, but won 22-14 thanks
to the five field goals off the terrifyingly accurate leg of kicker
Mike Nugent.

Scare Factor: Although the Buckeyes return just nine
starters, Ohio State’s exceptional defense and special teams
put it in any contest it enters. The Buckeyes have a number of
players with experience who have excelled in their new starting
roles. But their questions on offense, including the development of
quarterback Justin Zwick, could keep them out of the conference
race.

 

Purdue

Scare factor: 9

“What Lies Beneath”

The Plot: In the movie, Harrison Ford plays a strong,
stoic man with a terrible secret hidden in his past. In reality,
quarterback Kyle Orton plays the role of Heisman candidate, but
hidden underneath his hype is a sometimes-questionable bevy of
players. It remains to be seen whether or not enough players step
up to make Purdue a legitimate threat. The Boilermakers are hoping
that their secrets aren’t terrible in a different sort of
way.

Scare Factor: So far they’ve just played cupcakes,
but this team is legit and will give Michigan all it can handle
when the two teams meet in late October. Now, their passing offense
is easily tops in the Big Ten, but the rest of the units need to
prove themselves. A significant portion of last year’s great
defense is gone. Will the replacements pick up the slack?
They’ll have to be outstanding performance to keep
winning.

 

Minnesota

Scare factor: 8

“Nosferatu”

The Plot: Nothing captures the spirit of recent Minnesota
football like “Nosferatu,” the 1922 silent film version
of Dracula. The Golden Gophers — thanks, in part, to a
nonconference schedule that probably doesn’t keep the
Minnesota faithful up at night — always look scary, but often
fail to make noise when it comes to the Big Ten race. They
haven’t won a Big Ten title since 1967.

Scare Factor: The Golden Gophers had Michigan’s
hearts racing last season before the Wolverines pulled out a
miracle win in Minnesota. In Marion Barber III and Laurence
Maroney, the Gophers arguably have the best running back tandem in
the country. Plus, Minnesota avoids Ohio State and Purdue during
the Big Ten schedule.

 

Wisconsin

Scare factor: 7

“Red Planet”

The Plot: The Badgers may be undefeated right now, but
their Big Ten title hopes could soon be dying like Earth in this
movie if running back Anthony Davis doesn’t get healthy. But
Wisconsin does have home-field advantage going for it. Few places
are tougher to play in than the red-dominated Camp Randall
Stadium.

Scare Factor: Wisconsin and Michigan don’t play
this year, but when it comes to a Rose Bowl-berth, Michigan has
reason to be afraid. The Badgers have talent at running back and
wide receiver, but quarterback John Stocco has a ways to go.

 

Iowa

Scare factor: 6

“Children of the Corn”

The Plot: There are few teams that play as tough or as
physical as the boys from the cornfields of Iowa. The Hawkeyes are
never afraid to knock heads with the conference favorites, or
anyone else for that matter, as evidenced by their 37-17 thumping
of Florida in last year’s Outback Bowl.

Scare Factor: If Michigan should be afraid of anyone
head-to-head, it’s the Hawkeyes. Iowa thrashed the Wolverines
in the Big House in 2002, and then used special teams to pull the
trick again in 2003. Running back Jermelle Lewis ran all over
Michigan in 2002, and the Hawkeyes — despite a blowout loss
to Arizona State last week — have a sturdy defense.
They’ll lean on that defense because Iowa has a young
lineup.

 

Penn State

Scare factor: 5

“Puppet Master”

The Plot: If Joe Paterno played the lead in this movie,
he wouldn’t even have to act. He’s got all the
necessary traits: He’s a genius but is now old and showing
signs of craziness (like when he ran after the refs against Iowa),
and the more he tries to make Penn State what it once was, the
worse things gets.

Scare Factor: Considering Michigan and Penn State
don’t meet this year, the Wolverines don’t have much to
be scared of. But the Nittany Lions do have a lot of talent, and
they can come together and make a run at any time. Paterno needs to
catch up to today’s game and play the best players, not the
oldest ones. Example No. 1: Quarterback Zach Mills will never be
reliable, but game after game he gets the nod over Mike Robinson,
who’s now their receiver.

 

Michigan State

Scare factor: 4

“Halloween”

The Plot: Michigan will play host to its intrastate rival
on Oct. 30, the eve of Halloween. Nothing would frighten the
Wolverines more than dropping a late-season game at home to a
Spartans team itching for revenge from back-to-back losses to
Michigan.

Scare Factor: The Spartans have yet to decide who their
quarterback will be, and their offense has struggled mightily in
losses to Rutgers and Notre Dame as a result. But Michigan State
always manages to pull off an upset or two once the conference
season begins, and the Spartans will be gunning to ruin
Michigan’s season when the two meet.

 

Indiana

Scare factor: 3

“Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”

The Plot: Just like the movie, Indiana hasn’t been
the same team each Saturday. One week, Indiana pulled off one of
the biggest upsets of the young season, knocking off Oregon at
Autzen Stadium, where Michigan lost in 2003. But the next week, the
Hoosiers went in to Kentucky and lost to an average Wildcats’
team by 21.

Scare Factor: Although Indiana does feature Notre Dame
transfer Matt LoVecchio, it finished 101st in the nation last year
in passing offense. So the only way for the Hoosiers to strike fear
is through its ground game, which features BenJarvus Green-Ellis,
one of the best young running backs in the nation — and he
will have to carry much of the Hoosiers’ offensive load.

 

Northwestern

Scare factor: 2

“Purple People Eaters”

The Plot: The 1988 flick features Neil Patrick Harris as
a child (a.k.a Doogie Howser) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as a creature
attempting to help an elderly couple from being evicted. Not scary?
Well, neither is the Northwestern football program. Long gone is
the 1995 Rose Bowl squad, and back is a stadium half-filled with
fans of the opposing team.

Scare Factor: Northwestern has 17 returning starters from
its Motor City Bowl team last season. But getting to a postseason
game was a real surprise ending to the Wildcats’ tale.
Northwestern also has to fill the void of running back Jason
Wright, who thrived under its spread offense.

 

Illinois

Scare factor: 1

“Scary Movie 3”

The Plot: Just as this spoof was the Saturday Night Live
skit that wouldn’t end, Illinois’ season last year
wouldn’t end either.. Neither the film nor the Fighting
Illini spark much fear, either — Illinois’ only win was
to 1-AA Illinois State, a far cry from the Illini team that went to
the Sugar Bowl in 2001. The Fighting Illini haven’t looked
much better this season, as they squeaked one out against over
lowly Western Michigan for its first win against a 1A team since
2002.

Scare Factor: Illinois doesn’t play Ohio State, and
has Michigan and Purdue at home, but that still won’t be
enough for a bowl bid. The Fighting Illini are depending on
sixth-year senior quarterback Jon Beutjer to lead the offense.

 

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