Bucks-Sparty Highlights B1G Slate

By John Carey, November 20th, 2015

With two weeks remaining in the regular season, the biggest games of the year are upon us.

Through the first 11 weeks of the college football season, the Big Ten still has two unbeaten teams – Ohio State and Iowa, who are each 10-0 and perhaps on a collision course to meet in the Big Ten Championship Game.

Other league teams also have stayed in the mix. In fact, the third College Football Playoff poll was released on Tuesday night and all six B1G teams from last week’s rankings remain in the top 25.

No. 3 Ohio State and No. 5 Iowa stayed true in their spots with wins this past weekend. No. 9 Michigan State had the biggest jump up of any B1G team this week, climbing four spots from last week.

No. 12 Michigan gained a couple of places after its third straight win while No. 20 Northwestern dropped two spots despite a victory over Purdue. Wisconsin stayed put at No. 25 this week after a bye on Saturday.

The Iowa Hawkeyes can clinch a share of the B1G West title and a spot in the championship game in Indianapolis with a win this Saturday over Purdue.

The Ohio State-Michigan State game on Saturday will leave the loser on the outside looking in on the B1G championship picture while the winner will be in the driver’s seat in the B1G East with one week to play.

Nebraska is the only team in the conference on a bye week this Saturday and Rutgers is the only team not matched against a B1G foe as the Scarlet Knights travel to West Point to take on Army.

Here is a preview for the rest of the teams and where you can find each game (all times Eastern):

Purdue at No. 5 Iowa – noon on ESPN2
Though mathematically they could still make it to Indianapolis and win the B1G championship game with a loss this weekend, the Hawkeyes’ playoff hopes likely would shatter if they don’t take care of business on Saturday. The selection committee will have a tough time putting a team with a loss to two-win Purdue in the national semifinals.

Purdue (2-8, 1-5) could be in for a long day on Saturday. The Boilermakers are second-worst in the B1G when it comes to their defense holding strong on third down while Iowa’s offense is second-best in the B1G on third down. The Hawkeyes will lean on running back Jordan Canzeri to bring them to 11-0 on the season as he runs all over the worst rush defense in the B1G.

Illinois at Minnesota – noon on ESPNEWS
The Gophers (4-6, 1-5) came up just short of the upset last weekend against Iowa, losing 40-35. After four straight losses, Minnesota is due for a breakthrough and it may just come this week at home against Illinois. The Illini (5-5, 2-4) looked unimpressive last weekend as they lost to Ohio State 28-3. Not a terrible effort by their defense but the Illinois offense looked miserable.

On the season the Illinois offense ranks 11th out of 14 teams in the B1G in scoring offense and second-worst in rushing offense. The Illini are too imbalanced to keep a defense honest and while they have a decent passing game, the Minnesota defense can dedicate more defenders than usual to the passing game when it knows Illinois only rushes for 132 yards per game.

Indiana at Maryland – noon on BTN
If you have watched Indiana (4-6, 0-6) play this year you would not expect that Kevin Wilson’s team is yet to win a B1G game in 2015 and is riding a six-game losing streak. The Hoosiers took No. 12 Michigan into overtime last Saturday and had a seven-point lead with less than three minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Jordan Howard was able to run all over the vaunted Wolverine defense for 238 yards on the ground while Nate Sudfeld threw for another 220 through the air. The Hoosiers’ problem is their defensive secondary. They allowed 440 yards passing against Michigan for six touchdowns. If they can fix their defensive woes even just a little bit, Indiana could earn its first win in the last seven tries at Maryland (2-8, 0-6) this weekend. The Terrapins are the only team behind Indiana in the B1G East standings.

No. 12 Michigan at Penn State – noon on ABC
Michigan (8-2, 5-1) will have to be careful to not look ahead to next weekend’s matchup with No. 3 Ohio State if it wants that game to mean something. The Wolverine defense showed some previously unseen holes last week at Indiana, allowing 527 total yards and 41 points to the Hoosiers.

Michigan quarterback Jake Rudock and wide receiver Jehu Chesson picked up the slack for the defense, throwing and catching six and four touchdowns, respectively, each a school record for a single game. They may not have such and easy time this weekend though as Penn State defensive end Carl Nassib is a menace to opposing quarterbacks. Nassib leads the country in tackles for loss and sacks this season.

The Nittany Lions (7-3, 4-2) are still in the running for a noteworthy bowl game but also have a trip to Michigan State waiting on the schedule.

No. 20 Northwestern at No. 25 Wisconsin – 3:30 p.m. on BTN
Wisconsin (8-2, 5-1) very quietly took the throne of the No. 1 scoring defense in the country after Michigan’s shaky performance against Indiana. The Badgers, who were on a bye last week, have given up an average of just 12.3 points per game this season. Still, they can make a real statement for bowl season with a win over a top-20 team this weekend.

Northwestern (8-2, 4-2) will be looking to make a statement of its own as well. With a win over the top scoring defense in the country, the Wildcats could put themselves in prime position for a jump in the polls. They will need a great all-around performance from dual-threat quarterback Clayton Thorson against this Badgers defense to do it, though. He was replaced after struggles last week against Purdue by Zack Oliver, but eventually returned to lead a game-winning drive.

No. 9 Michigan State at No. 3 Ohio State – 3:30 p.m. on ABC
The ESPN College Gameday crew will be in Columbus this weekend for one of the country’s best and most underrated rivalries as of the past few years. Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook sat out the second half of last week’s victory over Maryland with a shoulder injury. Cook is expected to start in Columbus on Saturday but the severity of the injury is uncertain. With Cook not at 100 percent, the Spartans (9-1, 5-1) could be in trouble as it will be a lot more difficult to get wide receiver Aaron Burbridge involved if the QB doesn’t have full arm strength.

Ohio State will need to protect J.T. Barrett from the likes of Shilique Calhoun and the Michigan State defensive line to have the success it did last year in East Lansing. Don’t forget that Braxton Miller was not able to be on the field last year for Ohio State’s upset of the Spartans. Miller was not able to enact his own revenge for the 2013 B1G championship game so watch for him to play with an extra chip on his shoulder against the team that stopped him short of a chance to compete against Jameis Winston for a national championship.

Just to add to the emotion, the pregame festivities will include a sendoff for seniors such as Miller, Taylor Decker, Joshua Perry and Tyvis Powell.