Around the Big Ten: Week 10

Story posted November 2, 2012 in Sports, CommRadio by Phil Constantino

Penn State and Purdue kickoff at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday. Here’s a look at the other Big Ten conference games this weekend. Wisconsin and Northwestern have the weekend off.

Michigan (5-3, 3-1 Big Ten) at Minnesota (5-3, 1-3 Big Ten)

Last week the Michigan Wolverines lost to Nebraska 23-9 and fell out of the BCS rankings. With a slow 2-2 start that included an embarrassing loss to No. 1 Alabama on national television, a loss to undefeated third-ranked Notre Dame and a lackluster performance against a below average Air Force team; Michigan didn’t look like a serious Big Ten title contender, let alone the preseason top 10 team they were ranked as.

However, the Wolverines have seen a reversal of fortune in the past few weeks. After the 2-2 start, Michigan rattled off three straight wins to open conference play. Even with last week’s loss, Michigan is tied with Nebraska for first place in the Big Ten Legends division. Minnesota on the other hand, has seen a completely opposite season to that of Michigan’s.

The Golden Gophers started the year winning four straight games against sub-par competition. The talk about Minnesota was elevated, as people began to question whether they could compete with the elite of the Big Ten.

As Big Ten play began, Minnesota was seemingly put back in their place in the bottom half of the conference. They opened with three straight losses to Iowa, Northwestern and Wisconsin. However, last week Minnesota was able to turn it around and defeat Purdue 44-28. Minnesota currently sits in last place in the Legends division.

Michigan and Minnesota play Saturday at 12 p.m. at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn.

Illinois (2-6, 0-4 Big Ten) at Ohio State (9-0, 5-0 Big Ten)

It is safe to say the offseason coaching change from Ron Zook to Tim Beckman has not helped much for the Fighting Illini. After five straight losses, Illinois currently has the worst overall and conference records of any team in the Big Ten. The lone bright spot for the Illini is quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase. Scheelhaase, who showed flashes of brilliance at times last season, has been plagued by injury all year switching off duties with backup Reilly O’Toole. All reports show Scheelhaase will start for Illinois this week, the only question is will he finish? Scheelhaase has not been able to finish games a few times this year, mostly due to recurring injury symptoms. It is clear Illinois is a better team when Scheelhaase is in the game.

On the other hand, Ohio State (9-0, 5-0 Big Ten) is clearly the best team in the conference after a decisive 35-23 victory against Penn State last week. Many felt Penn State was the second best team in the Big Ten and Ohio State made a statement on the road in one of the best college football atmosphere’s this season. Also after last week Head Coach Urban Meyer, who is yet to lose a game in his first year at Ohio State, has become the frontrunner for Big Ten coach of the year. As well, quarterback Braxton Miller, who went 7-19 passing for 143 yards and touchdown, and also ran 25 times for 134 yards and two touchdowns against Penn State; has vaulted himself back into the Heisman race, currently third according to ESPN’s Heismanology.

The only question surrounding this team is can the Buckeyes win out and go undefeated. Due to NCAA sanctions the Buckeyes cannot play in the postseason, keeping them from winning the Big Ten title, but they can win the Leaders division and control their own destiny in doing so. Illinois and Ohio State play Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in Columbus, Ohio at Ohio Stadium. No question who is the favorite in this game.

Iowa (4-4, 2-2 Big Ten) at Indiana (3-5, 1-3 Big Ten)

The Iowa Hawkeyes are coming off of a 28-17 loss a week ago at the hands of the Northwestern Wildcats. After a blowout loss the week before to Penn State, Iowa has now evened out their season at .500 overall and in conference play.  Currently fourth in the Big Ten Legends division, the Hawkeyes mathematically still could win the division and play in the conference title game, but they still remain a long shot. Partially due to an ankle injury and partially due to better competition, sophomore stand-out running back Mark Weisman has not played well the past two weeks. The Hawkeyes have lost this season when they fail to establish the run. They will need to get Weisman and their offensive line going in order to beat the Hoosiers.

Although (3-5, 1-3 Big Ten) the record does not tell the whole story for the Indiana Hoosiers. They have lost close games by one score to Ball State, Michigan State, Navy and most notably the undefeated Ohio State Buckeyes. With improved facilities put in place a few seasons ago and a coaching staff trying to make Indiana more than a “basketball school,” a win against a tradition rich program such as Iowa would be huge for this program on the rise. The game will be played at 3:30 pm Saturday at Memorial Stadium on the campus on Indiana University. Although this Big Ten matchup isn’t grabbing the headlines, it matches two fairly even teams and should be a good one in Bloomington.

No. 20 Nebraska (6-2, 3-1 Big Ten) at Michigan State (5-4, 2-3 Big Ten)

In a down year for the conference, Nebraska is the only Big Ten team currently ranked in the BCS top 25. The backfield combination of Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead continue to propel this team as they control their own destiny toward winning the Legends division and a Big Ten title game appearance in Indianapolis on Dec. 1.

As for Michigan State, last season is just a memory as the team with such high expectations has tumbled. After the first couple weeks it seemed clear to many that Michigan State was the Big Ten’s best team and that running back LeVeon Bell was a sure Heisman candidate. Now after losses to Notre Dame, Ohio State, Michigan and an upset at the hands of Iowa, Michigan State is an after thought for the Big Ten title and Bell isn’t even being considered a candidate. The Spartans were able to turn it around last week with a 16-13 overtime win over the Wisconsin Badgers. Featuring the conference’s only ranked team this is the biggest matchup of the weekend for the Big Ten. On the road Nebraska is a favorite, but the Spartans can work magic at home as seen by the Hail Mary against Wisconsin last season. This game is being played Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in East Lansing.

Phil Constantino is a sophomore majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact him, e-mail pvc5105@psu.edu.