Around the Big Ten: Week Nine

Story posted October 24, 2014 in Sports, CommRadio by Kristopher Rogers

Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. Illinois Fighting Illini 12:00 ET

Losers of nine of their last 10 Big Ten matchups, The Illinois Fighting Illini (3-4, 0-3 BIG) are looking for a spark to their offense. Head coach Tim Beckman said Monday that he will play both senior Riley O’Toole and sophomore Aaron Bailey at quarterback.

The Minnesota Golden Gophers (6-1, 3-0 B1G) are riding high after winning their last four games, but needed a second-half rally to beat Purdue 39-38 last weekend. Already bowl eligible, the Big Ten West Division leaders will look to take advantage of the Fighting Illini’s porous run defense.

Minnesota’s running back David Cobb is carrying the offense, rushing for 1,018 yards and five touchdowns so far this season.

Maryland Terrapins vs Wisconsin Badgers 12:00 ET

Once thought to be bringing another powerful defense to the Big Ten, the Maryland Terrapins (5-2, 2-1 B1G) have been winning games thanks to their offense. Sophomore quarterback CJ Brown is a threat in both the running and passing game, leading the team with 1,187 yards passing and 356 yards rushing.

The Badgers (4-2, 1-1 BIG) have dominated opponents running the ball, averaging 343 yards on the ground per game. Junior running back Melvin Gordon has tallied 1,046 yards, 13 scores, and an average of 7.9 yards per carry.

Both teams are looking to build off wins in week eight to keep their Big Ten Championship hopes alive.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights vs. No. 16 Nebraska Cornhuskers 12:00 ET

The Scarlet Knights (5-2, 1-2 BIG) have outperformed expectations in their first season in the Big Ten, but face a very difficult second half to their season. After a 56-17 rout against Ohio State in Columbus, the Knights go on the road again to Lincoln, to face the Cornhuskers.

Already bowl eligible, Nebraska (6-1, 2-1 BIG) is one of the most complete teams in the Big Ten, scoring 41 points a game while giving up less than 20. However, with three important games coming up against Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa, they must be wary of the dreaded trap game at home against the Scarlet Knights.

For the Huskers, running back Ameer Abdullah is putting together an impressive, Heisman-worthy season.  The junior is third in the nation with 1,024 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns (14 rushing, two receiving).

The Scarlet Knights will look to get wide receiver Leonte Carroo the ball early and often. The junior has accounted for at least four receptions and 50 yards in six out of seven games this season, and is averaging 19.1 yards per catch.

Michigan Wolverines vs. No. 8 Michigan State Spartans 3:30 ET

Winners of five of the last six matchups, Michigan State (6-1, 3-0 BIG) looks to hold onto the Paul Bunyan Trophy, which goes to the winner of this rivalry. When the two met last season, Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner was sacked seven times and the Wolverines were held to a historically low -48 rushing yards.

Michigan State has won its last 13 Big Ten games, and has not lost in East Lansing since 2012 thanks to the help of its stout defense. Junior cornerback Trae Waynes and safety Kurtis Drummond are on the Jim Thorpe award watch list, which goes to the nation’s best defensive back.

For the Wolverines (3-4, 1-2 BIG), receiver Devin Funchess will allow the offense to create favorable matchups. The six-foot-five, 230 pound junior has transitioned from tight end well, recording 36 catches for 461 yards and four touchdowns.

No. 13 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Penn State Nittany Lions 8:00 ET

Ever since their early-season loss to Virginia Tech, the Ohio State Buckeyes (5-1, 2-0 BIG) have been firing on all cylinders. In the four games since the loss, the Buckeyes offense has put up at least 50 points and 500 total yards per game and will look to continue that lightning pace at a crowded Beaver Stadium.

Penn State (4-2, 1-2 BIG) has dropped its last two to Northwestern and Michigan, but its defense is playing strong. The Nittany Lions boast the toughest run defense in the nation, giving up only 60.2 yards per game on the ground.

The Nittany Lions have struggled to run the ball due to poor offensive line play, averaging just 2.8 yards per carry as a team. If seniors Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak cannot get it going, the Ohio State pass rush will be able to tee off on quarterback Christian Hackenberg.

Byes: Northwestern, Iowa, Indiana, Purdue

Kristopher Rogers is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email klr5374@psu.edu.