Around the Big Ten: Week Nine
No. 24 Nebraska (5-1, 2-0 Big Ten) at Minnesota ( 5-2, 1-2 Big Ten) 12:00 ET
The Cornhuskers are coming off a much needed bye week, and many expect senior quarterback Taylor Martinez to return under center. This would the senior quarterback’s first game back since mid-September. Martinez has sat out Nebraska’s last three contests with an injury to his left big toe. If Martinez is able to play, he will add even more running ability to an already dominant Cornhusker rushing attack (ranked second in the Big Ten). The senior quarterback would also allow Bo Pelini’s offense to attack the Golden Gophers over the top, as he has nine touchdown passes in only three games played this year.
Minnesota is coming off of a 20-17 upset victory over Northwestern last weekend. The Golden Gopher’s defense submitted their best showing of the year, holding down a formidable Wildcat offense. Minnesota will look carry last week’s momentum home with them, and will likely rely upon the legs of David Cobb to churn out yards against a less-than-stellar Nebraska defense. The Golden Gophers will be looking for their first win over the Cornhuskers since 1960.
Northwestern (4-3, 0-3 Big Ten) at Iowa (4-3, 1-2 Big Ten) 12:00 ET
Northwestern has been in a downward spiral ever since they lost a nailbiter to Ohio State three weekends ago. With injuries to running back Venric Mark and quarterback Kain Colter, the Wildcats have struggled to get their running game going. Northwestern’s defense has allowed an average of 4.4 yards per carry this season, and will take on a Hawkeye squad that is averaging 4.3 yards a carry. However, the Wildcats’ defense has been able to force many turnovers this season, leading the Big Ten with 13 interceptions.
Iowa is coming off a loss to Ohio State last weekend in the Horseshoe, but proved that they could hang with the best in the Big Ten. Sophomore quarterback Jake Rudock has played well lately, throwing for over 200 yards in three straight contests. Expect the Hawkeyes to grind this game out behind running backs Mark Weisman and Damon Bullock. Iowa’s stout defense, allowing only 20.2 points a game, will look to pressure the Northwestern pass-happy offense.
Michigan State (6-1, 3-0 Big Ten) at Illinois (3-3, 0-2 Big Ten) 3:30 ET
Last week was more of the same for Michigan State. The Spartans defense shut out Purdue, surrendering only 226 total yards, but their offense was only able to manage 14 points against a weak Boilermaker squad. An offensive setback could prove costly for Michigan State this week, as they take on a Fighting Illini squad that is averaging 35 points a game. However, with their defense allowing only 4.7 yards per pass attempt, the Spartans feel they will be able to stop one
of the top passing offenses in the Big Ten. Junior running back Jeremy Langford will likely be the focal point of the offense for Michigan State this week, since Illinois has struggled to stop teams from running all over them.
The Fighting Illini are coming off a loss to Wisconsin, but played well offensively against one of the better defenses in the conference. Senior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase has played well this season, throwing for over 1,500 yards and 12 touchdown passes, and will look to give the Spartan secondary its toughest test to date. The Fighting Illini defense has had its struggles this year, and has been unable to force many turnovers. This may give even a weak Michigan State offense enough chances to score.
Penn State (4-2, 1-1 Big Ten) at No. 4 Ohio State (7-0, 3-0 Big Ten) 8:00 ET
The Nittany Lions are coming off their second bye of the season, and are two weeks removed from their thrilling quadruple overtime win over Michigan. Bill O’Brien and his coaching staff have had two weeks to prepare for Ohio State’s dynamic offense. Christian Hackenberg will make his first start in an opposing stadium with a truly hostile crowd. The freshman quarterback will once again rely heavily on junior wide receiver Allen Robison, who will look to exploit a Buckeye secondary that has looked vulnerable at times this year. Look for runs from Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak to set up play action plays, later on in the game.
So far for Urban Meyer, it has been 19 up and 19 down, as the coach of the Buckeyes. Ohio State will look to extend their record to 20-0 under Meyer’s regime. The Buckeyes first three conference games have been far from easy, getting everything they could handle against Wisconsin, Northwestern, and Iowa. Behind the one-two punch of junior quarterback Braxton Miller and senior running back Carlos Hyde, Ohio State has ran over, through, and around opposing defenses. It will be much of the same this week, as Miller and Hyde will look to wear down the Penn State defense, and eventually take control of the game in the fourth quarter.
Bye: Indiana (3-4, 1-2 Big Ten), No. 24 Michigan (6-1, 2-1 Big Ten), No. 22 Wisconsin (5-2, 3-1 Big Ten), Purdue (1-6, 0-3 Big Ten)
Andy Madore is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.