Around the Big Ten: Week 12
No. 3 Ohio State (9-0, 5-0 Big Ten) at Illinois (3-6, 0-5 Big Ten) 12:00 ET
The Buckeyes travel to Illinois this Saturday, and will look to extend their winning streak to 22 straight games under the Urban Meyer regime. Led by quarterback Braxton Miller and running back Carlos Hyde, Ohio State is averaging 301 rushing yards per game, which is 8th best in the entire nation. There is no doubt that Miller and Hyde will again shoulder a heavy load this week, as they take on an Illinois defense that is ranked last in the Big Ten in rush defense. The Buckeye defense has also been playing at a high level, surrendering only 17 points per game, and will look to slow down the Fighting Illini aerial attack.
Illinois is looking for their first conference win since 2011, but it is unlikely that the Fighting Illini will be able to handle Ohio State’s fast paced offense. The Illinois defense has allowed at least 40 points six times this season, and the Buckeye offense will be the best unit they face yet. Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase leads a passing offense that is ranked 23rd in the nation, averaging 288.9 passing yards per game. However, if Scheelhaase is unable to lead to Fighting Illini on long, sustained touchdown drives, this one could get ugly.
Indiana (4-5, 2-3 Big Ten) at No. 17 Wisconsin (7-2, 4-1 Big Ten) 12:00 ET
Indiana proved again last week that their offense is one of the best in the Big Ten by putting up 52 points against Illinois. The Hoosiers are averaging 43.1 points per game, mostly due to their passing game led by quarterback Nate Sudfield. Sudfield has thrown for 2,182 yards and 19 touchdowns, but will run into a strong Wisconsin defense, that is allowing only 15.2 points per game, a mark good for fifth best in the nation. Unfortunately for Indiana, running back Tevin Coleman will likely miss this week’s matchup due to an ankle injury. He leads the Big Ten in rushing touchdowns and is third in the Big Ten in total rushing yards. His loss will substantially impact the Hoosier ground game.
Since 2006, the Badgers are 24-5 in November. They are currently trying to win as much games as they can to make up ground in the BCS standings. Wisconsin will look to win the physicality battle against Indiana, and will rely heavily running backs Melvin Gordon and James White. Gordon and White have combined to help the Badgers produce the 10th best rushing attack in the nation. Unlike Indiana, Wisconsin will look to slow the game down and keep the high-motor Hoosier offense off the field. The Badgers have beaten Indiana in their last eight matchups.
Purdue (1-8, 0-5 Big Ten) at Penn State (5-4, 2-3 Big Ten) 12:00 ET
Purdue will come into Beaver Stadium as losers of seven straight games, and have shown no signs of even coming close to victory. With a rushing attack that only averages 68.1 yards per
game, the Boilermakers have been unable to keep their offense on the field. They are averaging a miniscule 11.8 points per game, which is the third lowest total in all the FBS. One would think Purdue would likely try to exploit the Penn State secondary through the air, due to the Nittany Lions pass defense issues throughout the season. However, Boilermaker quarterback Danny Etling has been unable to throw for over 185 yards in any of his four Big Ten conference starts this season.
The Nittany Lions are looking to rebound from a disappointing 24-10 loss to the Minnesota Golden Gophers last Saturday. A victory this week for Penn State would bring them back to a . 500 record in conference play. Coach Bill O’Brien will likely give the Purdue defense a healthy dose of the run game, with running backs Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak, each earning double- digit carries. Quarterback Christian Hackenberg should have little trouble directing his offense down the field numerous times against a Boilermaker defense that is allowing 37.2 points per game. Penn State has not been playing well lately, but should be able to put away an abysmal Purdue team relatively early.
No. 14 Michigan State (8-1, 5-0 Big Ten) at Nebraska (7-2, 4-1 Big Ten) 3:30 ET
This matchup between the Spartans and Cornhuskers will likely determine who will be representing the Legends Division in the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis. Michigan State travels to Lincoln this Saturday with statistically the top defense in college football, surrendering only 11.6 points per game. Michigan State’s offense has been anything other than spectacular for a majority of the season, but quarterback Connor Cook has done a nice job of managing the game recently. The Spartans will look to get ahead early by churning out yards in the run game with running back Jeremy Langford, who has rushed for 10 touchdowns so far this year. If Michigan State is able to garner an early lead, their defense will begin to attack a beat-up Nebraska offensive line.
The Cornhuskers have never lost to the Spartans, bolstering a 7-0 all-time record against them. Nebraska has relied heavily on running back Ameer Abdullah, who has already rushed for 1,213 yards this season. However, Michigan State has arguably the best rush defense in all of college football, so the Cornhuskers will have to ask more of redshirt freshman quarterback Terry Armstrong. Armstrong has not thrown for more than 180 yards yet this season, and if he struggles early, do not be surprised if quarterback Ron Kellog gets a shot to lead the Nebraska offense. Defensively, the Cornhuskers have played better the last few weeks, and will need to again, in order to give their offense as many chances to score as possible against a dominant Spartan group. This game shapes up to be a typical low-scoring, mid-November, Big Ten battle.
Michigan (6-3, 2-3 Big Ten) at Northwestern (4-5, 0-5 Big Ten) 3:30 ET
Michigan is coming off a tough home loss to Nebraska last week where they totaled -21 rushing yards, mostly due to quarterback Devin Gardner being sacked seven times. Gardner’s confidence has taken a serious hit over the last two weeks, due to the inability of the Wolverine offense to get anything going through the air or on the ground. With a subpar offensive line, expect Michigan to try to get the ball out of Gardner’s hands early this week, with the use of many screens and short passes. The Wolverine defense will look to smother Northwestern’s fast-paced offensive attack, much like they did against Nebraska, by taking away the option running game.
The Wildcats cannot seem to do anything right in Big Ten play. Northwestern was a team that entered conference play with a 4-0 record, but has since found a plethora of ways to lose football games. Whether they are blown out, or lose on a last second hail-mary, the Wildcats have walked off the field with their heads down for five straight weeks. In order to reverse that trend, quarterback Kain Colter will have to take advantage of a vulnerable Michigan pass defense. On the other side of the ball, Northwestern should mimic what the Spartans and Cornhuskers did against the Wolverine offense – send a ton of pressure right up the middle of the field and force Gardner to throw before he is ready. The Wildcats lead the Big Ten with 18 total interceptions, and they will need much of the same to win this week. This game will most definitely be decided by which team wins the battle up front.
Bye: Iowa (6-4, 3-3 Big Ten), Minnesota (8-2, 4-2 Big Ten)
Andy Madore is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Contributors
Senior / Broadcast Journalism
Andy Madore is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism and minoring in labor and employee relations. He is one of the General Manager’s at ComRadio and is a member of the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism.
He serves as a play-by-play voice, writer, and producer for various Penn State sports at the station. He also co-hosts a sports talk show, Charm City Chirps.