Around the Big Ten: Week 12
Dave Arroyo, Brian McLaughlin, Dylan Huberman and Mitch Stewart discuss this week's football matchups around the Big Ten conference.
In the third week of the college football playoff rankings, the Big Ten became the alpha dog of college football. The Big Ten saw four teams selected in the top eight of the latest College Football Playoff rankings. The red-hot Ohio State Buckeyes seem to have rediscovered their identity and have climbed four spots to No. 2. Michigan, for some odd reason, stayed put at No. 3 despite losing to a far inferior Iowa team. Then there’s No. 7 Wisconsin and No. 8 Penn State on the outside looking in. The now top-heavy Big Ten will deal the selection committee an almost impossible hand a month from now. To further muddle the situation, it appears the Big Ten’s two top four teams will not even play in the conference championship game next month. Wisconsin is undoubtedly the favorite to represent the West division, but thanks to Ohio State’s loss to Penn State, the Nittany Lions are now the most likely to win the East division. With so many possible scenarios that could occur, it’s going to be almost impossible to avoid highest levels of controversy when the selection committee reveals their final rankings. Here are the matchups around the conference this week as the regular season continues to wind down:
Nebraska (8-2, 5-2 B1G) at Maryland (5-5, 2-5 B1G), 12 p.m. ET, ESPN
Nebraska once had a two-game lead in the Big Ten West and seemed bound for the conference title game. Then came an overtime loss to Wisconsin and a 59-point rout at Ohio State, and suddenly the Cornhuskers need a lot of help. They’ll have to beat Maryland and Iowa and hope Wisconsin falls to either Purdue or Minnesota. Maryland, on the other hand, is looking to become bowl eligible in its first season under D.J. Durkin. The Terps have lost three in a row and quarterback Perry Ellis is questionable for this week. Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong played very well last week and will go against a Mayland defense that ranks 13th in the conference. Nebraska ranks only 10th in the Big Ten is passing defense, but if the Terps are without Ellis, that may not matter.
Prediction: Nebraska 34, Maryland 20
Iowa (6-4, 4-3 B1G) at Illinois (3-7, 2-5 B1G), 12 p.m. ET, BTN
Iowa’s season has been disappointing considering last year’s success. The Hawkeyes lost to FCS power North Dakota State at home this season and are just 6-4 overall. However, the biggest of those wins came last week, as Iowa stunned previously unbeaten Michigan, 14-13, on a field goal as time expired. The Fighting Illini, conversely, are coming off a 48-3 loss to Wisconsin during which they went 0-for-9 on third down and basically were out of it by the end of the first quarter. Quarterback Wes Lunt played for the first time since Oct. 8, but was just as ineffective as Jeff George Jr. Iowa beat Michigan without playing its best game, finishing with fewer than 300 yards for the third straight week. Akrum Wadley, however, rushed for 115 yards, and the defense held Michigan to only 201 yards. Illinois’ rush defense ranks 10th in the conference, and Iowa will try to exploit that with Wadley. C.J. Beathard is not an elite quarterback, but he is much better than either of the Illini signal callers. Iowa’s defense should have another strong showing against Illinois.
Prediction: Iowa 23, Illinois 6
Wisconsin (8-2, 5-2 B1G) at Purdue (3-7, 1-6 B1G), 12 p.m. ET, ABC
The Badgers are seeking a sixth consecutive victory while looking to deal the Boilermakers a sixth straight defeat. Wisconsin is on the brink of playing in its fourth Big Ten championship game and will control its own destiny. Purdue has yet to win under interim coach Gerad Parker, who has led the team in four games since Darrell Hazell was fired. Corey Clement ran for 123 of Wisconsin’s 363 yards as a team last week against Illinois. There’s little reason to believe Wisconsin won’t have a run-heavy attack against a Purdue defense that ranks 13th in the Big Ten against the run. Wisconsin has one of the stingiest defenses in the nation, while Purdue quarterback David Blough’s 16 picks are the most in college football. The Badgers have intercepted 14 passes and have the Big Ten’s third-best pass defense.
Prediction: Wisconsin 34, Purdue 6
Ohio State (9-1, 6-1 B1G) at Michigan State (3-7, 1-6 B1G), 12 p.m. ET, ESPN
J.T. Barrett accounted for four touchdowns in last week’s victory, giving him 98 total TDs for his career, breaking the previous Big Ten record of 95 held by Drew Brees. Ohio State will try to put the Spartans away early with the combination of Mike Weber and Curtis Samuel on the ground. The Spartans at least gained some confidence after beating Rutgers 49-0 last week, to snap a seven-game losing streak. L.J. Scott has rushed for 120-plus yards in three of the last four games after finishing with 122 and a touchdown against the Scarlet Knights. The Buckeyes have the second-best run defense in the conference though, and have allowed only three rushing touchdowns all season. Ohio State just has too many weapons on offense and too stout of a defense for the Spartans to keep this one close.
Prediction: Ohio State 41, Michigan State 17
Northwestern (5-5, 4-3 B1G) at Minnesota (7-3, 4-3 B1G), 3:30 p.m. ET, BTN
Pat Fitzgerald has gotten his Northwestern team to regroup after a miserable start, and they are now on the brink of becoming bowl eligible. It won’t come easy, however. Minnesota is 7-3 despite last week’s loss at Nebraska. Rodney Smith is one of the Big Ten’s best running backs and will try to help the Gophers bounce back from last week’s defeat. The Wildcats suffered tough losses to Ohio State and Wisconsin the previous two weeks before handling Purdue easily, 45-17, on Saturday. Star running back Justin Jackson ran for 127 yards and two scores, while the combination of Clayton Thorson and Austin Carr continues to be explosive in the passing game. Minnesota’s four-game winning streak came to an end last week, and so did Smith’s four-game streak of consecutive 100 yard games. Smith is going to carry most of the load against the Wildcats. Quarterback Mitch Leidner has thrown five interceptions without a touchdown pass over his last five games. This one will be very close but Northwestern is an underrated team playing really well lately. They’ll find a way to steal one on the road.
Prediction: Northwestern 30, Minnesota 28
Indiana (5-5, 3-4 B1G) at Michigan (9-1, 6-1 B1G), 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Michigan may have lost starting quarterback Wilton Speight for the remainder of the regular season, despite Jim Harbaugh’s denial, as he suffered a broken collarbone last week against Iowa. Speight beat out John O’Korn for the starting job in camp, and now Michigan’s playoff hopes will be decided with O’Korn under center. The Houston transfer is perfectly capable of running this offense effectively as he threw 28 touchdown passes for Houston in 2013 and has gone 13-of-18 for 114 yards and two touchdowns in seven games this season. Despite the loss, Michigan allowed only 230 total yards in another great effort from the top-ranked defense in the nation. The Hoosiers are trying to become bowl-eligible for the second straight season and can do so with one more win. Richard Lagow and Devine Redding have had solid games but will go against an excellent Michigan defense. Indiana has one of the more potent offenses in the conference, but after last week, Michigan has no more room for error, and Jim Harbaugh will have his troops ready to go.
Prediction: Michigan 38, Indiana 13
Penn State (8-2, 6-1 B1G) at Rutgers (2-8, 0-7 B1G), 8 p.m. ET, BTN
If Penn State has takes care of business in its last two games, it has a great chance to play in the conference championship. The Nittany Lions haven’t been flawless during their win streak but they’re right where they want to be. Saquon Barkley had a mediocre day with 58 yards on 31 carries, although he scored two touchdowns. They are heavily favored, but they’re going to need to close better, especially on the road. The Scarlet Knights have dropped seven in a row and weren’t at all competitive last week against the Spartans, a team which also entered that matchup without a Big Ten victory. They’ve been shut out three times and scored seven points twice during the skid. Saquon Barkley should have a bounce-back game and Rutgers will struggle offensively again against an improving Penn State defense.
Prediction: Penn State 41, Rutgers 10
Will Desautelle is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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