Sandra Dukes-US PRESSWIRE
This will likely be a week of separation in the Big Ten.
This week provides the final non-conference test for the league when Indiana travels to Navy. The Hoosiers should win this game and next week against Illinois, so a bowl game is definitely not out of the question yet. The conference may need them too in order to fill all of its bowl slots.
This year the league has eight affiliated bowl. The conference is not going to get a second BCS bid, and the situation at Ohio State and Penn State leaves 10 teams for eight spots. Northwestern is already the first team eligible. Wisconsin can join them this weekend with a win over Minnesota. Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, and Michigan State are at four wins each already, so they will likely give the league seven bowl-eligible teams.
Minnesota is the least likely to get two more wins here, as their easiest games left are Illinois and Purdue. The Purdue-Minnesota game next week, therefore, could be a bowl elimination game. Illinois already has five losses, so with two more they are out. That means if things break right Purdue and Indiana could battle for the right to go to Detroit.
I will now set myself on fire.
Purdue (3-3, 0-2) at Ohio State (7-0, 3-0) Noon, ABC/ESPN2
We should probably call this game Danny Hope's last stand. As bad as the last two weeks have been, a stunning turnaround tomorrow keeps Purdue alive in the Leaders Division. I say this because if Purdue is able to win in the Horseshoe it absolutely should win its remaining five games. That would mean only two Wisconsin losses down the stretch are needed to get to Indianapolis.
Unfortunately, this looks like a horrible matchup on paper in every way possible for Purdue. O.J. Ross and Ricardo Allen, two of our better players, are banged up. We failed to stop a similar quarterback just two weeks ago. Their defense is a little angry after giving up 49 points last week
Stranger things have happened and I know we can be competitive, but my optimism as a fan has been broken. Ohio State 52, Purdue 20
Minnesota (4-2, 0-2) at Wisconsin (5-2, 2-1) Noon, ESPNU
It is the battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe, so a win by the Golden Gophers could present the fun scenario of large men running around a football field with a large, sharp object. Minnesota has lost eight in a row to the Badgers. Their last victory in the series was 37-34 back in 2003 with what was likely Minnesota's best team of the last several years.
MarQueis Gray might play after missing the last few weeks with an injury. Gray played sparingly last week against Northwestern after missing the previous two weeks. He still managed to rush for 86 yards. It also should be interesting to see a Minnesota defense that has quietly been pretty decent so far. If they defend Montee Ball where we did not next week's trip to Minneapolis could be a long one. Wisconsin 31, Minnesota 21
Nebraska (4-2, 1-1) at Northwestern (6-1, 2-1) 3:30pm, ABC/ESPN2
This is a huge game in the Legends Division. The winner still has a long way to go, but since each team already has a loss the loser will likely be out of the running for Indianapolis. With Northwestern you know you're getting Kain Colter doing Kain Colter things with a semi-decent defense and a penchant for winning close games. With Nebraska you don't know what you're getting.
The Cornhuskers got absolutely shredded on defense at Ohio State two weeks ago. I don't think their defense will be as bad this week as it was against the Buckeyes. Don't expect the Wildcats to roll up and down the field. Unfortunately, Taylor Martinez hasn't exactly been the best quarterback. I think that is the difference here, and the Wildcats get yet another late, surprising win. Northwestern 34, Nebraska 31
Michigan State (4-3, 1-2) at Michigan (4-2, 2-0) 3:30pm, Big Ten Network
This should be an incredibly fun game to watch. Even after four straight victories the Spartans are still known as "Little Brother" within the state of Michigan. Sparty is at a tipping point too. They have not looked good at all in Big Ten play and would be 0-3 had Indiana not flat out chocked at home. Lose this one and it is entirely possible that Michigan State could miss a bowl game.
The defense is good, but I don't know if they are good enough to stop a rejuvenated Michigan team who has played extremely well the past two weeks. The Wolverines have outscored teams 89-13 in the last two weeks. Michigan State can't score at all for long stretches of time. I am afraid that we woke up a juggernaut with Michigan and Sparty is merely the next victim. That means the Paul Bunyan Trophy will change hands. Michigan 45, Michigan State 14
Indiana (2-4) at Navy (3-3) 3:30pm, CBS Sports Network
Crimson Quarry Preview
This should be interesting. One of the best rushing teams in the country going against a bad run defense. Navy doesn't exactly have the best defense either since they are the only team Notre Dame has really scored at will on. Navy has won two in a row but still has not scored a lot themselves.
I think Indiana puts it together this week because their fleeting bowl hopes depend on winning this game. The Hoosiers are getting excellent quarterback play from virtual rookies and Stephen Houston has been very effective on the ground. As long as Indiana can manage a stop or two it will be fine. Indiana 42, Navy 28
Penn State (4-2, 2-0) at Iowa (4-2, 2-0) 8pm, Big Ten Network
Neither of these teams have looked that great, but are both 4-2. Both teams have lost to a MAC team. Both teams are playing better in recent weeks and are riding their defenses more than their offenses. This could be a rather punchless game with Penn State giving up only 16 points per game and Iowa 17.2.
This is probably going to be a game with eye-gougingly bad offense. Through six games Iowa has only two touchdown passes as a team. They are Mark Weisman and that is it. At least Penn State has a modicum of a passing game behind Matt McGloin. He has possibly been the best quarterback in the league so far with 12 touchdown passes against only two interceptions. Penn State 24, Iowa 10