Pat Lovell-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire
There are only five games this week, but all are huge in the early Big Ten standings.
The last two teams yet to play a conference game, Michigan and Purdue, square off this week while Minnesota and Iowa have a seat on the bench after last week's battle for the Floyd of Rosedale. That leaves only five games to preview. All the matchups are pretty good too. Northwestern has a big trip to Happy Valley. Ohio State hosts Nebraska while Purdue-Michigan is a "who is for real" type of game.
As far as Purdue's rooting interests go, Nebraska over Ohio State, Northwestern over Penn State, and Illinois stunning Wisconsin would be the best for us. Wisconsin-Illinois is almost a toss-up, but Wisconsin is likely the more dangerous team in the division to us. I want to finish ahead of Penn State and Ohio State so we don't go to Indy in the cheap way, so go Huskers and Wildcats.
Michigan State (3-2, 0-1) at Indiana (2-2, 0-1) Noon, Big Ten Network
I am going to go with a stunning upset here. For three straight weeks the Spartans have done virtually nothing on offense. Yes, the Hoosiers are once again an awful defensive team, but so was Eastern Michigan. Indiana has to be better than EMU, who went to East Lansing and led late in the third quarter before Michigan State woke up enough to pull off the win.
Indiana's offense is better than EMU's. Even with a third string true freshman taking snaps at quarterback Indiana is moving the ball and scoring points. Nate Sudfeld is an impressive 25 of 40 for 357 yards and three TDs with no picks. He led a go-ahead drive against Ball State coming in cold off the bench and wasn't bad at all last week against Northwestern. Stephen Houston is moving the ball on the ground too.
I really think Indiana has an excellent shot to win this game. It may not be a case of their defense playing well as much as Michigan State's offense is that bad, but over the last three weeks Indiana clearly has things better together offensively. The Spartans have shown no sign of putting it together aside from handing the ball to Le'Veon Bell 40 times. Indiana 30, Michigan State 28
No. 24 Northwestern (5-0, 1-0) at Penn State (3-2, 1-0) Noon, ESPN
What deal with the devil did Penn State sign this year to get all their games at noon on ESPN? They certainly aren't winning pretty of late, but last week's destruction on the road of Illinois was their best game so far. This is turning into a dangerous team. They have nothing to lose and they are fighting like mad bastards because of it. Down to about 70 scholarship players they are still playing some good football.
That, or they have played some pretty bad teams. A stretch of Navy-Temple-Illinois is hardly running roughshod over the SEC West. Now they have to face Kain Colter, who is playing every position except long-snapper it seems. The Nittany Lions have to contain him after what he did against Indiana.
I have said it before: this feels like a Northwestern team that doesn't look that good on paper, but they find ways to win games every week and suddenly they are 10-2 as champions of the Legends Division. If Colter gets room to do his things outside of Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges (who are playing with a ton of pride) I like Northwestern's chances. Northwestern 24, Penn State 21
Illinois (2-3, 0-1) at Wisconsin (3-2, 0-1) 3:30pm ESPN2/ABC Regional
The Badgers need to settle their offensive woes against a Fighting Illini team that is completely uninterested in playing defense. At least Indiana tries on defense if they don't have the talent of other teams. Illinois has a ton of talent because this was supposed to be a unit good enough to challenge for the division title. Instead, they have given up 52 points to a WAC team and 35 points to a shorthanded Penn State team in consecutive weeks. That's pretty much the definition of defensive indifference.
Wisconsin hasn't been much better. This is a must-win game if they want to defend their conference crown. Montee Ball needs to stop fumbling and someone, be it Joel Stave or Danny O'brien, needs to step up and become the quarterback. Wisconsin is 98th in the country running the football.
The team that produces 335 pound linemen like they are grown in a lab and has a guy who scored 39 touchdowns with damn near 2,000 yards last year is 98th in the country in rushing.
You know what though, I am fine with it. You guys can figure it out on October 14th. Wisconsin may struggle offensively, but Illinois has looked like the worst team in the conference so far. Wisconsin 45, Illinois 14
Michigan (2-2, 0-0) at Purdue (3-1, 0-0) 4pm. Big Ten Network
This is a major crossroads game for Danny Hope's team. Once again, Danny gets a marquee home game where he can make a statement. With a victory Purdue not only gets off to a good start in Big Ten play, it shows that it is legitimately good and won't go to Indianapolis on a technicality. Maybe, just maybe, this team can get there on its own merits.
Purdue has to stop the Wolverines from running with Fitzgerald Toussaint and keep Denard Robinson in check. Frustrating Robinson into turnover is the best way to beat Michigan. He is so much of their offense that Kawann Short and Ryan Russell need to be in his face all day. Make him rush his throws and contain him on the edges.
I have faith in this Purdue team. I like that our strengths seem to match up with their weaknesses. There is an energy about this team and the fans based on what I have seen on twitter this week. Like I said yesterday, a win over Michigan in 2000 started a very special run. Beating Michigan tomorrow can do the same thing, and I think Purdue finds a way. Purdue 31, Michigan 27
No. 21 Nebraska (4-1, 1-0) at No. 12 Ohio State (5-0, 1-0) 8pm, ABC
Finally, Ohio State faces a team with both a real offense and a semi-competent defense. The Cornhuskers did a really good job last week of stopping Wisconsin's momentum before Taylor Martinez, Rex Burkhead, and Ameer Abdullah wore them down on the ground. It is no secret that Nebraska is a run-first team. They are currently fifth in the nation in rushing at over 300 yards per game. It should be strength against strength with the OSU run defense.
Like the Purdue-Michigan game, Nebraska's chances rely on them getting after a dynamic quarterback that can do a little bit of everything. As much as I have maligned Ohio State's passing game Braxton Miller has Philly Brown and Devin Smith evolving into two very good receivers for him. Don't forget Jake Stoneburner as a big tight end with three touchdowns.
This should be the best game of the week in terms of defense. Because of that, I am going with Nebraska. They are just a little more diversified even if Miller is the better passer than Martinez. Nebraska 24, Ohio State 21