Purdue, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin are the teams sitting out this week as every team in the conference has two weeks off. That leaves only four games on the slate, and there is a clear favorite in three of them:
Nebraska (5-1, 2-0) at Minnesota (5-2, 1-2) Noon, ESPN
Has anyone had an easier opening stretch to conference play than the Cornhuskers? A run of Purdue, Illinois, and now Minnesota is pretty sweet. An ailing Northwestern team follows this game before back-to-back games against Michigan and Michigan State that will likely decide the Legends Division. Taylor Martinez could return this week, as he was back at practice despite missing the entire Big Ten season to date.
Minnesota is on the verge of bowl eligibility now and will have several chances to get that key sixth win. After what they are going through with coach Kill, I am kind of cheering for the Golden Gophers. If they don't get win No. 6 this week I hope they get it next week in Bloomington because they would also likely end any realistic chance of Indiana going to a bowl as well. I think that will happen, because Nebraska has one of the best statistical offenses in college football with 42.7 points per game. Nebraska 42, Minnesota 24
Northwestern (4-3, 0-3) at Iowa (4-3, 1-2) Noon, Big Ten Network
I think this is a very underrated rivalry, mostly because of the justNorthwestern persona that is perpetuated by Black Heart Gold Pants. They were at it again this week with the complete history of Northwestern football. That is what happens when the Hawkeyes win a game or two. They have beaten Minnesota and played Ohio State well, so their fans are feeling their oats a little bit.
You have to feel for the Wildcats, however. After starting 4-0 they may not make a bowl game because of a Fumble-like fall from grace after the Ohio State loss. They still need to win two games, but with a loss here, can they win two of four against Nebraska, Illinois, Michigan, and Michigan State? Furthermore, has there ever been a Big Ten team go 4-0 in the non-conference and not make a bowl game?
The answer to that is yes. Indiana went 4-0 against the weakest non-conference slate in recent memory (Towson, Western Kentucky, Akron, and Arkansas State), but only won a single Big Ten game (Purdue). Iowa 24, Northwestern 17
Michigan State (6-1, 3-0) at Illinois (3-3, 0-2) 3:30pm, ABC/ESPN2
We might be on our way to history here. With last week's loss, the Fighting Illini have now dropped 16 Big Ten games in a row. That's more than any of the very bad Indiana or Illinois teams of the last decade and the most consecutive Big Ten losses since Wisconsin dropped 19 Big Ten games in a row from 1989-91. Illinois very easily could challenge it, as the Spartans have to be favored this week and Illinois has Penn State, Indiana, and Ohio State before coming to Purdue. Fortunately, the record of 39 straight B1G losses by Northwestern from 1978-82 is safe (for now)
I don't think this Illinois team stretches it to 22 in a row, which is where it would be if they go 0-8. They have played well for a good portion of the year, but the defense is slipping. What Michigan State does, just a week after a pretty poor offensive showing against Purdue, gives our own fans hope of getting a victory. If Illinois gives up 30-40 (Illinois is giving up 35 per game) this week we might be in line for a win! Not only a win, but a Trophy game win! Michigan State 17, Illinois 14
Penn State (4-2, 1-1) at Ohio State (7-0, 3-0) 8pm, ABC
I am all for the Buckeyes in this one, mostly because I want Ohio State to be 8-0 and possibly (but not likely) No. 1 when Purdue Harbor 2: Urban's Reckoning happens next week. That aside, Ohio State is just playing like the most complete team in the Big Ten. The defense isn't great and gives up some points, but it gets important stops when it needs to. The offense is hardly firing on all cylinders and Braxton Miller can be questionable as a passer, but with Carlos Hyde they can grind out a lead and the clock better than anyone.
For Penn State, they have to be performing above expectations when it comes to their sanctions. The loss to Central Florida doesn't look that bad now, but the loss to Indiana certainly still has a "what the hell was THAT" character to it. The Nittany Lions improving, but I cannot trust a freshman to go win in the ‘shoe. Ohio State 31, Penn State 21