The last non-conference game of the season in the Big Ten comes this weekend as Wisconsin hosts BYU. Ohio State and Michigan State, your likely Big Ten title game teams, have the week off along with Northwestern, who desperately needs a break after last week's kick in the junk.
The rest of the league is interesting. Iowa can gain bowl eligibility with a win at Purdue. Minnesota can take a big step toward a 10-win season by hosting Penn State. Illinois and Indiana play what is essentially a bowl elimination game in Bloomington.
Iowa (5-4, 2-3) at Purdue (1-7, 0-4) Noon, Big Ten Network
I like to think that after a brutal stretch of opponents Purdue would have a chance to win tomorrow. I think the defense can play well against an Iowa offense that has been middling at best recently, but it all comes back to Purdue's offense. It is not just bad, it is historically bad.
Even if the defense holds the Hawkeyes to 20 points, something that is very realistic, are we confident the offense can score 21 needed to win? Purdue has gone three games without even reaching the red zone. I can't think of a football team that has ever gone that long without reaching the red zone. The lone score in that time was a long TD pass from Danny Etling to DeAngelo Yancey against Nebraska's scout team.
As we have seen, Purdue can't even score on bad defenses. Iowa's defense is certainly better than the like of Indiana State and NIU. Basically, the Boilers have to play as we have not seen all year. In order to win. Iowa 17, Purdue 3
Penn State (5-3, 2-2) at Minnesota (7-2, 3-2) Noon, ESPN2
Minnesota has been the surprise team of the Big Ten this year, especially when many people thought it was going to be Indiana. The passing game is nothing to write home about, but the running game is dominant and milks the clock while the defense does just enough to win. It is already the best season for the Golden Gophers since going 7-6 in 2008, and they haven't won eight games since going 10-3 in 2003.
It really depends on which Penn State team shows up. The Nittany Lions lost to Indiana, barely squeezed past Illinois, and got drilled by Ohio State. They also beat Michigan in a surprising result. I think the sanctions are definitely effecting them, but the starters are playing hard and getting results. Will it be enough to beat Minnesota on the road? I say no. Minnesota 27, Penn State 17
Illinois (3-5, 0-4) at Indiana (3-5, 1-3) 3:30pm, Big Ten Network
The loser of this one is basically done when it comes to reaching a bowl, which is disappointing for both. The Fighting Illini started 3-1 and Indiana had a schedule that couldn't possibly get easier to reach a bowl. Instead of continuing to play well Illinois has extended their Big Ten losing streak to 18 games, which no one in the conference has done in over 20 years. Indiana has still be Indiana, combining an excellent offense with a defense that couldn't stop a troop of Boy Scouts.
Illinois has been the only team in Big Ten play even as close to as bad as Purdue. Aside from the overtime loss at Penn state last week they have been blown out in each conference game. They are one of the worst defenses in the county, which is fresh meat for the Indiana offense. For one week at least, the Hoosiers should stay in the bowl picture, but that is mostly because Illinois is looking that bad. Indiana 56, Illinois 24
Nebraska (6-2, 3-1) at Michigan (6-2, 2-2) 3:30pm, ABC
These may be the two worst 6-2 teams in the country. Nebraska's best win is over a Northwestern team that is completely broken right now. Their three conference wins have come over Northwestern, Illinois, and Purdue, who are a combined 0-13 in Big Ten play. Michigan at least has beaten Notre Dame, but they have looked pretty awful in wins over Akron and Connecticut.
If Michigan wins this game the Legends Division race is all but over. Michigan State would lead by two games with three to play and still have the tiebreaker over Michigan. Unfortunately, I don't know what to think about this game. It is hard to make a call when neither team has looked great. At least Nebraska has looked better. Nebraska 27, Michigan 24
BYU (6-2) at Wisconsin (6-2) 3:30pm, ESPN
If I were a Wisconsin fan I would still be pissed about the screwjob that happened at Arizona State in September. If Wisconsin wins that game, they are 7-1 with a very good chance at finishing 11-1. That likely gets them in play for one of the four BCS at large spots. Instead, It is likely only going to go to Michigan State or Ohio State. It is unlikely that the Badgers will be rewarded if their best win is over Northwestern.
This could be the fastest game of the day. It is two of the best running games in the country, so the clock will be moving as each looks to play power football. If that is the case, I have to go with Wisconsin. I can't pick a team that lost to Virginia to go in and win at Camp Randall. Wisconsin 31, BYU 20