There will be a lot of scoreboard watching around the conference on Saturday. Of course, everyone will want to know about the Holy War in West Lafayette. A lot of other things can be settled by 3:30pm. With five noon games, one division can be settled before the lone 3:30 game between Penn State and Ohio State kicks off.
Michigan State fans are in the unenviable position of cheering for Michigan. Penn State fans are hoping that Illinois can pull something out of its bag of tricks and beat Wisconsin. Northwestern is trying to get to bowl eligible before a much tougher game against Michigan State next week. Michigan has to hope for a miracle win by Indiana if it wants to reach the Big Ten title game.
Iowa (6-4, 3-3) at Purdue (5-5, 3-3) Noon, Big Ten Network
The hatred is brimming so much that I expect open riots in the stands. As we suggested on the Black Heart Gold Pants podcast earlier today, don't be surprised if Jim Delaney orders this game be played in an empty stadium like FIFA does sometimes to avoid soccer riots.
In truth, this should be an interesting game. Iowa has the better players at wide receiver (Marvin McNutt) and running back (Marcus Coker), but we've done well in taking away those types of players at home (Notre Dame game aside). In fact, we seem to play better at home in each successive game. In turn, Iowa seems to play a little worse in each road game. The Iowa guys are not confident at all.
The biggest reason I want to win this game is to lock up bowl eligibility before going to Bloomington. Yes, we should beat Indiana, but you'll be hard pressed to find a Purdue fan that doesn't think we're fully capable of crapping the bed against the Hoosiers again. I feel better about beating Indiana if we beat Iowa than if we don't beat the Hawkeyes. Purdue 27, Iowa 21
Minnesota (2-8, 1-5) at Northwestern (5-5, 2-4) Noon, Big Ten Network
Northwestern did what we could not in beating Rice, and now they need to do the expected thing and beat Minnesota at home in order to reach a postseason game after a five game losing streak. The Daily gopher is already playing the justNorthwestern angle, which at this point is ridiculous:
I still see them on the schedule and think "Oh it's just Northwestern. The Gophers should beat them." I don't know what it will take for me to change my mind. Perhaps this is how Iowa fans feel when Northwestern has flat dominated them the past seven or eight years yet they still call them "jNU" as in "just Northwestern." Whatever NU's record, whatever their team may have done, this Saturday, like every year we play them, I think Minnesota should beat them.
I think Minnesota is quickly getting to the justMinnesota level given their recent history. They have been playing much better of late, but they have a long way to go before I can pick them with confidence in a road game. Northwestern has been playing a lot better too. Northwestern 34, Minnesota 17
Indiana (1-9, 0-6) at Michigan State (8-2, 5-1) Noon, Big Ten Network
There is no reason Michigan State should lose this game. Yes, they would technically still be alive for the conference title if they do lose, but there needs to be some sort of clause that automatically eliminates any team that loses to a winless team in conference play this late in the season.
That said, the Hoosiers are starting to be a little dangerous. They are still a defensive mess giving up almost 250 rushing yards per game, but Tre Roberson diversifies them offensively and gives them a bit of a punch. Next year at the time I would not be surprised if they get in some wild 45-42 shootouts. Kevin Wilson is a solid offensive coach, but offense has never been the problem in Bloomington. Michigan State 48, Indiana 24
Wisconsin (8-2, 4-2) at Illinois (6-4, 2-4) Noon, ESPN2
If there is a Big Ten team that gets left out of the bowl picture could it be the Fighting Illini? They are two games away from making the inexplicable fall from 6-0 to 6-6. Word on the street is that Ron Zook is playing for his job, while the Badgers are playing to stay in the Big Ten title hunt. If they somehow lose this, the Leaders Division can possibly finish in a four-way tie between Purdue, Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin. That scenario would have Ohio State winning the division. A three-way tie between Purdue-Wisconsin-Penn State would go to Wisconsin because for it to happen Wisconsin would have to beat Penn State next week.
In reality, Wisconsin should have little trouble here. They control their own destiny again and I don't see them screwing up on the road. Illinois' offense has mysteriously fallen apart after the 6-0 start, and hasn't shown any signs of restarting. Wisconsin 38, Illinois 10
Nebraska (8-2, 4-2) at Michigan (8-2, 4-2) Noon, ESPN
This is the biggest game of the week in the conference and one where we should cheer for the winner next week. The victor has an outside chance of getting an at large BCS bowl berth as long as they finish 10-2 and reach the top 14. Both are highly possible. As we know, the Big Ten's massive fanbases make them very attractive BCS options for the at large spots. As long as Michigan State beats Northwestern and Indiana the winner of this game won't reach the Big Ten title game, either.
Corn Nation has an excellent look at this one:
The similarities continue with the starting quarterbacks, Nebraska's Taylor Martinez and Michigan's Denard Robinson. Both are mobile quarterbacks, who've done the majority of their damage on the ground, setting numerous school records as first-year quarterbacks. Last season, Martinez and Robinson were two of only five FBS players to rush for more than 900 yards while throwing for more than 1,500. Both of their teams struggled as the quarterbacks suffered injuries towards the end of the 2010 season. If you want to get absurd, both quarterbacks even have the same amount of letters in their first and last names.
This should be a fun one, but I trust Michigan to do the right thing at home. The Spartans hope so too. Michigan 27, Nebraska 24
Penn State (8-2, 6-1) at Ohio State (6-4, 3-3) 3:30pm, ABC
There aren't any other storylines going on here at all, are there. This is another game that impacts our bowl fate. Ohio State and their additional allegations could see them sit at home, especially since they are not going to a BCS bowl. Penn State has their own toxic mess that could have bowl committees abandon them entirely. It is possible, though unlikely, that if the Big Ten gets two BCS teams and both Penn State and Ohio State get passed over we could move up three spots in the selection order and be ahead of Iowa, Northwestern, and Illinois.
Penn State likely needs to win this in order to still have a chance at the Leaders Division, and having seen both I think their defense is better. Silas Redd can find room to run against the Buckeyes, and last week confirmed my suspicion that Ohio State is not a very good team. If they don't have their Hail Mary answered against Wisconsin they wouldn't even be bowl eligible. Penn State 10, Ohio State 6