We have a pretty good idea of what the Big Ten championship game will look like. Wisconsin is heading to Indianapolis as long as they beat Indiana, which is likely. Even if the Badgers drop their games against Penn State and Ohio State they will go as long as they finish 4-4 in league play because they would own the tiebreakers over Purdue, Illinois, and Indiana, who could tie them at best in that scenario.
The Legends Division is trickier, but it is pretty much a three-team race between Northwestern, Michigan, and Nebraska. Northwestern is sitting a half game back at 3-2 and has lost to Nebraska, but they still have a game left against Michigan that can cause some chaos. The injury situation with Denard Robinson is not encouraging for the Wolverines, either.
This weekend's games will go a very long way in deciding the title game. Wisconsin and Northwestern are off, but everyone else is in play.
Michigan (5-3, 3-1) at Minnesota (5-3, 1-3) Noon, Big Ten Network
After giving our Boilers a thorough beatdown the Golden Gophers are feeling a little moxie this week. They feel they can take back the Little Brown Jug, a trophy they have held only three times since 1967. No, that's not a misprint. Michigan holds a 37-3 edge in this series since 1967. The Gophers haven't won at home since 1977 and if not for a stunning 23-20 win in Ann Arbor in 2005 they would not have seen the Jug since 1986. How bad is it? They lost 29-6 to the 2008 Wolverines, who went 3-9.
Michigan is at least smart enough to realize that Minnesota's run defense is bad and they will try to exploit it. The genius of Gary Nord was not able to do this even after a 40-yard run by Akeem Shavers. Robinson may not be 100%, however. That means it is Russell Bellomy time, who was pretty bad last week.
Once again, the game will be on Philip Nelson, who turned into Peyton Manning last week against Purdue. A.J. Barker is questionable, which does not help, but as happens in every Michigan game it comes down to stopping Robinson. If Minnesota does that, they win. Michigan 38, Minnesota 23
Iowa (4-4, 2-2) at Indiana (3-5, 1-3) 3:30pm, Big Ten Network
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AIRBHG is real, and he has struck again. Mark Weisman, who has rumbled for 661 yards and eight touchdowns for the Hawkeyes, is injured and will likely miss Saturday's game against the Hoosiers. That means Damon Bullock has to take over in an Iowa offense that has pretty much sucked despite having the most experienced QB in the conference under center.
Indiana does not have such troubles, as they not only won a conference game last week, but won a conference road game. Now the Hoosiers are going to a possible second straight win, something that hasn't happened in Big Ten play since 2007. For fun, they haven't won three conference games in a row since beating Minnesota, Iowa, Northwestern, and Michigan State all in a row in 1993.
I'm going with Indiana here. Iowa is a team that is sinking fast and likely must beat Purdue next week to even reach a bowl game. While That is something we want if we're to avoid Detroit with a 6-6 record, an IU victory suddenly puts the offensively strong Hoosiers at 4-5 and needing two wins to go bowling. Indiana 45, Iowa 20
Nebraska (6-2, 3-1) at Michigan State (5-4, 2-3) 3:30pm, ABC/ESPN2
One team has an offense. The other does not. Michigan State won a rock fight in overtime last week in Madison as the Spartans stymied the running game and scrapped together just enough offense to win. The Spartans have only topped 20 points once in Big Ten play when Indiana collapsed at home. Their defense has been up to the task of keeping them in games, however. Indiana is the only team period to score more than 20 points against them.
The Spartans rate 111th nationally in scoring but 10th in scoring defense. Nebraska has no trouble scoring at nearly 40 points per game, good enough for 18th. The Cornhuskers are going to run, then run some more. As long as the run game remains effective and Taylor Martinez does not have to throw the ball they'll be fine. Nebraska 30, Michigan State 13
Illinois (2-6, 0-4) at Ohio State (9-0, 5-0) 3:30pm, ESPN
This could be a bloodbath. The Buckeyes are rolling again after their mysterious near loss to Purdue. The Fighting Illini haven't been able to do much of anything right and will officially be eliminated from bowl consideration with a loss. They are coming off of a loss to Indiana...
...by 14 points.
It does not get worse than that in big Ten football. At least when we lost to Indiana the last time they won a conference game we had the dignity to take the game to overtime. Ohio State 52, Illinois 10
Penn State (5-3, 3-1) at Purdue (3-5, 0-4) 3:30pm, ESPNU
Part of me knows this will play into Morgan Burke's plans. The half-filled stadium will be used as a talking point that Purdue doesn't support later kickoffs and night games, kind of like how fans left the Wisconsin game in droves early because of the rain and not the shitty product on the field. The product on the field has nothing to do with the projected attendance of 37,000.
I still believe Purdue can win and salvage something from the season though. All it takes is one game against a Penn State team that is good, but is mostly a product of its schedule to revive hopes for a decent bowl game. Iowa and Illinois look awful right now and if the Bucket Game has a bowl bid on the line I think we can find some motivation to win, not that we should ever lose to Indiana at home in football.
The keys remain the same: Our defensive line has to return to playing dominant like it did against the two best teams on our schedule and Robert Marve has to show exactly why we have been calling for him since September. I would love for Marve to stick it to Nord and Hope for continuing to back TerBush despite everything we've seen on the field. Unfortunately, I have no confidence that TerBush won't be right back out there at the first sign of a mistake.
Prove me wrong, boys. Play with some pride and go get this. Penn State 27, Purdue 13