This week is a very light week with four conference teams taking the week off. It is also one in which the prime-time, blue-blood matchup I not Penn State at Michigan, but a noon kickoff in the Twin Cities between Northwestern and Minnesota. Don't believe me? Look at Northwestern's remaining conference schedule:
With the tiebreaker of a win over Wisconsin already in their back pocket, plus Nebraska already having a loss, a win in Minneapolis would put them solidly in control of their own destiny even if they lose the home game against the Cornhuskers. Win both of their next two and Northwestern, yes, the Northwestern that started 1-2 and barely got past an FCS team, would be solidly in control of the West.
Here is the full week of games.
Indiana (3-2, 0-1) at Iowa (4-1, 1-0) Noon, ESPNU
Iowa should be warned. They are pulling a Danny hope and going with a two quarterback system involving both C.J. Beathard and Jake Rudock. They are obviously doing this despite overwhelming evidence that TWO QUARTERBACK SYSTEMS ALMOST NEVER WORK. The only time they work well is when you have QBs with different skill sets like Chris Leak and Tim Tebow at Florida or Nate Sudfeld and Tre Roberson at Indiana last season. Beathard and Rudock are pretty much interchangeable. This will not end well for Iowa. Indiana 30, Iowa 24
Northwestern (3-2, 2-0) at Minnesota (4-1, 1-0) Noon, BTN
Yes, this is for first place and early control in the Division. A Northwestern victory pretty much puts the pressure on Nebraska to run undefeated through the rest of the conference slight, while Wisconsin would have to hope the Wildcats drop two of their final five conference games with Michigan, Purdue, and Illinois (the three worst teams in the league) in those final five. It's a pretty good place to be, especially with Nebraska and Wisconsin still to face each other. Minnesota has a tough defense, but they still lack a passing game. If NW can survive Wisconsin's running game last week they can survive Minnesota's. Northwestern 24, Minnesota 21
Illinois (3-3, 0-2) at Wisconsin (3-2, 0-1) Noon, ESPN2
The FBS record for rushing yards in a single game by one running back is 406 yards set by LaDainian Tomlinson in 1999. That record is in jeopardy on Saturday. If I were Wisconsin, I wouldn't attempt a single pass. If Purdue, one of the worst rushing teams in Big Ten history last season, can roll up 350 yards on the Illini the only things that can stop Wisconsin from 600 yards as a team is fatigue and mercy. Gordon already has a game of 253 on the season and 871 yards total in five games. This will be a bloodbath. Wisconsin 59, Illinois 14
Michigan State (4-1, 1-0) at Purdue (3-3, 1-1) 3:30pm, ABC
So I see Wisconsin's struggling defense and problems with passing and I start to dream a little when I look ahead. Maybe that Wisconsin game isn't so impossible to win. That's in the future though. This weekend Purdue is either going to predictably get blown out or will shock the world with a program-changing win. There is no middle ground, really. Even after winning last week expectations are low because Michigan State is the class of the Big Ten. They have a pretty easy stretch here to bide time, climb in the polls, and collect heads as they aspire to get in the playoff hunt.
A lot has to go right for Purdue to win this. Austin Appleby has to show that he really was the difference last week and not a terrible Illini defense. The Michigan State offense has to cough the ball up a few times and generally have an off day like last year. Even then, Purdue would need some things like a special teams score to get into it. The Boilers played Sparty close last season, but I'd be surprised if there is a repeat this year. Michigan State 34, Purdue 10
Penn State (4-1, 1-1) at Michigan (2-4, 0-2) 7pm, ESPN2
Is Michigan even going to win a game the rest of the year? Their weakest opponent left is Indiana and even that is a stretch with the way the Hoosiers are playing (and who ever though THOSE words would be said?). Penn State hasn't exactly impressed in league play, but they at least won at Rutgers. Michigan looks like a team about to quit on its coach and the entire season. Penn State 21, Michigan 13