The big game of the week is Ohio State at Michigan State, where the Buckeyes are putting their 20-game regular season Big Ten winning streak on the line in probably their toughest test (by far) during that stretch. For a team that is 31-3 under Urban Meyer it is amazing that they haven't won anything of note. Even more so, they are 0-2 against the ACC.
Your bye teams this week are Rutgers, Maryland, Nebraska, and Illinois, so let's get started:
Penn State (4-4, 1-4) at Indiana (3-5, 0-4) Noon, Big Ten Network
This is a bowl elimination game, though Indiana is all but eliminated already. With a game against Ohio State still looming the Hoosiers would need to beat Penn State, Rutgers, and Purdue to make the postseason, but with competent quarterback play they could beat those teams. The thing is, Indiana can't even get bad quarterback play right now, let alone competent. Zander Diamont has started two games and has 35 yards passing. By comparison, Sean Robinson, who is now a linebacker, had over 100 yards passing in his lone start at Purdue, also as a true freshman. He is facing another solid defense this week, so IU is down to just Tevin Coleman as a weapon. It could be enough as much as Penn State's offense has struggled. Penn State 24, Indiana 13
Iowa (6-2, 3-1) at Minnesota (6-2, 3-1) Noon, ESPN2
Black Heart Gold Pants Preview
This is an elimination game in the Big Ten West. With the schedule backloaded and four teams tied with a single conference loss the winner will still be alive, but the loser is likely done. That is especially true after Minnesota dick-tripped against Illinois. The gophers could be dreaming of a big New Year's Day Bowl, but now they have had two weeks to stew about it. Since this is the always fun battle for Floyd it should be a very entertaining and close game. I will give the edge to the Gophers at home, but man, that Illinois loss looks bad. Minnesota 24, Iowa 21
Wisconsin (6-2, 3-1) at Purdue (3-6, 1-4) Noon, ESPNU
As we enter this game I have a large feeling of regret. Yes, Purdue is still alive for a bowl game, but with one more victory we would have a much better chance because of the Northwestern and Indiana games to follow. Purdue can win both of those, and a 5-7 season is definitely a strong possibility. The regret comes from two games: Central Michigan and Minnesota. This team has grown so much since the CMU game that I can't see them losing that game if it were played again tomorrow. With Minnesota, we're a dumb penalty on a third and long away from winning.
Just give me one of those, and Purdue has a great chance at being an unexpected bowl team and the surprise of the Big Ten. A 5-7 record would still be exceeding most expectations, but 6-6, with a win like one over Wisconsin, would be really nice. Unfortunately, to get there we're going to have to beat the one team we have struggled the most against in Big Ten play.
Maybe it is a good thing. Nothing would mark a turnaround more than reversing our misfortune against the Badgers. I am a realist though. This is a team that has not only beaten us, but has physically dominated every phase of the game against us for a long, long time. All the signs point toward that happening again unless we benefit from turnovers like Northwestern did. Wisconsin 45, Purdue 14
Michigan (4-5, 2-3) at Northwestern (3-5, 2-3) 3:30pm, ESPN2
Here is another potential bowl elimination game. Northwestern can get to six wins with Michigan, Purdue, and Illinois all left on one of the weaker Big Ten closing schedules. Michigan needs two wins, and getting one over Northwestern would be a major step forward. Of course, the only thing that has saved Michigan in recent weeks is the very shitty play of Indiana. If you watch this game over any other 3:30 game in the country you're either a diehard from both schools or a masochist. Northwestern 17, Michigan 13
Ohio State (7-1, 4-0) at Michigan State (7-1, 4-0) 8pm, ABC
Here it is: The game of the year in the Big Ten and the matchup of the only two teams with even a small chance at reaching the playoff. As mentioned earlier, Ohio State has won 20 straight regular season Big Ten games, but hasn't really beaten anyone in them. Michigan State has won 14 straight Big Ten games overall and definitely has a better shot at the playoff than the Buckeyes. The merits of both teams are basically the same aside from their loss. Michigan State lost to a very good Oregon team in an entertaining game on the road. Ohio State lost to a crappy Virginia Tech team at home and has barely played anyone with a pulse. I really hope MSU wins, mostly just to shut up Ohio State fans. Michigan State 24, Ohio State 20