Purdue is strangely off this weekend, as the Big Ten decided to move its usual weekend game to Monday evening because... Who knows? It involves Rutgers so it was already a poor decision form the beginning. As a result, Purdue gets to play three games in 7 days because of the infinite wisdom of Delaney. Due to our previous falls in conference play the Boilers need to go, at minimum, 2-1 to stay in contention, and 3-0 would definitely be recommended. Rutgers does not scare me. Ohio State and Iowa so, so this is an important upcoming week.
With Purdue already being two games behind Iowa and Indiana in the standings it is time to scoreboard watch. If Purdue is going to win the Big Ten it needs those two to drop at least one more game, regardless of what happens. Once that happens Purdue can take care of its own business by winning the game it has remaining against each. That makes for an interesting weekend, as we can hope both drop a game.
Ohio State (12-6, 4-1) at Maryland (15-2, 4-1) Noon, ESPN
It is hard to believe Ohio State is still in the race after their slow start, but they are starting to look like Purdue from last season. Can they stay in the race though? Beating Northwestern, Minnesota, Illinois, and Rutgers is not turning many heads, and I have no idea what happened to them at Indiana. Maryland is coming off of a loss and is likely pretty angry. Since the Buckeyes have Maryland and Purdue both on the road this week it is a make or break for their possible conference title hopes.
Indiana (14-3, 4-0) at Minnesota (6-11, 0-5) 12:30pm, Big Ten Network
The Gophers have been bad and appear to be getting worse by the game. Consecutive 25 point losses to Northwestern and Nebraska? Yikes! They have won exactly once since beating Clemson in the ACC/B1G Challenge and that was over might Chicago State. Indiana should continue its run atop the B1G standings, and they get the gift of two Minnesota games in the next five.
Nebraska (10-8, 2-3) at Illinois (9-8, 1-3) 2:30pm, Big Ten Network
The Cornhuskers proved they could beat the crap out of Minnesota and Rutgers, while Illinois proved they can be a dangerous team if you sleep on them. I am hoping the Illini win this at home so they stay in the top 100 of the RPI and avoid being a bad loss. Can you guys get up to the 8-10 or 9-9 range, please? I want to think of that loss as equal to Purdue's loss at Northwestern in 2010.
Penn State (10-8, 1-4) at Northwestern (15-3, 3-2) 8:30pm, ESPNU
It is one more game for Northwstern to tiptoe through the minefield. One more game to hope Alex Olah can come back and make a difference against an important opponent. It is hard to believe that Northwestern can get their 16th win against just three defeats, but still not have a single top 100 win. Penn State is exactly at 100, but would likely drop with a loss. Northwestern can get to 20 non-top 100 wins as things currently stand, and 21 if No. 97 Illinois drops on the other side of the line. With at Maryland, at Indiana, Michigan State, at Iowa to follow Northwestern cannot lose this, and needs at least one of those following four to feel even remotely tournament-worthy.
Michigan State (16-2, 3-2) at Wisconsin (9-9, 1-4) 1:30pm, CBS
Well, I am sure the Spartans are glad to be done with Iowa, but don't count out Wisconsin. We know they are going to drag you down into a brutal rock fight. The record is not great, but they are dangerous. Of their nine losses seven are by 6 points or less. In Big Ten play the four losses are by a total of 15 points. They are going to fight you no matter what. Only Northwestern got to 70 points against them in league play. I kind of feel an upset brewing here.
Michigan (12-4, 3-1) at Iowa (13-3, 4-0) 4:30, Big Ten Network
It is pretty clear the Hawkeyes are for real. This would just make their grip atop the Big Ten even tighter. After January 28 it is entirely possible they could run away with this thing. That is when they go to Maryland, and if they come out 7-1 or even 8-0 they don't have another top 50 opponent until at Michigan on the season's final day. A win for Michigan would cap a very productive week though and vault them into the title conversation with wins over Maryland and Iowa. The Wolverines must have done something right in a past life, as they get Minnesota-Nebraska-Rutgers-Penn State for the next four after this.