In 36 hours Purdue could be a third of the way through the Big Ten season and leading the Big Ten West with its destiny in its hands. I never thought I would write this sentence, but it is a factual (if highly unlikely) sentence. The math is simple: If Purdue beats Iowa and Nebraska loses to Indiana the Boilers will head to Lincoln next week with first place in the Division on the line.
Okay, time to end the fever dream
As it turns out, the best team in the West may not win the division because they were given crossover games with Michigan and Ohio State. Wisconsin hosts the Buckeyes and they need a win so they might get a rematch with Ohio State or Michigan in Indianapolis. The rest of the conference slate is kind of dull.
Illinois (1-4, 0-2) at Rutgers (2-4, 0-3) Noon, ESPNNews
Wait a minute.
Hold on here.
Purdue might actually be better than TWO Big Ten teams thanks to this game. Rutgers has scored a grand total of 7 points in 180 minutes of Big Ten football this year, while Illinois just lost to Purdue. Both teams are looking at this one as a “Hey, we might actually win a game” mentality, especially since Illinois already lost to Purdue. I think I have to go with the Illini here. They have at least looked like a Big Ten game in their two games. Rutgers hasn’t even scored a single points in weeks. Illinois 27, Rutgers 17
Minnesota (3-2, 0-2) at Maryland (4-1, 1-1) Noon, ESPNU
In the fever dream Purdue-turns-it-around-and-makes-a-bowl scenario I have the Boilers beating Minnesota later on because the Gophers have been very milquetoast to start league play. Any dreams of winning a weakened West are over with losses to Penn State and Iowa, and now they go to a Maryland team that still needs two wins to go to a bowl, yet has a brutal closing slate that only offers Rutgers as solace. Playing at home I think the Terps get win No. 5. Maryland 24, Minnesota 17
Iowa (4-2, 2-1) at Purdue (3-2, 1-1) Noon, ESPN2
Once again, we’re at a “prove it” game for Darrell Hazell. How many of these has he failed already? Twice this year Purdue has had a chance to follow up a victory with another win by playing a mediocre or struggling team. Twice it has been blown out. Last season Purdue had Illinois and Virginia Tech, who went a combined 11-13 in the regular season, after wins. Purdue was blown out in both. Now it gets Iowa, the owner of two 14-7 conference wins, but loser to Northwestern and an FCS team. If there are any bowl hopes for this Boilermaker squad it has to win this game on homecoming. It has to show that there is real progress. Unfortunately, we have seen Hazell coached teams blow these chances time and again. I can’t pick them in a game like this until they show me it is possible. I am expecting a comfortable Iowa win. Prove me wrong, boys. Make me believe again. Iowa 38, Purdue 14
Nebraska (5-0, 2-0) at Indiana (3-2, 1-1) 3:30pm, ABC/ESPN2
Indiana leads this all-time series 9-7-3. Yes, the Hoosiers have a winning record all-time against one of the dominant teams all-time in college football. This is the first time the two have met in Big Ten play. They have not played since 1978 and Indiana has not won since 1959 (which was the last of a 9-0-1 run against Nebraska for the Hoosiers). The thing is, Indiana is good with a live, functioning defense now. It is entirely possible they win this game because Nebraska’s best win is by 3 points over an Oregon team that is pretty bad now. I am not sold on their No. 10 ranking, so I think Indiana pulls off the upset at home. Indiana 35, Nebraska 31
Northwestern (2-3, 1-1) at Michigan State (2-3, 0-2) 3:30pm, BTN
Northwestern might not be as bad as we originally thought after their win over Iowa. Michigan State is not as good as we thought after losing to Indiana and BYU. I don’t think anyone thought this was going to be a desperate game for bowl eligibility for either team. The Michigan State offense is a complete mess right now and Northwestern still has a pretty decent defense, so I think that will be enough. Northwestern 17, Michigan State 14
Ohio State (5-0, 2-0) at Wisconsin (4-1, 1-1) 8pm, ABC
The badgers can be a legitimate playoff contender if they win this game. A victory would make them 2-1 in their crossover games and among the six West division games only Nebraska looks like an actual threat to them. Purdue or Illinois beating them would be laughable. Minnesota, Iowa, and Northwestern have a ton of issues. Ohio State is still Ohio State, however, and they still look like a rolling death machine. Ohio State 23, Wisconsin 21