The penultimate week of Big Ten competition is here. It is a pretty dull week overall with Wisconsin-Michigan, a potential Big Ten title game preview, the best game by a lot. Elsewhere, we have a lot of lopsided matchups as Illinois at Ohio State, Rutgers at Indiana, Nebraska at Penn State, and Michigan State at Maryland all have a double-digit spread.
It is also a very important week when it comes to bowls. It is increasingly likely that the Big Ten will not fill all of its bowl obligations. Maryland, Nebraska, Purdue, and the Rutgers-Indiana loser can all join Illinois with at least 7 losses. The league has 10 contracted bowls, but if Purdue wins its last two games it is possible the league will only have eight eligible teams because Illinois is already out and Maryland, Nebraska, Indiana, Rutgers, and possibly Minnesota could all be eliminated.
Let’s worry about that if we need to, however. Here are your games this weekend.
Michigan (8-2, 5-2) at Wisconsin (10-0, 7-0) Noon, FOX
This should be a fun one. Wisconsin is most likely going to continue its domination of Minnesota, so now they have to beat probably their toughest opponent on the season. It is at home though, and they have the motivation of a near certain playoff appearance if they win out because there is no way an undefeated Big Ten champ is getting left out. Wisconsin 24, Michigan 20
Minnesota (5-5, 2-5) at Northwestern (7-3, 5-2) Noon, BTN
Minnesota turned a small corner last week with a blowout win over Nebraska. Now they need just one more win to reach a bowl game in year one under PJ Fleck. While we regret losing the Nebraska game they probably regret losing at Purdue. Northwestern is rounding into form as a pretty complete team and I think they keep their nice little run going. Northwestern 23, Minnesota 13
Rutgers (4-6, 3-4) at Indiana (4-6, 1-6) Noon, BTN
Indiana can be in line for a third straight bowl game if they win this, but I don’t want that. Rutgers has improved this year. Three Big Ten wins and a couple near misses is a nice second season for Chris Ash, even if they did only beat Illinois, Purdue, and Maryland. Why not get a fourth win over a team that has a stout defense, but wildly inconsistent offense? Rutgers 25, Indiana 24
Purdue (4-6, 2-5) at Iowa (6-4, 3-4) 3:30pm, BTN
It's going to be cold, windy, and Purdue is beaten up. That's bad. Iowa has struggled to score points on everyone except Iowa State, Ohio State, and North Texas. That's good! Ultimately, I haven't seen enough out of Purdue's offense since the Rutgers game to have a lot of faith. We're gaining yards, but they are empty yards without points. We also have only one turnover forced in four games and we seem to be relying too much on fake punts to move the chains on 4th downs instead of the ability to get a single yard on the ground. I hope I am wrong, but I think good Iowa shows up and wins. Iowa 24, Purdue 14
Illinois (2-8, 0-7) at Ohio State (8-2, 6-1)
Ohio State is a 41 point favorite and controls its destiny not just in the Big Ten, but possibly for a playoff spot. In bigger news, an Ohio State win assures us that Purdue will NOT finish in last place in its division for the first time since 2012, so huzzah! Ohio State 55, Illinois 10
Nebraska (4-6, 3-4) at Penn State (8-2, 5-2) 4pm, Fox Sports 1
I think Nebraska has juuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuust about mailed in the rest of the season. Why they couldn’t do that in the final 2 minutes at Purdue I have no idea. We’re going to regret that game, as I think it will prevent us from going bowling. Saquon Barkley re-ignites his Heisman campaign this week. Penn State 45, Nebraska 14
Maryland (4-6, 2-5) at Michigan State (7-3, 5-2) 4pm, FOX
One team has no healthy quarterbacks for the most part. The other team just got obliterated last week by Ohio State. It will be a bounce back week for the Spartans as Maryland is just too banged up at this point in the season.