The Big Ten can have its first bowl ineligible team this week. If Purdue beats Illinois the Illini will be the first team to seven losses. Rutgers, Indiana, and Purdue are sitting on 5 losses and are edging closer to that abyss. The West is all but decided with Wisconsin comfortably in front. The biggest game is Penn State at Michigan State, as the winner stays alive in the east while the loser is done unless Ohio State loses at Iowa.
Here is a look at this week’s games:
Illinois (2-6, 0-5) at Purdue (3-5, 1-4) Noon, BTN
I maintain what I have said all week: Even Darrell Hazell could beat Illinois. I think we can all agree that Brohm is better and he has this team playing better than it did at almost any point under Dollar Bill Darrell. This Illinois team is playing worse, too. It cannot stop the run and Purdue has become pretty good at running the ball the past few weeks. This Illinois team also struggles to throw the ball and loves to turn it over, too. Put all of this together and I think a loss here would be a significant step back. We get it all together and win four games in one season for the first time in five years. Purdue 31, Illinois 14
Penn State (7-1, 4-1) at Michigan State (6-2, 4-1) Noon, FOX
This feels like an elimination game in the East. The Nittany Lions chocked on the road last week at Ohio State and need this game, plus some help, to get back to Indianapolis. Michigan State stubbed its toe last week in triple overtime at Northwestern. Both teams need this game in the worst way, but the Nittany Lions have looked better all year. Michigan State only wins this game if it is a 17-13 slog. Can they contain Saquon Barkley that long? I don’t think so. Penn State 27, Michigan State 13
Wisconsin (8-0, 5-0) at Indiana (3-5, 0-5) Noon, ABC
Indiana is probably the best team in the country without a conference win. They continue to put the fear of God into ranked teams. The run defense has struggled despite what S&P says, and that’s not what you want against Johnathan Taylor and Wisconsin. The Badgers have a lot to play for. They can’t stumble against Indiana, and they will just use their “bigger, stronger” method of football to run all over the Hoosiers. Wisconsin 30, Indiana 20
Ohio State (7-1, 5-0) at Iowa (5-3, 2-3) 3:30pm, ESPN
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I can’t make up my mind if Iowa is a good team or not. In an odd coincidence, they have played three 17-10 Big Ten games, beating Minnesota and losing to Northwestern and Michigan State in those games. They had the near miss at home against Penn State too. It is almost the typical Iowa year, where they have a defense good enough to scare teams, but the offense is not dominant. Unfortunately, Ohio State is on a roll right now. Ohio State 35, Iowa 17
Maryland (4-4, 2-3) at Rutgers (3-5, 2-3) 3:30pm, BTN
Yes, this is a Big Ten game. It was originally supposed to be played at Yankee Stadium, but since the Yankees went deep into the postseason it was moved to Rutgers’ campus because they weren’t sure they could convert the field to football in time if the Yankees made the World Series. It is a very intriguing game because the winner likely has bowl aspirations. Rutgers would still be a longshot with games remaining against Penn State and Michigan State, but Maryland would only need one more win. I think I will go with Rutgers here, who is playing a lot better in recent weeks. Rutgers 17, Maryland 14
Northwestern (5-3, 3-2) at Nebraska (4-4, 3-2) 3:30pm, BTN
It is Purdue’s last opponent against Purdue’s next opponent. The Cornhuskers are staying alive by beating the Big Ten West. Northwestern is hot though, having beaten Iowa and Michigan State. The narrative is that Northwestern is having their late season turnaround, which is not good for Purdue. The Wildcats are probably the better team here. They are certainly playing like it, and Nebraska was lucky to win at Purdue on Saturday. I think they keep it going with a close road win.
Minnesota (4-4, 1-4) at Michigan (6-2, 3-2) 7:30pm, FOX
The Big Ten’s two batshit crazy coaches face off for the first time! Neither team has a very good offense, but the Michigan defense is better than Minnesota’s. The Golden Gophers are banged up in the secondary and Brandon Peters gets a nice team to face in his first career start. The Jug will stay home, because if Fleck got it from Harbaugh in year one the verbal battle between the two would be amazing. Either way, I am sure Michigan will blame Purdue if they lose.