Last week's marquee games were close until the end; this week, the two winners of those games match up, and the two losers get much-needed
byes match ups versus Indiana and Illinois.
Michigan State (3-2) at Indiana (2-2)
Line: MSU -15.5 This matchup features teams who are each coming off a disappointing loss. This big difference? MSU was competitive the entire game in their loss to OSU, while Indiana dug themselves a large hole against Northwestern that they just couldn't climb out of, letting the wildcats notch over 700 yards on offense. The Spartans offense has been lackluster so far this year (9th in the B1G in rushing, 7th in total offense, last in scoring offense), and this may change this week against the Hoosiers, who are ranked last in the conference in total defense and rushing defense, and ninth in pass defense.
Likely Winner: Michigan State. Indiana hasn't won a Big Ten home opener in seven years, and this likely won't be the year they start. MSU's defense will win this game for them amidst the quarterback battle between IU's Cam Coffman and Nate Sudfeld, and despite the confidence that Indiana's offense still has in its ability to score some points . This is Homecoming for Indiana, and...yeah. Not good for the Hoosiers, but who else in the conference would be a better homecoming game?
Illinois (2-3) at Wisconsin (3-2)
Line: Wisconsin -14 The Badgers came close to pulling of the upset of Nebraska last week, while the Illini come into this week on a downward spiral after being borderline embarrassed at home versus Penn State, outmuscled on both sides of the ball. Speaking of Ball: look for Montee to have a big day this week against the disappointing Illini D, and approach the NCAA career record for touchdowns (Ball is currently 12 shy of the mark, of 78). They aren't likely to give up a big lead two weeks in a row, especially against this team.
Likely Winner: Wisconsin. Despite not living up (so far) to the lofty preseason expectations many had for the Badgers, they're head and shoulders above Illinois at this juncture--even with the quarterback battle between freshman Joel Stave, who started last week's loss to the Huskers, and Maryland transfer Danny O'Brien, who was inserted near the end of the game to try to give the team a last-minute spark. The Illini are in a sort of freefall, with the talent to compete but lack either the will or coaching know-how to go far in the conference this year, especially with two of their next three games at OSU and Michigan.
Michigan (3-2) at Purdue (3-1)
Line: Michigan -3 A bye week after a derp-filled loss to the Fighting Irish was just what the Wolverines needed, but Purdue should make things interesting in this game. The vaunted Michigan offense, led by a quarterback I don't think anyone has heard of, was unable to score against the Notre Dame defense--which, despite linebacker Mante T'eo, is good but not that great. The Purdue offense, on the other hand, is coming in having beat Marshall, and scoring 51 points in the process. The young Michigan defense will likely be tested.
Likely Winner: Push. Michigan is favored by a few in this game, but the Boilermakers were actually closer to beating Notre Dame than the Wolverines ever were (their one overlapping opponent thus far). It's not unfeasible for Purdue to be considered a favorite for their division title, and both teams will have something to play for in this game; despite letting up over 450 yards to the Thundering Herd last week, the Boilermakers did have three interceptions, including two pick-sixes--which doesn't bode well for Denard Robinson, who's been shown vulnerable in this arena this year. Purdue also may get back RB Ralph Bolden this week, who underwent knee surgery in the off season. This is the conference opener for both squads, and may set a tone for the remainder of the season for both.
Nebraska (4-1) at Ohio State (5-0)
Line: Ohio State -3.5 Both Nebraska and OSU are riding high this week after close wins against respectable teams (and last year's Big Ten divisional champs) in Wisconsin and Michigan State last week, but both should be well-coached squads who won't let the emotions get the better of them this week. Nebraska has their defense back on track, with 19 sacks in four games and is #1 in the country for TFLs (51 to date). But they'll be going up against OSU's Braxton Miller, whom Urban Miller likes as a mobile leader of this team, and who is much improved from last year's 27-6 Nebraska win over OSU in Memorial Stadium. Ohio State running back Jordan Hall suffered another injury last week, and isn't expected to play.
Likely Winner: Push. OSU's defense has also improved over the season, to the point where they were able to limit MSU's Heisman hopeful Le'Veon Bell to just 45 yards on 17 carries last week; they'll be up against Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead, who still isn't at 100% after his early season injury--but he's closer. The game is in the Horseshoe, which gives the Buckeyes an inherent advantage, but could the Huskers want it more? They've yet to win a significant road game as part of the Big Ten, and some are saying they won't truly arrive until they do--plus, there's the Bo Pelini-Ohio State connection.
Iowa (3-2) vs BYE
Minnesota (4-1) vs BYE
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