Mike Carter-US PRESSWIRE
What Rivalry Week looks like in Big Ten country.
Friday, November 23
Nebraska (9-2, 6-1) at Iowa (4-7, 2-5)
Line: Nebraska -16.5 Many Hawkeye fans are expecting a red-out in Kinnick stadium this week, and the way Iowa has deteriorated this season, that doesn't seem out of the realm of possibility--the Hawkeyes haven't won a game since Penn State came to town in October, and Kirk Ferentz is still stuck at win #100. Nebraska, on the other hand, comes into this game the highest ranked Big Ten team in the BCS, and will punch their ticket to the conference championship in this game. Look for RB Rex Burkhead to see at least a few snaps this week in preparation for Indy, after sitting out the last four weeks with a knee injury.
Likely winner: Nebraska The score may be a little closer than the Vegas line, but not by much. The Blackshirts should be able to hold the Hawkeye offense and Mark Weisman in check, and Taylor Martinez will likely overwhelm the Iowa defense by the end of the third quarter, by when the game should be well in hand.
Saturday, November 24
Illinois (2-9, 0-7) at Northwestern (8-3, 4-3)
Line: Northwestern -19.5 This game could get ugly, as Northwestern has a typically fast and decent Wildcat offense, and the Illini are the Illini. The line seems a bit high, especially with Northwestern's proneness to second half collapses this season, but this game does involve the Illini, after all.
Likely winner: Northwestern If the Wildcats can limit Nathan Scheelhaase even a little, this game should be over by the second quarter. Kain Colter should have a breakout game (provided he's ok after seen limping following the Michigan game), and Venric Mark should have over 100 yards by mid third quarter (provided he sees time this week after his injury in the team's loss to Michigan). Northwestern has scored in double-digits in 70 consecutive games, and will be going to their sixth consecutive bowl game this year.
Michigan (8-3, 6-1) at Ohio State (11-0, 7-0)
Line: Ohio State -3.5 This will be the most competetive game in this rivalry since 2006, with both teams playing good football headed into the showdown. Denard Robinson returned for the Wolverines last week, but saw snaps at running back while Devin Gardner played quarterback, notching three passing and three rushing touchdowns in their victory over the Hawkeyes. On the other side of the ball, Ohio State's Braxton Miller is a semi finalist for the Maxwell trophy, and is the focal point if not the entire Buckeye offense. He's difficult for any defense to contain, even a much-improved one like Michigan's.
Likely winner: Ohio State If the Buckeye defense shows up, it could be a long day for the Wolverines. If not, this game may be a shootout. Either way, the Buckeyes have the home advantage and have locked in their division title, even though this is their last game of the season. How's that bowl game last year looking right about now, Gene Smith? I bet Urban Meyer is none too happy with that decision and a potential undefeated season.
Indiana (4-7, 2-5) at Purdue (5-6, 2-5)
Line: Purdue -6 The Boilermakers are playing for bowl eligibility this week, after winning their last two. The Hoosiers, on the other hand, were playing for a Rose Bowl berth after dropping their last two in almost embarrassing fashion, having the worst two weeks of football they'd had all season. Whichever team comes in more focused and mentally in the actual game will likely win this one.
Likely winner: push I see this game going either way, but I give Indiana the edge. Both teams have been non-competitive with most decent teams they've played, but Purdue has shown more glimpses of glaring ineptitude over the course of their season. If the Boilermakers rally behind their coach and try to save Danny Hope's job, they should be able to pull it out--but Indiana's offense will no doubt score quickly and often against the Purdue D. The big question mark is how Robert Marve and the Boilermakers will move the ball versus the Hoosiers; if they can't keep up with Indiana offensively, the Purdue season will be over after this game just like their opponents'.
Michigan State (5-6, 2-5) at Minnesota (6-5, 2-5)
Line: Michigan State -8.5 Speaking of playing for the post season, preseason Legends division favorite Michigan State is now just playing for a bowl game this week against Minnesota, who've already secured a spot in the post season. The Spartans have lost all five of their conference games by a total of 13 points, behind a staunch defense that's allowed them to stay competetive regardless of the competition they're facing--something that can't be said about the Golden Gophers, who've been blown out against most decent teams they've faced this year. It should be strength against strength, as Minnesota has finally found their offense and comes in with more confidence, despite the departure of their season leading wide receiver AJ Barker.
Likely winner: Michigan State Le'Veon Bell finally started living up to the hype last week, and hopefully that will be enough as the Spartan kicking and passing games have been disappointing this year behind kicker Dan Conroy and QB Andrew Maxwell, who caused three turnovers last week. Gopher freshman QB Philip Nelson should equally have a rough day, but he and the rest of the Minnesota team will no doubt improve, both for the bowl and next year, with the extra practices they'll have before whatever postseason game they end up in.
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