Big Ten Preview: Week Five

Eric Francis - Getty Images

A few marquee matchups, and some less than great games...it's conference season in the Big Ten, as ten of the twelve teams face a conference foe this week.

Minnesota (4-0) at Iowa (2-2)

Line: Iowa -7 The Floyd of Rosedale trophy is again on the line, and a Minnesota team that has played spoiler to the Hawkeyes for a few years in a row wants to keep it in Minneapolis. The Iowa team and fans are smarting after last week's literal last minute loss to Central Michigan, but at least seem to have found a star in running back/former fullback Mark Weisman. The home team offense, led by James Vandenberg, faces off against the third best defense in the Big Ten.

Likely winner: push. This is the Golden Gophers' first 4-0 start since 2008, but the visiting team will still be without starting quarterback MarQueis Gray, who will likely be back in two weeks versus Northwestern. Backup QB will face an Iowa defense that had played well this season up until Saturday's loss, in which is allowed 23 ponts in the first half, and nine points in the last minute. Minnesota, despite being 4-0, isn't invulnerable, needing overtime to beat UNLV, and defeating Western Michigan and Syracuse by a single score each.

Indiana (2-1) at Northwestern (4-0)

Line: Northwestern -11 Pat Fitzgerald's team has had arguably the best non-conference season in the Big Ten, notching three quality wins against BCS conference foes before its beating of FCS South Dakota last week. Indiana, on the other hand, comes off a bye week after a loss to Ball State in which the Hoosiers let the Cardinals score more than forty points.

Likely winner: Northwestern. Hoosier starting QB Tre Roberson is out with a broken leg sustained in their last game, and Cameron Coffman (fresh off of a hip injury) will take over that position this week in Indiana's fast-paced offense. It may not matter, though, as the Hoosier's defense is prone to weakness in the run game--and that seems to be a strength for the Wildcats, who average more than 220 yards a game on the ground. It's yet to be seen whether Northwestern has enough defense to go far in the wide-open Big Ten this year, but they should put away the Hoosiers with ease to go 5-0 and, perhaps, make its way into the top 25.

Marshall (2-2) at Purdue (2-1)

Line: Purdue -16.5 The Boilermakers were neck and neck with Notre Dame before their loss to the top ten Irish, and are still considered a threat in the conference. This is in some ways a backwards year for Purdue, whose defense is ranked #17 in the nation in total defense, #12 in pass-efficiency defense, #19 in scoring defense, and #25 in rushing defense. They'll be up against Marshall's prolific offense, which leads the nation in passing yards per game and plays per game.

Likely winner: Purdue. Marshall has a great offense (their quarterback is #1 in the nation in yards and completions), but some of their stats are padded due to their double-overtime win over Rice last week. In addition, Purdue's underperforming offense should find its feet this week against the Herd's lack of defense, which is #117 out of 120 FBS programs (allowing a whopping 509 yards and 42.75 points per game). The Boilermakers look to see improvement in a few areas this week, namely quarterback, as one-time starter Robert Marve is out for the season and it's Caleb TerBush's job to solidify.

Wisconsin (3-1) at Nebraska (3-1)

Line: Nebraska -11.5 Nebraska's demolishing of Idaho State last week by nearly 70 points did a bit to offset the negativity surrounding the conference so far this year, but this game isn't looking like as big a matchup as was expected preseason. Danny O'Brien is no Russel Wilson, and the Huskers did give up the second most yards in school history two weeks ago against UCLA, who hasn't looked as great since. This could be a retribution game, however, as the Huskers were welcomed into the conference last year with a thirty point loss to the eventual conference champions.

Likely winner: Nebraska. The Badgers' best offensive weapon, Montee Ball, suffered a concussion last week and is questionable as of the writing of this piece. Add that to a redshirt freshman starting quarterback in Joel Stave, and this could be a long day offensively for Wisconsin--especially since Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead will be back to even better shape in his second week back from his injury, after recording 8 carries for 119 yards last week.

Ohio State (4-0) at Michigan State (3-1)

Line: Michigan State -3 This is the only game in the nation between two ranked teams, and it'll be the third time this season that the Spartans host a ranked foe. This is the first game away from Columbus for the Buckeyes, who have looked less than impressive in past weeks in wins over Cal and UAB.

Likely winner: push. Michigan State's defense leads the conference, and they'll be up against its arguably most mobile quarterback in OSU's Braxton Miller, who's averaging 110 rushing yards per game. Conversely, the OSU defense hasn't been as dominant as usual, and they're up against a workhourse in the Spartans' LeVeon Bell. Despite Bell's status as a Heisman contender, the Michigan State offense as a whole has been subpar this season, not scoring a touchdown last week against Eastern Michigan (the 116th ranked defense in the nation) until the fourth quarter. This should be a close game that could help to restore the Big Ten's reputation on the national stage.

Michigan vs BYE

Likely winner: everyone.


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