Big 10: Week 8 Review, Week 9 Preview
LAST WEEK…In one of the craziest finishes of the college football season, #4 Wisconsin was upended by #16 Michigan State in East Lansing on a Hail Mary, 37-31. The Badgers grabbed their first loss of the season and national championship hope is out the window for the foreseeable future. Michigan State stands atop the Legends division at 3-0 in conference and 6-1 overall. Wisconsin nestles in at the second spot in the Leaders division behind Penn State, with a 2-1 conference record and 6-1 overall. Purdue went wild on the overrated #23 ranked Illini, 21-14, from West Lafayette. This was definitely one of my upset specials last week, as Illinois has been on my overhyped list all season. It’s tough to win, despite possessing the worst coach in college football in the form of Ron Zook. Credit the Boilermakers, they got up early 21-0 and didn’t allow Illinois to tie the game. After a 14-14 tie at the end of the first quarter, Penn State outscored Northwestern the rest of the way to win 34-24 from Evanston. This win and Wisconsin’s loss puts Penn State in first place in the Leaders division. #13 Nebraska steamrolled Minnesota, 41-14, as the Huskers showed their dominance against a lower scale Big 10 team. With the victory, the blackshirts move their record to 6-1 overall and 2-1 in conference play. Iowa smoked Indiana 45-24, as the Hoosiers continue to hand it in this season. Iowa moves their record 5-2 and now rests in third place in the Legends division. Ohio State and Michigan were on their respective bye weeks.
THIS WEEK…Lincoln, Nebraska is the site of this weekend’s game of the week in the Big 10 Conference. #13 Nebraska (6-1) plays host to the #9 nationally ranked Michigan State Spartans (6-1). The winner of this game will represent the Legends division in the Big 10 Championship Game, in my opinion. Of course, a ton could happen in the next few weeks that could destroy my prediction but I am feeling these two teams outside of a Michigan upset run (alongside their loss to MSU two weeks ago makes a Wolverine division title more improbable). Kirk Cousins looks to continue his solid play after a 290-yard passing day with 3 TD’s and no picks against the #4 ranked Badgers last weekend. Taylor Martinez will be tested in this one, as MSU boasts one of the best defenses in the country. The newly #12 ranked Wisconsin Badgers (6-1) schedule does not get any easier as they travel on the road for the second straight week, this time to Columbus to play Ohio State (4-3). It will be yet another game under the national spotlight for Wisconsin, so it will be interesting to see how the Badgers respond after their inexplicable loss to Michigan State last weekend. Russell Wilson will look to get back on track, but if he doesn’t, Braxton Miller definitely has the ability to beat Wisconsin in Ohio. #17 Michigan (6-1) hosts Purdue (4-3) who is coming off a huge win against a ranked Illinois squad. I can see the Boliermakers making some noise in this game, but not enough to upset the Wolverines coming off a bye week. Look for Denard to play well after the long rest period. In the underrated game of the week, #21 Penn State (7-1) hosts Illinois (6-2) from University Park. This will be a great game to watch because Illinois’ season is on the line. If the Illini lose…they’re done. Penn State has a chance to move up two games in the Leaders division with a win and a Badgers loss to OSU. I see Penn State rolling in this game, but the Illini should play with nothing to lose after their last two embarrassing losses. This may end up being one of the more exciting games to watch this weekend, catch some of it if you can. Now for the two worst match-ups of the weekend in the Big 10. These games are not even worthy to be broadcast on the Big 10 Network. Inidiana (1-7) hosts Northwestern (2-5) from Bloomington. The Wildcats will destroy the Hoosiers. Pay no attention to Northwestern’s record. They have been the victim of some very tough losses this season, but look for them to right the ship this week. Iowa (5-2) visits Minnesota (1-6) in what should be a bloodbath for the Golden Gophers whose season looks to get worse after this weeks loss to the Hawkeyes. Iowa can make some noise with a few more wins, as they quietly sit in third place.
PLAYERS TO WATCH THIS WEEKEND…
1) Kirk Cousins, QB Michigan State: This is when the “usual” MSU teams let their fans down…after a huge upset win. Let’s see if Cousins can respond and keep the Chicago Cubs comparisons to a minimum.
2) Montae Ball, RB Wisconsin: He is the guy that gets no love. Ball has been overshadowed by Russell Wilson all season. Make no jokes about it, Ball is the real deal. With the Heisman candidacy for Wilson dissipated, the spotlight is now on Montae. This season, the top back in the Big 10 has rushed for 768 yards on just 125 attempts and has an unfathomable 17 touchdowns, already! This guy will be vying for the Big 10 Player of the Year with a few more big games.
3) Braxton Miller, QB Ohio State: It seems as if this guy is on my list every week. He has the ability. Now, it is just about executing and staying on the field. He can definitely orchestrate an upset against the downtrodden #12 Wisconsin Badgers.
4) Silas Redd, RB Penn State: Redd has 869 rushing yards and leads the Big 10 this season, alongside his 6 touchdowns. He is poised to run all over a poor Illini defense after two straight losses. Redd will have to produce the rest of the way, as he has so far, for Penn State to stay unbeaten in Big 10 play.
5) Rex Burkhead, RB Nebraska: Forget Taylor Martinez, this is Burkhead’s team. He had an insane game against Ohio State that put him on the national map. However, in Nebraska he was already an icon. This week, he looks to crank up his status to legendary as his Huskers look to knock off #9 MSU and their nationally ranked defense.