What to watch in the Big Ten: Week 13

November, 21, 2008
11/21/08
9:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

It's time for our final regular-season Saturday primer. Rivalry week brings no shortage of story lines.

To review the title scenarios for the umpteenth time, Penn State will clinch a share of the Big Ten championship and a Rose Bowl berth with a win against Michigan State (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET). Ohio State can clinch a share of the league title by beating Michigan (ABC, noon ET) and would go to the Rose Bowl with a Penn State loss to Michigan State. The Spartans can clinch a share of the league title with a win at Penn State, but they also need an Ohio State loss to Michigan to reach the Rose Bowl.

1. State College in the spotlight -- It takes a lot for any Big Ten regular-season game to trump the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry, but the Penn State-Michigan State game qualifies. Penn State dominated the league for the first two months but has struggled a bit as of late, particularly early in games. Michigan State is the consummate team and could pull the upset against a more talented Nittany Lions squad by playing disciplined, physical football and limiting mistakes. The Spartans haven't won in State College since 1965 -- the season before Joe Paterno took over as Lions coach. Penn State aims for its second Big Ten title in four seasons.

2. Rich Rodriguez gets his first taste of The Game -- It has been a rough year for Michigan's new coach, who didn't help himself this week by telling a portion of college football fans to "get a life." Rodriguez's statement was blown out of proportion, but he would have been wise to steer clear of anything remotely controversial. He now tries to become the seventh straight Michigan coach to win his debut against Ohio State. But the Wolverines are three-touchdown underdogs and need a complete performance to avoid their ninth loss of the season.

3. Joe Tiller's send-off -- Purdue bids farewell to its all-time winningest coach as Tiller takes the field for the final time against Indiana (ESPN2, noon ET). This season hasn't reflected many of the good things Tiller did at Purdue, especially on the offensive side. But the crowd at Ross-Ade Stadium likely will show their appreciation for a man who revolutionized offense in the Big Ten and helped the Boilers reach the 2001 Rose Bowl.

4. Shonn Greene continues Heisman campaign -- Greene needs 107 yards to set Iowa's single-season rushing record, and another huge performance could earn him an invitation to New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist. The Iowa junior has been overlooked nationally this season, and he must continue to produce at a high rate to stay on the radar. Greene can become the first running back to eclipse 100 rushing yards in all eight Big Ten games since Penn State's Curtis Enis in 1997.

5. Terrelle Pryor reunites with Rodriguez -- The perfect quarterback for Rodriguez's spread offense will take snaps for Ohio State on Saturday. Pryor hasn't spoken to Rodriguez since hours before committing to Ohio State, and he can fuel the what-might-have-been argument with a big day against Michigan. The Buckeyes' freshman has blossomed in recent weeks, accounting for five touchdowns (4 pass, 1 rush) the past two games.

6. Juice Williams fights for bowl eligibility -- After a blistering start that included setting single-game total offense records in two different stadiums, Williams has struggled lately, committing nine turnovers (8 interceptions, 1 fumble) in Illinois' last four games. He was even replaced last week against Ohio State. The Illini must beat Northwestern to get bowl eligible a year after going to Pasadena, and they'll need a big game from Williams.

7. Joe Paterno's postgame news conference -- His team is a win away from its first Rose Bowl appearance since 1995, but the 81-year-old Paterno once again will be in the spotlight. He insists he hasn't thought about retirement, but he'll spend his seventh consecutive game in the press box with an ailing right leg/hip. Paterno could announce after the game when he'll undergo hip-replacement surgery and what the outlook will be for recovery and a return for a bowl game.

8. Minnesota closes out the Hump Dome -- Most Big Ten fans won't be sorry to see the Minnesota Golden Gophers leave the Metrodome, especially when they get a glimpse of TCF Bank Stadium. But the Gophers would like to end their residency in the dome with a victory against rival Iowa. Minnesota has dropped three straight after a 7-1 start and could slide down the bowl pecking order with a fourth consecutive loss.

9. Javon Ringer vs. Evan Royster -- Ringer has undoubtedly been one of the league's most valuable players, and Michigan State will need a huge performance from its senior running back to knock off Penn State. Royster would love to get some of Ringer's carries, and if given the chance, Penn State's dynamic sophomore running back could do big things against a stingy Spartans defense.

10. Northwestern's seniors chase history -- They're only the second class to have taken part in victories against all 10 Big Ten opponents. Now the Wildcats' seniors can lead the team to nine wins or more for just the fifth time in school history. Northwestern's range of potential bowls stretches from Outback to Insight, so a win against a talented Illinois team can move the Wildcats up the pecking order.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Comments

You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?