Big Ten second-half preview

October, 12, 2011
10/12/11
11:00
AM ET
Halftime is over, and while most of you are still sucking wind, we're refreshed, recharged and ready to examine the second half of the Big Ten season.

Prepare yourself for more rivalry games, beginning Saturday with Michigan-Michigan State. Review those division tiebreakers, as the Legends and Leaders races begin to take shape. And settle in for the push toward Indianapolis and the inaugural Big Ten football championship game.

The second half is upon us.

Wisconsin will continue its quest for a possible spot in the BCS title game, while Michigan and Illinois hope to build on their perfect starts to the season. The Big Ten tries to build greater depth in its middle class before a bowl season that always brings challenging matchups.

Who will rise? Who will fall? What will the hot topics be during the stretch run?

We can't wait to find out.

[+] EnlargeRussell Wilson
AP Photo/Morry GashWill Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson bring the Big Ten its first Heisman Trophy since 2006?
Bold prediction: For the first time since 2006, a Big Ten player will hoist the Heisman Trophy. Russell Wilson is the real deal, folks, and while Wisconsin's competition will get tougher, Wilson will continue to put up impressive numbers and lead the Badgers to victories. His maturity will show up in tough road games against Michigan State, Ohio State and Illinois, and he'll continue to utilize a strong supporting cast. Although Wilson faces some tough competition for the Heisman from Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Kellen Moore and others, the Wisconsin star will win the award Dec. 10 in New York.

What we're looking forward to: We're both stoked about the title game in Naptown, as the Big Ten can finally rid itself of co-champs and controversies and determine an undisputed champion on the national stage. We're excited to see Brady Hoke's first matchup against Ohio State -- or "Ohio," as he likes to say -- and whether Michigan can beat its archrival for the first time since 2003. We can't wait to chronicle what should be a wild race in the Legends division between Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska and possibly Iowa.

Other items to track include Wilson's Heisman chase and Badgers running back Montee Ball's push for the Big Ten touchdowns record; Penn State's tough November finish and whether it's Joe Paterno's finale in Happy Valley; whether Luke Fickell can guide Ohio State out of the abyss and possibly remain Buckeyes coach; and the Iowa-Nebraska rivalry game on Black Friday.

Top five impact regular-season games

1. Wisconsin at Michigan State, Oct. 22: The Badgers have won eight straight Big Ten games and are all but certain to make it nine in a row this week against Indiana. Their last loss, though, came on the road in East Lansing. The Spartans' No. 1-ranked defense will be geared up to stop Wilson, Ball and the Wisconsin offensive juggernaut. If there is any speed bump on the way to Indianapolis for the Badgers, this may be it.

2. Michigan at Michigan State, Saturday: The first of two showcase showdowns for the Spartans arrives this week, as Michigan State tries to claim the Paul Bunyan Trophy for the fourth straight year. The winner becomes the new frontrunner in the Legends race. Denard Robinson must solve a defense that will look to knock him out of the Heisman race.

3. Wisconsin at Illinois, Nov. 19: If not in East Lansing, Wisconsin could stumble in Champaign. The Illini will feel very comfortable in their eighth and final home game of the year, and after their 6-0 start, they might even be playing for the Leaders title. Both offenses are capable of fireworks.

4. Nebraska at Michigan, Nov. 19: The Cornhuskers' debut tour of the Big Ten continues with a trip to the Big House. Ohio State graduate Bo Pelini is pretty familiar with the place. Fans would probably show up just to see a footrace between Robinson and Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez. This game will likely have a large influence on the Legends division outcome.

5. Penn State at Wisconsin, Nov. 26: The Nittany Lions will end a very difficult November that starts with games against Nebraska and at Ohio State with a trip to Madison. Can JoePa's crew pull off a season-rattling upset? Penn State's defense is playing as well as anybody's right now. This should be its biggest test.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Comments

You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?