- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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Now this is what we're talking about. A weekend with nothing but Big Ten games on tap. Octoberfest, indeed.
Here's a quick look at Saturday's storylines:
No. 21 Nebraska (4-1, 1-0 Big Ten) at No. 12 Ohio State (5-0, 1-0), 8 p.m. ABC: The top two teams in the Big Ten? Maybe. Check back in a week or so. Still, this ought to be a good one and an excellent match between arguably the two most valuable quarterbacks in the league so far: Ohio State's Braxton Miller and Nebraska's Taylor Martinez. The Huskers rallied from a 21-point deficit to win at home last season but might find the Shoe a tougher place to play.
Michigan (2-2, 0-0) at Purdue (3-1, 0-0), 4 p.m., Big Ten Network: Welcome to the Big Ten party, boys. Are the Boilermakers for real? We should know everything we need to know about them in the next three weeks, as they host Wisconsin and go to Ohio State after this. Michigan has to be happy to see the start of league play after it fell flat in both its marquee nonconference games. The Boilers can't allow 535 yards again like they did in a 36-14 loss last year in Ann Arbor.
No. 24 Northwestern (5-0, 1-0) at Penn State (3-2, 1-0), Noon, ESPN: If the Wildcats want to be serious Legends Division contenders, they probably have to win here since it's going to be awfully tough to get through Nebraska, Michigan State and Michigan without at least one loss. The Nittany Lions have won three straight and are playing at a high level defensively, led by linebacker Michael Mauti. Seeing their defense take on Kain Colter, Venric Mark and the Wildcats' potent running game should be a lot of fun. Northwestern has lost five straight times to Penn State and is seeking just its second-ever win in State College.
Illinois (2-3, 0-1) at Wisconsin (3-2, 0-1), 3:30 p.m., ESPN2: Both teams are coming off Big Ten losses, but at least Wisconsin has something to build on after nearly winning at Nebraska. The Illini look like a mess right now and are searching for answers in all three phases. Answers are usually hard to come by in Camp Randall Stadium, though the Badgers aren't as intimidating as they once were. This is Illinois' first trip to Madison since 2008.
Michigan State (3-2, 0-1) at Indiana (2-2, 0-1), BTN: If the Spartans had Indiana's passing game, how good would they be? If the Hoosiers had Michigan State's defense, how much better would they be? Alas, you are what you are. IU has showed some fight this year but will have to play its best game in two years to have a chance, assuming the Spartans have shaken off the disappointment of their losses to Notre Dame and Ohio State. Remind me again: why these two are permanent cross-over "rivals?"
Byes: Iowa, Minnesota