Take Two: Big Ten's top October game

October, 2, 2012
10/02/12
3:01
PM ET
Big Ten bloggers Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett will occasionally give their takes on a burning question facing the league. We'll both have strong opinions, but not necessarily the same view. We'll let you decide which blogger is right.

Conference play is finally here, and October will be a pivotal month in the division races. Today's Take Two topic is this: What's the best Big Ten game in October?

Take 1: Adam Rittenberg

There are quite a few good choices here, but I'm still going with the game I circled and underlined as the Big Ten's best before the season: Michigan State at Michigan, Oct. 20, the Big House. Sure, both the Spartans and Wolverines have disappointed to this point after entering the season as the Big Ten's highest-ranked teams. Michigan State has had its issues on offense, while Michigan struggled to overcome Denard Robinson's miscues at Notre Dame. But I think both squads will make strides in the coming weeks, setting up a pivotal Legends division showdown in Ann Arbor. The rivalry component here is huge, and no matter what Michigan fans say, the significance of this game has increased lately because of Michigan State's dominance (four straight wins). Wolverines coach Brady Hoke certainly is playing it up more. Michigan State never has beaten Michigan five consecutive times -- the Spartans recorded six wins and a tie between 1956-62. Michigan's seniors don't want to finish their careers without ever beating the Spartans. The drama from last year's game, particularly involving MSU's William Gholston and Michigan's Taylor Lewan, will be an intriguing story line. It'll be interesting to see how Spartans quarterback Andrew Maxwell handles his first start in the series, and whether Le'Veon Bell can replicate what he did two years ago at the Big House. It's also a huge day for Robinson, who needs to show he guide Michigan to a signature win as the team chases its top goal of a league title and a Rose Bowl appearance.

Take 2: Brian Bennett

I also had Michigan State at Michigan as the Big Ten's top game in October, if not the entire season, this summer. But I'm changing my tune after the struggles by both the Spartans and the Wolverines, who are just a combined 5-4 and who are both unranked as we begin October. While that game will still certainly be a lot of fun and will contain many storylines, I think this week's game in Columbus is now the best of the month in the Big Ten. That's because Nebraska and Ohio State look like the top two teams in the league, at least for the moment. You have the two most valuable quarterbacks in the conference going head-to-head in the Buckeyes' Braxton Miller and the Huskers' Taylor Martinez. While neither team is perfect, they both have clear identities: Nebraska is a tremendous running team with a diversified offense, while Ohio State is a big-strike attack led by Miller. It's Nebraska's first trip to the Shoe as a Big Ten member, and it's a night game. Last year's matchup was an instant classic, with the Huskers making a school-record second-half comeback at home. I expect a whole lot more drama this year between the teams coached by fellow Ohio natives Urban Meyer and Bo Pelini. Ohio State isn't eligible to go to Indianapolis even if it wins the Leaders Division, but this may be our de facto Big Ten championship game in the first week of October.

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