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What to watch in the Big Ten: Week 5

I'll admit last week's What to Watch really tested my detective skills. Not so this time around. Thank you, Big Ten play. You were missed.

Here are 10 items to track Saturday as the league games finally kick off:

1. History for Huskers: After months of anticipation and a smooth transition into the conference, Nebraska finally plays its first league game as a Big Ten member. And it's a big one. The eighth-ranked Huskers visit No. 7 Wisconsin in the first Big Ten matchup pairing two AP Top 10 teams since 2008. Many forecast the game as a preview of the inaugural Big Ten championship. Camp Randall will be rockin'. Madison will be insane. "College GameDay" will be there. What more do you need? Get out your seat and jump around!

2. Ohio-bred Spartans invade Columbus: Other than winning bowl games, Mark Dantonio has one significant item left on his to-do list as Michigan State's coach. Ohio State is the only Big Ten team (besides new member Nebraska) that Dantonio hasn't beaten in his tenure as Spartans' boss. Beating the Buckeyes resonates for Dantonio, a former Ohio State assistant and a native of Zanesville, Ohio. It also resonates for the 25 Ohio natives on Michigan State's roster, including standouts like defensive tackle Jerel Worthy and receiver B.J. Cunningham. The large Ohio contingent likely contributed to Dantonio keeping his players off limits to the media this week. Bottom line: this game is personal.

3. Dan Persa returns: After a long rehab process, the Northwestern quarterback makes his season debut against No. 24 Illinois. While there are questions about Northwestern's Heisman Trophy campaign and the stop-and-start rhetoric surrounding Persa's health during the past six weeks, there's no doubt Persa has the ability to boost the Wildcats. How he performs and how much he plays in Champaign remains to be seen, but we should get a much better gauge on the Northwestern offense and potentially the entire team with No. 7 back on the field.

4. Russell Wilson vs. Taylor Martinez: Two of the Big Ten's most productive players take center stage Saturday night in Madison. Wilson has been brilliant so far for the Badgers, completing 75.8 percent of his passes for 1,136 yards with 11 touchdowns and one interception. If he can put up big numbers against a quality Nebraska defense, he'll truly put himself on the Heisman Trophy radar. Martinez continues to gash defenses with his feet, ranking second in the Big Ten in both rushing (105.2 ypg) and touchdowns scored (7). Wisconsin's approach to defending T-Magic? "We just hope to get in front of him and make him fall down," coach Bret Bielema said.

5. Quarterback quandaries: Five Big Ten teams aren't fully settled at quarterback entering Week 5. Penn State's seemingly never-ending competition between Rob Bolden and Matthew McGloin continues at Indiana. The Hoosiers, meanwhile, want to see more from Ed Wright-Baker in the red zone or Dusty Kiel likely will get a shot. Minnesota heads to Michigan with packages designed for two quarterbacks (MarQueis Gray and Max Shortell). Purdue will start Caleb TerBush against Notre Dame, but Robert Marve is healthy and coach Danny Hope has talked extensively about having two quarterbacks ready. Will we get any QB resolutions around the league this week?

6. Braxton Miller put to the test: After some predictably mixed results in his first career start against Colorado, Miller faces a tougher challenge in Michigan State, which boasts the nation's No. 1 defense. Miller seemed to get more comfortable with his passes as last week's game went on and tossed two touchdowns to Devin Smith. He also remains a threat to run, although the Spartans have stifled opposing teams on the ground. Miller avoided major mistakes against Colorado but will have to be careful against Michigan State, which recorded four interceptions last week.

7. Denard Robinson's passing: There's no doubt Denard Robinson is arguably the most dynamic running quarterback in Big Ten history. But many folks still refused to call him a quarterback and scoff at his Heisman Trophy hype. The reason? Robinson is completing only 48.6 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and six interceptions. Intermediate to deep passes have been particularly troubling for "Shoelace" this year. Michigan says the problem goes beyond Robinson, but it needs to be rectified before the competition level spikes. Robinson on Saturday faces a Minnesota team ranked last in the Big Ten and 108th nationally in pass defense (278.5 ypg allowed). This is a good chance for Robinson to find a rhythm.

8. Clash for Chicago: Illinois and Northwestern play for the Land of Lincoln Trophy, but the real prize is an increased presence in the Chicago market. Northwestern last year launched a marketing campaign complete with the slogan "Chicago's Big Ten team," which has been a success. The tag line irked Illinois players, who took out their aggression on the Wildcats in a dominating win last November at Chicago's Wrigley Field. New Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas, meanwhile, has talked about having Illinois become the "King of Chicago." All the Chicago talk has added some spice to a rivalry that needs some.

9. Blackshirts at full strength: Nebraska's defense hasn't been nearly as dominant as pretty much everyone -- Huskers players, fans, media members -- thought it would be. But there's a silver lining: the Blackshirts' Big 3 of defensive tackle Jared Crick, linebacker Lavonte David and cornerback Alfonzo Dennard hasn't been on the field together this season. The wait ends Saturday night as Crick returns from a head injury to solidify the defensive front. If Nebraska's defense can slow down a Wisconsin offense averaging 48.5 points and 532.3 yards per game, the questions will go away.

10. Purdue aims for statement win: Remember Purdue? The Boilers have gone largely unnoticed this season -- and, for that matter, during most of Danny Hope's two plus seasons as coach. But Saturday night, Purdue has a chance to grab the spotlight as it hosts Notre Dame at Ross-Ade Stadium. Love 'em or hate 'em, the Fighting Irish generate attention, and Purdue will garner exposure if it upsets the crew from South Bend. "If things don't work out right, it's not the end of the world," Hope said this week. "But a win on Saturday could change our world in some ways."