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Monday, November 21, 2011
Big Ten Week 13 preview

By Brian Bennett

Only one week left before the bowls for all but two teams. One game will decide who plays Michigan State in the Dec. 3 Big Ten title game, while there are other things on the line elsewhere. Let's take a look at what's on tap:

Friday

Iowa (7-4, 4-3 Big Ten) at No. 21 Nebraska (8-3, 4-3), Noon, ABC: There's not a whole lot at stake in the first "Heroes Game," but this figures to develop into one of the better rivalries in the Big Ten. Plus, you'll just be emerging out of your turkey coma in time to watch some football on Friday. The Huskers need to protect home turf to avoid finishing 8-4 in what would be a disappointing first season in the Big Ten.

Saturday

No. 19 Penn State (9-2, 6-1) at No. 16 Wisconsin (9-2, 5-2), 3:30 p.m., ESPN: One game for all the (Leaders Division) marbles. It's a classic matchup of a powerful offense (Wisconsin) versus a hard-hitting defense (Penn State). The Badgers figure to have the edge at home, but the Nittany Lions played well on the road at Ohio State and will have all kinds of emotions swirling. How will Wisconsin block Devon Still up front, especially if center Peter Konz is still out with his ankle injury?

Ohio State (6-5, 3-4) at No. 15 Michigan (9-2, 5-2), Noon, ABC: The game has no impact on the division races, but it's still The Game. And Michigan actually looks like it has a chance to break its infuriating seven-game losing streak to the Buckeyes. Plus, a win puts the Wolverines at 10-2 and in pretty good position for an at-large BCS berth. Keeping the streak alive is arguably even more important to Ohio State than whatever middling bowl game it goes to this season.

Purdue (5-6, 3-4) at Indiana (1-10, 0-7), 3:30 p.m., Big Ten Network: The Boilermakers simply must win the Old Oaken Bucket if they want to go to a bowl game this year. But nothing is guaranteed in a rivalry game as Purdue well knows after losing at home to Indiana last year. This is the Hoosiers' last chance to record a win over an FBS opponent this season.

No. 14 Michigan State (9-2, 6-1) at Northwestern (6-5, 3-4), Noon, BTN: The Spartans could miss their plane to Chicago and still go the Big Ten title game. But a victory gives them back-to-back 10-win season for the first time ever. Northwestern wants to enhance its bowl profile and end the year on a five-game winning streak. Michigan State fell behind 17-0 in Evanston last year before rallying.

Illinois (6-5, 2-5) at Minnesota (2-9, 1-6), 3:30 p.m., BTN: Can Illinois stop the hemorrhaging, or will it go from 6-0 to 6-6 in one of the worst collapses in recent memory? Ron Zook's job probably hangs in the balance, if it isn't already dangling there. Minnesota ended last year with a win over Iowa at home and would like something to build on for 2012.