Saturday, November 16, 2013
Big Ten Week 12 primer
By Josh Moyer
The regular season is winding down, so enjoy an afternoon's worth of Big Ten games -- and watch the conference and national title picture grow a little clearer.
Indiana (4-5, 2-3) at No. 22 Wisconsin (7-2, 4-1), ESPN2: The Hoosiers rank No. 109 in the country in rushing defense, while Wisconsin is No. 10 in the nation in rushing offense. Indiana will have to find answers to its defensive woes quickly to upset the Badgers, who have two of the hottest backs in the Big Ten in James White and Melvin Gordon. The Hoosiers are hoping to keep their bowl hopes alive; Wisconsin is hoping to stay on pace for a January postseason game.
It's going to take quite an effort by Illinois to slow down Carlos Hyde and No. 3 Ohio State.
No. 3 Ohio State (9-0, 5-0) at Illinois (3-6, 0-5), ESPN: The Fighting Illini are aiming to play the role of spoiler here as they have little else to play for since their bowl hopes have been reduced to a long shot. The Buckeyes are riding an FBS-best 21-game winning streak, while Illinois is on a 19-game losing streak in Big Ten play. Ohio State hasn't lost since Jan. 2, 2012, against Florida. Illinois hasn't won a conference game since Oct. 8, 2011, against Indiana. These teams are on opposite ends of the spectrum right now, and a lot will have to happen for Illinois to wake up happy on Sunday.
Purdue (1-8, 0-5) at Penn State (5-4, 2-3), BTN: There might not be a lot of hype surrounding this game, but that doesn't mean there's nothing worth watching here. Two highly touted true freshman quarterbacks will square off against one another in Purdue's Danny Etling and Penn State's Christian Hackenberg. Both were four-star recruits last season, and this game might offer a glimpse of those programs' futures.
No. 16 Michigan State (8-1, 5-0) at Nebraska (7-2, 4-1), ABC/ESPN2: If both teams win their final two games, this is the one that will determine who winds up in the Big Ten title game. The Huskers haven't lost yet with Tommy Armstrong Jr. under center, going 5-0, but he'll be tested against a Spartans defense that's arguably the best in the country. Michigan State's Achilles' heel, the offense, has grown stronger every week. So if Nebraska's defense doesn't show up, Michigan State will wind up one step closer to the Big Ten title game.
Michigan (6-3, 2-3) at Northwestern (4-5, 0-5), BTN: Both teams, especially on offense, have been highly inconsistent this season -- and both teams need a win in order to start picking up the pieces. The Wolverines have scored 19 points in the last two games, both losses, while the Wildcats lost their last three conference games by a single score. And, of course, Northwestern's last two losses were decided in overtime and on a last-second Hail Mary.
If you expected cold, snowy conditions this time of year for Big Ten football, think again. Although there'll be scattered rain at most games, all the temperatures should range from the mid-50s to mid-60s. It should be especially nice at Penn State and Nebraska, where the rain should hold off.
For Wisconsin and Northwestern, however, the mid-50s temperatures will be coupled with some afternoon showers and an overcast skies. Illinois will have to endure rain to go along with wind gusts that should exceed 20 mph.