Saturday, November 23, 2013
Big Ten primer: Week 13
By Austin Ward
Somehow there are only two weeks left in the regular season. Enjoy the afternoon of Big Ten football, because time is running out.
Michigan State (9-1, 6-0) at Northwestern (4-6, 0-6), ESPN: The Spartans already have clinched a share of the Legends Division title, but they haven't assured themselves of a chance to compete for the conference crown yet. Deploying their elite defense against the reeling Wildcats could do the trick, though, potentially setting up a huge matchup with Ohio State in two weeks in Indianapolis. Northwestern once entertained dreams of playing for a conference title, but all it can do at this point is try to play spoiler.
Illinois (3-7, 0-6) at Purdue (1-9, 0-6), Big Ten Network: Somebody has to win. The seasons have been ugly for both programs, obviously, but either the Illini or the Boilermakers finally will have something to feel good about and maybe could squeeze a tiny bit of momentum out of the final two weeks of the regular season. The Illini looked dangerous again offensively a week ago at home against the Buckeyes, and quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase must be licking his chops to take on a defense allowing more than 38 points per game.
Michigan (7-3, 3-3) at Iowa (6-4, 3-3), BTN: The Hawkeyes already have punched a ticket to a bowl game, but the way they view an already successful season compared to a year go might really change if they can knock off the Wolverines. Iowa has been one of the stingier teams in the conference in terms of scoring defense in allowing less than 19 points per game, and if it can create pressure on Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner with its solid front seven, it might guarantee itself a winning record.
No. 19 Wisconsin (8-2, 5-1) at No. 25 Minnesota (8-2, 4-2), ESPN: The stunning turnaround by the Gophers has set up perhaps the most unlikely late-November pairing of ranked teams anywhere in the country, and its hard to argue the appearance in the BCS standings hasn't been well earned. Minnesota still actually has a shot of claiming a piece of the Legends Division title if it can knock off the Badgers today and the Spartans next week, provided the latter loses to Northwestern. Even if it doesn't get the help it needs in the division, Minnesota could make itself more appealing to bowl committees and end any chance of Wisconsin earning a BCS at-large bid if it can win Paul Bunyan's Axe.
Indiana (4-6, 2-4) at No. 3 Ohio State (10-0, 8-0), ABC/ESPN2: The Buckeyes are an angry, motivated bunch after letting Illinois hang around last week and then watching No. 4 Baylor narrow the margin between the teams in the BCS standings, and they might take out that frustration on the Hoosiers. Indiana has been terrible defending the rush, which is a problem considering only three teams in the nation can run the ball better than the Buckeyes with Carlos Hyde and Braxton Miller in the backfield.
Nebraska (7-3, 4-2) at Penn State (6-4, 3-3), BTN: There's not much on the line, but any meeting between these two traditional powerhouse programs figures to be entertaining. The Huskers have faint hope of splitting the division title in a tiebreaker with Minnesota and Michigan State, though they wouldn't be in line for a trip to Indy after losing to both teams. The Nittany Lions are just trying to send a senior class that has been through some rough moments off in style.
There's pretty much no escape from cold temperatures and windy conditions anywhere in Big Ten country. Every venue hosting a game is expecting gusts of wind between 15 and 25 miles per hour, and nobody is anticipating temperatures higher than 40 degrees.
The chilliest spot in the league will be Minneapolis, which is expecting a high of around 15 degrees to give a true November, Big Ten feel to the ranked showdown between Minnesota and Wisconsin.
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