Monday, March 17, 2014
Ultimate B1G 2014 road trip: Week 10
By Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett
The road trip has reached the home stretch with the month of November and Big Ten division races (hopefully) heating up. By now, we've logged thousands of miles, spend thousands of dollars and likely gained a few pounds, thanks to the culinary and beverage establishments we've frequented along the way.
For those just joining us (and really, where have you been?), we're each selecting one Big Ten game to attend each week during the 2014 season. We aren't tied down by a travel budget or nagging editors. If we want to attend a game -- depending on matchup, location, culinary offerings or any other factors -- we can go.
Let's check out the options for Week 10:
Indiana at Michigan
Maryland at Penn State
Illinois at Ohio State
Wisconsin at Rutgers
Northwestern at Iowa
Purdue at Nebraska
Open week: Michigan State, Minnesota
Brian Bennett's pick: Wisconsin at Rutgers
Not the best slate of games to choose from here, at least on paper. So I'll take the opportunity to go visit one of the newest Big Ten members and to see Wisconsin for the first time all season.
This game has blowout potential; remember how rudely the Badgers welcomed Nebraska to the Big Ten and how easily they often dispatch lesser opponents. But Rutgers' defense has been pretty solid over the years, so I'm interested to see how the Scarlet Knights handle that massive Wisconsin offensive line and the running game led by Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement. Few teams pound you like the Badgers, and it will certainly be an eye-opener for Rutgers.
Of course, coach Kyle Flood's team will simply have to hope to be in one piece by this point in the season, after playing Penn State on Sept. 13, Michigan on Oct. 4, Ohio State on Oct. 18 and Nebraska on Oct. 25. Welcome to the league, fellas.
By comparison, Wisconsin will have had it relatively easy in league play to this point and should be set up well for the showdowns against Nebraska and Iowa later in November. I'm sure I will pick at least one of those games to attend, if not both. For now, I'll enjoy returning to my Big East roots and having some fun in north Jersey. Maybe I'll even tempt fate and my cholesterol count with a fat sandwich.
Adam Rittenberg's pick: Northwestern at Iowa
November begins with a yawn as the Big Ten slate features no must-see matchups (again, blame the double-bye). Although Indiana and Michigan could set some more scoring records at the Big House, I'm going to head west to Iowa City for my first game at Kinnick Stadium since 2011. It's always one of my favorite Big Ten venues, and Iowa fans should be geared up for an opponent they'll never admit is a rival but one that gets under their skin.
Despite losses in two of the past three seasons, Northwestern has won six of the teams' last nine meetings. Iowa lost three straight home games to Northwestern before winning the last two, including a 17-10 overtime triumph last October. This is typically a close matchup and should be again as both teams return many of their core pieces from 2013.
Both defenses played really well last season, and it will be interesting to see if the offenses do more this time around. Northwestern likely will pass more with Trevor Siemian at quarterback, while Iowa will counter with a good group of running backs and a powerful line led by tackle Brandon Scherff. Iowa's new-look linebacking corps should be settled in as they go against Northwestern star running back Venric Mark, who missed last year's contest. Northwestern's defensive line will have to hold up against Mark Weisman and the Hawkeye ball carriers.
This is a big game for both teams and could factor into the West Division race. Kinnick, I've missed you. Save me a turkey leg.
Road trip itinerary
Week 1: Brian at Penn State-UCF (in Dublin, Ireland); Adam at Wisconsin-LSU (in Houston)
Week 2: Adam at Michigan-Notre Dame; Brian at Michigan State-Oregon
Week 3: Brian at Minnesota-TCU; Adam at Penn State-Rutgers
Week 4: Adam at Miami-Nebraska; Brian at Miami-Nebraska
Week 5: Brian at Cincinnati-Ohio State; Adam at Minnesota-Michigan
Week 6: Adam at Nebraska-Michigan State; Brian at Nebraska-Michigan State
Week 7: Brian at Penn State-Michigan; Adam at Northwestern-Minnesota
Week 8: Adam at Iowa-Maryland; Brian at Nebraska-Northwestern
Week 9: Brian at Michigan-Michigan State; Adam at Ohio State-Penn State