Chicago Colleges: bowl look 102713

Big Ten viewer’s guide: Week 7

October, 10, 2014
Oct 10
10:00
AM CT
Week 7 is here, and let’s not sugarcoat it: Big Ten football has looked more interesting on other weekends. This first Saturday of the season without nonconference action lacks marquee matchups. Still, the division races will continue to take shape.

Here’s a look at the five games (all times Eastern):

Noon

Illinois (3-3) and Wisconsin (3-2), ESPN2: Will Melvin Gordon run for 300 yards? If the Badgers wanted it to happen, Illinois’ 119th-ranked rushing defense would likely comply. More of the intrigue in Madison involves the quarterbacks. For Wisconsin, Joel Stave, who returned last week against Northwestern, will see time, in addition to Tanner McEvoy, who might also take a shot at receiver. And with Illinois’ Wes Lunt out with a fractured leg, senior Reilly O’Toole and sophomore Aaron Bailey, who was set to redshirt, have competed in practice this week.

Indiana (3-2) and Iowa (4-1), ESPNU: Indiana has shown it can win on the road in tough spots, handing Missouri its lone loss on Sept. 20. The Hoosiers are more explosive on offense than any foe Iowa has faced. But Indiana still can’t defend well, in particular against proficient quarterbacks. The Hawkeyes are going back to Jake Rudock at the start, but C.J. Beathard will play. How well can Greg Davis manage this? If it’s a disaster, Indiana might just find itself in the right place at the right time for an upset bid.

[+] EnlargeDavid Cobb
Leon Halip/Getty ImagesDavid Cobb and Minnesota can take a big step in their quest for a Western Division crown by beating Northwestern on Saturday.
Northwestern (3-2) at Minnesota (4-1), BTN: Who would have guessed a month ago, as the Golden Gophers fell flat at TCU and the Wildcats sat winless, that this game would have legitimate implications for the West Division title race? It does, with NU in quest of a third straight unexpected win to open league play. Its defense led the charge against Penn State and Wisconsin. Minnesota is simply solid, led by David Cobb, statistically the league’s most valuable offensive player. Minnesota has defended the pass especially well in recent games and will test Northwestern’s Trevor Siemian, 13th in the Big Ten in QBR.

3:30 p.m.

No. 8 Michigan State (4-1) at Purdue (3-3), ESPN2: At least it’s not the best team in the Big Ten against the worst. Purdue escaped the low spot last week with a win over Illinois. And sophomore quarterback Austin Appleby looked good in the victory. Very good, in fact. Back at home, he figures to find a much more difficult situation against the Spartans, who might come in a bit angry after nearly blowing a 24-point, fourth-quarter lead against Nebraska.

7 p.m.

Penn State (4-1) at Michigan (2-4), ESPN2: The visitors from Happy Valley, after an off week, get an opportunity to show that their anemic performance against Northwestern was just a fluke. With an upcoming stretch of three challenging games, no better time exists for PSU to get healthy than at Michigan, trying to avoid its first 0-3 start in the Big Ten since 1965. Against a good Penn State front, the Wolverines must protect Devin Gardner and throw the football, neither of which they’ve done well in recent weeks.

Required reading

Big Ten bowl projections: Week 9

October, 27, 2013
10/27/13
8:45
PM CT
After the Week 9 results, our biggest tumblers in the Big Ten bowl projections are Nebraska and Northwestern.

The Cornhuskers' loss to Minnesota prompted us to move Big Red down two slots to the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl. Nebraska isn't really in danger of missing a bowl, and its large fan base will ensure a decent landing spot (in reality, probably one better than Jacksonville). But we weren't exactly encouraged for the Huskers' future while watching how easily they got pushed around by the Gophers.

The fall was even harder for Northwestern, whose fourth straight loss resulted in an absence from our bowl projections for the first time this season. We never really envisioned a scenario in which the Wildcats would miss a bowl this season. But they look lost and confused on offense and need to win two more games against a schedule that includes showdowns with Nebraska, Michigan and Michigan State just to get bowl eligible. Right now, we have no confidence they will get that done.

Our top two teams remain the same this week, and we've bumped up the 7-1 Michigan State Spartans a notch. The problem for Michigan State, of course, is that even if it wins the Legends Division, it could run into an Ohio State buzz saw in Indianapolis. And if the Spartans lose there, they could pay for it because bowls aren't usually high on teams coming off a loss. It's a Catch-22 of sorts.

As a reminder, the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl picks ahead of the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl in this season's Big Ten lineup.

We also leave Indiana in for yet another week, but Saturday's home game against Minnesota might just be a must-win for the Hoosiers if they want to make the postseason.

The projections:

Rose Bowl Presented by VIZIO, Jan. 1: Ohio State
Capital One Bowl, Jan. 1: Wisconsin
Outback Bowl, Jan. 1: Michigan State
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, Dec. 28: Michigan
TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl, Jan. 1: Nebraska
Texas Bowl, Dec. 27: Iowa
Heart of Dallas Bowl, Jan. 1: Minnesota
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, Dec. 26: Indiana

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