NCF Nation: Iowa Hawkeyes

Big Ten viewer's guide: Week 13

November, 21, 2014
Nov 21
10:00
AM ET
It's the second-to-last week of the season, and it's the first time all year that all 14 Big Ten teams are in action against one another in conference play. (Still hate you, double bye.) And there are no night games, so you'll have to be on top of your remote control game in the early afternoon.

Here's a look at what's on tap Saturday (all times ET):

Noon

[+] EnlargeMelvin Gordon
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesMelvin Gordon and Wisconsin are looking to punch their tickets to Indianapolis in Iowa.
No. 25 Minnesota (7-3, 4-2 Big Ten) at No. 23 Nebraska (8-2, 4-2), ESPN: The Gophers can win the Big Ten West by winning their final two games. But first they'll have to get through a Nebraska team that should be fighting mad after last week's embarrassment in Madison. Bo Pelini said this week that Ameer Abdullah might not be 100 percent the rest of the year.

Rutgers (6-4, 2-4) at No. 11 Michigan State (8-2, 5-1), Big Ten Network: League championship dreams are all but over for the Spartans, but they can still win 10 games and get to a major bowl. The Scarlet Knights are looking to score an upset over one of the upper-tier teams in the league, but they're going bowling regardless.

Indiana (3, 7, 0-6) at No. 6 Ohio State (9-1, 6-0), BTN: The Buckeyes are around a five-touchdown favorite, and understandably so. This one might be about style points for the selection committee, and not much else.

Northwestern (4-6, 2-4) at Purdue (3-7, 1-5), ESPNU: After a surprising upset in South Bend, the Wildcats now have a bowl game in sight if they can win this one and close out the season against Illinois. But Purdue had a week off to prepare, and Northwestern has had a habit of playing up or down to its competition.

Penn State (6-4, 2-4) at Illinois (4-6, 1-5), ESPN2: Tim Beckman's last stand? The Illini have to win here to have any hope of getting to a bowl game and potentially saving their coach's job. Christian Hackenberg is scuffling for Penn State, but is Illinois' defense enough to lift his doldrums?

3:30 p.m.

No. 16 Wisconsin (8-2, 5-1) at Iowa (7-3, 4-2), ABC/ESPN2: The Heartland Trophy game has enormous West Division implications. If Wisconsin wins, it can do no worse than tie for the division title and could clinch a spot in Indianapolis with a Minnesota loss. Melvin Gordon, who originally committed to Iowa, will look to add to his Heisman Trophy credentials after his 408-yard day last weekend.

Maryland (6-4, 3-3) at Michigan (5-5, 3-3), BTN: Can Brady Hoke lead Michigan to a bowl game? He'll almost certainly have to win this one to do so, since the Wolverines' finale is in Columbus. Maryland already has wins over Penn State and Iowa, and would solidify a nice first season in the Big Ten by winning in the Big House.

Required reading
Week 13 predictions | Bold calls

Ohio State offensive line again rises from the ashes

J.T. Barrett speeds toward Heisman race

Minnesota, Nebraska fight to move forward

Revised image suits Michigan's Jake Ryan

Rutgers not satisfied with bowl eligibility

'Chevy Bad Boys' power Wisconsin's No. 1 D

The cold truth: Embrace the B1G weather

Big Ten's second act worth watching

West Division title scenarios

"Dilly Bar Dan" enjoys his brush with fame

Bowl projections

Awards race tracker

Big Ten Week 13 predictions

November, 20, 2014
Nov 20
9:00
AM ET


Why Minnesota will win: There’s no letup coming for the Blackshirts, who were historically carved up by Melvin Gordon last week and must turn right around and face the Gophers' David Cobb and another productive rushing attack, with flickering hopes of winning the West Division hanging in the balance for both teams. Ameer Abdullah doesn’t look quite back to full speed on his injured knee, and the Gophers are perhaps underrated for their defensive ability when they’re dialed in and aggressive, which could make it tough for the Huskers if the star rusher is limited again. Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner has been inconsistent this season, but this seems like a good opportunity for him to bounce back in the play-action passing game with the Huskers trying to avoid another soft performance on the ground. ... Minnesota 27, Nebraska 24 -- Austin Ward

Why Nebraska will win: Melvin Gordon had his way with the Huskers last week, but Minnesota’s David Cobb -- who’s accounted for more than 40 percent of the offense -- is a different kind of runner. Most of Gordon’s yards came with speed outside the tackles; most of Cobb’s will come from power between the tackles. Nebraska shouldn’t allow half as many big offensive plays this weekend, and the Huskers’ offense clearly has the edge here. Bo Pelini’s squad averages 8.8 more points per game, the offense gains an average of 100 more yards a game, and Ameer Abdullah is one week healthier. Minnesota won’t be able to keep up. ... Nebraska 34, Minnesota 24 -- Josh Moyer



Why Michigan wins: It's the last home game for Michigan seniors such as linebacker Jake Ryan and quarterback Devin Gardner and possibly the last for coach Brady Hoke. The Wolverines will ride their defense and limit mistakes on offense to outlast a Maryland team that has been tough to figure out week-to-week. It's a field-goal fest early on, but Michigan records a defensive touchdown in the third quarter and holds off a Terrapins rally to get bowl-eligible. ... Michigan 19, Maryland 16 -- Adam Rittenberg

Why Maryland wins: Maryland has been a puzzle this season, but my bet is Randy Edsall fits the right pieces together Saturday at Michigan. The Terps are at their best when airing out the deep ball on offense (even without Stefon Diggs). If Michigan can't get a decent pass rush in the absence of Frank Clark, C.J. Brown should have enough time to connect with his receivers on a couple bombs. Michigan's seniors will pour their hearts onto the field for a final time at the Big House, but in close games, Maryland kicker Brad Craddock has been a difference-maker for the Terps. He plays the heartbreaker role again in Ann Arbor. ... Maryland 24, Michigan 21 -- Dan Murphy



Why Northwestern will win: It's a risk picking the Wildcats here because they only seem to play well against top-20 teams. But I've got to believe Pat Fitzgerald's team built some confidence in that upset at Notre Dame, and certainly that was the best Trevor Siemian has looked all year. Purdue has some big-play ability that will give Northwestern trouble, but the Wildcats now have a realistic shot at a bowl and should play with all-out effort with that in mind. ... Northwestern 24, Purdue 21 -- Brian Bennett

Why Purdue wins: Northwestern has shown great fight in coming back from the dead twice this year. Its most remarkable achievement -- slightly ahead of the home victory over Wisconsin last month -- came Saturday with a road win at Notre Dame. But I just don’t trust the Wildcats, who are dreaming of a bowl game. Remember, this is a team that lost by 41 at Iowa three weeks ago. Purdue is playing without pressure. Sure, it has struggled down the stretch, but Austin Appleby is capable of a strong performance against a mediocre defense. If you want my real strategy in pick the Boilermakers, look no further than the calendar. Since 1947, Purdue is unbeaten in nine games on Nov. 22. ... Purdue 35, Northwestern 31 -- Josh Moyer

Unanimous decisions

Ohio State 59, Indiana 10: Shield your eyes from this one, folks. The league's best team and top offense take aim at the winless-in-conference Hoosiers at home and with a need to impress. It's going to get ugly early and stay that way.

Michigan State 42, Rutgers 21: The Scarlet Knights got bowl eligible last week but weren't terribly impressive against Indiana. Meanwhile, the Spartans regained their mojo at Maryland and should have an easy time dissecting a very leaky Scarlet Knights defense. Jeremy Langford will close out his home career in style on senior day with 175 rushing yards.

Penn State 17, Illinois 13: Odds are the Nittany Lions aren't going to blow any Big Ten opponents away because of their limited offense. But their defense has been one of the best in college football, and Anthony Zettel and Mike Hull will consume the Illini offensive line. A pick-six helps Penn State escape Champaign with win No. 7.

Wisconsin 31, Iowa 24: The Badgers won't have as easy a time running the ball as they did against Nebraska last week (historically speaking, that would be almost impossible). But Melvin Gordon isn't going to slow down now that he has a Heisman Trophy in his sights. Iowa will hang around all day, but Wisconsin's defense will make the necessary stops to pull another step closer to the West Division title.

Our records:
T-1. Mitch Sherman: 78-20 (.796)
T-1. Austin Ward: 78-20 (.796)
3. Dan Murphy: 47-14 (.787)
4. Brian Bennett: 77-21 (.786)
T-5. Adam Rittenberg: 73-25 (.745)
T-5. Josh Moyer: 73-25 (.745)

Big Ten bowl projections: Week 12

November, 18, 2014
Nov 18
8:00
PM ET
This week's Big Ten bowls debate centered on the bottom of the projections, not the top. But first things first.

Ohio State maintained its No. 1 spot and will be heading at least for a New Year's Six bowl game. Another Buckeyes win or two, coupled with some surprises outside the Big Ten, and Urban Meyer's team would be projected for the College Football Playoff.

We also considered projecting Michigan State to a New Year's Six bowl. If the Spartans finish strong at 10-2 and have losses only to two potential playoff teams -- Oregon and Ohio State -- they'll have a strong case to go somewhere like Arizona or Atlanta. For now, they're headed to Orlando for the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl.

Wisconsin also is coming on strong, but it would be hard for the Badgers to reach a New Year's Six bowl unless they beat Ohio State in the Big Ten title game.

Nebraska is an intriguing candidate. The Big Ten seemingly would like the Huskers to go to a non-Florida bowl after three consecutive trips to the Sunshine State. But the Holiday Bowl, the next obvious choice for the Huskers, might prefer a team like Iowa that hasn't been to the San Diego game since 1991. For now, we have Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl, where it made consecutive appearances in 2009 and 2010.

The Big Ten's bowl pool is expanding, as Penn State and Rutgers both qualified for the postseason and cemented spots in the projections. We like Michigan to earn its sixth win against Maryland on Saturday and to make the short trip to Detroit for its bowl game.

Northwestern has moved back into the projections after a where-did-that-come-from win against Notre Dame. The Wildcats still must beat Purdue and Illinois to become bowl-eligible, hardly a guarantee for an up-and-down team. But we see Pat Fitzgerald's squad getting it done.

Also, our sincere apologies to the Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl, which will have a Big Ten team this year and has entered the rundown.

Here are the latest projections, which now include 11 teams from the Big Ten ...

Chick-fil-A Peach/Goodyear Cotton/VIZIO Fiesta: Ohio State
Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus: Michigan State
Outback: Wisconsin
National University Holiday: Nebraska
TaxSlayer/Franklin American Mortgage Music City: Minnesota
San Francisco: Iowa
New Era Pinstripe: Penn State
Quick Lane: Michigan
Zaxby's Heart of Dallas: Maryland
At-large: Rutgers
At-large: Northwestern

Big Ten West Division title scenarios

November, 18, 2014
Nov 18
10:40
AM ET
There are two weeks left in the regular season, and neither Big Ten division has been officially decided yet.

Of course, Ohio State has all but locked up the East thanks to its victory over Michigan State. The Buckeyes simply have to win one of their final two games -- or have the Spartans lose one -- to clinch a spot in the Big Ten championship game. Michigan State would need to win out and have Ohio State lose twice. And with Indiana and Michigan going to Columbus, there's only about a 1 percent chance of that happening.

But the question of who'll meet the Buckeyes in Indianapolis from the West Division remains unsolved. All four remaining contenders -- Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska -- play important games against another contender in the final two weeks. Here's a rundown of what needs to happen for each team to get to the championship game:

Wisconsin

The Badgers (5-1) are in great shape thanks to their blowout win over Nebraska last Saturday. They could clinch a spot in the title game this weekend if they win at Iowa and Minnesota loses at Nebraska. The Huskers could still be West co-champs in that scenario, but Wisconsin would own the head-to-head tiebreaker.

If Wisconsin beats Iowa and Minnesota wins in Lincoln, then the Axe game between the Badgers and Gophers on Nov. 29 would be an Indianapolis play-in game. If Wisconsin loses to Iowa, it would need to beat Minnesota and have the Hawkeyes lose to Nebraska on Nov. 28.

Minnesota

The Gophers (4-2) have a simple formula for capturing the West: win out. If they beat Nebraska and Wisconsin, both on the road, they'll be in Indianapolis and force a likely rematch with Ohio State. A loss in either game eliminates them from the Big Ten championship game.

Iowa

Like Minnesota, the Hawkeyes (4-2) still control their own destiny. Well, almost. If Iowa can beat Wisconsin and Nebraska at Kinnick Stadium and Minnesota loses one if its last two, Kirk Ferentz's team will be going to Indianapolis. A loss in either game would be the end of those hopes.

Nebraska

The Cornhuskers (4-2) need the most help of any remaining West contender, by virtue of their loss to Wisconsin. First, they need to beat Minnesota and Iowa. Then they need Wisconsin to lose to both Iowa and Minnesota. That would leave Nebraska as the only two-loss team in the division. And it's the only way Bo Pelini's team can get to Indy.

Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 12

November, 16, 2014
Nov 16
2:00
PM ET


Big Ten viewer's guide: Week 12

November, 14, 2014
Nov 14
10:00
AM ET
Bundle up if you're going to a Big Ten game this weekend. Temperatures could be in the 20s or lower in some places, and there's possibilities for snow. Remember: Layers.

If you're just watching the Week 12 games from someplace warm, then A) you're smart and B) here's what you need to know about today's lineup (all times ET):

Noon

[+] EnlargeJ.T. Barrett
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsJ.T. Barrett and Ohio State can't afford to have a letdown against Minnesota on Saturday.
No. 8 Ohio State (8-1, 5-0 Big Ten) at No. 25 Minnesota (7-2, 4-1), ABC: Can the Golden Gophers pull off the big upset at home? The cold weather might help slow down the Buckeyes' surging offense, but Minnesota will have to play a nearly perfect game. Ohio State could be battling a letdown factor after the win at Michigan State, but it can't afford to get distracted given its place in the playoff chase.

Iowa (6-3, 3-1) at Illinois (4-5, 1-4), Big Ten Network: The maddeningly inconsistent Hawkeyes look to bounce back from that 51-14 thrashing in Minneapolis last week; remember, they can still win the Big Ten West by winning out and having the Gophers lose twice more. The Fighting Illini are just hoping to get closer to bowl eligibility and possibly preserving Tim Beckman's job. Having Wes Lunt back at quarterback this week should help.

Temple (5-4, 3-3 American) at Penn State (5-4, 2-4), ESPN2: The Owls will try to beat the Nittany Lions for the first time since 1941 and for the first time ever in State College. Penn State hopes to clinch bowl eligibility and use that get-out-of-jail card from the NCAA. Don't expect a lot of points from either side in this one.

3:30 p.m.

No. 16 Nebraska (8-1, 4-1) at No. 20 Wisconsin (7-2, 4-1), ABC: This is much more than Ameer Abdullah vs. Melvin Gordon, though that showdown between the two marquee backs could be great if Abdullah is healthy. The winner will remain in great shape in the West Division race, while the loser will need a lot of help. Wisconsin has the home-field advantage, but the Cornhuskers will be by far the best team the Badgers have played since the season-opening loss to LSU.

Northwestern (3-6, 2-4) at No. 18 Notre Dame (7-2), NBC: The Wildcats have been looking forward to this game for a long time, but they'd hoped to be in better shape for it. Northwestern has lost four straight and is averaging just 12.5 points per game in that span. The Fighting Irish aren't scheduled to play another Big Ten team until September 2016, when they'll face Michigan State.

Indiana (3-6, 0-5) at Rutgers (5-4, 1-4), BTN: This is the first-ever meeting between these two teams, and no one is exactly clamoring for it right now. The Hoosiers have lost five straight against Power 5 opponents since beating Missouri and have virtually no offense to speak of. Rutgers has lost three straight and was outscored by 94 points in that span but should clinch bowl eligibility here.

8 p.m.

No. 12 Michigan State (7-2, 4-1) at Maryland (6-3, 3-2), BTN: How will the Spartans respond to the Ohio State loss? Will they come out swinging or still be smarting over the loss of their playoff (and most likely Big Ten title) hopes? Maryland has enough big-play ability to make this interesting, even without Stefon Diggs.

Bye: Michigan, Purdue

Required reading

Week 12 predictions | Bold calls

Nineteen years later, Northwestern looks to shock Irish again

Melvin Gordon's Heisman moment

Ameer Abdullah gets another shot to beat the odds

Gophers dance into November relevancy

Explosive plays expose cracks in Michigan State's defense

Buckeyes trust Jalin Marshall to do it all

Indiana's Tevin Coleman defies the odds

Take Two: Big Ten's best defense

Awards race tracker

Big Ten Week 12 predictions

November, 13, 2014
Nov 13
9:00
AM ET
Why Nebraska will win: Wisconsin's defense has been great this season, but it hasn't played a Power 5 offense ranked within the top 60. Nebraska is No. 17. The Huskers have the ability to keep a defense off-balance with one of the top rushers in the nation in Ameer Abdullah -- who should still play, even if he's not 100 percent -- and with a passing offense that averages nearly 60 yards more a game than Wisconsin. Gary Andersen's squad hasn't seen a team quite like Nebraska, and Wisconsin managed to lose to Northwestern, after all. I've been high on Nebraska all season, and I'm not about to jump off the bandwagon now. Nebraska comes away with the Freedom Trophy. ... Nebraska 34, Wisconsin 28. -- Josh Moyer

Why Wisconsin will win: Abdullah is questionable for Saturday's game after spraining his MCL two weeks ago. Even if he plays at full strength, which doesn't seem likely for the senior this weekend, Abdullah struggled the last time he faced a top-notch defensive front. Wisconsin ranks No. 5 nationally in rushing defense. The Badgers' offense is averaging more than 40 points per game during its current four-game winning streak. Wisconsin's passing game showed a glimmer of existence in last week's 34-16 win over Purdue. And of course the Badgers still have Melvin Gordon, now the country's leading rusher. He gets the better of this battle with Abdullah and so do the Badgers. ... Wisconsin 36, Nebraska 28. -- Dan Murphy

Why Illinois will win: Quarterback Wes Lunt, the Big Ten’s most productive passer, returns for the Illini, who played respectably without him and figure to get a big boost from the presence of their offensive leader. Iowa, meanwhile, is spiraling after that embarrassment last week at Minnesota. And realistically, what’s left for the Hawkeyes, who are already bowl eligible and must win out -- and get help from the Gophers -- to take the West? If Iowa is to stage an uprising, that seems more likely in the final two weeks at home against Wisconsin or Nebraska. Meanwhile, Illinois has plenty for which to play, needing two wins in its manageable three-game finish to get to .500 and perhaps save the program from a tumultuous offseason. ... Illinois 31, Iowa 21. -- Mitch Sherman

Why Iowa will win: No Big Ten team is more frustratingly inconsistent than the Hawkeyes, but after last weekend’s blowout loss, maybe they’ve finally purged all the poor performances from their system in time for the stretch run. At a minimum, Jake Rudock and the Iowa offense figure to put up points against a hapless Illinois defense that is allowing nearly 37 points per game. And even with Lunt back running the attack for the Illini, the Hawkeyes should be able to generate enough pressure with Drew Ott leading the charge up front. Obviously everything doesn’t always work out as planned for Iowa, but it should this weekend. ... Iowa 31, Illinois 20. -- Austin Ward

Unanimous selections

Ohio State 38, Minnesota 17: Maybe the cold weather can slow down the Buckeyes and an offense that is once again rolling at a record-setting pace. The Gophers have a hard-nosed, disciplined defense at their disposal as well, but Ohio State simply has too many weapons and too much momentum.

Rutgers 20, Indiana 10: The Hoosiers are a mess on offense, and there doesn’t seem to be anything Tevin Coleman can do about it at this point without any help at all from the passing attack. Rutgers had an extra week to prepare, gets to play at home and is plenty motivated with bowl eligibility dangling in front of it -- not a good setup for Indiana.

Michigan State 38, Maryland 17: An angry group of Spartans will be looking to take out some frustration this weekend, and unfortunately for the Terrapins, they happen to sit in the post-Nov. 8 spot on the schedule. Even worse for Maryland, it won’t have Stefon Diggs on hand to try to hit some big plays and keep pace with the Spartans.

Penn State 13, Temple 7: Considering all the expectations heaped on quarterback Christian Hackenberg ahead of his sophomore season, it still seems odd that it’s an elite defense carrying the Nittany Lions. The Owls can do some damage on that side of the ball also, but they’ll struggle mightily to move the chains on offense.

Notre Dame 27, Northwestern 13: The Wildcats aren’t playing for much more than pride after their 2-point conversion debacle last week. They aren’t officially out of contention for the postseason yet, but the Irish should take care of that.

Our records:
1. Mitch Sherman: 73-18 (.802)
2. Austin Ward: 72-19 (.791)
3. Brian Bennett: 71-20 (.780)
4. Dan Murphy: 41-13 (.759)
5. Adam Rittenberg: 69-22 (.758)
6. Josh Moyer: 68-23 (.747)
It is easy to see why Oregon, Texas A&M and Auburn are working hard to land ESPN 300 athlete Kirk Merritt. He might be only a sophomore, but recruiting fans need to learn Joshua Paschal's name.

Big Ten bowl projections: Week 11

November, 11, 2014
Nov 11
8:10
PM ET
Ohio State reclaimed the Big Ten throne Saturday night at Spartan Stadium.

About 69 hours later, the Buckeyes officially occupy the top spot in the Big Ten bowl projections. Ohio State is our pick to win the Big Ten. Will that equate to a spot in the College Football Playoff? Right now we think it will not, but crazy things happen this time of year.

Michigan State moves down to the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl, where it last played after the 2010 season. We think there's a decent chance the Spartans wind up in a New Year's Six game, but they need to finish strong and hope some others falter.

Minnesota moves up to the Music City Bowl after thumping rival Iowa, which tumbles from the Citrus all the way to the Pinstripe Bowl in New York. Iowa still has opportunities to rise as it hosts both Wisconsin and Nebraska to finish the season, but this is an underachieving, unpredictable team right now. We can't slot the Hawkeyes any higher.

The shuffle at the top moves Rutgers out of the Big Ten bowl tie-ins, but we expect the Scarlet Knights to secure an at-large spot. They need one more win and should get it Saturday when they host last-place Indiana.

Penn State and Michigan also both need one win to become bowl eligible, but the Nittany Lions have an easier road (Temple, Illinois, Michigan State) and one more game than the Wolverines (Maryland, Ohio State). For now, Penn State is in and Michigan is out.

Illinois could take a big step toward bowl eligibility -- and securing coach Tim Beckman's future for another year -- by upsetting Iowa on Saturday in Champaign, Illinois. The Fighting Illini have three winnable games left (Iowa, Penn State, Northwestern) but need two, which equals Beckman's Big Ten win total to this point.

Here are this week's projections ...

Chick-fil-A Peach/Goodyear Cotton/VIZIO Fiesta: Ohio State
Citrus: Michigan State
Outback: Wisconsin
National University Holiday: Nebraska
TaxSlayer/Franklin American Mortgage Music City: Minnesota
San Francisco: Maryland
New Era Pinstripe: Iowa
Quick Lane: Penn State
At-large: Rutgers

Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 11

November, 9, 2014
Nov 9
2:00
PM ET
Lessons learned after Week 11 in the Big Ten:

[+] EnlargeJ.T. Barrett
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsA clutch performance by J.T. Barrett on Saturday night helped keep Ohio State's playoff hopes alive.
1. Ohio State is king of the East and one of the B1G's two best bets for the playoff: Michigan State linebacker Taiwan Jones said he felt as if the College Football Playoff started Saturday. He was kind of right, but the Spartans are out, and the Buckeyes are in ... the playoff picture. Few people saw the Buckeyes' dominating 49-37 win over Michigan State coming, and that's exactly what they needed to make a statement in this playoff race. J.T. Barrett outplayed Connor Cook, Ohio State scored touchdowns on six straight drives, and there was no sad pizza eating for Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer. Margin of victory can only help the Buckeyes, and they'll need to keep playing like this to show they deserve one of the playoff's four spots. Only two Big Ten teams, one-loss Ohio State and Nebraska, are in contention for the playoff now, and they could face each other in the Big Ten title game. Of course ...

2. ... The Wild West still remains wild: Just when you think you’ve started to figure out the West Division, with Minnesota coming off a puzzling loss to Illinois and Iowa blowing out Northwestern, Jerry Kill’s squad steps up and absolutely dominates the Hawkeyes in a 51-14 thrashing that was over by halftime. Nebraska, Minnesota and Wisconsin all boast just one Big Ten loss now -- so anything can happen in these last three weeks, especially when you consider these three teams will all play one another, with Nebraska taking on Wisconsin next Saturday. (Even Iowa, which still plays Wisconsin and Nebraska, isn’t technically out of the equation.) It’s looking more and more as if we’ll have to wait until the final week of the regular season to get a clear picture of who will move forward. Lessons learned: It was way too premature to write off Minnesota (and Kill’s dancing skills), and it’s still too early to pick a clear favorite.

3. Wisconsin passing game has some potential: Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy appeared doomed early this season, but they might end up just fine if Stave can build off part of Saturday’s performance. The Badgers set a season high with 30 pass attempts, and Stave finished 19-of-29 for 216 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. His QBR of 77.2 was the highest of any Wisconsin starter in the Big Ten season, and he was especially hot in the second quarter of the 34-16 win. This was about as balanced as Wisconsin’s offense has been all season, and if defenses are forced to take some of the focus away from the running game, the Badgers’ offense could become even more dangerous. One game doesn’t make a trend, but it does show Stave is capable of more this season.

4. Several B1G offenses are regressing: If you watched -- and stayed awake through -- Penn State's 13-7 win over Indiana and Michigan's 10-9 win over Northwestern, feel free to pat yourself on the back. Those four teams combined for three offensive touchdowns, 39 points, 33 punts and 10 turnovers. It wasn’t pretty. For Indiana, it’s more understandable because Nate Sudfeld's injury forced this team to become even more one-dimensional. But for the other three, every week seems to lead to fewer answers and more questions. Turnovers continue to be an issue for Devin Gardner and the Wolverines, Trevor Siemian remains incredibly inconsistent … and Penn State? Well, nothing seems to be going well there. Penn State, Michigan and Northwestern are ranked outside the top 100 in scoring offense, and the Hoosiers have averaged 11.3 points per game with Zander Diamont as the starting quarterback. These offenses aren’t showing much progress.

5. Penn State bowl hopes pinned to the defense: As bad as the Nittany Lions’ offense has been, the defense has performed nearly perfectly. Indiana never reached the red zone Saturday, Tevin Coleman didn’t reach 100 rushing yards for the first time all season, and the Lions’ defense didn’t allow a single point. (IU’s only touchdown came on an interception return for a TD.) PSU needs just one more win for bowl eligibility, but even with Illinois and Temple left on the slate, that’s no guarantee. The offense hasn’t once reached 20 points in regulation in a Big Ten game, but on the flip side, the defense has allowed just nine touchdowns in regulation in six B1G games. This is arguably the best defense in the Big Ten, but it’s also arguably the worst offense.

Big Ten viewer's guide: Week 11

November, 7, 2014
Nov 7
10:00
AM ET
Nov. 8 has been circled on our calendars for a long time because of one game. But it's not the only game on Saturday in the Big Ten. Here's a look at all the action on tap (all times ET):

Noon games

Iowa (6-2, 3-1) at Minnesota (6-2, 3-1), ESPN2: It's the battle for my all-time favorite trophy, Floyd of Rosedale. It's also the first game in a four-week showdown between the four West Division contenders, and the loser may find itself out of the running. Iowa turned in its best performance of the year last week vs. Northwestern, while the Gophers were uncharacteristically sloppy in their previous two games -- including a bad loss at Illinois -- before a bye week.

Penn State (4-4, 1-4 Big Ten) at Indiana (3-5, 0-4), Big Ten Network: Christian Hackenberg may be struggling, but Indiana would gladly take those kinds of struggles. The Hoosiers have generated just 35 passing yards in their past two games combined. Penn State likely needs this win to make a bowl, but the Nittany Lions did lose in Bloomington last year.

[+] EnlargeWisconsin's Melvin Gordon
Troy Taormina/USA TODAY SportsIn two career games against Purdue, Melvin Gordon has rushed for 227 yards.
No. 25 Wisconsin (6-2, 3-1) at Purdue (3-6, 1-4), ESPNU: The Badgers have run roughshod over Purdue the past couple of years with more than 850 yards rushing the past two years combined. The Boilers are improved but will be without top receiver Danny Anthrop, who suffered a torn ACL vs. Nebraska. If Wisconsin holds serve at home, it sets up a huge game next week against the Cornhuskers in Madison.

3:30 p.m.

Michigan (4-5, 2-3) at Northwestern (3-5, 2-3), ESPN2: The Wolverines showed a pulse last week against Indiana, while we can't say the same for Northwestern. The past two meetings between these teams have gone into overtime, as Michigan pulled a couple rabbits out of its Maize and Blue hat.

8 p.m.

No. 14 Ohio State (7-1, 4-0) at No. 8 Michigan State (7-1, 4-0), ABC: Here it is, the one we've all been waiting for. It's the de facto East Division title game, a playoff eliminator, a rematch of last year's Big Ten championship game and the "College GameDay" choice for Week 11. Not much more needs to be said. Can't wait.

Byes: Illinois, Maryland, Nebraska, Rutgers

Required reading

Week 11 predictions | Bold calls

Michigan State's Jeremy Langford ready for another big game

Meet Joey Bosa: Social media superstar

Different Ohio State offense ready for Spartans

Michigan State offense clings to blue-collar identity

Take Two: Better offense in the big game?

Don't sleep on improving Big Ten West

Remember the past or move on? Delicate balance for Penn State

Does Big Ten scheduling strategy still make sense?

Awards race tracker

Bowl projections

Big Ten Week 11 predictions

November, 6, 2014
Nov 6
9:00
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Why Michigan State will win: I went back and forth on this pick for several days and was tempted to take the Buckeyes, who strike me as a hungry team seeking a much-needed validating win. But I think home field is huge here, especially with all the young Ohio State players going into an intimidating environment -- much like they did at Penn State. I'm not sure how well Ohio State will be able to run the ball outside of J.T. Barrett against the Michigan State defense, and as long as Connor Cook is not careless with his throws, I'm confident the Spartans will move the ball and score. It's a great matchup between two outstanding teams, but Michigan State is a little deeper, more experienced and has the home-field edge. ... Michigan State 31, Ohio State 28 -- Brian Bennett

Why Ohio State will win: Whether the Buckeyes want to call it a rivalry or not, the matchup with the Spartans has certainly had their attention since having their national-title aspirations ripped away by Michigan State in December. That motivation might help neutralize the Spartans’ home-field advantage, so the intangibles may well be a wash. That just leaves it up to the talent on the field and the ability to execute, and with the offense not missing a beat with Barrett at quarterback and a defense that has dramatically improved since Michigan State carved it up a year ago, Ohio State gets the nod and takes control of the East Division. ... Ohio State 24, Michigan State 23 -- Austin Ward



Why Iowa will win: BACON! Sorry, I just needed to write that. The most delicious rivalry in college football resumes Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium, and I expect a very competitive contest. Minnesota has had two weeks to stew (bacon stew?) after its ugly loss at Illinois. Iowa, meanwhile, finally put it all together Saturday against Northwestern. This will be an incredibly physical game on both sides and points could be at a premium. Minnesota's David Cobb records another 100-yard game, but Iowa shows more balance on offense and wins on a Jake Rudock touchdown strike to Jake Duzey in the final minute. Floyd resides in Iowa City for another year. ... Iowa 20, Minnesota 17 -- Adam Rittenberg

Why Minnesota will win: I'll take an order of the Gopher bacon stew, Adam. Not only has Minnesota had an extra week to kick itself and heal itself, but the offense has also had some time to further develop the play-action dimension of its attack that started to peek out of its shell during the last few games. Wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky probably won't be available Saturday, but tight end Maxx Williams can be a difference maker. With Cobb dishing out body blows, the Gophers will only need to pop a couple big plays. Iowa puts up a good fight on defense, but becomes the first team to fall in the race for the Big Ten West. ... Minnesota 24, Iowa 20 -- Dan Murphy



Why Northwestern will win: This has more to do with the law of averages than it does any kind of trending movement for the Wildcats and Wolverines. What happens when you match two wildly inconsistent teams? I’m banking on a pillow fight of the variety you’d least expect based on the results of last week when Northwestern failed to show against Iowa, and Michigan looked unusually efficient against fast-fading Indiana. But the Wolverines have not played well in consecutive games since the first two weeks of last season. And unless Northwestern is ready to flush this season, its final push must start now. Statistically, the Wildcats are bad in just about every way, but look for an inspired effort at home. ... Northwestern 28, Michigan 23 -- Mitch Sherman

Why Michigan will win: It's probably best just to avert your eyes in this one, as no Big Ten teams have underachieved quite as much as these two. Neither is consistent, neither is very good -- but someone has to win. The Wolverines have the big edge on defense, as they're ranked No. 9 nationally compared to Northwestern's No. 60 spot in total defense. And Trevor Siemian has struggled against worse defenses. It won't be pretty but, as long as turnovers don't completely derail U-M's offense, Brady Hoke's squad comes away with the win. ... Michigan 24, Northwestern 21 -- Josh Moyer

Unanimous selections:

Wisconsin 41, Purdue 24: Wisconsin has rolled through three straight lesser opponents. Purdue seems to be headed in the right direction, but it is not close enough to avoid getting run over by Melvin Gordon and the Badgers.

Penn State 27, Indiana 10: Indiana needs to track down an offense before anyone will pick it as a winner again. Amid the Penn State defense isn't a particularly good place to go hunting for such things this season.

Our records:
1. Mitch Sherman: 71-15 (.826)
T-2. Brian Bennett: 68-18 (.791)
T-2. Austin Ward: 68-18 (.791)
4. Adam Rittenberg: 66-20 (.767)
5. Josh Moyer: 65-21 (.756)
6. Dan Murphy: 37-12 (.755)
It's time to get serious about these projections.

Confession: We've been a little loosey-goosey with these in recent weeks, as they really didn't mean much so far out from the actual selections. Well, the Big Ten had a little chat and set us straight on a few things that are worth relaying to you fine folks.

1. The Big Ten champion cannot play in the Capital One Orange Bowl.

2. If a Big Ten team plays in the Orange Bowl, another will not appear in the Citrus Bowl.

3. The Big Ten really wants to avoid repeat bowl destinations and even repeat postseason areas for teams. The league will ask each bowl to submit its top three choices for participants and then match teams based on where they've been in the past, who the opponent could be and other factors. Basically, the Big Ten is in charge here, not the bowls.

4. Each bowl will see a minimum of five different teams in six years (the New Era Pinstripe Bowl is on an eight-year contract).

We've now taken the Orange Bowl out of the possibilities for both Michigan State and Ohio State.

One big debate this week was whether to send Nebraska to a Florida bowl game for the fourth consecutive season (all as a Big Ten member). The Huskers also recently have appeared in the Holiday Bowl (both in 2009 and 2010) but not as recently as the Florida bowls. The Outback Bowl would be the exception, but from what we gather from the Big Ten, Nebraska likely will be leaving the Sunshine State this season.

We're not that confident placing Iowa in Orlando, but Wisconsin went there last year so Tampa seems likelier for Gary Andersen's crew.

Northwestern tumbles out of the projections after its blowout loss at Iowa. We considered dropping Penn State but still have the Lions squeaking into a bowl game. Michigan also was under consideration for bowl placement, but for now the Wolverines are on the outside. Northwestern hosts Michigan on Saturday.

Seven Big Ten teams are now bowl-eligible: Michigan State, Ohio State, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Maryland, Minnesota and Iowa.

OK, enough rambling. To the projections:

Chick-fil-A Peach/Cotton/VIZIO Fiesta: Michigan State
Chick-fil-A Peach/Cotton/VIZIO Fiesta: Ohio State
Citrus: Iowa
Outback: Wisconsin
National University Holiday: Nebraska
TaxSlayer/Franklin American Mortgage Music City: Maryland
San Francisco: Minnesota
New Era Pinstripe: Penn State
Quick Lane: Rutgers

This is your cue to rip us in the comments section or on Twitter. Ready, set, go ...

Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 10

November, 2, 2014
Nov 2
2:00
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