Big Ten viewer's guide: Plenty of intrigue on Saturday's slate


No byes, no cream-puff nonconference games. It's -- finally -- all Big Ten football this weekend.

All 14 teams will play, and this could turn out to be a very memorable Saturday. We could see one coach fired, we'll see one player return after a 25-day suspension and we'll be keeping an eye on whether another team can shut out its third straight opponent. (Last time that happened in the FBS? 1995.)

There are some intriguing matchups here, which is why no other Saturday has seen more dissent from us regarding our predictions. Can Nebraska turn around its historically slow start? Who will be the last man standing in the West? And will the East still have two top-five teams on Monday?

Take a look:


Maryland (2-3, 0-1 Big Ten) at No. 1 Ohio State (5-0, 1-0), BTN: Could this be coach Randy Edsall's final game? According to reports, it might end up that way. Maryland has a host of problems, and it could get ugly against Ohio State. The Buckeyes are allowing their opponents to complete fewer than 48 percent of their passes, and the Terrapins have thrown a nation-worst 15 interceptions. No other team has more than 11.

Indiana (4-1, 0-1) at Penn State (4-1, 1-0), ESPN: The Nittany Lions boast a top-25 defense and a struggling offense; the Hoosiers have a top-25 offense and a struggling defense. This is certainly a complementary matchup -- but a lot could hinge on the health of a few offensive starters. Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld and running back Jordan Howard are both "game-time decisions," and Penn State running back Saquon Barkley is also questionable for the game.

Illinois (4-1, 1-0) at No. 22 Iowa (5-0, 1-0), ESPN2: Kirk Ferentz's squad is the only FBS team that has yet to give up a rushing touchdown, and Illinois running back Josh Ferguson is out with a shoulder injury. Regardless, both teams have to be happy with where they stand. This is Illinois' best start since 2011, and it's Iowa's first 5-0 start since 2009. The Hawkeyes could wind up as the division favorite, depending on how a certain other game goes ...

3:30 p.m.

No. 13 Northwestern (5-0, 1-0) at No. 18 Michigan (4-1, 1-0 Big Ten), BTN: Last season, this would have been a yawner. This season, there shouldn't be a better defensive battle on Saturday. Northwestern has allowed the fewest points in the nation per game; Michigan has allowed the second fewest. If U-M can shut out Northwestern, it would be the first time since 1995 that an FBS team achieved three straight shutouts. But Wildcats quarterback Clayton Thorson is improving, and running back Justin Jackson is among the best in the conference.

Wisconsin (3-2, 0-1) at Nebraska (2-3, 0-1), ABC/ESPN2: Both teams are underachieving and sorely need this win. A loss would make an appearance in the Big Ten title game a long shot, but a win could provide the spark to turn around the season. Nebraska is already off to its worst start since 1959, and the Badgers haven't started off Big Ten play with an 0-2 record since 2008.

Minnesota (3-2, 0-1) at Purdue (1-4, 0-1), ESPNU: True freshman quarterback Demry Croft saw some time last week for Minnesota, and if Mitch Leidner continues to struggle, he could be called upon. Purdue is hoping it made the right decision under center. David Blough replaced Austin Appleby as the starter in Week 4, and the Boilermakers have lost the past two games by only a score.

8 p.m.

No. 4 Michigan State (5-0, 1-0) at Rutgers (2-2, 0-1), BTN: Senior receiver Leonte Carroo makes his return after serving a 25-day suspension, and the timing couldn't be better for the Scarlet Knights. Michigan State's pass defense is, believe it or not, ranked No. 91 nationally. That being said, Connor Cook & Co. remain incredibly dangerous on offense, and Rutgers is allowing close to 6 yards a play.