Big Ten viewer's guide: Conference season arrives


It's great seeing Big Ten teams challenge themselves in nonconference action, especially in those cross-region showdowns with other Power 5 heavyweights.

But let's be real: The best part of the season is conference play. The temperatures finally feel like fall, trophies are handed out, rivalries turn up the stakes and only the strong survive.

Week 5 brings our first full-fledged Saturday of Big Ten play (Rutgers-Penn State was a September appetizer). Six league games are on tap, including some important ones in the West Division and a surprising 4-0 team taking on the defending champs.

Here's your complete guide (all times ET):


Iowa (4-0) at No. 19 Wisconsin (3-1), ESPN: Maybe the biggest game of the day, as the winner could gain an early upper hand in the West race. Hard to believe, but this is the Hawkeyes' first trip to Madison since 2009, which is coincidentally (A) the last time the won the Heartland Trophy and (B) the last time they started 4-0. The Badgers have gone more than 188 minutes since last giving up a touchdown.

Minnesota (3-1) at No. 16 Northwestern (4-0), Big Ten Network: Another important game in the West picture, this one matches a couple of teams with stout defenses that are battling injuries. Northwestern is third nationally in scoring defense while Minnesota is No. 31. Both teams also rank in the bottom two spots for scoring offense. So don't expect a lot of points in this one, and special teams could play a key role.

Purdue (1-3) at No. 2 Michigan State (4-0), ESPN2: This looks like a colossal mismatch on paper, but the Boilermakers have played the Spartans well recently, losing by just 14 in each of the past two seasons. The Spartans will likely be without star left tackle Jack Conklin, who was injured last week.

No. 22 Michigan (3-1) at Maryland (2-2), BTN: This game was originally scheduled for 8 p.m. but was moved up eight hours because of concerns over Hurricane Joaquin. The actual game forecasts trouble for the Terrapins against a surging Wolverines squad that is dominating on defense and getting its running game revved up. Maryland has the worst turnover margin (minus-9) in the Big Ten, and that includes a national-worst 12 interceptions.

Army (1-4) at Penn State (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten), ESPNU: The lone nonconference game of the week isn't all that interesting, as Army has already lost to Fordham, UConn and Wake Forest. Penn State is giving thousands of tickets to active military members and veterans, so that's cool.

3:30 p.m.

No. 1 Ohio State (4-0) at Indiana (4-0), ABC/ESPN2: We expected the Buckeyes to be undefeated after September. Indiana? The potential was there with a soft schedule, but it's still the first time in 25 years the Hoosiers have been here. IU leads the league in scoring and total offense and has the league's top rusher (Jordan Howard) and receiver (Ricky Jones), so that should provide a test for an Ohio State defense that has been lights out the past few weeks.

4 p.m.

Nebraska (2-2) at Illinois (3-1), BTN: This kickoff was pushed back a half-hour because of the Michigan-Maryland adjustment. If the Illini hope to be a factor in the division race, they will need to win home games like these. Wes Lunt and the Illinois receivers provide some hope against a Cornhuskers defense that ranks dead last in the FBS in passing yards allowed. If Nebraska follows its pattern, this one could come down to the wire.

Bye week: Rutgers