Thursday, December 2, 2010
What to watch in the Big Ten: Week 14
By Adam Rittenberg
There's only one Big Ten team in action this weekend, but I have five reasons why you should pay attention. So pay attention!
1. Mikel Leshoure: If you haven't watched the Big Ten's best running back this season, stay up late Friday night and tune into ESPN2 as Leshoure and Illinois visit Fresno State (10:15 p.m. ET kickoff). Leshoure comes off of a team-record 330-yard rushing performance at Wrigley Field and has racked up 664 all-purpose yards and nine touchdowns in his past three games. The Illini junior, who will weigh his NFL options after the season, needs 311 yards to break the team's single-season rushing record held by Rashard Mendenhall.
Mikel Leshoure is coming off a career game against Northwestern: 33 carries for 330 yards and two touchdowns.
2. Games that can impact the BCS standings: The final BCS standings on Sunday night will determine which team earns the Big Ten's automatic BCS berth. Wisconsin pretty much has a trip to the Rose Bowl locked up, but a few games this weekend could impact the standings. Keep an eye on Illinois-Fresno State, Arizona State-Arizona, Oregon-Oregon State and Auburn-South Carolina. Both Ohio State and Michigan State beat Illinois, while Wisconsin didn't play the Illini but beat Arizona State on Sept. 20.
3. Nebraska in the Big 12 title game: The Cornhuskers play their final Big 12 game, and it's a big one. Nebraska renews one of the great rivalries in college sports as it takes on Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game at JerryWorld. Although Nebraska's performance the rest of the way will be credited to the Big 12, the Big Ten would love to have a reigning league champion and a BCS bowl champion entering its league in 2011. Big Ten fans scouting the Huskers should keep a close eye on the quarterback position, as Taylor Martinez and Cody Green both could play.
4. Illinois defense aims for redemption: The Illini defense reached its low point last fall against Fresno State, which racked up 53 points and 233 rush yards in a win at Memorial Stadium. Vic Koenning's defense performed better against Northwestern at Wrigley Field but is still trying to recapture its midseason form. Fresno State provides a good test Friday with Robbie Rouse, the nation's No. 13 rusher, as well as veteran quarterback Ryan Colburn.
5. The bowl selections: Michigan State this week launched a full-blown campaign to get in the discussion for a BCS at-large berth. Will it work? Probably not, but you never know if there will be a surprise on Selection Sunday. The real drama likely will come with the Outback and Gator Bowls, who have more options than usual, albeit lukewarm ones. Will Penn State, Iowa, Michigan or Illinois head to the Outback? What will the Gator do? It should be very interesting to watch.