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Thursday, November 17, 2011
Predictions: Big Ten Week 12

By Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett

The Big Ten division races could be decided Saturday. As for the Big Ten blogger predictions race, it's far from over.

Rittenberg takes a one-game lead on Bennett into Week 12, but Bennett, being a St. Louis Cardinals fan, knows all about erasing deficits to win championships. Several intriguing matchups are on the slate this week, so let's get to the predictions ...

MINNESOTA at NORTHWESTERN

Brian Bennett: The Wildcats have won three in a row and won't stop now that they're this close to bowl eligibility. Minnesota's shaky pass defense will lead to a big day for Dan Persa, who throws two touchdowns to Jeremy Ebert and three overall. ... Northwestern 35, Minnesota 20

Adam Rittenberg: Northwestern might be peaking at the right time, but the Wildcats can't let up against a Minnesota team that should play better than it did a week ago. A healthy MarQueis Gray makes plays, but Persa finds Ebert, Drake Dunsmore and Kain Colter for touchdown passes against the leaky Gophers' D. ... Northwestern 34, Minnesota 21

INDIANA at NO. 15 MICHIGAN STATE

Adam Rittenberg: Michigan State needs to keep its emotions in check on Senior Day, and the Spartans must avoid a Minnesota-like performance against an Indiana team with a potent offense. But the Spartans sense what's ahead of them and take care of business, receiving big performances from running backs Le'Veon Bell and Edwin Baker. ... Michigan State 35, Indiana 17

Brian Bennett: The winningest class in Michigan State history isn't going to lose on Senior Day to a 1-9 Indiana team. The Spartans defense lives in the Hoosiers backfield and Kirk Cousins throws for 300 yards in an easy win. ... Michigan State 38, Indiana 14

NO. 16 NEBRASKA at NO. 18 MICHIGAN

Brian Bennett: Nebraska is playing very well, but the Huskers have been banged up on both lines and just played a very physical game at Penn State. A second straight win in a tough road spot is too much to ask. Denard Robinson bounces back with a pair of touchdown passes as Michigan helps out rival Michigan State in the Legends' race. ... Michigan 20, Nebraska 17

Adam Rittenberg: Tough one to call, as plenty is at stake for both teams. Both teams can run the ball and play a little defense, but someone is going to make Michigan pay for the mistakes it makes on offense. Nebraska records three takeaways, two against Robinson, and gets a big performance from Rex Burkhead to rally for another big road victory. ... Nebraska 24, Michigan 21

NO. 17 WISCONSIN at ILLINOIS

Adam Rittenberg: The Badgers have new life in the Leaders Division, while Illinois and embattled coach Ron Zook look like they're on life support. I actually think Illinois comes to play in this one, especially on defense, and hangs around for a while. But the Illini can't slow down Wisconsin, which gets three more touchdowns from Montee Ball and pulls away. Illinois will score in the first half, but won't outscore the Badgers. ... Wisconsin 35, Illinois 24

Brian Bennett: Zook will want to walk away from this one. Illinois simply can't score any more, and Wisconsin can't be stopped. Even on the road, the Badgers cruise behind three TDs from Russell Wilson. ... Wisconsin 31, Illinois 14

IOWA at PURDUE

Brian Bennett: The Boilers are on a high after knocking off Ohio State and Iowa hasn't won on the road all year. But Purdue has had trouble staying consistent, and I think the Hawkeyes' balanced offense creates problems. A late Marcus Coker TD run seals it. ... Iowa 28, Purdue 24

Adam Ritenberg: Although Purdue hasn't followed up any of its previous four wins with another victory, the Boilers end the trend this week. Danny Hope's squad has been good at home, and Iowa has had its struggles away from Kinnick Stadium. Purdue contains Coker and records a special teams touchdown to get bowl-eligible for the first time since 2007. ... Purdue 27, Iowa 21

NO. 21 PENN STATE at OHIO STATE

Adam Rittenberg: Tough game to predict as both teams have had issues offensively and Ohio State has been somewhat inconsistent on defense as well. Penn State's seniors will ensure the team remains focused in its first road game since the scandal, and the Lions take an early lead. But Ohio State comes back behind Braxton Miller and DeVier Posey, and the defense rebounds a bit against a banged-up Silas Redd. ... Ohio State 16, Penn State 14

Brian Bennett: I can't pick Penn State to win on the road after all the team has been through, especially not in the Horseshoe on Senior Day. It will be a physical, at times unsightly game, but Boom Herron makes the difference. ... Ohio State 14, Penn State 10

SEASON RECORDS

Adam Rittenberg: 63-22 (.741)

Brian Bennett: 62-23 (.729)