Saturday, November 17, 2012
Previewing the Big Ten noon games
By Brian Bennett
It's the last weekend of football before Thanksgiving, and the second-to-last slate of Big Ten regular-season games. So you'd better be glued to the TV. Here's what is on tap for the trio of noon games that gets Week 12 started:
Northwestern (7-3, 3-3 Big Ten) at Michigan State (5-5, 2-4): Northwestern is still technically alive for a share of the Legends Division title but can't go to Indianapolis. Michigan State just wants to go bowling. This is an intriguing matchup of a team that's usually pretty good on the road (Northwestern) against one that hasn't been able to get it done in Big Ten play at home (Michigan State). It's one of the league's best rushing offenses (the Wildcats) facing one of the top rushing defenses (the Spartans). You've got two of the top three running backs in the Big Ten (Le'Veon Bell and Venric Mark), plus a suspect Michigan State passing game versus a leaky Northwestern secondary. The Cardiac Cats go against a Spartans team whose past six games have been decided by four points or fewer. So, yeah, we'd say the chances of this one being interesting are pretty good.
Iowa (4-6, 2-4) at No. 21 Michigan (7-3, 5-1): None of the Michigan seniors have beaten Iowa, which has won three straight in this series. The Wolverines get a chance to fix that on Senior Day, and the Hawkeyes sure look ready to get roasted after dropping four straight games, including a dispiriting one last week at home against Purdue. Iowa must win to stay alive for a bowl, while Michigan has to triumph to keep pace with Nebraska. The big questions, of course, are whether Denard Robinson will play in his last appearance at the Big House, and if so, where he will play. Michigan's offense should be fine with Devin Gardner at the controls. As for Iowa's offense, well, that might not be a pretty picture today against Jake Ryan and Co.
Indiana (4-6, 2-4) at Penn State (6-4, 4-2): Indiana has never won at Beaver Stadium, which is not good news for the Hoosiers' teetering bowl hopes. Penn State has had a few distractions this week, from talk about the officials to speculation about Bill O'Brien's future, but the Nittany Lions should have too much talent on both sides if focused. Allen Robinson (single-season receptions) and Matt McGloin (career touchdown passes) can set school records for the home team. The happiest man this week might be Lions' tailback Zach Zwinak, after he watched film of Indiana giving up 564 rushing yards to Wisconsin last week. If the Hoosiers don't show some pride and fix that, it could be another long day for them in State College.