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Thursday, September 26, 2013
What to watch in the Big Ten: Week 5

By Chantel Jennings

A few nuggets to keep track of this weekend in Big Ten action:

1. The quarterback quandary in Columbus: Braxton Miller returns to Ohio State’s depth chart not as the starter but as a co-starter, listed alongside Kenny Guiton. There’s probably not too much of a QB controversy as Miller is the Buckeyes’ three-year starter, but it will be interesting to watch how much Guiton sees the field.

2. Big run potential in The Horseshoe: Wisconsin and Ohio State lead the Big Ten in rushing yards per game with 350 and 311 yards, respectively. They also field two pretty stout rushing defenses. The Badgers have only given up 76 rushing yards per game while the Buckeyes have only given up 80 yards per game. This head-to-head matchup should be an interesting one to watch as both teams try to break through for a few big runs, allowing their QBs to relax a little bit.

3. Hog heaven: Nothing like two Midwestern teams playing for a statue of a pig named Floyd. Or there’s nothing more Midwestern than two teams playing for a statue of a pig named Floyd. Like Wisconsin-Ohio State, the Iowa-Minnesota game should feature the run plenty. Look for both teams to try and break down the other’s defensive line, really looking to get after it. And with that statue on the line, how could they not?

Nathan Scheelhaase
Nathan Scheelhaase leads Illinois' impressive air attack.
4. Illinois continuing its stellar pass game: The Illini are averaging 306 yards of passing per game so far this season, second only to Indiana in the Big Ten. This weekend Illinois faces Miami (Ohio), which has given up 290 yards per game this year while playing Marshall, Kentucky and Cincinnati. It’s a good opportunity for Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase to air it out against the RedHawk defense and continue building chemistry with receivers.

5. Well-timed bye weeks: For a few Big Ten teams this weekend, sitting at home watching other teams play might be the best possible way to get better. The Wolverines -- following two poor outings -- are using this bye week to prepare themselves to enter Big Ten play next weekend against Minnesota. Michigan State, which had two QBs see action last weekend, can use this week to continue figuring out its quarterback situation. And Penn State gets another week to rehab and gain confidence with the relief of having a few scholarships returned to next season’s team.

6. MACtion in West Lafayette: When NIU and Purdue hit the field this weekend, it’ll be the best offense in the MAC (NIU, 516 yards per game) against the worst in the Big Ten (Purdue, 246 yards per game). Northern Illinois leads the MAC in rushing offense (295 yards per game), while the Boilermakers have the second worst rushing defense in the Big Ten, giving up 184 yards a game. So, keep your eyes on the Big Ten-MACtion matchup, because the Huskies might put on a show.