Week 8 Big Ten Football Preview

Last month, everyone was talking about how the Nebraska-Wisconsin game might be the Big Ten’s biggest game of the year. Three weeks later, it’s the Wisconsin-Michigan State game getting that treatment, and rightfully so. The game at Spartan Stadium highlights the Week 8 slate, which also includes Indiana-Iowa (noon ET) and Penn State-Northwestern (7) on BTN. Use our GameFinder to find your BTN game and track all of the action on our Big Ten scoreboard. Watch former Big Ten players talk about how the Big Ten prepared them for the NFL now and check out Brent Yarina’s Week 8 Preview in this post.

Indiana (1-6, 0-3) vs. Iowa (4-2, 1-1)
Time: noon ET
TV: BTN/BTN2Go
Series: Iowa, 41-27-4
Last meeting: Iowa 18-13 – 2010
About Indiana:  The Hoosiers ran for 223 yards last week at Wisconsin, the team’s first 200-yard game since Nov. 17, 2007 (219 vs. Purdue)
About Iowa: The Hawkeyes are fifth nationally in fewest penalty yards per game (33.3).
Prediction: Iowa 41, Indiana 13
Player of the game: James Vandenberg, Iowa

Illinois (6-1, 2-1) vs. Purdue (3-3, 1-1)
Time: noon ET
TV: ESPN2/ESPN3
Series: Illinois, 42-38-6
Last meeting: Illinois, 44-10 – 2010
About Illinois: The Illini rank fifth in the NCAA in sacks (3.7 per game) and eighth in TFLs (8.3 per game).
About Purdue: The Boilermakers have won three consecutive home games against the Illini.
Prediction: Illinois 24, Purdue 17
Player of the Game: Jonathan Brown, Illinois

Nebraska (5-1, 1-1) vs. Minnesota (1-5, 0-2)
Time: noon ET
TV: ABC
Series: Minnesota, 28-21-2
Last meeting: Nebraska, 56-0 – 1990
About Nebraska: The Huskers lost defensive lineman Jared Crick, who totaled 20 career sacks, to a torn pectoral muscle during its bye week.
About Minnesota: The Gophers have been outscored 103-17 in their first two Big Ten games.
Prediction: Nebraska 51, Minnesota 17
Player of the Game: Rex Burkhead, Nebraska

Penn State (6-1, 3-0) vs. Northwestern (2-4, 0-3)
Time: 7 ET
TV: BTN/BTN2Go
Series: Penn State, 11-3
Last meeting: Penn State, 35-21 – 2010
About Penn State: The Nittany Lions are 12-4 on the road during the past four seasons.
About Northwestern: Over the last three games, Dan Persa and Kain Colter have combined to rack up 299.3 of Northwestern’s 420.7 yards per game (71 percent).
Prediction: Penn State 27, Northwestern 20
Player of the Game: Matt McGloin, Penn State

Wisconsin (6-0, 2-0) vs. Michigan State (5-1, 2-0)
Time: 8 ET
TV: ESPN/ESPN3
Series: Michigan State, 28-21
Last meeting: Michigan State, 34-24 – 2010
About Wisconsin: For the fifth time in the last six meetings, the Badgers enter the Michigan State game with a perfect record.
About Michigan State: The Spartans have won their last three home games against the Badgers, outscoring them 108-68.
Prediction: Wisconsin 31, Michigan State 20
Player of the Game: Montee Ball, Wisconsin

Season record: 49-13 (79 percent)

Game of the Week: Wisconsin at Michigan State – It’s one of the biggest games of the Big Ten season, if not the biggest, and ESPN College GameDay will be in East Lansing for it. Not only does the game pit No. 6 Wisconsin and No. 16 Michigan State, it features the nation’s most prolific offense (Wisconsin, 50.2 points per game) going up against the nation’s top defense (Michigan State, 1,117 total yards). Then there’s the revenge factor, too. A year ago, Michigan State beat Wisconsin, 34-24, at Spartan Stadium. Since that day, Wisconsin hasn’t lost in the regular season, outscoring its 13 foes, 639-213.

Player of the Week: Rex Burkhead, Nebraska – Few running backs are hotter than Burkhead, who is averaging 126.3 rushing yards in his last four games. Expect the impressive numbers to continue Saturday, as well, because Burkhead and the Huskers face a struggling Minnesota defense that has surrendered an average of 290 rushing yards in its first two Big Ten games.

Team of the Week: Wisconsin – Michigan State hasn’t lost at Spartan Stadium since Nov. 21, 2009 (Penn State, 42-14), a span of 11 games. The Spartans are playing the best defense in the nation, highlighted by 16 sacks and 23 tackles for loss their last two times out. In other words, Wisconsin has quite the test ahead of itself if it hopes to stay perfect and remain in the hunt for the BCS National Championship Game. A win here would give the Badgers their second much-needed win over a top 25 team, this one of the all-important road variety.  

Random thought of the Week: Can Penn State’s Matt McGloin finally win the starting quarterback job? Going up against Northwestern’s struggling pass defense, which allows 257 passing yards per game and a nation’s worst 16.6 yards per completion, the opportunity is there. McGloin hasn’t been a world beater, by any means, but he’s been far more successful than sidekick Rob Bolden. Given the playing time, McGloin could compile a big day and put an end to Penn State’s quarterback quandary.

You can follow Brent on Twitter @BTNBrentYarina.

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