Dienhart: Sneak peek at Saturday's games
Can’t wait for Saturday? Me neither. The top storylines for this weekend: Michigan State, Wisconsin and Penn State all control their destiny in their respective divisions. Can each stay on track? Also, Purdue and Northwestern look to become bowl eligible. Here’s a quickie look at each Big Ten game this weekend.
Indiana at Michigan State, Noon ET, BTN
The skinny: The Spartans look to stay focused and stay on course in their quest to win the Legends Division. Momentum is on Michigan State’s side as it is coming off a dominating 37-21 win at Iowa. The Hoosiers, losers of seven in a row, were off last week. It’s all about pride for Indiana.
Iowa at Purdue, Noon ET, BTN
The skinny: The Hawkeyes likely saw their Legends Division title hopes vanish last week in a 37-21 home loss to Michigan State. Now, it’s all about playing for bowl positioning. The Boilermakers are coming off a Titanic 26-23 overtime victory over Ohio State to push them one win from being bowl eligible for the first time since 2007.
Minnesota at Northwestern, Noon ET, BTN
The skinny: The Golden Gophers are still playing hard even though they are out of the bowl running. QB MarQueis Gray looks like a budding star. The Wildcats have ripped off a Big Ten-best three wins in a row and are one triumph from gaining bowl eligibility. That’s a huge feat for a team that lost five in a row at one point this year.
Nebraska at Michigan, Noon ET, ESPN
The skinny: Each squad technically still is in the running in the Legends Division but needs help. No doubt, the loser is out of the chase. Can’t wait to watch Shoelace battle T-Magic in a great clash of big-play quarterbacks.
Wisconsin at Illinois, Noon ET, ESPN2
The skinny: It’s all right there for the Badgers—win out and claim the Leaders Division. That seemed like a long shot after dropping back-to-back heartbreakers in October to Michigan State and Ohio State. Illinois is trying to end a four-game losing streak that’s threatening to ruin a once-promising season that began with a 6-0 start. Seems like years ago.
Penn State at Ohio State, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
The skinny: The Nittany Lions had a seven-game winning streak end last week with a 17-14 home loss to Nebraska. But that may be the least of Penn State’s worries. What’s this team’s mental state in the wake of the child sex-abuse scandal that has rocked the campus and nation? But know this: If the Nits win out, they will win the Legends Division. Despite a crushing overtime loss at Purdue, the Buckeyes still cling to Leaders Division title hopes. But the offense needs to step up.