Each week of the college football season offers a variety of games for fans to watch. I’m taking a super-early look at each week of the Big Ten season as a way to preview the 2012 campaign. I’ve already completed the first six weeks – Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5 and Week 6 – and now it’s time to take a look at Week 7. Find it in this post.
Storylines: Another abbreviated Saturday, as there are only five games on the menu with Penn State and Nebraska being off. All eyes will be on East Lansing, where Iowa takes on Michigan State. No doubt, Iowa will be helped by the fact it has a bye week before making this trip, and it could be 5-0. But this also will be the Hawkeyes’ first true road game. The winner will have a leg up on the loser in what figures to be a tight Legends Division race. … Indiana beat Ohio State in 1987 and 1988—and the Hoosiers haven’t topped the Buckeyes since, a string of 19 games in succession (18-0-1). … Wisconsin walloped Purdue last year, 62-17. The Badgers had a staggering 605 yards with 364 coming on the ground (6.7 ypc). … Northwestern has won four of the last five meetings with Minnesota.
Game of the week: Iowa’s trip to Michigan State will be a battle that will go a long ways toward shaping the Legends Division race. The last two meetings have taken place in Iowa City, with the Hawkeyes thumping the Spartans, 37-6, in 2010. Last season, Michigan State returned the favor with a 37-21 triumph. A win by the Hawkeyes this time would stamp them as legit Legends contenders. The Spartans—the likely Legends favorite–must defend their turf if they want to repeat as division champs. The last time Iowa visited East Lansing, in 2009, it claimed a thrilling 15-13 victory with Ricky Stanzi hitting Marvin McNutt with the game-winning seven-yard touchdown pass as time expired to push Iowa to 8-0 for the first time in school annals.
Quarterback matchup to watch: Check out Illinois’ Nathan Scheelhaase battling Michigan’s Denard Robinson. Each is an athletic dual-threat signal-caller rated among the four best in the Big Ten by Phil Steele. Whichever quarterback can pass best will give his team the best shot to win. The Wolverines have won the last two meetings, scoring a combined 98 points.
Coordinator matchup to watch: Can’t wait to watch new Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis battle Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi. Davis is a wily vet who pushed the buttons of the Texas offense from 1998-2010, helping the Longhorns win the 2005 national title. Narduzzi is one of the best in the business who ran the Big Ten’s top defense last season. He’s primed to be a head coach—and have the conference’s best defense again. This will be a great test for both of these master tacticians.
Upset alert: Wisconsin has won six in a row vs. Purdue, dating to a Boilermaker victory in 2003. Could Purdue end the losing skein to the Badgers, who have won the aforementioned meetings by an average score of 35-12 (208-70)? Perhaps. This is supposed to be Danny Hope’s best Purdue team. But it will take a yeoman’s effort by a Boilermaker defense that’s working with its third coordinator in three years vs. a Badger squad that may be the division favorite. A Purdue victory would make it a legit contender in the Leaders Division, which was won last year by Wisconsin.
Ranking the October 13 games
1. Iowa at Michigan State
2. Wisconsin at Purdue
3. Illinois at Michigan
4. Northwestern at Minnesota
5. Ohio State at Indiana