Look ahead to 2012 season: Best of Week 8

I continue to explore each week of the 2012 Big Ten football season with a look at Week 8. Check out these games: Michigan State at Michigan. Penn State at Iowa. Nebraska at Northwestern. Yeah, it’s a going to be another good one. If you want to look back at the first seven weekly schedule previews, look at my Schedule Analysis section. Find Week 8 in this post.

Storylines: This is one of the better weeks of the season, especially for the Legends Division. Michigan State’s 52-mile junket to Michigan is at the top of the list. And Nebraska plays at Northwestern looking to avenge last season’s upset loss to the Wildcats in Lincoln. … The week includes a trophy game, with Minnesota playing Wisconsin in the battle for the iconic and larger-than-life Paul Bunyan’s Axe. This is the longest rivalry in college football. But recently, this hasn’t been a pleasant experience for the Golden Gophers. The Badgers have won eight in a row and 15 of the last 17 meetings, making Goldy glum—and Wisconsin may be the best team in the Big Ten again. Oh-oh. … Indiana’s game at Navy will come a week after a visit from Ohio State and well after all the other Big Ten teams will have completed their non-conference schedules. … Purdue has beaten Ohio State the last two times in West Lafayette. But the Boilermakers haven’t won at Ohio State since 1988, John Cooper’s first season in Columbus. That’s eight losses in a row in the Horseshoe. And Purdue has scored more than 20 points just once in those eight defeats. Ohio State won, 49-0, the last time the teams met in Columbus. … Illinois is off.

Game to watch: The Michigan-Michigan State rivalry is white hot. And, just like last year, this season’s battle will play a huge role in who wins the ultra-competitive Legends Division. The Spartans have had the upper hand, winning the last four meetings: 2008: 35-21; 2009: 26-20; 2010: 34-17; 2011: 28-14. The last time the Wolverines beat the Spartans in Ann Arbor was 2006, a 31-13 thumping. Can Michigan State keep its foot on Michigan’s neck? Or will the Wolverines begin a skein of dominance of their own?

Quarterback matchup to watch: If new Michigan State signal-caller Andrew Maxwell is as good as some people think as he steps in for Kirk Cousins, his battle with Michigan’s Denard Robinson could be one of the better quarterback encounters of the season. Maxwell may be more athletic, faster and boast a stronger arm than Cousins; he just lacks experience. Robinson? He’s one of the top Heisman contenders in the Big Ten.

Coordinator matchup to watch: Let’s check out first-year Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker taking on Penn State’s Bill O’Brien, who will act as the Nittany Lions’ offensive coordinator. Parker has been on Kirk Ferentz’s staff from the start, coaching defensive backs. Now, he’s running the defense with Norm Parker retiring. O’Brien forged a reputation as one of the NFL’s top play callers with the New England Patriots.

Upset alert: Last season, an unranked Northwestern squad dumped No. 10 Nebraska in Lincoln, 28-25. And the Wildcats pulled off the upset with a backup quarterback (Kain Colter) playing the second half. The loss all but ended the Huskers’ Legends Division title hopes. Could Northwestern strike again?

Ranking the October 20 games

1. Michigan State at Michigan
2. Penn State at Iowa
3. Nebraska at Northwestern
4. Minnesota at Wisconsin
5. Purdue at Ohio State
6. Indiana at Navy

BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is on Twitter and Facebook, all of his work is at btn.com/tomdienhart, and you can subscribe to it all via his RSS feed. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below.

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Doug on 5/28/2012 @ 10:43pm EDT Said:

MSU will beat Michigan again, they have Denard;s number, it’s that simple

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