Storylines: Does it get any better than Michigan State’s trip to Wisconsin? Of course not. These arguably have become the premier programs in the Big Ten. (Sorry, Ohio State and Michigan.) Last season, they played two titanic games. The Spartans used a Hail Mary pass in the waning moments to shock the Badgers, 37-31, in East Lansing in one of the best games in the Big Ten in the past decade. But Wisconsin rebounded to knock off Michigan State in the inaugural Big Ten championship game, 42-39. Will these schools meet two times again this season? … Michigan, which may be the favorite in the Legends Division, crushed Nebraska last season, 45-17. Michigan out gained Nebraska, 418-260, as the Huskers were outscored, 28-7, in the second half. … Penn State beat Ohio State, 20-14, last year. Prior to that, the Buckeyes had won four of the previous five meetings and seven of the prior nine encounters. Is this the first of many epic Bill O’Brien vs. Urban Meyer battles? … Northwestern has had a hex over Iowa, winning five of the last seven meetings. … Purdue has won 11 of the last 14 meetings with Minnesota. This will be the Boilermakers’ first trip to Minnesota since 2009. … Illinois has won four of the last five vs. Indiana.
Game of the week: It will be a doozy of a game when Michigan State visits Wisconsin in a rematch of last year’s Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis. Could this be a preview of the Big Ten title game? Perhaps. The squads played two great games in 2011. The Spartans completed a 44-yard heave for a touchdown from Kirk Cousins to Keith Nichol with four seconds left to clip the Badgers, 37-31, in the regular season. But Wisconsin returned the favor by knocking off Michigan State in the Big Ten title game, 42-39. Watch the running back clash between Montee Ball and Le’Veon Bell.
Quarterback matchup to watch: I can’t wait to watch Michigan’s Denard Robinson and Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez do battle. Each figures to be one of the Big Ten’s top four or five signal-callers in 2012. And both will be among the deadliest running quarterbacks in the nation. Which one can pass the best? That may ultimately decide the winner in this huge Legends Division clash. Martinez would like to forget last year’s meeting, as he hit just 9-of-23 passes for 122 yards and ran 16 times for only 49 yards. Conversely, Robinson hit 11-of-18 passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns and ran 23 times for 83 yards and two scores.
Coordinator matchup to watch: Let’s watch young Tom Herman, the Ohio State offensive coordinator, take on sage Penn State defensive coordinator Ted Roof. Herman’s star has risen quickly, as he was coaching receivers at Sam Houston State just 10 seasons ago. He’s in his first season pushing the buttons on the Buckeye attack after arriving from Iowa State. Roof has been around the block, coordinating defenses at Western Carolina, Georgia Tech, Duke, Minnesota and Auburn.
Upset alert: Ohio State has more talent than Penn State, but the Buckeyes need to be wary when they wade into State College, Pa. While the Nittany Lions may struggle on offense, their defense looks potentially stout. Bottom line: This could be a low-scoring game that is up for grabs in the fourth quarter.
Ranking the Oct. 27 Games
1. Michigan State at Wisconsin
2. Michigan at Nebraska
3. Ohio State at Penn State
4. Iowa at Northwestern
5. Purdue at Minnesota
6. Indiana at Illinois
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.
And if you want to leave a comment on this post, use the box below. All comments need to be approved by a moderator.