Look ahead to 2012 season: Best of Week 11

The more I really dig into each week of the 2012 Big Ten college football season with my schedule analysis, the more excited I get about football. In this post I look at Week 11 with my usual categories: top expected stories, my game of the week (hint: it involves the two teams in the video in this post), best quarterback and coordinator matchups, my upset alert, and my game rankings.

What came before Week 11? Oh, maybe Week 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10. Read on.

Storylines: This Saturday lacks a marquee clash. And it doesn’t help those heavyweights Michigan State and Ohio State are off. … The top game figures to be Penn State’s trip to Nebraska in a meeting between the Big Ten’s newest members. But, honestly, this inter-divisional game lacks buzz. … Minnesota has won nine of the last 12 meetings with Illinois. The Gophers’ 27-7 win last year in the season finale over Illinois ended a bizarre regular season for the Illini as it was Illinois’ sixth loss in a row following six consecutive wins. … Wisconsin has won the last eight meetings with Indiana. And the Badgers have scored at least 31 points in each victory, eclipsing 50 points four times including that memorable 83-point effort in 2010. … Purdue hasn’t won at Iowa since 1992 and is 1-11 in its last 12 trips to Iowa City. How lopsided has this series been the past 30 years? Since the Boilermakers beat the Hawkeyes in 1980, they have just six wins and a tie in 25 meetings. … The last time Northwestern visited Ann Arbor, in 2008, it beat Michigan, 21-14.

Game of the week: Penn State at Nebraska. This could be a defensive battle between the two newest members of the Big Ten—Penn State joined in 1993; Nebraska in 2011. The last time the Nittany Lions visited Lincoln was in 2003, when the Cornhuskers took an 18-10 victory. In that game, now Nebraska coach Bo Pelini was the Cornhuskers’ defensive coordinator. If the Huskers want to win the Legends, they likely must defend their turf. A Penn State win would be a brick in the wall of Bill O’Brien’s foundation and could wrap up a bowl bid.

Quarterback matchup to watch: How about Minnesota’s MarQueis Gray vs. Illinois’ Nathan Scheelhaase? Each is a dangerous dual-threat signal-caller. Scheelhaase is looking to lead the Fighting Illini to a bowl for the third season in a row. Gray is looking to take the Golden Gophers to the postseason for the first time since 2009. This could be a huge game in both team’s bowl hopes, as you know each program feels it can win. By the way: Gophers’ coach Jerry Kill and Illini coach Tim Beckman faced off two times in the MAC, when Kill was at Northern Illinois and Beckman was at Toledo. They split the two meetings, with Toledo winning 20-19 at home in 2009 and Northern Illinois winning 65-30 at home in 2010.

Coordinator matchup to watch: I like the battle that pits Penn State defensive coordinator Ted Roof against Nebraska offensive coordinator Tim Beck. Roof is a wily vet who likes to dial up aggressive defenses. Beck’s offense needs to show better balance vs. a Nittany Lion defense that should have a strong front seven to protect a rebuilt secondary. Can Cornhusker quarterback Taylor Martinez make something happen with his arm? Or will Roof’s defense confound him?

Upset alert: Could Purdue win at Iowa? It hasn’t happened since 1992, as the Hawkeyes have dominated the series. But this is the type of road game the Boilermakers need to win vs. a retooling Hawkeye squad to take the next step in their development as a program under Danny Hope, who purportedly has his best team yet. The schools are permanent cross-division rivals but only have played one time in the past three seasons. Iowa has won the past two encounters, with the Boilermakers’ last triumph coming in West Lafayette in 2007.

Ranking the Nov. 10: Games
1. Penn State at Nebraska
2. Purdue at Iowa
3. Northwestern at Michigan
4. Minnesota at Illinois
5. Wisconsin at Indiana

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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3 Comments

Your Opinion?
Show Comments (3 Comments)
chris jones on 5/31/2012 @ 8:28pm EDT Said:

I am a psu grad who lives in Montana. I pay extra for my Btn, and am planning on cancelling my subscription. It’s as if psu football never existed this year, and that coverage was the main reason I subscribed. While you play multiple “classic” games daily, no psu for months. Also, the blue-white spring game was the first nationally televised spring scrimmage that I know of; I’ve been able to watch it for over a decade, until this year. If our program is now that toxic, why don’t you just kick us out of the conference?

    BTN.com staff on 6/1/2012 @ 10:37am EDT Said:

    Chris, we’re sorry to hear planning on that. We only run the editorial end of the website end of things here but I didn’t want your note to go acknowledged. I strongly encourage you to write our customer service team at this page: http://btn.com/about/contact-us/. They read every note that comes in and can better address your concerns.

Steven Pierce (@stp147) on 6/11/2012 @ 6:12pm EDT Said:

How is Penn State vs. Nebraska not a marquee matchup?

“This Saturday lacks a marquee clash. And it doesn’t help those heavyweights Michigan State and Ohio State are off. … The top game figures to be Penn State’s trip to Nebraska in a meeting between the Big Ten’s newest members. But, honestly, this inter-divisional game lacks buzz. …”

Is it because Woody and Bo said it wasn’t? It was such a big deal for competitive balance that the 4 marquee programs had to be split evenly when creating the divisions.

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