We’ve reached the end of the road with my super-early schedule analysis for every week of the 2012 college football season. The last week of the Big Ten Football season is, more times than not, dominanted by one thing: Michigan vs. Ohio State.
Read the rest of this post for my top expected storylines, my game of the week, the best quarterback and coordinator matchups, as well as my upset alert and game rankings. Look back at my reviews of weeks 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 right now.
Storylines: Welcome to the final weekend of the season, as rivalries are in full bloom with all 12 teams in action. All eyes—as usual—will be on the Michigan-Ohio State game. … The Fighting Illini have won the last two meetings in this battle for the Land of Lincoln Trophy. But Northwestern won six of seven over Illinois before the tables turned in 2010-11. Quickie factoid: The Wildcats haven’t lost in Evanston to Illinois since 2002. (Remember: The last time these teams played “at Northwestern,” the game took place at Wrigley Field in 2010.) … The last time Indiana visited Purdue in 2010, it left with a 34-31 overtime victory and the coveted Old Oaken Bucket. It was Indiana’s first win in West Lafayette since 1996. Could lightning strike again in a rivalry that the Boilermakers have dominated? Since 1992, the Boilermakers are 14-6 vs. the Hoosiers, losing in 1993, 1994, 1996, 2001, 2007 and 2010. … Minnesota has won six of the last 10 games vs. Michigan State, though the Spartans have taken the last two encounters—with both meetings coming in East Lansing. But know this: Michigan State is 1-4 in its last five trips to Minnesota. The lone Spartan win in Minneapolis in that span was 44-38 in 2003. … Iowa and Nebraska could be jostling for the Legends Division title when they meet on the Friday after Thanksgiving in the battle for the Heroes Game Trophy. The Huskers won last year, 20-7.
Game of the week: Michigan at Ohio State. Most likely, Michigan will be an underdog as it wades into Columbus. The Buckeyes’ saw their seven-game winning streak in the series end last year, as the Wolverines took a 40-34 triumph. This also will act as Ohio State’s de facto bowl game, as it’s ineligible for the postseason (and Big Ten crown) because of NCAA probation. The last time Michigan won in the Horseshoe? The 2000 season. The last time Michigan won two in a row in this series? The 1999-2000 seasons.
Quarterback matchup to watch: It has to be Ohio State’s Braxton Miller vs. Michigan’s Denard Robinson. This may be a battle between the two top signal-callers in the Big Ten. Robinson is a dynamic playmaker, capable of scoring any time he touches the ball. Miller is still a work in progress coming off a baptism-by-fire freshman season when he flashed great potential. Each quarterback can run, but Miller has the edge as a passer.
Coordinator matchup to watch: Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis vs. Nebraska defensive coordinator John Papuchis. Davis, 61, began his college coaching career in 1978 as Texas A&M quarterbacks coach. That’s the same year that Papuchis, 34, was born. Can the young, rising Papuchis counter the moves of the wily Davis in this key Legends Division tilt?
Upset alert: Wisconsin needs to be careful when it wades into Penn State. The Nittany Lions may be fighting for bowl eligibility under first-year coach Bill O’Brien, while the Badgers may need the victory to sew up a second consecutive Leaders Division championship. Penn State has won three of the past five meetings with Wisconsin. But the Nittany Lions are just 3-3 at home vs. the Badgers since joining the Big Ten.
Ranking the Nov. 24 games
1. Michigan at Ohio State
2. Nebraska at Iowa (Nov. 23)
3. Wisconsin at Penn State
4. Illinois at Northwestern
5. Indiana at Purdue
6. Michigan State at Minnesota
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