Week 8 preview: Will one of these matchups surprise?

Next up in my super-early week-by-week preview of the 2013 Big Ten football schedule: Week 8. This is a week light on marquee matchups, with predicted Big Ten title contenders Michigan and Ohio State taking on Indiana and Iowa, respectively, and Nebraska and Penn State on byes. Get all the storylines, matchups and my game rankings for Week 8 in this post.

[ RELATED: Week 1 preview | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 ]

Game of the week: Minnesota’s trip to Northwestern could be interesting. Yes, this could be a matchup between the first- and last-place teams in the Legends Division. Still, it could be a fun clash. The Golden Gophers are getting better under Jerry Kill, who is in his third season in Minneapolis. And his programs blossomed in the third season in his last two stops: Northern Illinois and Southern Illinois. This could be the Wildcats’ best team since the Rose Bowl squad of 1995. Northwestern has had the upper hand on Minnesota of late, winning three in a row and five of the last six. In fact, the Wildcats have taken 10 of the last 15 encounters.

Ranking Week 8 games
1. Minnesota at Northwestern
2. Wisconsin at Illinois
3. Purdue at Michigan State
4. Iowa at Ohio State
5. Indiana at Michigan

Quarterback matchup to watch: We know Devin Gardner will be under center for Michigan. For Indiana, it could be Tre Roberson. If not, it likely will be Cam Coffman. Either way, the Hoosiers will have a nice signal-caller. Roberson was off to a good start last season before his year ended in the second game with a broken leg vs. UMass. Coffman came on to start the final 10 tilts and impressed. Gardner showed flashes of his ample skill last year when he started the final five games after Denard Robinson injured an elbow at Nebraska. Bottom line: This will be one of the most underrated quarterback battles of the season. You heard it here first.

Coordinator matchup to watch: How about Illinois offensive coordinator Bill Cubit vs. Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Aranda? Yes, this will be nice. Cubit arrives after a successful eight-year stint as head coach of Western Michigan. He’s a sage offensive mind who has been a coordinator at Rutgers, Missouri and Stanford, among other places. Aranda is a rising star in the game who has installed an aggressive 3-4 scheme after following Gary Andersen from Utah State. Several schools tried to hire Aranda, but he rebuffed them.

Upset alert: Michigan State must not overlook Purdue when the Boilermakers visit East Lansing. Yes, the Spartans have won the last four meetings—but the programs haven’t met since 2010. Prior to this Spartan run, Purdue won seven of eight. MSU is coming off a disappointing 7-6 season and has myriad questions on offense. The Boilermakers are beginning anew under Darrell Hazell and are something of a wild card that’s filled with optimism.

Storylines: This isn’t a great week, as there really isn’t a marquee matchup that jumps off the page. … The Hawkeyes travel to Ohio State. Good thing Iowa will be coming off a bye, as it likely will need the extra prep time. It’s worth noting that Iowa has lost four in a row to the Buckeyes and 12 of the last 13. The lone Hawkeye triumph in that stretch came in 2004, 33-7 in Iowa City. … The Michigan-Indiana series is among the most lopsided in the nation. The Wolverines have won the last 17 meetings dating to a 14-10 Hoosiers’ win in Bloomington in 1987. Add it up, and Michigan has won 32 of the last 33 meetings. The last time Indiana won two in a row was 1958-59. … Wisconsin has had its thumb on Illinois, winning three in a row and seven of the last eight. How dominant have the Badgers been? They are 12-3-1 in the last 16 meetings with the Fighting Illini. Wisconsin is 6-2 in its last eight trips to Champaign. … Nebraska and Penn State are off.

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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cheddardavis on 6/19/2013 @ 3:45pm EDT Said:

Indiana’s “Marching Hundred” will be at the Big House this week. Sure would be great to watch IU get a great win with the band there