Week 12 preview: Big-time Legends Division games

I’m continuing my early week-by-week look at the 2013 Big Ten schedule, and it’s all about Week 12 today. This Saturday’s slate of games is heavy at the top, with big-time Legends Division matchups between Michigan-Northwestern and Michigan State-Nebraska. Get all my Week 12 storylines, top matchups and game rankings in this post.

[ MORE: Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10 | Week 11 ]

Game of the week: Michigan at Northwestern. To have a good shot at winning the Legends Division, Northwestern needs to beat Michigan when the Wolverines visit. The Wildcats lost a 38-31 overtime heartbreaker last season in Ann Arbor, as Michigan completed a miraculous 53-yard pass in the waning moments to set up a game-tying 26-yard field goal with two seconds left to force overtime. The Wolverines won it from there. Since beating Michigan back-to-back in 1995-96, Northwestern has gone 2-10 vs. the Wolverines.

Ranking Week 12 games
1. Michigan at Northwestern
2. Michigan State at Nebraska
3. Ohio State at Illinois
4. Purdue at Penn State
5. Indiana at Wisconsin

Quarterback matchup to watch: Michigan’s Devin Gardner and Northwestern’s Kain Colter could hook up for some excitement in what could be a de facto Legends Division title game. Gardner may be the best blend of runner-passer in the Big Ten, but Colter isn’t far behind as his arm has improved. And the Wildcats can insert Trevor Siemian as a change-of-pace signal-caller.

Coordinator matchup to watch: It doesn’t get much better than Nebraska offensive coordinator Tim Beck vs. Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi. In fact, the Cornhusker offense and the Spartan defense figure to be the best in the Big Ten in their respective fields. The clash between the Nebraska receivers and MSU defensive backs should be epic. How will Beck and Narduzzi counter each other?

Upset alert: Purdue may be getting Penn State at just the right time when it visits State College, Pa. The Nittany Lions will play with a shorthanded roster all season, having just 67 scholarship players because of NCAA probation. Penn State’s depth may be comprised by mid-November, perhaps allowing the Boilermakers to capitalize on a depleted roster and notch what could be a key victory on the way to bowl eligibility. The Nittany Lions have dominated this series, winning six in a row and going 12-2 vs. the Boilermakers since joining the Big Ten.

Storylines: Nebraska has won all seven meetings vs. Michigan State—including both meetings as Big Ten foes. … Ohio State has owned Illinois of late, winning the last five meetings and eight of the last nine. The lone Fighting Illini victory in that stretch was when they stunned No. 1 Ohio State in Columbus in 2007 on the way to the Rose Bowl. The Buckeyes haven’t lost in Champaign since 1991. … Dominance. There’s no other word that best describes the Wisconsin-Indiana series. The Badgers have won the last eight meetings, and 14 of the last 16. The Hoosiers’ lone victories came two years in a row, 2001-02. During this run of dominance, Wisconsin has scored over 50 points on Indiana seven times. No one soon will forget the 2010 game won by the Badgers, 83-20. … Iowa and Minnesota 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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Your Opinion?
Show Comments (13 Comments)
Big Brother on 6/25/2013 @ 2:18pm EDT Said:

Nebraska will continue to pull MSU’s overrated defense’s pants down just they have the past 2 years. allowing 313 rushing yards in a game is very disturbing for a defense that supposedly finished 4th in the nation

Doug on 6/25/2013 @ 2:41pm EDT Said:

Michigan’s obsession with MSU continues, don’t worry little brother, MSU is gonna handle Gardner (which why do I go?) and again next year, by then Hoke will be on the chopping block as he continues to be owned by OSU

bob jones on 6/25/2013 @ 3:04pm EDT Said:

Speaking of Nebraska’s domination of Michigan St, I remember Tom Osborne telling Nick Saban not to be down on his team after something like a 50-10 drubbing by the 1995 National Champs. In Tom’s usual understated way, he told Nick that Nebraska had a pretty good team that year and not to feel bad about the outcome. Class.

Doug on 6/25/2013 @ 4:21pm EDT Said:

I was at that 1995 game Bob, Neb wasn’t trying to run up the score, they were just that damn good !

Alex on 6/25/2013 @ 5:31pm EDT Said:

the 1995 Husker team was the best team in college football history, 50-10 isn’t running up the score bob, it couldda been 100-10 if Tom wanted. Don’t you talk down on the class of Tom Osborne

    bob jones on 6/25/2013 @ 10:00pm EDT Said:

    Doug and Alex, you both misunderstood me completely, I’ve been a huge Husker fan since Devaney took over in 1962. I’m a huge Tom Osborne fan, have talked to him many times, he is as decent a man as I have ever met. I don’t understand how you mistook my comment, so here goes again. Tom told Nick not to be too down on his team because Nebraska had a pretty good team [ in his normal understated and humble way ]. When I said class, I mean pure class, don’t know how you mistook my meaning. Tom was just trying to tell Nick to keep his head up, things would get better, which they certainly did for Saban. Tom knew there weren’t many teams that could match up with his 95 Huskers and let Nick know in his own way that Saban’s team was much better than they looked that day. Typical T.O. to say that maybe the best college football team ever was ” pretty good.” Still not quite sure how you didn’t get my point the first time.

Common sense on 6/25/2013 @ 9:21pm EDT Said:

I disagree I think Doug knows that 97 Michigan team with Charles Woodson was better than the 95 Nebraska team

    bob jones on 6/26/2013 @ 12:43pm EDT Said:

    Vegas made the Huskers a 7 1/2 point favorite after the bowl season over Michigan if the two were to meet in a title matchup. That’s usually a pretty good gauge, Vegas is pretty good at what they do.

Big Brother on 6/25/2013 @ 9:48pm EDT Said:

MSU couldn’t hold OSU’s jockstrap when it comes to beating Michigan. you needed RR to help you finally break your 6-game losing streak to us. Mike Hart owned you worse than Ohio St owned him. he had every right to call you little brother and how devastating he was in those 4 games against you

OSU 12-0 on 6/25/2013 @ 11:12pm EDT Said:

OSU is going to play MSU in the 2013 B1G championship game!

Doug on 6/26/2013 @ 11:32am EDT Said:

Bob, no I understood what you meant, agree complete, great Dhani is using 2 different names again, must be rough to be bipolar, i feel sorry for you

Big Brother on 6/26/2013 @ 2:33pm EDT Said:

my name’s not Dhani, Doug. I’m William and you probably don’t even believe half the stuff you say it’s so ridiculous. anyone who think UConn is beating us is delusional

OSU 12-0 on 6/29/2013 @ 1:30pm EDT Said:

OSU is going to play MSU in the 2013 B1G football championship game!