And, we’ve reached the finish line! That’s right, my early week-by-week look at the 2013 Big Ten football slate has hit Week 14, a week highlighted by the annual end-of-the-year Ohio State-Michigan rivalry game. Get all the storylines, matchups and my game rankings for Week 14 in this post.
Game of the week: Ohio State at Michigan. This could be a preview of the Big Ten title game. If it is, it will be the only time these rivals will play in the Big Ten championship game, as they will be in the same division beginning in 2014. The Wolverines have been on the short end of this series lately, dropping eight of the last nine. Michigan did win the last time the game was in Ann Arbor in 2011. Before playing the Buckeyes, the Wolverines must avoid a trap game on Nov. 23 at Iowa, where Michigan has lost the last two times it has visited.
Ranking Week 14 games
1. Ohio State at Michigan
2. Penn State at Wisconsin
3. Iowa at Nebraska (Nov. 29)
4. Minnesota at Michigan State
5. Northwestern at Illinois
6. Purdue at Indiana
Quarterback matchup to watch: How great could the clash be between Michigan’s Devin Gardner and Ohio State’s Braxton Miller? Heck, the winner of this battle could end up being the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. Each is a classic dual-threat quarterback capable of making a big play at any time.
Coordinator matchup to watch: I wanna see Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges match wits with Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell. It’s the sage old Borges vs. the young and bright Fickell. This could be the battle that determines which team wins “The Game.”
Upset alert: Penn State may be trying to cap another strong season when it visits Leaders Division power Wisconsin in the season finale. The Nittany Lions topped the Badgers last season in the finale, taking a 24-21 overtime decision in State College. Penn State has won four of the last six meetings vs. a Wisconsin program that has gone to three Rose Bowls in a row.
Storylines: It’s rivalry week, with lots of trophies and bragging rights on the line. And all 12 schools are in action for the final weekend. … The Hoosiers need to turn the tide vs. rival Purdue in the Old Oaken Bucket battle. Indiana has lost four of the last five meetings, and is 3-13 in the last 16 meetings. One win came in a driving rain storm (2001); another on a last-second field goal (2007); the third took overtime (2010). … Illinois needs to find a way to get the upper hand vs. Northwestern, which visits Champaign in the season finale. The Fighting Illini have lost three of the last five meetings and seven of the last 10 to their in-state rival. Tim Beckman has made beating NU a point of emphasis. … Once again, Nebraska will play Iowa on a Friday in what figures to continue to blossom into a nice season-ending rivalry. The Huskers have won five in succession in the series. The Hawkeyes haven’t scored more than 13 points in any of those five games. In fact, Nebraska has outscored Iowa, 159-41, during the five-game winning skein, winning by an average score of 32-8. … Michigan State has won three in a row vs. Minnesota. Before that, the Golden Gophers won three in succession vs. the Spartans.