Best of Week 8: Don't miss Nebraska at Northwestern under the lights
Some interesting games dot the Big Ten map, including a key West Division tilt with Nebraska visiting Northwestern (watch on BTN/BTN2Go) and an interesting intra-divisional clash with Iowa at Maryland. And could we see an upset when Purdue visits Minnesota?
Here’s a look at the Best of Week 8.
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- Scoreboard: View the Week 8 slate
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- Bowl Projections: MSU in playoff
- Power Rankings: Top 3 remain same
- Mailbag: Our analyst answers mail
- Columbus Day? Don't tell this bank!
- Fore! Steve Stricker hits balls onto field
BEST GAME: If the last three games are any indication, the Nebraska at Northwestern clash should be memorable. The Wildcats tallied a 28-25 win in Lincoln in 2011 behind backup quarterback Kain Colter. The Cornhuskers returned the favor in 2012 with a stirring 29-28 comeback in Evanston, after trailing 28-16 in the fourth quarter. Last year, Nebraska won on a last-second Hail Mary that stopped everyone’s heart. Nebraska was off last week after suffering its first loss of 2014 by falling at Michigan State. Northwestern saw its three-game losing streak end at Minnesota last week. So, each team is looking to rebound to avoid a second Big Ten loss.
BEST MATCHUP: Northwestern’s front seven vs. Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah. The Wildcats have an underrated defense that is No. 2 in the Big Ten in scoring (17.5 ppg). But the rush defense has been gashed at times, ranking No. 11 in the conference (145.7 ypg). Abdullah is averaging 146.3 yards rushing and is looking to rebound from a sub-par effort at Michigan State in which he was limited to 45 yards rushing on 24 totes (1.9 ypc).
PLAYER ON THE SPOT: Iowa QB Jake Rudock. He looked good last week in dispatching Indiana, hitting 19-of-27 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns. That performance made it unnecessary for the Hawkeyes to rotate quarterbacks, as had been the plan. Instead, C.J. Beathard saw just limited action. Rudock will need another strong day vs. a vulnerable Maryland defense that figures to try to take away the Iowa run game.
KEEP AN EYE ON: The Rutgers defensive line. This is one of the top units in the Big Ten, leading the Big Ten and ranking third in the nation in sacks. Kemoko Turay brings the heat off the edge as the league’s resident sack master. David Milewski and Darius Hamilton also are forces. The Ohio State offensive line is coming on after breaking in four new starters. But this will be its toughest test yet. If it has issues controlling the Scarlet Knights’ d-line, the Buckeyes could find the sledding tough.
BEST COACHING MATCHUP: Nebraska’s Bo Pelini and Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald have had some good battles the last three years. Each coach has a defensive background. And it’s that side of the ball that figures to decide the outcome of this key West Division game.
BEST QUARTERBACK MATCHUP: No one saw this coming back in August, but the clash between Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett and Rutgers’ Gary Nova should be good. Barrett is No. 1 in the Big Ten in passing efficiency; Nova is No. 2. One is a redshirt freshman (Barrett) mentored by a young hot-shot coordinator in Tom Herman; the other is a senior (Nova) coordinated by a sage mind in Ralph Friedgen. Which signal-caller can make the most big plays? And also avoid the big mistake?
BEST COORDINATOR BATTLE: It will be strength on strength when Maryland’s offense takes on Iowa’s defense. Terps’ offensive coordinator Mike Locksley pushes the buttons on an attack that is No. 4 in the Big Ten in scoring (34.7 ppg). Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker is honing a strong unit that ranks No. 5 in the Big Ten in scoring defense (19.2 ppg). The winner of this battle figures to decide the winner of this game.
UPSET ALERT: Minnesota needs to be careful when it welcomes Purdue. The Golden Gophers are hot, riding a three-game winning streak behind a strong defense and the running of David Cobb. Will Minnesota have a letdown coming off a big home win vs. Northwestern? The Gophers will need to be dialed in vs. a surging Boilermakers squad that pushed Michigan State to the limit last week in a home loss. Inserting Austin Appleby into the lineup at quarterback has energized Purdue, which is playing loose and free.
|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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