Best of Week 6: Welcome to the first week of full-scale Big Ten action
This is the first week of full-scale Big Ten action, with seven conference games.
Illinois will be making its first trip to Iowa City since 2007 because of scheduling quirks. No matter the venue, the Hawkeyes have dominated of late by winning six of the last seven vs. Illinois. The Fighting Illini’s last win in Kinnick Stadium came in 1999 under Ron Turner.
Michigan State won 45-3 last year vs. Rutgers in East Lansing. This will be the Spartans’ first trip to RU since 2004, when it lost 19-14.
Minnesota has won four of the last six vs. Purdue. This will be the Golden Gophers’ first trip to West Lafayette since 2011. Minnesota’s last win in Ross-Ade Stadium came under Tim Brewster in 2008.
Penn State is 17-1 vs. Indiana. The lone loss came in Bloomington in 2013. This will be the Hoosiers’ first trip to State College since 2012.
OSU beat the Terps, 52-24, last year in the first meeting ever between the schools.
Game of the week: No doubt, it is Wisconsin at Nebraska. A monster Big Ten West contest. Nebraska is 1-3 vs. the Badgers since joining the Big Ten. And the Huskers often have lost in spectacular fashion, falling 48-17 in Madison in 2011; 70-31 in the 2012 Big Ten title game; 59-24 last year in Madison. This will be a clash between first-year coaches in the Huskers’ Mike Riley vs. the Badgers’ Paul Chryst.
Best quarterback matchup: Indiana’s Nate Sudfeld vs. Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg gets top billing. Sudfeld’s 2014 season ended after six games because of a shoulder injury. When healthy, he is effective, notching 4,306 career passing yards with 34 touchdowns and 13 picks. Hackenberg continues to be more about potential than big-time production, as he looks to rebound from a subpar sophomore season marred by spotty play by the line. This could be a huge season for “Hack.”
Best head coach matchup: How about Maryland’s Randy Edsall vs. Ohio State’s Urban Meyer? Yep. Edsall is the all-time winningest coach at UConn who took the program to a BCS bowl before arriving in College Park. Maryland finished 2014 with a 5-1 road record, leading the Big Ten in road wins. The five road victories were the most for a Terrapin team since 1984. Maryland posted its first-ever road victory at Penn State and its first win against Michigan to punctuate its inaugural season in the Big Ten. Meyer’s resume speaks loudly, shouting out three national championships among his many accolades. He may be in his coaching prime since taking over Ohio State in 2012, going 38-3 overall and 24-0 in the Big Ten.
Best coordinator matchup: It will be fun to watch Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Aranda go head-to-head with Nebraska offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf. Under Aranda’s watch, Wisconsin’s defense has allowed an average of 299.4 yards per game, ranking third among FBS programs over the last two seasons and trailing only Louisville (280.5) and Michigan State (282.9). The Badgers have allowed an average of 18.6 points per game over the last two seasons, the sixth-best mark in the FBS during that span. Langsdorf was the quarterbacks coach of the New York Giants in 2014. Before that, he ran Mike Riley’s Oregon State offenses from 2005-13. In his six years as the offensive coordinator in Corvallis, Langsdorf’s offenses produced four of the top eight statistical season performances in total offense.
Upset alert: Northwestern may be able to dump Michigan in Ann Arbor in a battle of coaches who are legends at their respective schools: Pat Fitzgerald vs. Jim Harbaugh. Yes, NU is 1-9 in its last 10 meetings with Michigan. That one win was in Ann Arbor, a 21-14 victory in 2008. This will be the Wildcats’ first trip to Michigan since 2012, as the last two meetings have been in Evanston. How will the Wolverines be playing coming off games vs. Utah, Oregon State, BYU and Maryland, among others? This could be Fitzgerald’s most talented Northwestern team since taking over in 2006. The last three meetings between these schools have been interesting, with Michigan taking 38-31 (OT), 27-19 (triple OT) and 10-9 decisions.
Ranking Week 6 Games
1. Wisconsin at Nebraska
2. Maryland at Ohio State
3. Illinois at Iowa
4. Northwestern at Michigan
5. Michigan State at Rutgers
6. Indiana at Penn State
7. Minnesota at Purdue
|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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