Best of Week 10: Full seven-game slate to open November
All 14 Big Ten teams are in action on the first Saturday in November. And, no doubt, a big focus will be on Columbus, Ohio, where Nebraska travels to play Ohio State. This is the month championship teams make a push. Who’s gonna step up?
The Cornhuskers haven’t played the Buckeyes since 2012, with OSU taking a 63-38 win in Columbus. NU won the other meeting vs. Ohio State as a Big Ten school, taking a 34-27decision in 2011 in Lincoln.
Here is a look at the Best of Week 10.
Game of the week: Nebraska at Ohio State. Going to Ohio State will be tough for the Cornhuskers. Making it more difficult: The week before, Nebraska plays at Wisconsin. The Cornhuskers haven’t played the Buckeyes since 2012, with OSU taking a 63-38 win in Columbus. NU won the other meeting vs. Ohio State as a Big Ten school, taking a 34-27 decision in 2011 in Lincoln.
Best quarterback matchup: No doubt, it is Nebraska’s Tommy Armstrong vs. Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett, two of the top signal-callers in the Big Ten. Armstrong is looking for a big senior send-off, as he hopes to harness his accuracy and hone his decision-making in the pocket. Barrett was a freshman sensation in 2014 who took a back seat to Cardale Jones last year before assuming command late in the season. He is poised to be a Heisman contender this fall.
Best head coach matchup: Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio vs. Illinois’ Lovie Smith. Dantonio has made the Spartans one of the nation’s top programs with astute recruiting and player development. Plus, that huge chip on his shoulder doesn’t hurt, either. Smith arrives in Champaign with a glistening resume that includes 20 years of NFL experience. His football knowledge and experience is unmatched in the conference. Can Smith make Illinois what Michigan State is?
Best coordinator matchup: I am intrigued to watch young Rutgers offensive coordinator Drew Mehringer take on new Indiana defensive coordinator Tom Allen. Mehringer is a 28-year-old wunderkind who coached wideouts last year for rising-star Tom Herman at Houston. Rutgers ranked eighth in the Big Ten in total offense in 2015 but had 18 turnovers, the 10th-ranked third down success rate and was No. 8 in red zone scoring percentage among Big Ten teams. Allen arrives from a successful stint as DC at South Florida looking to rehab an IU defense that was among the Big Ten’s worst last year. Allen is Kevin Wilson’s third DC. Will he finally make this a representative unit?
Upset alert: Iowa doesn’t figure to be an underdog too often in 2016. But, it could be when it travels to Penn State. The Hawkeyes’ bid for an upset will be enhanced by the fact they are off the week before, giving them extra rest and prep time before taking on a Nittany Lion squad that faces a critical third season under James Franklin. How will the Penn State offense look at this point of the season?
- Penn State needs to protect its turf when Iowa visits. The Hawkeyes are rolling, coming off a 12-2 Rose Bowl season and are led by QB C.J. Beathard. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz is a Keystone State native who likes to come home. Penn State has won the last two. But before that, the Hawkeyes won eight of nine.
- Northwestern probably needs to win at home vs. Wisconsin if it wants any shot at winning the West. NU has had success vs. the Badgers under Pat Fitzgerald, going 3-3 and winning the last two games and the last four in Evanston. UW hasn’t won at Ryan Field since 1999.
- If Rutgers wants a shot at making it to a bowl, it needs to win its home games. And that means subduing Indiana when the Hoosiers visit. The Scarlet Knights will be rested, as they will be coming off their off week. RU has won the only two meetings with IU, winning 45-23 at home in 2014 and taking a wild 55-52 decision in Bloomington last year in which IU blew a 25-point lead.
- Maryland won in Ann Arbor in 2014. But that’s when Brady Hoke was coach of the Wolverines. Michigan socked the Terps, 28-0, last year in College Park. This will be a good measuring stick for rookie coach D.J. Durkin’s maiden voyage in College Park, Md.
- Illinois has one win vs. Michigan State since 1995 (1-12). The Fighting Illini’s lone victory in that span? A 23-20 win in East Lansing in 2006. These teams last met in 2013.
- Minnesota has won three in a row and five of seven from Purdue. The Boilermakers haven’t won in Dinkytown since 2007, losing the last three. The Gophers embarrassed Purdue last year in Ross-Ade Stadium, hammering the Boilers for a 41-13 win.
Ranking Week 10 games
1. Nebraska at Ohio State
2. Iowa at Penn State
3. Wisconsin at Northwestern
4. Michigan State at Illinois
5. Maryland at Michigan
6. Indiana at Rutgers
7. Purdue at Minnesota
In case you missed them, here are my previous weekly looks at the schedule:
- Dienhart: Your Big Ten football team’s toughest 2016 stretch
- Dienhart: Best chance for each Big Ten team to get upset
- Which teams have most favorable crossover foes? Least favorable?
- Dienhart: See your team’s toughest 2016 conference game
- Dienhart: Toughest non-con game for each Big Ten team
- Dienhart: Best chance for each Big Ten team to pull an upset
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