Week 10 primer: Nebraska at Ohio State highlights full slate
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. And many eyes will focus on Evanston, Illinois, where Northwestern will entertain Wisconsin.
Here is a look at the Best of Week 10.
Best game: Nebraska at Ohio State. Going to Ohio State will be tough for the Cornhuskers, who look to get back on track after suffering their first loss of the season last week when they fell in OT at Wisconsin. How will NU respond? Ohio State is coming off a lackluster home victory vs. Northwestern, as the offense continues to slog along and potentially jeopardize what could be a special season. The pass game ranks No. 8 in the Big Ten. 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: Nebraska’s Tommy Armstrong vs. Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett. This is a matchup of two of the top signal-callers in the Big Ten. Barrett is No. 2 in the Big Ten in total offense, averaging 275.8 ypg; Armstrong is No. 3, averaging 272.9 ypg. These are the Big Ten’s top dual-threat quarterbacks. And no other Big Ten teams arguably rely more on their signal-callers than Ohio State and Nebraska. Each club goes as its quarterback goes.
Best head coaching matchup: Wisconsin’s Paul Chryst vs. Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald. Each is enjoying a great season. Chryst has navigated his team to a 3-2 start in the Big Ten vs. a schedule that has included games at Michigan State, at Michigan, vs. Ohio State, at Iowa, vs. Nebraska. Fitzgerald’s team has come a long way since its 2-0 start, and the Wildcats are in the thick of a tight Big Ten West race. No doubt, this game will have a big impact on the divisional pecking order down the stretch.
Best coordinator matchup: Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead vs. Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker. Moorhead’s offense keeps clicking, coming off a 62-point effort at Purdue and is No. 3 in scoring in the Big Ten (33.6 ppg). The line continues to improve for an attack that’s loaded with skill-position talent. Parker has another salty defense that is No. 5 in scoring defense (18.9 ppg) in the Big Ten.
Best matchup: Iowa secondary vs. Penn State wideouts. Some top talent, with the Hawkeyes featuring the corner tandem of Desmond King and Greg Mabin, and the safety duo of Miles Taylor and Brandon Snyder. The Nittany Lions have a nice group of wideouts led by Chris Godwin and DeAndre Thompkins, among others. And Mike Gesicki is a top tight end.
Best chance for an upset: Iowa at Penn State. The Hawkeyes’ bid for an upset will be enhanced by the fact they were off the week before, giving them extra rest and prep time before taking on a Nittany Lion squad that has won four in a row.
Player on the spot: Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong. He needs to rebound from a less-than-stellar effort in a 23-17 overtime loss at Wisconsin in which NU had only 305 yards. The senior hit just 12-of-31 passes for 153 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. Armstrong needs to be more productive in the passing game. He will face a tough Ohio State unit that is No. 2 in pass-efficiency defense and features a good secondary.
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
More Week 10 notes:
- 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. Nebraska is coming off a disappointing 23-17 loss in OT at Wisconsin, the first defeat of the season for the Cornhuskers. The Buckeyes still control their destiny in the Big Ten East, but the offense isn’t clicking for an OSU team that looked ordinary in a 24-20 win vs. Northwestern last week.
- Few teams are hotter than Penn State, which has won four in a row as it clings to Big Ten East title hopes. Iowa lost to Wisconsin before being off last week. The Hawkeye offense continues to sputter along, lacking dynamic playmaking ability. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz is a Keystone State native who likes to come home. Penn State has won the last two meetings. 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. The Wildcats are coming off a tough 24-20 loss at Ohio State. Still, NU is playing well on both sides of the ball for Pat Fitzgerald, as Northwestern won three in a row prior to the loss in Columbus. The Badgers will be riding high coming off a 23-17 OT home win vs. Nebraska, UW’s second win in a row and third over a top 10 team this season.
- When Indiana comes to Rutgers, the Scarlet Knights will be rested and hungry, as they will be coming off their bye week losers of five in a row. 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. Indiana ended a three-game skid with a big victory at home vs. Maryland last week. The offense had three 100-yard rushers and looks to be back on track.
- When Maryland arrives at Michigan, it will find a red-hot Wolverines team that is 8-0 and ranked No. 2 in America. 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 DJ Durkin’s maiden voyage in College Park, Md.
- Illinois and Michigan State both are desperate for a win. The good news: one of them will get a win when they face off in Champaign. The Spartans have lost six in a row; the Illini have one Big Ten win and have lost the last two by a combined 81-25. 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. And the Golden Gophers bring some mojo into the game, winners of three in a row. 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. Don’t be shocked if the Gophers again crush Purdue, which has lost three in a row, can’t run, can’t stop the run and was just eviscerated by Penn State at home, 62-24.