Best of Week 7: Ohio State visits Nebraska in interdivision clash
A slate of six games looms on this Saturday. And there is some marquee appeal. At the top of the list is Ohio State’s trip to Nebraska.
Northwestern’s game at Maryland also is interesting. NU may be the top team in the West, while the Terps are on the rise and looking to make a statement. This will be the first ever meeting between Maryland and Northwestern.
Michigan has dominated the series vs. Indiana, going 56-9 all-time vs. the Hoosiers. The last time IU toppled the Wolverines was when Ronald Reagan was president in 1987, losing 21 in a row. But some of the recent meetings have been interesting, as Michigan won 48-41 in 2015 and 63-47 in 2013.
Keep an eye on Michigan State’s game at Minnesota. MSU has won four in a row vs. the Golden Gophers, but the schools haven’t met since 2013. This will be the Spartans first trip to Dinkytown since 2012, which they won 26-10.
Wisconsin will look to continue its dominance of Purdue. The last time the Boilermakers beat Wisconsin was in Madison in 2003. That was two head coaches ago for Purdue, when Joe Tiller led the program. UW has won the last five meetings in Camp Randall—and 11 in a row overall vs. the Boilers, often in dominating fashion. Check out some of these scores: 49-20, 34-16, 41-10, 62-17, 37-0 … you get the idea.
It’s difficult to call any game “easy” for a program coming off a 3-9 season in Lovie Smith’s debut. But, you have to like Illinois’ chances when Rutgers comes to Champaign. The Scarlet Knights are in Year Two of a rebuild under Chris Ash, going 2-10 last year and finishing with nine defeats in succession. Illinois won at Rutgers last season, 24-7.
Penn State and Iowa are off.
Here is a look at the Best of Week 7.
Best game: Ohio State at Nebraska. This will be the Buckeyes’ first to Lincoln since 2011 when NU won 34-27. Think Memorial Stadium will be jacked up? The Buckeyes have won the last two vs. Nebraska in dominating fashion, taking a 62-3 decision last year in Columbus and a 63-38 outcome in 2012 in Columbus.
Best head coach matchup: It has to be Ohio State’s Urban Meyer vs. Nebraska’s Mike Riley. Meyer is an all-time great who has won three national titles, and he is hungry for more after not even winning the Big Ten East each of the last two seasons and getting embarrassed by Clemson in the playoff last year. Riley faces an interesting Year Three in Lincoln, as he reworked his staff. There will be a new 3-4 defense and a new quarterback running an offense that will have more of a West Coast look.
Best coordinator clash: Can’t wait to see new Ohio State offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson face off vs. new Nebraska defensive coordinator Bob Diaco and his 3-4 alignment. Wilson is an offensive wizard who always assembled good attacks when he was Indiana head coach. Diaco may have flopped as head coach at UConn but was a top defensive coordinator at Notre Dame.
Best QB matchup: Let’s go with Michigan’s Wilton Speight vs. Indiana’s Richard Lagow. Speight was third-team All-Big Ten (coaches and media) in his first year as the starter in Ann Arbor in 2016. He completed 204-of-331 passes (61.6 percent) for 2,538 yards and 18 touchdowns with seven interceptions. Lagow also turned some heads in his first season as a starter. He arrived from a JC and hit 253-of-438 passes (57.8 percent) for 3,362 yards with 19 touchdowns, 17 interceptions, two rushing TDs and one receiving score.
Best chance for an upset: Maryland may be able to take down visiting Northwestern. The key: Will the Terrapins be getting good play from their quarterback? If so, Maryland’s offense could be formidable, as the Terps should have a good rushing attack behind a line that keeps improving.
Best matchup: Keep an eye on how Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett performs vs. the Nebraska linebackers. This is strength on strength. Barrett is looking for a big senior send-off. He is as talented as any signal-caller in the nation, but he needs better help from his pass-catchers. Barrett is 26-4 as a starting quarterback and has thrown for 6,381 yards (third at Ohio State) and 69 touchdowns (first) and rushed for 2,456 yards (17th) with 31 touchdowns. A big reason why the Cornhuskers ditched their 4-3 scheme for a 3-4 was because of an abundance of good linebackers including the likes of Dedrick Young and Luke Gifford. Can they mute Barrett?
Player on the spot: Let’s make it “players,” as Minnesota will need to run well if it wants to take down Michigan State. That means running backs Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks need to excel. They are a formidable 1-2 punch. Smith ran for 1,158 yards last season, while Brooks rushed for 650. Yes, the Spartans have some questions to answer along their front seven. But there is talent in East Lansing in the form of DE Raequan Williams, DT Mike Panasiuk and LB Chris Frey.
RANKING WEEK 7 GAMES
1. Ohio State at Nebraska
2. Northwestern at Maryland
3. Michigan at Indiana
4. Michigan State at Minnesota
5. Purdue at Wisconsin
6. Rutgers at Illinois