Best of Week 10: Iowa entertains Ohio State, plus it's Little Brown Jug time

Best of Week 10: Iowa entertains Ohio State, plus it's Little Brown Jug time

It’s Little Brown Jug week! And Ohio State’s trip to Iowa drips with intrigue, while Northwestern’s junket to Nebraska will play a big role in shaping the Big Ten West chase during a week with all 14 teams in action.

Iowa and OSU haven’t met since 2013. Ohio State has won the last five meetings. The Hawkeyes’ last win? A 33-7 romp in Iowa City in 2004. Before that, Iowa hadn’t toppled the Buckeyes since 1991, when Hayden Fry beat John Cooper.

The Nebraska-Northwestern series has been fun and exciting, as the Cornhuskers have won four of the last five. But the Wildcats won the last time they visited Lincoln in 2015.

Minnesota’s trip to Michigan for the Little Brown Jug game will be difficult. Making matters more challenging for the Golden Gophers is the fact this game is sandwiched between a tilt at Iowa and a visit from Nebraska. Michigan and Minnesota have split their last two games, with the Gophers winning in Ann Arbor in 2015 and almost prevailing last season before the Wolverines won, 29-26, at Minnesota. This is the first P.J. Fleck vs. Jim Harbaugh battle. And it’s gonna be sweet.

Penn State won the Land Grant Trophy from Michigan State last season but lost the previous three vs. the Spartans. You get the sense the Nittany Lions are poised to start dominating this series.

Wisconsin has won nine in a row vs. Indiana, scoring over 50 points in each of the last four meetings including an 83-20 win 2010. The Hoosiers last won in 2002, when they took a 32-29 victory in Bloomington. IU also won in 2001. But the Badgers are 15-2 in the last 17 meetings vs. Indiana, scoring 50 or more points eight times.

If Rutgers wants to move up the pecking order in the Big Ten East, it needs to beat Maryland in a game that will be played at Yankee Stadium. Word of warning for the Scarlet Knights: The game is sandwiched between trips to Michigan and Penn State. Still, RU needs to find a way to topple the Terrapins. Maryland has won two of the three meetings since the schools joined the Big Ten together in 2014, with the Terps taking the last two games. Rutgers forever will be measured with Maryland. And it needs to get the upper hand.

Illinois is a program still in transition under Lovie Smith, so wins may be few and far between. The Fighting Illini figure to have a good chance to knock off Purdue in the battle for the Cannon when it visits West Lafayette. Deposed Purdue coach Darrell Hazell went 3-24 in the Big Ten from 2013-16—but two of those victories were vs. Illinois, including a 34-31 OT win in Champaign in 2016. But the Fighting Illini have won the last two times they visited Ross-Ade Stadium.

Here is a look at the Best of Week 10.

Best game: Ohio State at Iowa. The Hawkeyes and OSU haven’t met since 2013. The Buckeyes are motivated in 2017 after failing to win the Big Ten East each of the last two years. Ohio State has won the last five meetings vs. Iowa. The Hawkeyes’ last win? A 33-7 romp in Iowa City in 2004. Before that, Iowa hadn’t toppled the Buckeyes since 1991.

Best head coach matchup: Ohio State’s Urban Meyer vs. Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz. Meyer is 61-6 through his first five seasons in Columbus. He has coached the Buckeyes to a national championship in 2014 — the program’s eighth — by winning the first College Football Playoff. Meyer is 38-2 in Big Ten games and 16-4 record vs. ranked teams. Ferentz is the dean of college football coaches as he enters his 19th season at Iowa. Only Hayden Fry (20 years) has coached the Hawkeyes longer.

Best coordinator clash: Northwestern offensive coordinator Mick McCall vs. Nebraska defensive coordinator Bob Diaco. The 2016 season saw McCall and the Wildcats take strides forward. The Wildcat offense ranked fourth in the league in passing offense and fifth in total offense with 398.2 yards per game. Previous to guiding UConn, Diaco had a highly successful four-year run as the defensive coordinator at Notre Dame. And he has roots in the Big Ten, twice earning All-Big Ten honors as a linebacker at Iowa in the mid-1990s. How will Diaco’s 3-4 defense look?

Best QB battle: Keep an eye on Wisconsin’s Alex Hornibrook vs. Indiana’s Richard Lagow. Hornibrook slowed flashes of big things as a redshirt freshman last season. In nine starts, the lefty completed 58 percent of his passes (106 of 181) for 1,262 yards, nine touchdowns and seven interceptions. Hornibrook’s passing yardage total of 1,262 was second-best by a freshman in school history. In his first season at IU, Lagow ranked second in the Big Ten in passing yards per game (258.6, 28th nationally), third in yards per completion (13.3, 32nd) and completions (19.4, 39th), fifth in touchdowns (19), and sixth in total offense per game (250.3) and passing efficiency (128.8).

Best chance for an upset: Don’t be shocked if Northwestern waltzes into Lincoln, Nebraska, and beats the Cornhuskers. The Wildcats won the last time they visited Memorial Stadium in 2015. They also won at Nebraska in 2011, making Northwestern 2-1 all-time in Lincoln. Both of these teams have their sights set on winning the West, so it should be a fun clash in what has become one of the better rivalries in the Big Ten West.

Best matchup: Football is won in the trenches. And it won’t get any better than watching Ohio State’s boffo d-line tangle with Iowa’s rugged o-line. The Buckeyes may have the top defensive line in America with talent like Tyquan Lewis, Sam Hubbard and Nick Bosa. The Hawkeyes front is led by James Daniels and Sean Welsh.

Player of the spot: If Nebraska wants to defend its turf vs. Northwestern, new quarterback Tanner Lee needs to play well. He drips with ability, impressing on-lookers as he sat out last season following his transfer from Tulane. If Lee is as good as advertised, the Cornhuskers may have a special season.

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RANKING WEEK 10 GAMES
1. Ohio State at Iowa
2. Northwestern at Nebraska
3. Minnesota at Michigan
4. Penn State at Michigan State
5. Wisconsin at Indiana
6. Maryland vs. Rutgers (Yankee Stadium)
7. Illinois at Purdue

Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer

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, and send him questions to his weekly mailbag.

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