Week 6 primer: Wisconsin at Nebraska & Michigan State at Michigan, anyone?

Week 6 primer: Wisconsin at Nebraska & Michigan State at Michigan, anyone?

Week 6 is filled with seven games, six Big Ten contests and one non-league title. And there are two marquee contests: Wisconsin at Nebraska and Michigan State at Michigan. Penn State’s trip to Northwestern drips with intrigue, too. And if Purdue wants to go bowling, it probably will need to topple visiting Minnesota.

Here is a look at the Best of Week 6.

Best game: Wisconsin at Nebraska. You have to like the Badgers’ chances to leave Lincoln with a victory, but the Cornhuskers have some mojo having won their last two games (Rutgers; at Illinois). Wisconsin has won four in a row vs. the Cornhuskers and five of six. And the Badgers have beaten Nebraska in fabulous fashion on occasion, taking a 48-17 win in 2011, 70-31 in the 2012 Big Ten title game and 59-24 in 2014. UW won in OT last season.

Best head coach matchup: Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio vs. Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh. It will be fun to watching coaching buddies Paul Chryst and Mike Riley clash, but how about Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh vs. Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio? Delicious. Remember what happened the last time the Spartans visited Ann Arbor in 2015? Sure you do! Michigan State pulled off one of the zaniest finishes in the history of college football when it ran back a botched Wolverine punt in the waning seconds for the winning score. I still can’t believe it. And neither can you.

Best coordinator clash: Maryland offensive coordinator Walt Bell vs. sage Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano. This may be a bit off the radar, but what the heck. Bell is a rising star in the sport who has shown his resourcefulness this season as he engineered a big win at Minnesota last week with third-team quarterback Max Bortenschlager. Schiano is a former head coach at Rutgers and in the NFL with Tampa Bay whose acumen is well-documented.

Best QB battle: Penn State’s Trace McSorley vs. Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson. A meeting between the top two statistical passers in the Big Ten. McSorley leads the Big Ten with 1,352 passing yards, averaging a league-high 270.4 per game and hitting 65 percent of his attempts with 12 TD tosses. Thorson is averaging 265.3 yards passing, hitting 64 percent of his attempts with seven TDs. McSorley is the niftier of the two, as he can make plays with his feet, while Thorson has a stronger arm. This is gonna be good.

Best chance for an upset: Michigan State at Michigan. Michigan State may have a shot to win at Michigan in an always-intense rivalry. Yes, the Wolverines are coming off a bye and they have a ferocious defense. But the Spartans have some mojo coming off a grind-it-out home win vs. Iowa. And MSU has a strong defense that should keep Michigan’s pedestrian offense in check as it is led by new starter John O’Korn. The key to pulling the upset: Can the Spartans generate some consistent offense against Don Brown’s defense?

Player on the spot: Wisconsin QB Alex Hornibrook. Good teams win road games in tough environments. Is Hornibrook ready for what he’ll encounter in Lincoln? He was spotty in last week’s home win vs. Northwestern, hitting just 11-of-20 passes for 197 yards with a touchdown and two picks. Hornibrook will need to play better to keep the Badgers unbeaten.

WEEK 6 GAME RANKINGS
1. Wisconsin at Nebraska
2. Michigan State at Michigan
3. Penn State at Northwestern
4. Minnesota at Purdue
5. Maryland at Ohio State
6. Illinois at Iowa
7. Charleston Southern at Indiana

***

More Week 6 notes:

  • Wisconsin has been a nemesis of sorts for Nebraska, the program the Huskers much catch if they want to rule the West and win a conference title for the first time since 1999. The Badgers may have won four in a row vs. the Cornhuskers and five of six. A NU would make it 3-0 in the Big Ten and sitting pretty. A victory by UW would make it 2-0 in league action, with wins over Northwestern and the Huskers.
  • Nothing like a rivalry to spice up the weekend. And there is no rivalry more intense than Michigan-Michigan State. The Wolverines beat the Spartans last year, but MSU is 7-2 vs. Michigan in the last nine meetings for the Paul Bunyan Trophy.
  • Northwestern has won the last two vs. Penn State. Before that, PSU won six in a row vs. NU. The Wildcats won the last meeting, taking a 23-21 decision in Evanston in 2015. Before that, Penn State had won three in a row at NU.
  • Minnesota is coming off its first loss, but it is riding a four-game winning streak vs. Purdue. And the Golden Gophers won the last time in Ross-Ade Stadium, taking a 41-13 decision in 2015. The Boilermakers last triumphs vs. Minnesota came in 2010 and 2011—both at Purdue. This game will feature a clash of first-year coaches in the Golden Gophers’ P.J. Fleck and the Boilermakers’ Jeff Brohm, whose team was off last week.
  • Iowa has won three in a row vs. Illinois and eight of nine. The Fighting Illini’s lone victory in that span came in 2008 in Champaign. Illinois hasn’t won in Iowa City since 1999. Iowa is 0-2 in Big Ten play … and is desperate. The youthful Illini are struggling mightily on offense. Who am I kidding: The Illini are struggling in every phase of the game.
  • Ohio State is 3-0 all-time vs. Maryland, scoring 52, 49 and 62 points vs. the Terrapins in the last three meetings, respectively. The Buckeyes won 62-3 last season. Maryland is coming off a huge win at Minnesota behind its third-string QB. The Buckeye have ripped off three victories in succession after the Oklahoma loss.
  • Charleston Southern visits Indiana in a game that was added last month to replace the Hoosiers’ slated tilt vs. Florida International, which couldn’t make the trip to Bloomington in September because of Hurricane Irma.
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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