Week 13 primer: Per usual, 'The Game' highlights season's final week

Week 13 primer: Per usual, 'The Game' highlights season's final week

It’s rivalry week. And, it’s a beautiful thing. Paul Bunyan’s Axe, the Old Oaken Bucket, the Heroes Trophy and the Land of Lincoln Trophy are all up for grabs. But the biggest game of all–Ohio State at Michigan–needs no trophy. It’s simply called “The Game.”

No doubt, Ohio State’s trip to Michigan drips with intrigue, with all eyes on Ann Arbor. The Buckeyes already have clinched the East but need to beat the Wolverines to keep their playoff hopes alive. Can Michigan pull the stunning upset?

Here is a look at the Best of Week 13.

Best game: Ohio State at Michigan. The Buckeyes have dominated Michigan of late, going 14-2 in the last 16 meetings. The Wolverines’ lone wins have come in 2003 and 2011. No doubt, the Wolverines will be motivated to end their misery vs. the Buckeyes, going 1-12 in the last 13 meetings. With a win, Michigan can put the kibosh on the Buckeyes’ playoff hopes.

Best head coaching matchup: Ohio State’s Urban Meyer vs. Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh. Meyer is a Hall-of-Famer who has three national titles on his resume. Harbaugh has a distinguished resume, coaching in a Super Bowl and reaching great heights at Stanford and Michigan. In case you didn’t know, Meyer is 2-0 vs. Harbaugh.

Best coordinator clash: Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown vs. Ohio State offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson. It doesn’t get much better than this. The Buckeyes are No. 1 in the Big Ten in scoring (44.9 ppg) and No. 1 in total offense (546.2 ypg). The Wolverines are No. 3 in scoring defense (17.1 ppg) and No. 2 in total defense (261.2 ypg).

Best QB battle: Indiana’s Richard Lagow vs. Purdue’s Elijah Sindelar. Lagow began the year as the starter before giving way to Peyton Ramsey. But Lagow has started the last three games after Ramsey got hurt vs. Maryland. And Lagow has played pretty well in leading the Hoosiers to consecutive wins in hitting 49-of-76 passes for 525 with four TDs and two picks. Sindelar has started six games and has the job to himself after a season-ending ankle injury to David Blough, who had made five starts and had emerged as the No. 1 man down the stretch. Sindelar is coming off his best game as Boiler last week in leading Purdue to a huge win at Iowa with three TD passes.

Best matchup: The Michigan front seven vs. Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett. The Wolverines are loaded with talent in players like Chase Winovich, Maurice Hurst, Rashan Gary and Devin Bush along the front seven. Barrett is putting the finishing touches on an iconic career in Columbus. Last week, he became the Ohio State leader in rushing yards among quarterbacks (3,070), eclipsing Braxton Miller’s total, and reached the 100 career passing TD milestone. The 22-year-old Texan holds 35 Big Ten and school records.

Best chance for an upset: Michigan vs. Ohio State. It wouldn’t be a stunner to see Michigan knock off Ohio State, which would trash the Buckeyes’ playoff hopes. The big key for the Wolverines will be to establish the run to take pressure off their quarterback. Last year’s 30-27 double OT win by OSU in Columbus was epic. Michigan has lost five in a row to Ohio State and 12 of 13. The last Wolverine triumph? In 2011 in Ann Arbor.

Player on the spot: The Michigan QB, whoever it is: Brandon Peters or John O’Korn. Peters got knocked out of last week’s game with injury, as O’Korn took over. The Wolverines signal-caller will need to hit some passes to loosen a Buckeye defense that figures to be set up to stop the run.

More Week 13 notes:

  • Wisconsin travels to Minnesota in a battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe. The Badgers have dominated the Golden Gophers. In fact, Minnesota hasn’t won Paul Bunyan’s Axe from Wisconsin since 2003—when Glen Mason beat Barry Alvarez–losing the last 13 meetings and 20 of 22 since 1995.
  • There will be a lot on the line when Indiana travels to Purdue for the Old Oaken Bucket. Both teams are 5-6, meaning the winner will go bowling and the loser won’t. The Hoosiers have taken command of the Old Oaken Bucket series, winning four in a row for the first time since 1944-47. Can Indiana continue its mastery over the Boilermakers in the first clash between Tom Allen and Jeff Brohm?
  • Northwestern will be looking for a ninth win when it plays at Illinois. The Wildcats have won two in a row and four of the last five vs. the Fighting Illini. The teams last met in Champaign in 2013—won by NU—after the 2015 contest was held in Chicago’s Soldier Field. Illinois last beat Northwestern in Champaign in 2011. The teams used to battle for the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk. Now, the Land of Lincoln trophy is up for grabs.
  • Iowa plays at Nebraska in a Black Friday battle with the Heroes Trophy on the line. The Hawkeyes have won the last two meetings and three of four. In fact, Iowa has won the last two games in Lincoln, last losing there in 2011. This could be the last game for Nebraska coach Mike Riley. The Hawkeyes are looking to get a bad taste out of their mouth after losing their last two—at Wisconsin and vs. Purdue–after a stunning 55-24 win vs. Ohio State. The Iowa offense has been outscored by the defense, 16-13, the last two games. Unreal.
  • Maryland plays at Penn State in one of the most lopsided series you’ll find. The Nittany Lions lead, 37-1-2. The Terrapins last won in 2014 in State College. Before that, Maryland hadn’t toppled Penn State since 1961.
  • Michigan State closes the year at Rutgers. With a victory, the Spartans will finish 9-3 a year after going 3-9. The Scarlet Knights’ bowl hopes ended last week, as they have lost two in a row and three of four. MSU has won all three meetings with Rutgers since the Scarlet Knights joined the Big Ten in 2014, outscoring Rutgers, 125-27.

***

WEEK 12 GAME RANKINGS
1. Ohio State at Michigan
2. Indiana at Purdue
3. Wisconsin at Minnesota
4. Iowa at Nebraska, Friday
5. Michigan State at Rutgers
6. Penn State at Maryland
7. Northwestern at Illinois

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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