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The Big Ten suffered its first losses over the past couple nights, and we learned just a little bit more about the shape of this conference. Let’s dive in. In a formula that might become common this season, Illinois struggled to score over Valparaiso’s length but did enough on defense to secure the victory. After facing two decidedly smaller teams to open the season, Illinois had trouble converting over Valpo’s big and experienced frontline. In fact, the Illini’s 35.6 effective field goal percentage is the lowest mark of the John Groce era, and last season’s team wasn’t exactly a collection of sharpshooters.
An interesting Saturday of action is headlined by what could be the Big Ten Game of the Year: Michigan State at Nebraska. Ohio State will look to remain unbeaten when it plays at Illinois. The Buckeyes have owned Illinois, winning the last five meetings and eight of the last nine. The lone Fighting Illini victory in that stretch was when they stunned No. 1 Ohio State in Columbus in 2007 on the way to the Rose Bowl. The Buckeyes haven’t lost in Champaign since 1991.
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Both Illinois and Purdue notched impressive early season wins Wednesday night. Purdue blew out Central Connecticut 109-73, while Illinois edged out Valparaiso, 64-52. In the third Big Ten game of the evening, Penn State fell to Bucknell, 80-90. Get game recaps, stats and video highlights from all three games in this post.
Every week during the 2013 football season, BTN.com’s Tom Dienhart, Brent Yarina, Sean Merriman and hoops analyst Stephen Bardo, a huge football fan, make their Big Ten picks. We also provide polls for Big Ten fans to select their winners.
This Saturday features some intriguing clashes. All eyes will be on Lincoln, Neb., for Michigan State’s visit to Nebraska in what essentially is a de facto Legends Division championship game. If you aren’t stoked, then I feel sorry for you.
In the night’s top matchup, Michigan State ran out to an early 10-0 lead against a young Kentucky team and did just enough the rest of the way to pick up a very big win. It was a tale of two halves, as the Spartans made the Wildcats look slow and disorganized over the first 20 minutes.