This isn’t a great weekend for games, especially with Nebraska and Penn State off. And the league’s two best teams appear to be in mismatches, with Michigan hosting Illinois and Ohio State visiting Indiana.
This week’s schedule is loaded with three good games, the headliner being Nebraska’s trip to Ohio State. Each could be the top team in their respective division. The subplots are thick, with great quarterback and head coaching battles leading the way. Oh, and Bo Pelini, a Youngstown, Ohio, native returns to Ohio State, where he was a defensive back from 1987-90.
It’s Floyd of Rosedale Week! Hallelujah! Not only that, but this is the first week of full-scale conference—save for one game. And there are some intriguing matchups. The headliner is Ohio State’s visit to Michigan State. The Buckeyes lost an ugly 10-7 game last year in Columbus with just 178 yards of offense.
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The Big Ten went 10-2 last week. But look closer. It wasn’t an impressive 10-2. The wins came vs. FCS Charleston Southern; FCS Northern Iowa; UMass; Arkansas State, Western Michigan; Cal; Navy; Boston College, Utah State and Eastern Michigan. And Indiana lost to Ball State.
While the Big Ten took its lumps last week in going 6-6, it has a great chance to get healthy this Saturday with a collection of games against largely inferior foes that all will take place in Big Ten venues. Without a doubt, the marquee matchup is Notre Dame at Michigan State. And Cal at Ohio State could be decent. After that, it’s a mixed lot.
The second weekend of the season is approaching. And this Saturday is highlighted by three games vs. Pac-12 foes—all on the road: Wisconsin at Oregon State; Illinois at Arizona State; Nebraska at UCLA. And how will Penn State (at Virginia) and Michigan (vs. Air Force) respond coming off losses? There also are two rivalry games, with Purdue playing at Notre Dame and Iowa State visiting Iowa. We also have an SEC-Big Ten clash, with Vanderbilt playing at Northwestern.
The Michigan-Ohio State game is the annual exclamation mark on the Big Ten season. This year’s storyline: Can the Wolverines end the Buckeyes’ seven-season run of dominance? A Wolverine victory not only would ease the pain for Michigan fans, but it also will enhance the team’s resume in its bid to earn a BCS at-large bowl slot.
Just two weeks remain in the regular season, but there still is a lot to play for in the Big Ten. Michigan State could wrap up the Legends Division this week with a win at home over Indiana and a loss by Nebraska at Michigan. Regardless, if the Spartans win out, they are in the Big Ten title game on Dec. 3.
Lots of interesting storylines and angles to watch in Week 11, as the divisional chases firm up—at least a little. Two games will go a long way toward determining who wins each division: Michigan State at Iowa is a big Legends clash, while Nebraska at Penn State is a major Leaders encounter. But there also are other intriguing matchups this Saturday.
The calendar turns to November, when the games that we all remember will be played. Many big contests loom down a home stretch that will go a long way toward determining who will meet in the inaugural Big Ten championship game. There’s Nebraska at Penn State; Penn State at Ohio State; Nebraska at Michigan; Penn State at Wisconsin; Ohio State at Michigan.
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The stretch drive of the season is entering a higher gear with two big matchups on tap in what looks like the best collection of games yet in 2011. The headliner is Michigan State at Nebraska in a key game that will determine pecking order in the Legends Division. The other tilt to watch is a big Leaders Division battle between Wisconsin at Ohio State. The Buckeyes are coming off an off week rested, ready and perhaps with a few new wrinkles. How will the Badgers respond coming off their first loss of the season? Come tell me in the comments box below, or drop me a note in my BTN.com mailbag.