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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.
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Iowa had seven different players score in double-digits, led by Aaron White’s game-high 22 points, and the Hawkeyes cruised to a 109-63 win over Maryland-Eastern Shore on Thursday night.
Sure, it’s only mid-November, but whenever ESPN NFL draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. releases his initial NFL Draft Board, both college and NFL football fans across the nation take notice. Kiper Jr. recently released his updated big board, which features three Big Ten stars on it. Michigan senior OT Taylor Lewan headlines the list at No. 16 overall.
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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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Ohio State has produced a raft of great linebackers, including Chris Spielman, Tom Cousineau, Andy Katzenmoyer and A.J. Hawk, among others. And Randy Gradishar was one of the best. In fact, he may have been the best. After an All-American career in Columbus, Gradishar went on to a stellar pro career with the Denver Broncos and led the team to Super Bowl 12. But his days as a Buckeye remain special. And one of Gradishar’s most memorable moments was the 1973 game against Michigan, which is the topic of the BTN Originals documentary “TIEBREAKER” airing Saturday at 7 p.m. ET.
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It’s Thursday, and that means we are one day closer to Saturday, which means we are one day closer to the Michigan State at Nebraska game. Thank goodness! Let’s start links right there, shall we? Nebraska has a big task on Saturday trying to beat Michigan State. No doubt, big plays will be needed for the Cornhuskers to emerge victorious. But, big plays have been rare with Taylor Martinez out of the lineup.