Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, November 11, 2011
Lots of tough decisions this week, with four conference battles and one non-conference game. Without a doubt, the races in each division will become more defined after this weekend. Who will prevail in key matchups between Michigan State-Iowa and Nebraska-Penn State?
Michigan State at Iowa
This is a good matchup for Hawkeyes, whose two-deep defense is built to slow down this Spartan attack just like Nebraska did two weeks ago in a 24-3 stifling of Michigan State. Plus, the vaunted Michigan State defense just allowed 415 yards to Minnesota. How will the Spartans deal with the deadly balance of the Hawkeye attack?
TOM?S PICK: Iowa
Nebraska at Penn State
Given the surreal backdrop this game will be played behind, it?s difficult to know what the mind-set of the teams will be. Truth be told, you wonder if the game even should be played. The Nittany Lions have had two weeks to prep for a Cornhusker squad coming off a stunning home loss to Northwestern. It doesn?t matter. The Huskers and their more dynamic offense will win.
TOM?S PICK: Nebraska
Michigan at Illinois
This one will be all about which struggling offense can get on track. The Wolverines are coming off a tough loss at Iowa, while the Fighting Illini were off last Saturday after dropping three in a row. Which quarterback will make more plays, the Wolverines? Denard Robinson or the Illini?s Nathan Scheelhaase?
TOM?S PICK: Illinois
Wisconsin at Minnesota
It?s the battle for Paul Bunyan?s Axe. Ya' gotta love trophy games. The Golden Gophers are playing their best ball of the season. The Badgers are coming off a 62-17 whipping of Purdue that was their best effort of the season. But Wisconsin has more on the line and is playing with a greater sense of urgency.
TOM?S PICK: Wisconsin
Ohio State at Purdue
Two teams headed in opposite directions. The Buckeyes have won three in a row, while the Boilermakers have dropped two straight lopsided games and three of four. This is a motivated Ohio State squad that still harbors hopes of winning the Leaders Division behind its physical offense and punishing defense. Purdue is clinging to bowl hopes, but they are fading fast because of poor line play on both sides of the ball.
TOM?S PICK: Ohio State
Rice at Northwestern
The Wildcats are coming off their best game of the year, a 28-25 win at Nebraska that was the team?s second victory in a row after a five-game losing skid. The offense played as well as ever, but the defense surprised many by muting the rugged Cornhusker ground game. Want more? Northwestern also is motivated by still having bowl hopes.
TOM?S PICK: Northwestern.
Tom Dienhart is a senior writer for BTN.com. Find all of his work at www.btn.com/tomdienhart, follow Dienhart on twitter at @BTNTomDienhart, and click here to subscribe to his RSS feed. You can send him your football questions to his Big Ten mailbag, too.