Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, November 18, 2011
Saturday is on our doorstep with many key games and storylines looming. Can Purdue and Northwestern become bowl eligible? Could Michigan State (Legends) and Penn State (Leaders) wrap up their division? Here are my picks for each of the six games. Now you make yours, too.
Iowa at Purdue: Momentum is on the Boilermakers? side, as they are coming off perhaps the biggest win in the Danny Hope era and now are just one victory from punching their ticket to the postseason for the first time since 2007. Iowa? I have no idea what the Hawkeyes are thinking coming off a demoralizing home loss to Michigan State that leaves Iowa with little to play for except pride and bowl position.
Tom?s pick: Iowa
Wisconsin at Illinois: Each team has a lot to play for. The Badgers will win the Leaders Division if they win out. The Fighting Illini are trying to right a listing ship, dropping their last four games after a 6-0 start. Unless the Illinois offense comes to life, the Illini will have a difficult time keeping pace with this super-charged Badger offense that at times is unstoppable.
Tom?s pick: Wisconsin
Nebraska at Michigan: Two of America?s iconic programs meet with a whole lot potentially on the line. If the victor can win out, move up to at least 14th in the final BCS standings and have current unbeaten Houston lose down the stretch, it could earn a BCS at-large bowl spot with a 10-2 mark. The quarterback battle will be worth watching, with the Huskers? Taylor Martinez squaring off with the Wolverines? Denard Robinson. Best performance by a signal-caller wins.
Tom?s pick: Michigan
Penn State at Ohio State: Despite seeing their seven-game winning streak end and being cloaked in a scandal that has cost Joe Paterno his job, the Nittany Lions still control their destiny. In fact, Penn State could wrap up the Leaders Division on Saturday with a win and Wisconsin loss at Illinois. But this is a hungry Buckeye team that?s still smarting from an overtime loss at Purdue. The Buckeyes have something to prove as rumors swirl about who may be the program?s next coach.
Tom?s pick: Ohio State
Minnesota at Northwestern: The Wildcats are playing some of their best ball of 2011, riding a three-game winning skein that has them one victory from becoming bowl eligible for a school-record fifth straight season. While QB Dan Persa and the offense have been getting the headlines, improved defense has been the biggest key during Northwestern?s hot run. Add it up, and that?s bad news for a Golden Gopher team that is coming off a poor effort against Wisconsin last week and already is out of the running for a bowl.
Tom?s pick: Northwestern
Indiana at Michigan State: It?s seven losses in a row and counting for the Hoosiers, the lone winless team in Big Ten action. So, Indiana is left to play the role of spoiler. A win in East Lansing would severely damage the Spartans? Legends Division hopes. But this is a Michigan State team that has laser focus, is playing great defense and has reclaimed its running game. Oh, and the Spartans have won 13 in a row at home, its best stretch since a 19-game run from 1950-53 under Biggie Munn. And who doesn?t love a Biggie Munn reference?
Tom?s pick: Michigan State
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, send a question to his weekly mailbag here. and click here to subscribe to his RSS feed.