Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, November 19, 2012
It?s Rivalry Week! Michigan at Ohio State. Indiana at Purdue. Illinois at Northwestern. Nebraska at Iowa. And a lot is on the line in the final regular-season week.
Ohio State looks to punctuate a perfect season. Nebraska can clinch the Legends Division with a win or a Michigan loss. Purdue and Michigan State need victories to become bowl eligible.
Here?s a look at the Best of Week 13.
Best game: Do you have to ask? It?s Michigan at Ohio State. The Wolverines ended a seven-game losing skid to the Buckeyes last season. A second win in a row this season would be especially sweet for Michigan, as it would ruin Ohio State?s perfect season and shot-albeit long, very long-at the AP national title.
Best matchup: Michigan QB Devin Gardner vs. Ohio State secondary. In three starts-all wins-Gardner has hit 46-of-70 passes for 834 yards with seven touchdowns and three picks. He also has run for 105 yards and six touchdowns since taking over since Denard Robinson hurt his elbow at Nebraska. Gardner will face a Buckeye secondary that got banged up last week in a win at Wisconsin but still delivered some big plays. Players like Bradley Roby and Christian Bryant will be put to the test by Gardner?s hot hand. Can this be the first team to slow down Gardner?
Player on the spot: Andrew Maxwell, QB, Michigan State. If the Spartans are going to get win No. 6 and attain bowl eligibility, the junior signal-caller will need to have a good game at Minnesota. It has been an up-and-down season for Maxwell, who is ninth among 10 Big Ten quarterbacks rated in pass efficiency. He?ll be facing a Golden Gopher defense that is No. 3 in the Big Ten in pass defense (168.8 ypg).
Keep an eye on: The Purdue defense. The Boilermakers defense has allowed over 500 yards three times in 2012. But the unit has stiffened the last two weeks, allowing 264 at Iowa and 333 at Illinois. So, it?s no coincidence that Purdue won both games and is in the midst of saving its season. The defense will need another strong effort to get the Boilers their sixth win with Indiana visiting. The Hoosier offense is No. 2 in the Big Ten (435.6 ypg). And IU would love to trash Purdue?s bowl hopes.
Best coordinator matchup: Wisconsin offensive coordinator Matt Canada vs. Penn State defensive coordinator Ted Roof. Canada has done a good job with an offense that has had its issues, as he now is working with his third starting quarterback. Roof has done a great job working with a shorthanded roster, as the Nittany Lions have the No. 6 defense in the Big Ten and 30th in the nation (353.8 ypg). It will be fun to watch the strong Penn State front seven try to slow down Montee Ball, who is finishing with a flurry and now is the Big Ten?s top rusher and needs one more touchdown to set the NCAA career record.
Best coaching matchup: Michigan?s Brady Hoke vs. Ohio State?s Urban Meyer. Each is in the midst of building strong programs. In fact, we may be entering a golden age for this rivalry, thanks to these two coaches. Hoke took the Wolverines to 11 wins and a Sugar Bowl win in his debut last season. Meyer has the Buckeyes 11-0 in his first season in Columbus. This is gonna be fun.
Best quarterback matchup: Michigan?s Devin Gardner vs. Ohio State?s Braxton Miller. Gardner has been a revelation since assuming command of the Wolverine attack three games ago. Miller is the Big Ten?s top playmaker, ranking No. 3 in passing efficiency. He also is fourth in rushing (110.4 ypg) and has 13 rushing touchdowns and 14 passing touchdowns. These are two extraordinary talents.
|BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.|
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