Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, September 25, 2014

Every school is in action this Saturday, with a mix of Big Ten and non-conference action. There are five league games and four non-league clashes. None of the games stands out or looks notable, but there could be some hidden gems.

We have a trophy battle, as Minnesota travels to Ann Arbor to play for the Little Brown Jug. Is there a cooler trophy in all of sports? Of course not. Juicing things up is the urgency that surrounds a Wolverines? program that?s looking to get on track.

Maryland takes the lid off of its Big Ten experience with its first conference game, travelling to Indiana in what could be a shootout.

Another highlight: Urban Meyer coaches against his alma mater Cincinnati in a Buckeye State battle that could be a nice test for OSU.


Here is my Best of Week 5.

BEST GAME: I?m going with Maryland at Indiana, in what will be the first Big Ten game in Terps? annals. But that?s not why I?m pumped up. Nope. Instead, I think this game could be like the Fourth of July, with plenty of fireworks provided by two explosive offenses. The Terrapins average 36.8 ppg; the Hoosiers average 33.7 ppg. These offenses can move up and down the field behind quarterbacks C.J. Brown of Maryland and Nate Sudfeld of Indiana. Plus, the defenses for both teams are struggling. IU is No. 11 in the conference in total defense (413.0 ypg); Maryland is No. 14 (460.5 ypg). This is gonna be fun.

BEST MATCHUP: Ohio State secondary vs. Cincinnati QB Gunner Kiel. The Buckeyes had a maligned pass defense last season, ranking 110th in the nation (268.0 ypg). The unit has three new starters and is working with a new coach in co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash. So far, so good. Ohio State is No. 1 in the Big Ten in pass defense (99.3 ypg). But the Buckeyes haven?t seen a passing game like this. Kiel has thrown for 689 yards and 10 TDs in two games while working with a strong group of wideouts led by Mekale McKay and Shaq Washington. Kiel is a former mega-recruit who can single-handedly win a game. No doubt, a monster Buckeye d-line will need to get some pressure on Kiel to take heat off the OSU secondary.

PLAYER ON THE SPOT: Jake Rudock. The Iowa signal-caller left last week?s game at halftime with an injury and the Hawkeyes losing, 17-7. C.J. Beathard took over and guided Iowa to big 24-20 victory at Pitt. Rudock is still listed atop the Hawkeyes? depth chart for this Saturday?s game at Purdue. What type of a hold on the job does he have? Will Beathard play? Rudock?s inability to throw well down-field has limited the Iowa offense. Beathard showed last week he can sling it vertically, which creates space for the Iowa ground game. To wit: Mark Weisman ran for a season-high 88 yards last week. Iowa?s offense can?t revert to its anemic form of the first three games.

KEEP AN EYE ON: The Michigan offensive line. It won?t matter who is playing quarterback-Devin Gardner or Shane Morris–if the front struggles. This is an offense that, unfortunately, is starting to look a lot like year?s dysfunctional group. The Wolverines are No. 9 in the Big Ten in total offense (404.2 ypg) and No. 12 in scoring (24.0 ppg). Turnovers also have been a big issue, as Michigan is last in the nation in turnover margin at minus-10. The sledding could be tough vs. a solid Minnesota defense on Saturday in the Big House.


Listen to your Big Ten coach talk to reporters during this week's Big Ten teleconference.


BEST COORDINATOR MATCHUP: Illinois offensive coordinator Bill Cubit vs. Nebraska defensive coordinator John Papuchis. Cubit worked a minor miracle with the Illini offense last season. He?s up to his old tricks this fall, pushing the buttons on the Big Ten?s No. 2 passing attack (321.5 ypg) with wunderkind QB Wes Lunt. Papuchis has a defense that teems with talent, especially across the front seven. The Cornhuskers are allowing 20.2 points per game and are No. 6 in the Big Ten in total defense (329.8 ypg).

BEST COACHING MATCHUP: How about Cincinnati?s Tommy Tuberville vs. Ohio State?s Urban Meyer? Nice one. These guys know each other from their SEC days, overlapping from 2005-08, when Tuberville was at Auburn and Meyer was at Florida. It will be fun to watch them match wits in this all-Ohio battle. Tuberville?s Bearcats are 2-0, while Meyer?s Buckeyes are 2-1. Another underrated coaching battle to watch is Wyoming?s Craig Bohl vs. Michigan State?s Mark Dantonio. Bohl led North Dakota State to three FCS national titles (2011-13) before taking the Wyoming job after last season.

BEST QUARTERBACK MATCHUP: The clash between Illinois? Wes Lunt and Nebraska?s Tommy Armstrong is delicious. Armstrong has enjoyed a breakout sophomore season, as he is on pace to pass for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000. Best of all: Armstrong has the Cornhuskers off to a 4-0 start. Lunt has been a revelation after transferring from Oklahoma State, completing 65 percent of his passes for 1,237 yards with a Big Ten-high 11 touchdowns and only three interceptions.

BEST CHANCE FOR AN UPSET: Ohio State needs to be careful when Cincinnati comes to the Horseshoe. This is a talented Bearcats club that has been on the big stage and won?t be intimidated. The Buckeyes were off last week, so the extra time surely has helped the offense find a rhythm and the defense to tune-up. UC can play loose and have some fun. It?s not supposed to win, right? That?s an envious position for a team to be in.


Iowa will look to build on the mojo of a huge win at Pitt that may be just the spark the Hawkeyes need. But Purdue also is coming off a victory and is feeling confident for this Homecoming tilt in West Lafayette.

Penn State is one of just two unbeaten Big Ten teams (Nebraska also is 4-0). Who saw this coming? The Nittany Lions have done it with a strong defense and great play from quarterback Christian Hackenberg. Can PSU move to 5-0 vs. visiting Northwestern, which just notched its first win of 2014 last Saturday?

Wisconsin (South Florida) and Michigan State (Wyoming) figure to get fat and happy playing overmatched foes at home. Cue the band.

Tulane won?t be a pushover for Rutgers, coming off a 7-6 season that included a bowl game. But the Scarlet Knights have been an early Big Ten surprise because of a strong defensive front seven and physical ground game.


About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, 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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