Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, October 2, 2014

This first Saturday in October features just six games. Five are conference games. But there is just one truly marquee game, with Nebraska playing at Michigan State in what could be a preview of the Big Ten championship game.

Here?s a breakdown of Week 6.

BEST GAME: All eyes will be on East Lansing for a monster tilt between Nebraska and Michigan State. The Cornhuskers-the lone unbeaten team in the Big Ten–are an underdog as they arrive to Spartan Stadium. But Nebraska could leave with a victory, as Bo Pelini has one his best squads in his seventh season in Lincoln. The Cornhuskers won the last time they visited East Lansing, taking a 28-24 win in 2012. Michigan State beat Nebraska for the first time ever last season when it took a 41-28 triumph in Lincoln, giving the Spartans a 1-7 all-time mark vs. Nebraska. Let?s go ahead and call the winner of this game the ?best team? in the Big Ten, OK?


BEST MATCHUP: Michigan State linebackers vs. Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah. The Spartan linebackers are adjusting to life without Max Bullough and Denicos Allen. Abdullah leads the nation in rushing and has forged a resume that is Heisman worthy. If the MSU linebackers like Taiwan Jones, Darien Harris and Ed Davis can?t contain or limit Abdullah, the Spartans may lose this huge game on their home field.

PLAYER ON THE SPOT: Gary Nova. If the Scarlet Knights want to beat Michigan, the RU quarterback needs to play like he did last week in a win vs. Tulane, when he tossed four touchdown passes and threw for almost 300 yards. His ability to make plays with his arm is key, especially with star running back Paul James out for the season with a knee injury. Nova can?t play like he did in his last big game, when he tossed five picks in a 13-10 home loss to Penn State.

KEEP AN EYE ON: Michigan o-line. The unit continues to struggle for consistency, as the Wolverines are No. 7 in the Big Ten in rushing (185.4 ypg). Michigan?s maligned front will face a strong Rutgers defensive line anchored by Darius Hamilton, David Milewski and Kemoko Turay. The Scarlet Knights lead the nation with 21 sacks. These guys may overwhelm Michigan, which also can count on seeing plenty of blitzes, too.

BEST COACHING MATCHUP: It has to be Nebraska?s Bo Pelini vs. Michigan State?s Mark Dantonio. Both are hard-nosed, tough, defensive-minded coaches. Which coach?s defense can step up and slow down the other team?s potent offense? The Cornhuskers won the last time they visited East Lansing, taking a 28-24 win in 2012. Michigan State beat Nebraska for the first time ever last season when it took a 41-28 triumph in Lincoln aided by five Husker turnovers, giving the Spartans a 1-7 all-time mark vs. Nebraska.

BEST QUARTERBACK MATCHUP: It will be fun to watch Nebraska?s Tommy Armstrong battle Michigan State?s Connor Cook. Armstrong has been a revelation, emerging as one of the Big Ten?s top quarterbacks. He?s on pace to throw for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000. And he?s limiting turnovers, tossing just three interceptions with 10 touchdown passes. Cook may be the top quarterback in the Big Ten. He has morphed from game-manager to arguably the face of the Spartans team.

BEST COORDINATOR BATTLE: There are some good clashes. But none will be better than Nebraska offensive coordinator Tim Beck vs. Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi. Each may be the best in the Big Ten at their respective job. Nebraska is No. 2 in the Big Ten in scoring (45.4 ppg), No. 1 in passing (572.6 ypg), No. 1 in rushing (354.8 ypg), No. 9 in passing (217.8 ypg). Narduzzi has established his ?Spartan Dawg? defense as the cornerstone of the Spartan program. The unit may not have the edge it possessed during last year?s magical 13-1 run. But there?s plenty of talent for a unit?s whose numbers are skewed by the loss at Oregon.

UPSET ALERT: Maryland has a shot to upset Ohio State when the Buckeyes visit College Park, Md. The Terps have been a Big Ten surprise, sporting just one loss this season-and that was by three points at the buzzer to West Virginia. Maryland has the No. 5 scoring offense in the Big Ten (36.8 ppg). Its fleet of wideouts, led by Stefon Diggs and Deon Log, could pose some issues for a Buckeye secondary that?s still a work in progress. If the Terrapins are to pull off the upset, they likely will need to outscore Ohio State. And they are equipped to do so.

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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