Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, June 10, 2015

Lots of juicy matchups dot this week?s menu with two headliners: First, there?s an important Big Ten West clash as Nebraska visits Minnesota. And, Jim Harbaugh will get his first shot at Michigan State when the Spartans come to Ann Arbor. That will be must-see TV.

[ MORE: Best of Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 ]

Don?t forget about Penn State playing at Ohio State in a key Big Ten East battle. The Lions have lost three in a row and five of six to the Buckeyes. PSU?s last win in Columbus came in 2011 with Tom Bradley as interim head coach.

If Northwestern wants to compete in the Big Ten West, it needs to find a way to beat visiting Iowa. The Wildcats have lost the last two meetings-both in Iowa City. Northwestern won the last time Iowa came to Evanston in 2012, taking a 28-17 triumph.

The Hoosiers fell at Rutgers last season, 45-23, despite getting 307 yards rushing from Tevin Coleman. This will be the Scarlet Knights? first trip to Bloomington.

The Badgers have won nine in a row vs. the Boilermakers-often in dominating/crushing fashion. Purdue?s last win in Madison came in 2003 when Joe Tiller beat Barry Alvarez. Tiller is now retired in Wyoming, while Alvarez is Wisconsin A.D. Wisconsin typically is too tough, too strong and too physical for Purdue. When will the embarrassing losses to the Badgers end?

Illinois and Maryland are off.

Game of the week: The Nebraska at Minnesota game will be huge as far as the Big Ten West race goes. However, few Big Ten games will be bigger and more anticipated than Michigan State's visit to Michigan. This marks Jim Harbaugh's first game vs. the Spartans, the team that he recently called "the bigger guy" on the block in the state of Michigan. Harbaugh and company would like nothing more than to spoil Michigan State's playoff hopes, while in the process of grabbing just their second win in the last eight years in the series.

Best quarterback matchup: Let?s go with Penn State?s Christian Hackenberg vs. the Ohio State signal-caller-Braxton Miller, Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett. Hackenberg should see his fortunes rebound after a tough 2014 that saw him get sacked 44 times with 15 interceptions and just 12 touchdown tosses. The talent around him is better, including a corps of wideouts that teems with potential. The Buckeyes have an embarrassment of riches at quarterback. Pick a signal-caller, any signal-caller, and the Ohio State attack should rock and roll.

Best head coach matchup: It will be fun to watch Mark Dantonio and Jim Harbaugh clash. Dantonio has built one of the nation?s top programs, notching at least 11 wins in four of the last five seasons. The Spartans have finished No. 3 and No. 5, respectively, in the final AP poll in each of the last two seasons. Here comes Harbaugh and his ball cap, khakis, glossy resume and swagger. He is hell-bent on making Michigan matter-and it has been a while for a program that last won the Big Ten in 2004.

Best coordinator matchup: Gotta love Ohio State offensive coordinators Ed Warinner and Tim Beck vs. Penn State defensive coordinator Bob Shoop. Warinner takes over as the play-caller with Tom Herman off to coach Houston. He is a sage vet who worked at Kansas with Beck, who ran some good attacks at Nebraska under Bo Pelini. Last season, Shoop directed a Penn State defense that allowed just 278.7 yards per game, good for No. 2 in FBS and the Nittany Lions? second-lowest average since 1990. He has coordinated units that have finished in the Top 25 nationally in total defense in each of the last four years, working at Vanderbilt prior to following James Franklin to State College.

Upset alert: MSU figures to be favored when it treks to Ann Arbor. Yes, the Spartans have more talent and the better team-not to mention loads of momentum. Still, this is a rivalry game. The Wolverines will be jacked out of their mind with Michigan State coming to the Big House. It also will be Jim Harbaugh?s first crack at Sparty. For the record, Michigan State has won the last two games and six of seven in the series. But the last time the Spartans waded into Ann Arbor, they lost, 12-10, in 2012.

Factoid: Minnesota has won two straight over Nebraska, this after losing the previous 16 in the series.

Ranking Week 7 Games
Michigan State at Michigan
Nebraska at Minnesota
Penn State at Ohio State
Iowa at Northwestern
Rutgers at Indiana
Purdue at Wisconsin


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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