Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, June 11, 2015
A very abbreviated week of action with just five games. Why? Iowa, Minnesota, Purdue and Michigan all are off.
Maryland and Penn State have a burgeoning rivalry. And last year?s meeting in State College helped fuel it. Maryland was hit with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty before kickoff when its three captains refused to shake the hands of the three Nittany Lion captains gathered at midfield for the game's coin toss. Maryland went on to take a thrilling 20-19 victory after booting a go-ahead field goal with 51 seconds left and later apologized for the coin toss snub. No doubt, Penn State hasn?t forgotten.
Michigan State has won six in a row and 14 of 16 from the Hoosiers. But one of those triumphs was in East Lansing in 2001. So, there is hope vs. Mark Dantonio?s Spartan juggernaut, right?
The Fighting Illini have just three wins vs. Wisconsin since 1992 (3-14-1).
Rutgers lost 56-17 last year at Ohio State.
Game of the week: Maryland took a hard-fought 20-19 win in State College, Pennsylvania, last season on a last-minute field goal in a clash between emerging rivals who often battle in recruiting circles. As mentioned above, the Terrapins' captains refused to shake hands with Penn State's captains during the pregame coin toss, drawing a penalty and negative publicity. Regardless, Maryland notched a first-ever victory at Penn State and its second win ever in the 38-game series. The teams hadn't played since 1993 prior to last season.
Best quarterback matchup: Gotta like the clash between Indiana?s Nate Sudfeld and Michigan State?s Connor Cook. Indiana?s season went to pot after Sudfeld was lost for the season to a shoulder (non-throwing) injury at Iowa on Oct. 11. He?s a steady passer who knows how to run Kevin Wilson?s attack. Cook is a legit Heisman candidate. In 30 career games, he has completed 58 percent of his passes (444-of-762) for 6,063 yards with 47 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.
Best head coach matchup: The meeting between Maryland?s Randy Edsall and Penn State?s James Franklin drips with intrigue. This may be an emerging rivalry between Eastern-based schools fighting for a foothold in the Big Ten East. Don?t think there is any love lost between these schools-or coaches.
Best coordinator matchup: Gotta love Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Aranda vs. Illinois offensive coordinator Bill Cubit. Under Aranda's watch, Wisconsin's defense has allowed an average of 299.4 yards per game, ranking third among FBS programs over the last two seasons and trailing only Louisville (280.5) and Michigan State (282.9). Want more? The Badgers have allowed an average of 18.6 points per game over the last two seasons, the sixth-best mark in the FBS during that span. Cubit is one of the game?s bright minds whose scheming and coaching extract the most out a roster that is limited in talent. The former Western Michigan head coach knows how to exploit matchups.
Upset alert: The Wildcats go to Lincoln in what has been one of the most fun matchups in the Big Ten in recent years. NU is just 1-3 in the series since the Cornhuskers joined the Big Ten, losing the last three. But the games-for the most part-have been close. Northwestern won, 28-25, in 2011 in Lincoln with a backup quarterback. However, the Cats lost, 29-28, in 2012; 27-24 in 2013 and 38-17 last year. The 2013 game featured the iconic last-second TD heave from Nebraska?s Ron Kellogg to Jordan Westerkamp.
Ranking Week 8 Games
1. Penn State at Maryland
2. Wisconsin at Illinois
3. Northwestern at Nebraska
4. Indiana at Michigan State
5. Ohio State at Rutgers
|About Tom Dienhart||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.|