Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, June 17, 2015
Welcome to the penultimate Saturday of the regular season. And, it?s a Saturday filled with some big games.
None is bigger than Michigan State at Ohio State in a battle between the two best teams in the Big Ten. The tilt probably will be a de facto Big Ten East title game. And the loser probably will be left out of the playoff.
Northwestern?s trip to Wisconsin will be rugged. The Badgers arguably will be the best team in the Big Ten West under new coach Paul Chryst. But the Wildcats beat Wisconsin last season, 20-14, in Evanston and are 5-4 in the last nine games vs. UW. However, NU hasn?t won in Madison since 2000, when it took a wild 47-44 triumph under the late Randy Walker.
Iowa has won two in a row and four of five from Purdue. But the last time the Boilermakers were in Iowa City-in 2012-they won.
Minnesota lost at Illinois last season. Before that, the Golden Gophers had won four in a row vs. the Fighting Illini. Illinois last won in the Twin Cities in 2009.
Maryland won at Indiana last season. Now, the Hoosiers will make their first trip to College Park since 1934, when IU took a 17-14 decision.
Nebraska is off, while Rutgers plays a non-conference game at Army. The Scarlet Knights have won nine is a row vs. Army.
Game of the week: Michigan State at Ohio State should be epic, the ?game of the year? in the Big Ten-if not the nation. The Big Ten East heavyweights have split their last four games. The Spartans won the last time they visited Columbus in 2011, taking a 10-7 decision.
Best quarterback matchup: Connor Cook vs. the Ohio State signal-callers. Cook may be the top quarterback in the Big Ten-and one of the best in the nation, a legit Heisman contender. In 30 career games, Cook has completed 58 percent of his passes (444-of-762) for 6,063 yards, 47 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Braxton Miller is a two-time Big Ten Player of the Year who is in a highly publicized battle for the job with J.T. Barrett (a redshirt freshman sensation in 2014) and Cardale Jones (who led OSU to three huge wins to end 2014 and help OSU claim the national championship).
Best head coach matchup: Mark Dantonio vs. Urban Meyer. Dantonio is 1-2 vs. Meyer, beating the Buckeyes in the 2013 Big Ten title game and falling twice to Meyer and Co., in Spartan Stadium-in 2012 and 2014. Michigan State won the last time it invaded the Horseshoe, taking a 10-7 decision in 2011-when Luke Fickell was interim head coach.
Best coordinator matchup: This week isn?t all about Michigan State and Ohio State. Let?s go with Michigan offensive coordinator Tim Drevno vs. Penn State defensive coordinator Bob Shoop. Drevno and Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh have a long history coaching together, working at three different stops for a total of 11 years prior to this recent appointment at Michigan. Shoop was selected as the 247Sports Defensive Coordinator of the Year in 2014 after directing a unit that allowed just 278.7 yards per game, good for No. 2 in FBS and the Nittany Lions? second-lowest average since 1990.
Upset alert: The last time Michigan was in State College, Pennsylvania, it lost an epic 43-40 four overtime game to Penn State in 2013. The Wolverines may be humming by this time of the year-and they also may be playing for a good bowl bid.
Ranking Week 12 Games
1. Michigan State at Ohio State
2. Michigan at Penn State
3. Northwestern at Wisconsin
4. Illinois at Minnesota
5. Indiana at Maryland
6. Purdue at Iowa
7. Rutgers at Army
|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.|