Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, October 29, 2015
Trick or treat! This is an abbreviated schedule with just five games on the slate. All eyes will be on the Twin Cities for the Michigan at Minnesota tilt. The Golden Gophers beat the Wolverines for the Little Brown Jug last season for the first time since 2005 and just the fourth time since 1967.
But the storyline this Saturday will be about the abrupt retirement of Jerry Kill on Wednesday and the impact it could have on the game.
Penn State is 14-4 vs. Illinois since joining the Big Ten. The Illini last won in State College in 2010, but Illinois did beat the Nittany Lions last season in Champaign.
Iowa blew an early 14-point lead and fell in College Park, Md., 38-31, last season. Can Maryland pull a huge upset this season vs. the soaring Hawkeyes?
[ MORE: Week 9 previews | Week 9 schedule | Polls: Pick Week 9 winners | Power Rankings | Bowl Projections | Mailbag | Hear your coach's teleconference | Big Ten paces Power 5 in bowl teams | Latest polls | Big Ten standings | Big Ten stats ]
Wisconsin whacked Rutgers last year, taking a 37-0 decision in Piscataway, N.J., fueled by 298 yards rushing. The Badgers don?t figure to match that rushing yardage total this season vs. RU but could post another shutout with their killer defense. This will be the Scarlet Knights? first trip to Madison.
Nebraska has played Purdue twice since joining the Big Ten-and the Cornhuskers have waxed the Boilermakers each time, winning 44-7 in West Lafayette in 2013 and 35-14 last year in Lincoln in which Nebraska looked sluggish but still blocked two punts and rolled with ease.
Northwestern, Indiana, Michigan State and Ohio State are off.
BEST GAME: The Little Brown Jug clash takes on a different vibe in the wake of Jerry Kill?s sudden retirement. How will this emotional event impact the psyche of the Golden Gophers? Will the team want to ?win one for Jerry?? Minnesota won last year in Ann Arbor, 30-14, in a game that may have been the ultimate undoing of Brady Hoke and A.D. Dave Brandon with the inexplicable handling of injured QB Shane Morris. Like the Gophers, Michigan is coming in off a bye week, supposedly over the devastation of that crazy loss to Michigan State.
PLAYER ON THE SPOT: Nebraska RB Terrell Newby. He had just 52 yards rushing on 16 carries last week in a 30-28 home loss to Northwestern. With the status of QB Tommy Armstrong iffy (right foot), the Huskers may have to rely on the running game at Purdue, which was off last week. If Armstrong can?t go, Ryker Fyfe will be the NU QB. This is a Nebraska team whose confidence can?t be high after losing five games by a combined 13 points and already having five losses in a season for the first time since 2007. A Boilermaker loss will mean they will miss a bowl for a third season in a row.
BEST MATCHUP: Keep an eye on the clash between the Illinois DBs and the Penn State WRs. The Fighting Illini have a solid defense and nice secondary that paces the Big Ten in picks with nine. Corners Eaton Spence and V?Angelo Bentley and safeties Taylor Barton and Clayton Fejedelem led the Illinois secondary. The Nittany Lions have some good young wideouts led by Chris Godwin, DaeSean Hamilton and Saeed Blacknall.
BEST QUARTERBACK MATCHUP: Illinois? Wes Lunt vs. Penn State?s Christian Hackenberg, who each could be NFL signal-callers. Hackenberg is playing some of his best football as of late. He has thrown for 10 touchdowns without an interception over his last five games. He is also taking more shots downfield, averaging 8.5 yards per attempt in that span. Lunt is hitting 57 percent of his passes with nine TDs and three picks. Who can make the most big plays?
BEST COACHING MATCHUP: Yes, Bill Cubit is technically the ?interim? head coach at Illinois, but he?s a good one. He?ll match wits with Penn State?s James Franklin in a battle between experience (Cubit is 62) and youth (Franklin is 43). Cubit is trying to impress his bosses in hopes of landing the full-time gig in Champaign. A win in State College would be a nice feather in his cap, as the Illini have lost eight of nine meetings in Beaver Stadium. Franklin has been bowl eligible in all five seasons he has been a head coach (twice at Penn State).
BEST COORDINATOR MATCHUP: The clash between Rutgers offensive coordinator Ben McDaniels and Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Aranda is flying under the radar. Yes, the Scarlet Knights struggled to move the ball and score last week in a 49-7 loss to Ohio State. Still, RU has a nice attack, averaging 30.4 points. Wisconsin?s defense is very stingy. The Badgers are allowing 11 points per game, which is the second-fewest nationally. They have allowed 20 points combined in five home games this season.
UPSET ALERT: Minnesota hasn?t beaten Michigan in back-to-back seasons since 1962-63. But, maybe it will happen again. The Gophers dumped the Wolverines last year in the Big House. This figures to be an emotional Minnesota team that will spill its guts out for Jerry Kill, who shocked the college football world by announcing his retirement on Wednesday. Michigan has won 15 straight games in Minneapolis, last losing in 1977. This will be just the third road game that Michigan has played this season. It lost at Utah in the season opener and led just 6-0 at halftime at Maryland before winning 28-0.
Here is my ranking of the games of Oct. 31:
1. Michigan at Minnesota
2. Illinois at Penn State
3. Rutgers at Wisconsin
4. Maryland at Iowa
5. Nebraska at Purdue
Here are more football preview videos from our YouTube channel:[youtube https://youtu.be/Y0GUnyV5H3A?list=PL2RRF9GtC9s3dY5E5ll8WvmPcSLfxVJGv]
Email Tom Dienhart using the form below.
And if you want to leave a comment on this post, use the box below. All comments need to be approved by a moderator.