Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, June 6, 2016
Week 8 features all 14 teams in action in seven games. All eyes will be on two games, one from each division that will go a long way in shaping the races: Ohio State at Penn State and Wisconsin at Iowa.
Iowa is 3-5 in its last eight vs. Wisconsin but won last year in Madison to end a three-game slide vs. the Badgers. This will be a key clash to determine pecking order in the Big Ten West, which looks open.
When Ohio State comes to Penn State, it will be the Nittany Lions? annual White Out game. The last time the Buckeyes played at Penn State was Oct. 2014, when the Lions fell 31-24. OSU has won four of the last five tilts between the schools; Penn State hasn't beaten the Buckeyes since 2010, when it prevailed 20-14 in Columbus. OSU leads the all-time series, 17-13.
Here is a look at the Best of Week 8.
Game of the week: James Franklin needs a signature victory, a momentum building triumph that can help propel the Nittany Lions up the food chain in the Big East. So, how about slaying Ohio State when it visits? The Buckeyes, who have many big holes to fill, have won the last four and haven?t lost in Beaver Stadium since 2005, winning the last four in Happy Valley.
Best quarterback matchup: Trace McSorley vs. J.T. Barrett. It looks like McSorley will be the Nittany Lions quarterback with Christian Hackenberg off to the NFL a year early. The signal-caller showed some nice skills in the bowl game after coming in for an injured Hackenberg. He?s a dual-threat option more suited to what James Franklin wants to do offensively. J.T. Barrett is a legit Heisman candidate who led the Buckeyes to the national title in 2014 and assumed command late last year. He?s a terrific passer and decision maker who also can make plays with his feet.
Best head coach matchup: Illinois? Lovie Smith vs. Michigan?s Jim Harbaugh. Pretty good stuff here. Each arrived in the Big Ten off of coaching stints in the NFL, Smith with the Buccaneers and Harbaugh with the 49ers. Each brings a lot of savvy to the sideline, though Harbaugh is more of an emotional coach prone to sideline histrionics. This will be a good measuring stick for Smith as he seeks to build a winner in Champaign.
Best coordinator matchup: Let?s watch new Penn DC Brent Pry match Xs and Os with Ohio State?s Ed Warinner and Tim Beck, who each coordinate the Buckeye attack. Pry will face Buckeye QB J.T. Barrett, who is one of the best in the business. Can he contain him? Warinner and Beck have a lot of experience and savvy but need to find some playmakers to surround Barrett with guys like Ezekiel Elliott and Mike Thomas gone.
Upset alert: Wisconsin at Iowa. The Badgers have had recent success in Kinnick, winning the last three games there. But UW lost to the Hawkeyes last year in Madison in a crushing heartbreaker. Iowa has what the Badgers want-the Big Ten West title. If Wisconsin wants it, the Badgers must beat the Hawkeyes.
- Illinois plays at Michigan. Jim Harbaugh has this program rolling as he enters Year Two in Ann Arbor. The defense could be the best in the Big Ten, while the offense will be breaking in a new quarterback but teems with potential. The Wolverines have won the last three meetings and nine of 11. The teams haven?t met since 2012, a 45-0 Michigan win in the Big House in a battle between Brady Hoke and Tim Beckman. A lot has happened since then.
- Nebraska reached its nadir last year in a 55-45 loss at Purdue. The loss dropped the Huskers to 3-6 overall and 1-4 in the Big Ten, as they lost despite scoring 29 fourth-quarter points. Nebraska had just 77 yards rushing and committed five turnovers (four picks). The Boilers lost 35-14 when in Lincoln in 2014.
- If Minnesota?s offense is struggling, Rutgers may be able to walk into Minneapolis and knock off the Golden Gophers. A big key for the Scarlet Knights will be how well they have adapted to the new schemes on both sides of ball. If the go-go offense is clicking, RU may be able to tally a big win under rookie coach Chris Ash. Minnesota and Rutgers never have met.
- Indiana could knock off Northwestern in Evanston. The Wildcats are rolling, coming off a 10-win season that was highlighted by myriad close wins. If NU?s offense is scuffling and Indiana has its attack rolling under a new quarterback, the Hoosiers may leave Chicagoland with a nice victory. But IU will have to contend with what could be the most athletic Northwestern defense ? ever.
- Michigan State is 6-1 all-time vs. Maryland, winning its two Big Ten meetings: 37-15 at College Park in 2014; 24-7 last year in East Lansing.
Week 8 game rankings
1. Ohio State at Penn State
2. Wisconsin at Iowa
3. Michigan State at Maryland
4. Indiana at Northwestern
5. Rutgers at Minnesota
6. Illinois at Michigan
7. Purdue at Nebraska
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