Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, June 15, 2016
It?s the final week of the season. And, even better, it?s rivalry week! Division titles may be on the line, in addition to cool trophies.
Front and center on this Saturday: ?The Game,? between Ohio State and Michigan. Could the Big Ten East crown be on the line? The Buckeyes have dominated this series of late, going 12-2 since 2001 and winning the last four meetings with a 42-13 triumph last season. The last time Michigan won in Columbus? In 2000, when the Wolverines took a 38-26 decision.
This is the best of Week 13.
Best game: The Buckeyes need to be careful in the finale on Nov. 26 when Michigan comes to Columbus. Yes, recent history has favored Ohio State in this iconic rivalry dubbed simply ?The Game.? But the Wolverines are on the rise under Jim ?Mr. Satellite Camp? Harbaugh. The Buckeyes have dominated this series of late, going 12-2 since 2001 and winning the last four meetings with a 42-13 triumph last season. The last time Michigan won in Columbus? In 2000, when the Wolverines took a 38-26 decision.
Best quarterback matchup: Iowa?s C.J. Beathard vs. Nebraska?s Tommy Armstrong looks good. Beathard led the Hawkeyes to 12 wins and their first Rose Bowl since the 1990 season last year, hitting 61 percent of his passes with 17 TDs and just five picks. Armstrong was No. 2 in the Big Ten in passing in the Big Ten last year, averaging 252.5 ypg.
Best head coach matchup: It has to be Urban Meyer vs. Jim Harbaugh. Meyer got the best of Jimmy Ballgame last year, making Harbaugh 0-1 vs. Meyer. Urb? He?s still perfect vs. the Wolverines, sporting a 4-0 mark. Let?s just hope these guys hang around for years to come in what could be a coaching rivalry on par with Woody vs. Bo.
Best coordinator matchup: Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker vs. Nebraska offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf. Parker is wily vet who has been at the side of Kirk Ferentz since Ferentz arrived in Iowa City in 1999. He always crafts a tough, disciplined defense. Langsdorf is one of the brightest minds in the Big Ten, helping the Nebraska offense to impressive numbers in his first season. Nebraska finished in the top three in the Big Ten in passing (266.9 ypg), scoring (32.8 ppg), total offense (446.9 ypg) and third-down offense (44.8 %). And the Huskers produced their highest passing total since 2008 with 3,470 passing yards.
Upset alert: Penn State could upend Michigan State when it visits. This would be the signature James Franklin is looking for. And, a win here could send the Nittany Lions to a good bowl game. Michigan State has won the last three meetings and hasn?t lost in State College since 2008. But could the worm turn this season?
- If Iowa wants any shot at repeating as Big Ten West champs, it most likely will need to topple visiting Nebraska on Black Friday. This has been a bizarre series since the Cornhuskers joined the Big Ten, as Iowa has lost both meetings in Kinnick, but the Hawkeyes are 2-1 in Lincoln. Go figure.
- There perhaps could be a lot on the line for Penn State when it plays host to Michigan State. If the Nittany Lions wanna be the best in the Big Ten, they have to beat the best ? and that?s what the Spartans were in 2015. Michigan State has won the last three meetings and hasn?t lost in State College since 2008.
- Minnesota hates playing Wisconsin. Just hates it. The battle for Paul Bunyan?s Axe has been a lopsided affair of late, as the Gophers have gone 2-17 vs. the Badgers since 1995. In fact, Minnesota has lost 12 in a row to Wisconsin. And the Gophers haven?t won in Madison since 1994. Will the drought end when Minnesota travels south down I-94?
- Indiana needs to be careful when Purdue rolls into Memorial Stadium. These are halcyon days for the Hoosiers in the battle for the Old Oaken Bucket, winning three in a row for the first time since a four-game run from 1944-47. But anything can happen in a rivalry game. And the Boilermakers may be desperate by this time of the season.
- Illinois at Northwestern is big for recruiting in Chicago. You know new Illini boss Lovie Smith wants this one in his return to the city in which he coached the Bears. The Wildcats have won three of the last four. But the Fighting Illini won the last time in Ryan Field, taking a 47-33 decision in 2014.
- Maryland may be beat up by the time it plays its finale, at home vs. Rutgers. The Terps will be coming off a tough three-game run of games at Michigan, vs. Ohio State and at Nebraska. Maryland and Rutgers have had two wild games as Big Ten members, with each winning on the other?s field. The Scarlet Knights won, 41-38, in 2014 in College Park; the Terps prevailed, 46-41, last year at RU.
Ranking Week 13 games:
1. Michigan at Ohio State
2. Nebraska at Iowa (Nov. 25)
3. Michigan State at Penn State
4. Minnesota at Wisconsin
5. Illinois at Northwestern
6. Rutgers at Maryland
7. Purdue at Indiana
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