Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, October 16, 2017
Week 8 is here, and all eyes will be on Michigan?s trip to Penn State. In a word, it will be ?Titanic.? After the Nittany Lions lost at Michigan last season, they ripped off nine victories in a row en route to winning the Big Ten title and going to the Rose Bowl. After PSU entertains the Wolverines, it goes to Ohio State.
So, as you can see, this is a huge two weeks for James Franklin?s crew. This game also will feature a clash between the Big Ten?s best offensive player and its best defensive player.
Here is a look at the Best of Week 8.
Best game: Michigan at Penn State. The Nittany Lions are defending league champs and the standard bearer as they look to protect their home turf and exact revenge for last year?s 49-10 loss in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines have won the last three meetings vs. the Nittany Lions, including a 28-16 victory in Beaver Stadium in 2015. Penn State will be motivated to reverse the tide in this series, as it tries to defend its Big Ten title.
Best head coach matchup: Penn State?s James Franklin vs. Michigan?s Jim Harbaugh. Franklin has the Nittany Lions rolling, 6-0 and ranked No. 2 in the nation. Penn State was off last week, giving it extra prep time. Michigan won?t arrive in Beaver Stadium with a lot of mojo from the last two weeks, losing at home to Michigan State (14-10) and then needing OT to win at Indiana last week (27-20). The Michigan offense is struggling. And the team is committing too many penalties.
Best coordinator clash: Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead vs. Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown. It just doesn?t get any better than this. Penn State is No. 2 in the Big Ten in scoring (39.7 ppg); Michigan is No. 3 in scoring defense (14.7 ppg). PSU is No. 3 in total offense (456.2 ypg); Michigan is No. 1 in total defense (223.8 ypg). See what I?m saying? Enjoy this chess match.
Best QB matchup: Iowa?s Nate Stanley vs. Northwestern?s Clayton Thorson. Stanley has been a revelation as a first-year starting, hitting 57 percent of his passes for 1,290 yards with 15 TDs with just two interceptions. Thorson is No. 3 in the Big Ten in pass yards, averaging 249.3, and is hitting 60 percent of his attempts with eight TDs and nine picks. Thorson is coming off a big effort in a win at Maryland, completing 27-of-49 passes for 293 yards with a TD and two picks while running for 43 yards and a score.
Best matchup: Penn State RB Saquon Barkley vs. Michigan LB Devin Bush. Barkley is a top Heisman contender with 649 yards rushing and six TDs to go with 29 catches for 395 yards and two TDs. He also has eight kickoff returns for 258 yards (32.3 ypr) with a TD. Bush is No. 5 in the Big Ten in tackles, averaging 8.0 per game, with a Big Ten-high five sacks to go with six TFLs.
Best chance for an upset: Indiana at Michigan State. IU took Michigan to OT last week, as it has a salty defense. And redshirt freshman QB Peyton Ramsey looks like the answer. The Spartans have been one of the best stories of the Big Ten, starting 5-1 overall and 3-0 in the Big Ten.
Player on the spot: Michigan QB John O?Korn. He looked good when he came off the bench after Wilton Speight got hurt at Purdue and led the Wolverines to victory, hitting 18-of-26 passes for 270 yards with a TD and INT. But he has struggled the last two weeks in a home loss to Michigan State and then an OT escape at Indiana, hitting a combined 26-of-55 passes (47 percent) for 256 yards with no TDs and three picks to go with 10 rushes for minus-one yard. O?Korn will face a Penn State team that is No. 1 in the Big Ten in scoring defense (9.0 ppg).
WEEK 8 GAME RANKINGS
1. Michigan at Penn State
2. Iowa at Northwestern
3. Indiana at Michigan State
4. Purdue at Rutgers
5. Illinois at Minnesota
6. Maryland at Wisconsin
More Week 8 notes:
- Ohio State and Nebraska are off.
- We have a trophy battle, as IU visits Michigan State in a battle for the Old Brass Spittoon. Indiana toppled Michigan State last season, taking a 24-21 decision in Bloomington to claim the Old Brass Spittoon for the first time since 2006. But know this: The Hoosiers haven?t won in Spartan Stadium since 2001, when Antwaan Randle El was dazzling the opposition.
- Iowa?s trip to Northwestern is interesting. The Hawkeyes are coming off a bye, while the Wildcats won at Maryland last week to avoid an 0-3 Big Ten start. NU won in Iowa City last season. Before that, Iowa took three in a row and four of five from Northwestern. This will be a clash between the Big Ten?s longest-tenured coaches, as 62-year-old Kirk Ferentz is in his 19 season and 42-year-old Pat Fitzgerald is in his 12th.
- Purdue travels to Rutgers in the first-ever meeting between these schools. The Scarlet Knights are coming off their first Big Ten win since 2015, breaking a 16-game league losing skid. If the Boilermakers want to make a bowl, they probably have to win this tilt.
- Even though they are in opposite divisions, this will be the third time Wisconsin and Maryland will have played since the Terps joined the Big Ten in 2014. The Badgers took the first two meetings, winning 52-7 in Madison in 2014 and 31-24 in College Park in 2015. This one could get ugly in Madison.
- Illinois? trip to Minnesota will feature two squads who are desperate for a win. The Fighting Illini have lost four in a row, while the Golden Gophers have dropped three in succession. The Gophers have won the last two meetings.