It is the last two weeks of the season where anything can and usually does happen. This week with most of the big boys or bowl bound teams on the road and more importantly the conferences worst two teams playing each other means we should see some pretty entertaining games this Saturday. Let’s take a look at the schedule…
#13 Michigan State (9-1, 6-0) @ Northwestern (4-6, 0-6) Noon ESPN: The Spartans lead the all-time series with the Wildcats 37-13. MSU has won four of the last five meetings including the last four games in Evanston. Michigan State actually has more wins in the series in Evanston (19) than they do in East Lansing (18). When the chips are down and Michigan State has to win a regular season game, the generally do. We all know that the Spartan defense is one of the better units in the country and their offense is generally effective, but it takes its time getting going. In general, you have to start feeling for Northwestern don’t you?..They lost a heartbreaker to Ohio State, and yes they got housed by Wisconsin, but then lose by a FG to Minnesota, lose in OT to Iowa, get beat on a Hail Mary by Nebraska and then lost to Michigan the way they did last week?….How long can this go on for the Wildcats?…don’t ask…Michigan State locks up a berth in the Big Ten Title game with a 33-20 victory.
Michigan (7-3, 3-3) @ Iowa (6-4, 3-3) Noon Big Ten Network: The Wolverines lead the all-time series vs the Hawkeyes 41-13-4. Iowa has won three of the last four meetings including the last two at Kinnick. There is one big difference between these two teams in 2013…Both teams are in the middle of the pack offensively in the Big Ten, they are both bowl eligible at this point and they are both coming off of big emotional wins…the difference is Iowa has a much better defense, specifically pass defense. Both are decent against the run as UM is 4th and Iowa 5th in the conference…but the Hawks pass defense is 3rd in the Big Ten while Michigan’s is 10th. I feel like I have asked this question before of the Michigan defense about six weeks ago…Can the Michigan defense stop a first-year starting QB on the road in a very tough place to escape with a W?…If Michigan can, it would mean a .500 record on the road in Big Ten play for coach Hoke including two straight. But I think this week will end up just like that game I asked this question about originally…Ferentz has trouble after bye weeks..he is 3-8 in games after bye weeks…but Michigan has scored one TD in regulation in the last month.….Hawkeyes win at home 21-13. Read the complete game preview here: Michigan at Iowa
Illinois (3-7, 0-6) @ Purdue (1-9, 0-6) Noon Big Ten Network: Illinois leads the all-time series with Purdue 42-39-6. Purdue has won seven of the last eight games…including four straight at Ross Ade. These are the two worst defensive teams in the Big Ten not named Indiana. Both rush defenses are awful, both pass defenses are near the middle of the pack…but where I see a big advantage is on the offensive side of the ball for Illinois. Illinois has the second best passing offense in the Big Ten and they average more than double the rushing yards that Purdue does each game. So as long as the Fighting Illini can get possession of the ball a few times, they should win the game…but then there is the x-factor..I think Purdue is getting better…this may be their best shot to get coach Darrell Hazell his first Big Ten victory and it is their last home game of 2013. I am just not sure they have it in them..wait until next week when rivalry week is upon us and they face the worst defense in the conference. Illinois gets coach Tim Beckman HIS first conference win with a 31-21 victory…congrats coach.
#19 Wisconsin (8-2, 5-1) @ #25 Minnesota (8-2, 4-2) 3:30pm ESPN: The annual Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe…The Golden Gophers lead the all-time series vs the Badgers 57-55-8. Wisconsin has won the last nine games. Minnesota leads at home 36-24-2, but has lost the last four meetings there. However you want to look at this game, it all comes down to this: Can the Gophers slow down the Badgers rushing attack. I think not, but an equalizer may be this…turnovers. If the Minnesota defense can force Badger turnovers, then they have a chance. But how do you stop a team that just gained over 550 yards rushing?..Tough call…Minnesota has been on roll lately, winning four straight and sporting a 5-1 record at TCF Bank Field. The Badgers better not take this game lightly…I think they will, but a steady diet of the Badger rushing attack will give them a big lead in the second half and will force Minnesota QB Phil Nelson into passing mistakes late and the Badgers will hold on. Wisconsin will swing the axe again with a 34-24 victory.
Indiana (4-6, 2-4) @ #3 Ohio State (10-0, 6-0) 3:30pm ABC: The Buckeyes lead the all-time series vs the Hoosiers 69-12-5. OSU has won the last 18 meetings and 49 of the last 53 games. The last time IU beat OSU in Columbus was in 1987…10 straight losses. The Buckeyes give up some passing yards folks..they are 6th in the Big Ten in pass defense while the Hoosiers are #1 in the conference at winging it all over the place. Can Indiana keep the Buckeyes honest with a few quick hitting running plays…I think they will, but again (it seems like I write this every week) can the Indiana defense stop anyone?…the answer is still no. They will have no answer for the Buckeye playmakers. It just seems like Indiana will be in store for more of what it got last week…but the difference will be that they will score more…I like the Bucks to crush IU…OSU 67-27.
Nebraska (7-3, 4-2) @ Penn State (6-4, 3-3) 3:30pm Big Ten Network: The Cornhuskers lead the all-time series vs the Nittany Lions 8-7. The Corn has won the last three meetings including the last game at Beaver Stadium. These two teams are a lot like each other…they both want to run the ball and stop the run and both are pretty good at doing what they want. I think this game will be won or lost at the QB position. I think home field will make the difference as Penn State is 6-1 at Beaver Stadium this season. That will help freshman QB Christian Hackenberg. The kid just plays better at home and that is understandable. An X-factor that will determine who wins will be the PSU offensive line in pass protection…can they stop the Big Ten’s leading sack unit and give their QB time..if they do, I like PSU…if not, the Husker ground game should be the difference. What will happen?..I like the Nittany Lions to keep winning at home…Penn State beats Nebraska 34-28.
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