First of all, your overall Big Ten standings:
In the East:
And in the West:
I don’t know if these things are massively out of line with preseason expectations with the exception that Rutgers is not at the bottom of the East and Nebraska is nowhere near the top of the West. Certainly, Michigan State is a surprise in the East, although Ohio State still has the chance to win the East with a victory over Sparty this weekend.
I expected Minnesota to do a little better and Iowa to do a little worse, although I admit there is some personal bias in those expectations. Illinois is just atrocious. That used to be Rutgers.
#12 Michigan State at #13 Ohio State – 11:00 am
For all intents and purposes, the winner this game will win the Big Ten East. Ohio State is favored by 16 in the spread and with a 78.2% win probability going by S&P+. That's a pretty amazing spread, given what Iowa just did to the Buckeyes. As SBNation’s Bill Connelly states, the S&P+ ranking loves the Buckeyes, most likely due to their huge upside.
Let’s take a look at the two quarterbacks in this game. Michigan State’s Brian Lewerke has thrown for 845 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions in his last two games against Northwestern and Penn State. J.T. Barrett has thrown for 536 yards, seven touchdowns and four interceptions in his last two games against Penn State and Iowa. Interesting that both quarterbacks have a 1 – 1 record in those games.
Looking at rushing, Sparty had 95 and 74 yards in each of its last two games while Ohio State ripped off 201 yards against Penn State and 163 against Iowa. One has to believe that if the Buckeyes can make Sparty one dimensional that they’ll tee off against Lewerke, a sophomore playing in Columbus, and tear Michigan State apart.
Then again, Mark Dantonio’s reaction to that 16-point spread wasn’t exactly fear. Dantonio smiled. #DISRESPEKT is back y’all!
#25 Iowa at #6 Wisconsin – 2:30 pm
Wisconsin is favored in this game by 12.5 points via the spread and with a 76.8% win probably by S&P+. That seems like a lot given what Iowa just did to Ohio State last weekend. Add to that the narrative that Wisconsin has played a weak schedule this season and you have to be left wondering what the computers and oddsmakers are seeing.
You have to come to the conclusion that they're seeing Jonathan Taylor who is currently fourth in the nation with 152 yards per game and third in the nation with 1368 yards. They are also seeing Wisconsin's total defense ranked nationally at fifth in the nation giving up 267.8 yards per game. What they are not seeing is that the Badgers just lost top receiver Quintez Cephus for the season. Cephus has six TD receptions on the season, as many as the next three receivers, including tight end Troy Fumagalli, combined.
Can Iowa pull off another huge upset? I doubt it as they probably spent all of their points for the rest the season smashing Ohio State but this is November, the time of the year when you believe you’ve gotten everything figured out which means that Wisconsin will probably get beat.
#21 Michigan at Maryland – 2:30 pm
Maryland stands at 4 – 5 on the season. They end the season playing Michigan, Michigan State, and Penn State, the last two on the road. This is not the way to bowl eligibility. One would guess that if they're going to pick up a win in these next three games it will be against Michigan. The problem is that Michigan seems to have found themselves within the last couple weeks.
Michigan still has a pretty good season in sight; they’ve scored 35 and 33 points in their last two games against Rutgers and Minnesota, respectively. New starting quarterback Brandon Peters threw a total of 27 passes in those games, completing 18 with two touchdowns and no interceptions. That’s a 67% completion percentage and a pretty good way to initiate a new starting quarterback - slow and easy.
It’s a damned good time for them to find an offense given that they still have to play at Wisconsin and their rivalry game against Ohio State. Will Maryland give them a game? Maybe because it’s at home... maybe because the heavens feel my pain about this season and realize one of the best ways to make me laugh is to have Captain Khakipants look like a losing fool.
Rutgers at #16 Penn State – 11:00 am
Rutgers doesn't have a chance in hell against Penn State in this game. What they have to hope for is an improvement. They lost 39 – 0 in last year's game. Can they keep that score closer or can they score at all in this game? You know that Penn State has to be in an angry mood after being in College Football Playoff relevancy and at the top of Heisman Trophy conversations that have largely been muted in the last two weeks.
Expect a massive outing from Saquon Barkley; although will anyone pay attention given that it’s against Rutgers?
Nebraska at Minnesota – 11:00 am
Nebraska should win this game. The Huskers have better overall talent, a better quarterback despite what you think of Tanner Lee, and a better offense despite the fact that the offense has sputtered at times a season and committed atrocious game-costing turnovers. Minnesota is ahead of only Illinois and Rutgers in total offense and scoring offense in the conference. Minnesota has shown brief, flashes of decency on offense but they are even less consistent than Nebraska.
The Nebraska defense… Let's just say that we’re only ahead of Maryland in total defense and scoring defense. Nebraska needs this win for a shot at bowl eligibility this season. Minnesota is going to run, run, run the ball and hope to make some big plays in the passing game.
I'm hoping for a 6 – 6 record at this point. That's really kinda sad.
THIS IS THE BIGGEST GAME OF THE YEAR. If Nebraska loses this game, I will have to hear about it from my rotten son for AN ENTIRE YEAR. I will probably get more texts than I do, which won’t include him returning texts when I actually ask him questions I want to know the answer to, such as “COD WWII or Battlefront II?”
DON’T BE LOSING TO NO BOAT ROWING SUNSABITCHES THIS WEEKEND, DAMMIT!
Purdue at Northwestern – 6:00 pm
Northwestern is already bowl eligible, but Purdue at 4 – 5 needs two more wins (assuming 5 – 7 doesn't get a bowl game) to get in. Purdue had shown progress earlier in the season, but lost three of their last four, finally getting a win against hapless Illinois last weekend. The Boilermakers needed this win against Northwestern or wins against Iowa and Indiana to finish the season.
You would think that Northwestern would've run out of gas last week against Nebraska but they made history in winning their third consecutive overtime game. Can they hold up that much energy again this week? That's the real key, and it would be amazing to see them win another overtime game.
Still, there’s something in my heart for Purdue. Maybe it’s the engineering. Maybe it’s the NASA connection to my youth. Or maybe I just hate that Northwestern is considered the biggest nerds in the conference when it probably shouldn’t be that way at all.
Indiana at Illinois – 11:00 am
Both teams are at 0 – 6 in Big Ten play this season. This game is truly about who is the worst team in the conference. It would be shocking Indiana lost this game and were branded the worst team as Illinois looks like a team that is not only young but hasn't made a bit of progress this season.
Heaven help the Hoosiers if they lose this game. Tom Allen could certainly use a win. They have played so valiantly at times this season, leading ranked opponents left and right but just not until the end. Either way, basketball season is here, basically, and you wonder if anyone cares.