1 B1G thought about every Week 11 Big Ten game
It’s championship week in the Big Ten West. Unless it’s merely prelude to more wackiness week in the Big Ten West.
Either way, the stakes are high in Week 11.
As noted in this space earlier this week, 6 teams can still win the West with 3 games remaining. Yes, that includes Nebraska. Technically, if not realistically.
Most of the marbles will be won or lost in the Purdue-Illinois game. If the Illini win, the division is in their hands so long as they beat Northwestern in the season finale. Should the Boilermakers win, things get spicy.
Purdue will obviously remain in the race, but the winner of the Wisconsin-Iowa game will have the pole position heading into the final 2 weeks. Neither team has to visit Michigan, as Illinois does in Week 12.
And don’t sleep on Minnesota. The Golden Gophers must win out and get some help, but the first help arrives in the form of a home game against Northwestern.
Indiana (3-6, 1-5) at No. 2 Ohio State (9-0, 6-0)
When: Noon ET, FOX
B1G thought: Mother Nature prevented the Buckeyes from unleashing the full fury of their Death Star offense last week. Indiana isn’t going to be as fortunate as Northwestern in that regard — although with a 30% chance of snow in the forecast, perhaps the Hoosiers will have a shot at covering the 40-point spread.
But even that feels unlikely.
This is the most lopsided series in college football history, with Ohio State holding an all-time 77-12-5 lead. The Hoosiers have tied the Buckeyes (1990) more recently than they’ve beaten them (1988). And IU quarterback Jack Tuttle, who took over as starter against Penn State, is already out for the season after playing less than one game.
Ohio State’s most lopsided win over the Hoosiers — 56-0 in 1957 — is well within reach.
Purdue (5-4, 3-3) at No. 21 Illinois (7-2, 4-2)
When: Noon ET, ESPN2
B1G thought: College GameDay likely had its buses pointed toward Champaign until both of these teams dropped the ball with losses last week. What was setting up as a definitive B1G West title tilt is now one of many meaningful games within the division.
Of note — it’s obviously been a bad decade of football for Illinois, but Purdue has won 5 straight at Memorial Stadium. That includes games coached by Danny Hope, Darrell Hazell and Gerad Parker — not exactly the Cradle of Coaches. And you have to figure Illinois natives Aidan O’Connell and Charlie Jones will be particularly motivated not to go down against the Illini.
Rutgers (4-5, 1-5) at Michigan State (4-5, 2-4)
When: Noon ET, BTN
B1G thought: At first glance, there is very little to get excited about for this matchup. Which means something incredible is probably going to happen.
After all, both teams are looking at this as a must-win for bowl eligibility. Effort should be high on both sides, and perhaps with a side of desperation.
The stakes would be even higher if the winning coach earned the exclusive trademark to the phrase “Keep Choppin‘.”
Nebraska (3-6, 2-4) at No. 3 Michigan (9-0, 6-0)
When: 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
B1G thought: Let’s lend a big hand to the network programmers this week. FOX is airing a game in which Ohio State is a 40-point favorite, and ABC is airing a game in which Michigan is a 31-point favorite. Truly compelling television.
Perhaps the only drama will be whether Nebraska fans point to this game or the Georgia Southern loss when answering the future question “What was the low point in Huskers history?”
Anything above 14 points against Michigan’s defense feels like it would be a miracle for Nebraska with quarterback Casey Thompson out due to injury.
Maryland (6-3, 3-3) at No. 14 Penn State (7-2, 4-2)
When: 3:30 p.m. ET, FOX
B1G thought: Now this is a game that belongs on network television.
Until last week’s weather-related letdown at Wisconsin, the Terrapins had built a case that they were actually the No. 3 team in the Big Ten East this season. This is an opportunity to prove that hunch correct.
Behind Ohio State, these are the most explosive offenses in the B1G, tied for second with 12 plays of at least 30 yards this season. Fun will be had.
And for Mike Locksley, this could be the transformational win that sneaks his program into the Top 25 next week.
Related: Maryland sports betting is coming. Yet another Big Ten state is opening up legal sports betting for residents of the state. Multiple sportsbooks are already accepting pre-registrations in the state.
Wisconsin (5-4, 3-3) at Iowa (5-4, 3-3)
When: 3:30 p.m. ET, FS1
B1G thought: As noted earlier, should Purdue beat Illinois, this is potentially the most consequential game in the Big Ten West title race. Considering that Wisconsin already fired its head coach and every outside voice has wanted to fire Iowa’s offensive coordinator this year, that’s a remarkable thing to be true.
Wisconsin has quietly dominated this series as of late, going 8-2 against the Hawkeyes in the last decade. But turnover-prone Graham Mertz against Iowa’s ball-hawking defense has the same potential effect as dropping a Mentos into a liter of cola.
Northwestern (1-8, 0-6) at Minnesota (6-3, 3-3)
When: 3:30 p.m. ET, BTN
B1G thought: Gophers, beware. Pat Fitzgerald is liable to go Carl Spackler on you.
Sure, Northwestern may be the worst team in the Big Ten this season. Perhaps even the Big Ten’s worst team in over a decade.
But Minnesota beat Nebraska last week, and that is the ultimate danger of the 2022 college football season. All 8 teams to play the Huskers this season lost their next game — from Northwestern in Week 2 to Illinois last week.
Can PJ Fleck break the curse?