1 B1G thought about every Week 6 Big Ten game
Let’s be real. If you absolutely had to plan a fall wedding, this would be the weekend to do it.
The Big Ten schedule is, in a word, dismal. And that’s fresh off the heels of the clunkiest weekend of the season. There wasn’t a single game decided by single digits last week. Purdue-Minnesota and Nebraska-Indiana were both tied at the end of the third quarter, but the Boilers and Huskers took total control of the final frame of those games.
This feels like a week where we may long for such drama, as it were. Michigan and Ohio State are both favored to win by more than 3 touchdowns. Wisconsin just fired its coach and is somehow a 10-point road favorite, because that’s how bad Northwestern is playing right now.
Purdue at Maryland should be the standout game of the week, but can Terrapins fans be relied on to show up and give the game any atmosphere? They certainly weren’t up to the task against Michigan State last week.
Perhaps that performance was enough to win skeptics over. If not, strong nap vibes could be emanating from every television tuned to a Big Ten game this weekend.
Things are about to get better in a big way for the remainder of the season. Every Saturday will have multiple quality matchups. But first we must endure this wedding-caliber weekend.
Nebraska (2-3, 1-1) at Rutgers (3-2, 0-2)
When: Friday, 7 p.m. ET, BTN
B1G thought: Only in the Big Ten West can you look at a 2-3 football team that’s already fired its head coach and think, “Hey! These guys could win the division!”
But that’s where the Cornhuskers stand after beating Indiana last week. Anything is possible now that Nebraska is 1 of 6 teams tied atop the West.
From a Rutgers perspective, a division title is never going to be part of the equation. But getting to a bowl game sure would be nice. And this is a game the Scarlet Knights probably need to win in order to make it to 6-6.
The return of Rutgers quarterback Noah Vedral, a former Husker, also adds an interesting subplot. But it’s still not known how healthy Vedral actually is in his recovery from a preseason “upper-body injury.”
No. 4 Michigan (5-0, 2-0) at Indiana (3-2, 1-1)
When: Noon ET, FOX
B1G thought: The last time the Wolverines visited Bloomington, the Hoosiers snapped a 24-game losing streak in the series. So maybe that’s the hook for FOX to think this matchup might be worthy of its Big Noon Kickoff time slot.
I just can’t buy any scenario where this is a close game. Tom Allen will have some wrinkles that will confuse young Michigan quarterback JJ McCarthy. Perhaps enough to keep it competitive for a half. But defensive linemen Mazi Smith and Mike Morris are going to ravage Indiana’s ragged offensive line. And a tempo offense that can’t pick up first downs is a formula for a blowout.
Purdue (3-2, 1-1) at Maryland (4-1, 1-1)
When: Noon ET, BTN
B1G thought: Aidan O’Connell looked closer to 50% healthy than 100% healthy last week, but still threw 40 passes as the Boilermakers gutted out a surprise road win at Minnesota.
If O’Connell is more comfortable this week, one of the best quarterback duels of the season will unfold in College Park. Behind CJ Stroud, O’Connell and Maryland QB Taulia Tagovailoa are the Big Ten’s most capable passers.
But if O’Connell is still limited, this game could get away from Purdue. The Boilers are averaging fewer than 5.5 yards per play in the 2 games since he’s been injured. It’s not terrible, but it’s not what we’ve come to expect of Jeff Brohm’s offense. And that offense needs to click on all cylinders if this is a shootout.
Hopefully it will be.
Wisconsin (2-3, 0-2) at Northwestern (1-4, 1-1)
When: 3:30 p.m. ET, BTN
B1G thought: Give Wisconsin credit. By firing Paul Chryst, the Badgers made it compelling to watch Jim Leonhard’s debut. These are two bad football teams heading in the wrong direction.
Then again, this is an oddly compelling series regardless of who is on the sidelines. Even though Ryan Field is overrun with red every time they meet there, Northwestern is 7-3 at home against the Badgers dating to 1997. The Cats have won 6 of the last 7 meetings in Evanston.
I’m cautiously optimistic this could be an accidentally entertaining game.
No. 3 Ohio State (5-0, 2-0) at Michigan State (2-3, 0-2)
When: 4 p.m. ET, ABC
B1G thought: ABC sees FOX’s likely blowout and raises it with what could be an even bigger blowout.
Ohio State has taken some guff this week for the Rutgers fake punt incident, but if Ryan Day was the kind of guy who actually ran up scores he would have done so against the Spartans last year. If the Buckeyes desired to hang 70, 80 or possibly even 90 on Michigan State, they could have. Ohio State had a 49-0 halftime lead before Day put on the parking brake.
The point spread for this game has ballooned to 27 points. The last time Michigan State was that big of an underdog, it was against Ohio State in 1998 — a game the Spartans actually won.
Maybe lightning can strike twice?
Iowa (3-2, 1-1) at Illinois (4-1, 1-1)
When: 7:30 p.m. ET, BTN
B1G thought: With a win, the Illini assert themselves at the top of the Big Ten West heap. This is the biggest Illinois home game since the 16th-ranked Illini hosted Ohio State in 2011.
Illinois lost that game, as well as every remaining game on the schedule, to finish 6-6. Ron Zook was fired and a decade of darkness followed. So perhaps it’s no surprise the athletic department literally gave away 1,000 tickets to students this week. No one in Champaign knows how to handle themselves right now.
And you best believe no one in Champaign knows what to do when the Illini beat the Hawkeyes, because it hasn’t happened since 2008. Post about it on MySpace, I guess.
Illinois is favored for good reason. But the offense has 8 turnovers, which rings alarm bells of concern when turnovers are central to Iowa’s ability to win football games.
If the Illini avoid mistakes, they’ll get their long-awaited win over Iowa. But that’s easier said than done against this defense.