Everything you need to know about this weekend’s B1G slate.

Game of the Week: No. 2 Ohio State (-8.5) at No. 5 Michigan

The stakes

This is the game both teams look forward to all year. It’s “Ohio” versus “TTUN.” It’s the B1G’s best program going for a fifth straight conference title against perhaps its biggest underachiever that hasn’t won the conference since 2004. This is like Yankees vs. Red Sox in the early 2000s, with one team at the peak of its powers and the other desperate for a breakthrough.

The winner will win the East and be a heavy favorite in the Big Ten Championship Game. The loser is likely still bound for a New Year’s Six Bowl, but that will be a small consolation compared to the bigger prize.

For Michigan, this is about respect. It needs a competitive game, or it will continue being the butt of jokes.

The stat: Ohio State has won 15 of the last 16 meetings

Unfortunately, this rivalry has been incredibly one-sided. Obviously. That’s what is hanging over Michigan in this game. Everyone just assumes Ohio State is going to blow out Michigan because of the recent history. Only 1 of the last 6 matchups has even been decided by single digits. Often times, it feels like Ohio State can pick its score. Psychologically, how does this impact Michigan? Its fan base is unfortunately resigned to its fate, and who can blame it? The question is whether the players are also feeling that.

The key matchup: Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo vs. Nicholas Petit-Frere & Dawand Jones

There isn’t a better pass-rushing duo in the country than Hutchinson and Ojabo, both of whom are in the top 10 overall of Mel Kiper’s latest Big Board. Ojabo has been overshadowed by Hutchinson (PFF’s No.1-graded edge rusher), but he is a worthy sidekick. They are tied atop the B1G sack leaderboard with 10 each.

Petit-Frere and Jones are 2 of the best tackles in the country. Jones, an athletic marvel, is PFF’s No. 4 tackle among Power 5 teams this season, and Petit-Frere, the No. 1 tackle in the 2018 class, is 15th. They both excel in run blocking, but they are beatable in pass protection. That’s why this is a matchup to watch.

If Hutchinson and Ojabo can create pressure on CJ Stroud, that completely changes this game. The Buckeyes have basically done whatever they want in recent weeks, and they currently lead the country in points per game (47.2) and yards per game (559.5).

The pass rush is a big reason Michigan has a top-10 defense and a fighting chance against what looks like an unstoppable offense with unlimited weapons.

The big question: Is Michigan ready for this stage?

As we’ve seen the last 2 weeks, you have to be able to take a punch from Ohio State and get right back up. Purdue and Michigan State allowed Ohio State to score a combined 13 touchdowns to open the game, so they never had a chance. There is going to be so much adrenaline, so can Michigan channel that early and settle in without Ohio State getting up double digits in the first quarter? The crowd is going to be a huge ally for the Wolverines, and they need to keep it engaged.

We won’t really know until Saturday whether Michigan is ready to truly compete with Ohio State, but on paper, the Wolverines are one of the best teams in the country.

The verdict

I think it will be a close game with Michigan covering, but Ohio State is playing its best ball of the season. Coming off a 49-point romp in a top-10 matchup with Michigan State last week, the Buckeyes look like Georgia’s biggest competition. I think Michigan, even without winning, will earn some respect.

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Ohio State 34, Michigan 27

No. 16 Iowa (-1.5) at Nebraska

This spread is a head-scratcher. The 9-2 team is only favored by 1.5 points against a team that is 3-8. And the 3-8 team is playing its backup QB! But it kind of makes sense. All 8 of Nebraska’s losses have been by single digits, with 7 coming by one possession. And Iowa has the 124th-ranked offense in the country. It always feels as if Iowa is a play or 2 away from losing, and Nebraska is always a play or 2 from winning.

A few weeks ago, this matchup would’ve been Spencer Petras versus Adrian Martinez. Now, we get Alex Padilla versus Logan Smothers. As it turned out, Padilla wound up being an upgrade. Will Smothers? We shall see.

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Iowa 20, Nebraska 17

Maryland (-1.5) at Rutgers

If not for Ohio State and Michigan, is there a game with more on the line than this? The winner goes to a bowl game. The loser goes home. Rutgers (5-6, 2-6) is coming off a game in which it got shut out and finished with just 160 total yards. But the defense for Maryland (5-6, 2-6) is really struggling, having allowed at least 428 yards in 8 straight games. Combine that with the Terrapins’ issues finding the end zone, and it’s no wonder they have lost 6 of 7. I’ll take the home team.

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Rutgers 27, Maryland 24

Northwestern at Illinois (-6.5)

It’s funny, no matter how poorly Northwestern (3-8, 1-7) is playing, it always seems to get the best of Illinois. But the time is now for the Illini (4-7, 3-5) to end a 6-game losing streak to their in-state rival.

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Illinois 24, Northwestern 13

Penn State (-1.5) at No. 12 Michigan State

This is a game that will reveal the character of this Michigan State team. Coming off a second poor performance in 3 weeks, the Spartans (9-2, 6-2) are licking their wounds. Michigan State cannot let this season spiral out of control and ruin all of the good vibes from September and October. That the Spartans are 1.5-point home underdogs when Penn State (7-4, 4-4) may give backup QB Christian Veilleux his first career start speaks volumes of what the betting public believes about them. Kenneth Walker III should be plenty fresh after getting just 6 carries against Ohio State last week.

Another surprising tidbit: After a great start, Penn State is in danger of finishing 4-5 in B1G play for the second straight season.

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Michigan State 27, Penn State 24

Indiana at Purdue (-15.5)

The resumption of this rivalry after a year off due to COVID comes with these teams on completely different trajectories. A year ago, Indiana (2-9, 0-8) was flying sky high and looked like it was on the up-and-up. This year, it’s been Purdue (7-4, 5-3) that has been a pleasant surprise. Even though you normally never know with rivalry games, this feels like an exception.

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Purdue 42, Indiana 14

No. 14 Wisconsin (-6.5) at Minnesota

One of the hottest runners in the country against one of the top run defenses in the country, with a West title on the line. Sure, no West team has beaten Wisconsin (8-3, 6-2) yet, but is Minnesota (7-4, 5-3) the team to do it? Unlikely, even at home. The Golden Gophers are 3-3 at home and 4-1 on the road, while the Badgers are 3-0 in true road games.

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Wisconsin 24, Minnesota 21

Scoreboard

Week 12: 7-0 straight-up / 3-4 vs. spread
Season: 80-18 straight-up / 54-43-1 vs. spread