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

Game of the Week: Wisconsin (-3) at Purdue

The stakes

Coming off last week’s upset at then-No. 2 Iowa, Purdue is flying high and ranked for the first time since 2007. It kind of snuck up on us, to be quite honest. The Boilermakers had a nice win over Oregon State in the opener and were competitive at Notre Dame, but they barely beat a depleted Illinois team and then lost to a depleted Minnesota squad. Wisconsin is still a big name, and even in a down season for the Badgers, a win for Purdue would provide even more credibility and solidify it as a Top 25 team.

Purdue (4-2, 2-1) is also now in a 3-way tie in the loss column for first place in the B1G West with Iowa (6-1, 3-1) and Minnesota (4-2, 2-1). The Boilermakers would have the tiebreaker over Iowa, obviously, but not against Minnesota. There’s still a long way to go, but Purdue has a real shot to go to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship Game. With Ohio State still on the schedule, though, Purdue can’t let any winnable games, like this one, fall through the cracks.

The stat: Purdue and Wisconsin allow the fewest yards per game in the B1G

It’s no surprise to see Wisconsin here, but Purdue? There is typically no shortage of terrific defenses in the Big Ten, but Purdue is not usually in that group. The Boilermakers have only finished in the top 10 in the B1G in total defense once in the last 10 years, and it was last year, when they were 8th. It’s not like Purdue is playing cupcakes, either; 4 of its 6 opponents are over .500.

The key matchup: Wisconsin’s run game vs. Purdue’s front 7

If you’re Purdue, you’re not worried at all about Wisconsin’s passing attack that has produced just 3 TDs and 9 INTs. Graham Mertz has struggled mightily all season, and it really doesn’t make sense to put him in harm’s way against someone like edge rusher George Karlaftis, a likely first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. The Boilermakers have been terrific against the pass, too, as they have the No. 2 pass defense in the B1G and are 1 of 3 teams with more INTs than TD passes allowed (Iowa and Penn State are the others).

So it comes down to whether Purdue can stop the run, because that should be at the forefront of Wisconsin’s game plan. True freshman Braelon Allen has lived up to the hype and posted back-to-back 100-yard games the last 2 weeks, averaging over 6 yards per carry, and is a nice complement to leading rusher Chez Mellusi. The Boilermakers are allowing just 3.6 yards per carry.

The big question: Can David Bell go off for a big game again?

Let’s state the obvious: Purdue isn’t going to try to run the ball. That isn’t what it does well, especially without starting running back Zander Horvath. And stopping the run is the precise area the Badgers excel at, allowing just 64 yards per game and 2.2 yards per attempt (both of which are 3rd in the country).

That said, can David Bell have another eruption like he did against Iowa? The junior wideout is in the running for not only best wideout in the Big Ten, but best in the country. Ask Iowa, that’s not hyperbole. Bell didn’t face Wisconsin last year due to the pandemic, but he did tally 12 catches for 108 yards and a TD against the Badgers as a true freshman. It’s going to take that type of effort, probably, as this offense is dependent on Bell.

On another note, it’s been great to see Bell back to normal after he took a big hit against Notre Dame and had to miss the game against Illinois. He has gone over 120 yards in all 4 games he has finished this season.

While the Badgers have their typically terrific defense, they aren’t infallible. Jahan Dotson went for 102 yards against them in the opener, and it could’ve been a lot more if not for a few missed throws. If Aidan O’Connell has a similar type game that he did against Iowa, when he threw for 375 yards and 2 TDs with no INTs, Purdue should be in great shape.

The verdict

Wait a second, so you’re telling me I can take the team that has actually played well this season, at home, and get 3 points? Sign me up.

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• Purdue 21, Wisconsin 17

Northwestern at Michigan (-23.5)

Coming off the bye, Michigan should be plenty rested. Will it be focused? That’s about the only concern here for the Wolverines (6-0, 3-0), who can’t get caught looking ahead with No. 9 Michigan State waiting the following week. With No. 7 Penn State and No. 5 Ohio State also still to go, I’m wondering if Michigan will try to save a few things schematically for those bigger games. Because even though Northwestern (3-3, 1-2) beat Rutgers last week by a wider margin than Michigan did, the Wildcats have really struggled this season. Will 5-star freshman QB JJ McCarthy get a few more snaps, too? That is something to monitor, because Michigan may need him down the stretch.

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Michigan 31, • Northwestern 13

Illinois at No. 7 Penn State (-23.5)

The one silver lining of Sean Clifford getting hurt against Iowa a few weeks ago was that it was right before the bye week. And that appears to have made a big difference, as Clifford has taken reps this week at practice. Whether or not he actually plays against the Illini (2-5, 1-3) shouldn’t matter for Penn State (5-1, 2-1), because the Nittany Lions are talented enough to win without him this week. As long as he is ready to go for a stretch run that features 3 top-10 teams in the final 5 games, starting the following week against Ohio State, is all that matters.

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• Penn State 34, Illinois 6

Maryland at Minnesota (-5)

The team that controls its own destiny in the West? Minnesota. The Golden Gophers (4-2, 2-1) got a huge boost with Iowa losing since it already has beaten Purdue. I don’t know if they will climb into the Top 25 anytime soon given how they lost to a low-level MAC team (and almost lost to another), but that doesn’t matter for the West race. Maryland (4-2, 1-2) hasn’t topped 20 points in any of its 3 B1G games, and it will need a big performance from Taulia Tagovailoa on the road. With star wideout Dontay Demus out for the season, Maryland needs other guys to step up.

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Minnesota 27, • Maryland 24

Ohio State (-19.5) at Indiana

Sigh, this game looked much more interesting in the preseason. I’ll admit, I did pick Indiana to win this one a few months ago, and suffice to say, I’m going to reverse course on that. Ohio State (5-1, 3-0) has re-established itself as the favorite in the Big Ten, as far as I’m concerned. Poor Indiana (2-4, 0-3). This will be the Hoosiers’ 5th game against a team currently ranked 11th or better. It’s no wonder they didn’t live up to that No. 17 preseason ranking.

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• Ohio State 45, Indiana 13

Scoreboard

Week 7 record: 2-3 straight-up / 2-3 vs. spread
Season record: 55-11 straight-up / 39-26-1 vs. spread