We are now officially into the teeth of the B1G season. There isn’t any more hiding for contenders or pretenders this late in the season and things are about to get real for some teams. The Legends division, which in my opinion is one of the best divisional races in the country this season, is still completely up for grabs. Realistically, 5 teams could still win it, but starting this weekend you will finally see the separation everyone has been waiting for. Let’s take a look at the match-ups and what to watch for in Week 10.
Can the Spartans shed the “little brother” tag against Michigan? While the Wolverines typically garner most of the national press every season (and this season is no different), it’s hard to argue that Michigan State has played as well as any team in the country leading into this game. This weekend’s match-up in East Lansing has more than state bragging rights on the line. With a win, Michigan State becomes the clear favorite to run away with the Legends division. A Michigan win would put the Spartans right back in the pack with the rest and would even the playing field in the division even more. Here’s what I know: with Michigan State, you know what you are getting – the toughest defense in the league with an offense that has made strides the second half of the season. With Michigan, you never know what team is going to show up. This is a rivalry game and picking them can be tricky regardless of records, but both of these teams are 1 loss teams with aspirations of a B1G championship. Whoever comes out of this game is most likely to represent the Legends division one way or another.
Can Penn State get up off the mat? The Nittany Lions have been one of the hardest teams for me to figure out this year and if anyone can predict how they are going to play this weekend, please feel free to hit me up. After last week’s demoralizing 63-14 defeat to Ohio State, Penn State welcomes Illinois to Happy Valley with a fan base that is starting to eat their own. Illinois only poses a threat in this game if the Lions have given up on their season. Penn State is still a threat to beat anyone in Beaver Stadium and while it pains me to pick PSU against anyone this year, I think they still have enough to beat the Illini.
Can Iowa hang with Wisconsin? As a lifelong Hawkeye fan, I am ecstatic to have this rivalry game back on the slate. The Badgers and Hawkeyes haven’t met each other since 2010 and something about that isn’t right. But the real story about these two programs has been the ascent of Wisconsin and the fall of Iowa since the two teams last laced ‘em up against each other. Wisconsin has been to three consecutive Rose Bowls, while Iowa has sputtered and seemed to have lost their footing among the B1G’s top programs. It’s hard for me to pick Iowa in this game, mostly because I just don’t think they are there yet in Kirk Ferentz’s 3.0 rebuild. I think Iowa is a program that is certainly back on the right track and will rise again in the future, however, Melvin Gordon and Joel Stave will be too much for the Hawkeyes to contain.
Ohio State will continue its quest for style points. Head coach Urban Meyer has heard enough about what the national pundits think about his Buckeyes and the rest of the B1G is going to pay for it. Ohio State totally dismantled a talented but understaffed Penn State squad last weekend and Purdue is without question the league’s worst team. This one will get ugly early. Look for Ohio State to completely pulverize their opponents down the stretch in hopes to get a golden ticket to the BCS national title game.
Can Minnesota keep the good vibes rolling? The Gophers are quickly becoming the feel good story of the B1G. Their head coach Jerry Kill, who has suffered from numerous seizures this season, has been relegated to coaching from the booth and has not returned to his full time duties as head coach. That won’t change this weekend and acting head coach Tracy Claeys is quickly making a name for himself in the coaching world after back to back impressive wins over Northwestern and Nebraska. Heading to a showdown with uptick Indiana should give us all we need to know about Minnesota going forward this season. Unlike Northwestern and Nebraska, Indiana is healthy and capable on offense and will give the Gophers more than just a good game this weekend; they’re going to win it. Hoosiers roll.
Does Nebraska have anything left in the tank? The Nebraska faithful certainly hope so. Both Northwestern and Nebraska come into this weekend’s game hobbling on offense. Northwestern will be without star running back Venric Mark and quarterback Kain Colter is having trouble staying healthy as well. Nebraska continues its up and down season without senior quarterback Taylor Martinez and Ameer Abdullah has been limited in practice this week. It’s hard for me to pick against the Huskers at home but, at the same time, Nebraska has yet to beat a team with a heartbeat this season. Northwestern has proven they can go on the road and beat teams and I think this will be another “us against the world” type of week of preparation for the Wildcats. Give me Northwestern in a close one.
BY RYAN OSBAHR ON NOVEMBER 1, 2013
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