Week 9 Big Ten Preview

The final Saturday of October in the Big Ten features some big time matchups that could impact the overall playoff picture. If you are a Big Ten fan you can sit on your couch and watch meaningful games from to noon to midnight.


No. 13 Ohio State 5-1 (2-0) at Penn State 4-2 (1-2), 8pm, ABC

The crown jewel of the Big Ten slate will be played under the lights in Happy Valley. The Buckeyes look like they have gotten past the mistakes that led to the early season loss against Virginia Tech. J.T. Barrett (1,615 passing yards, 20 TDs) has recently been added to the Maxwell Award watch list, and he looks to power a dominant Buckeye offense.

Traveling to Beaver Stadium, in what should be an electric atmosphere, will be the first real road test for Ohio State.

While Ohio State is trending up, Penn State, led by Christian Hackenberg (1,637 passing yards), is heading the opposite direction. They have dropped two in a row since starting the season 4-0, losing to a lowly Northwestern team at home and an even worse Michigan squad up in Ann Arbor their last time out. Last year’s matchup between these two teams ended with the Nittany Lions suffering their worst loss ever. Penn State will be looking for redemption, and Ohio State is trying to stay in the playoff race.


Michigan 3-4 (1-2) at No. 8 Michigan State 6-1 (3-0), 3:30pm, ABC

Rivalry games are always fun and this week started with a few Michigan State fans painting some Ann Arbor landmarks an East Lansing shade of green. The Wolverines have the upper hand in the series that started in 1898, 33-68-5, but with Mark Dantonio at the helm the Spartans have won five of the last seven.

Michigan State is looking like the same team that won the Big Ten and the Rose Bowl last season, while Michigan has been a tire fire for most of the year. The Spartans offense is averaging 47 points per game and the defense is very solid giving up just 21.6 points per contest.

Wolverine head coach Brady Hoke is probably on his way out at the end of the year regardless of the result on Saturday, but it would be a step in the right direction if Michigan can somehow pull off the big road win. Michigan thought that this could be a year where they could make some noise in the stacked Big Ten East, but a series of unfortunate events and bad losses has derailed the Maize and Blue.


Rutgers (5-2, 1-2) at No. 16 Nebraska (6-1,2-1) 12pm, ESPN2

The Huskers are looking to keep pace in the West with a red hot Minnesota squad, behind the legs of Heisman candidate running back Ameer Abdullah. Abdullah has 1,024 yards on the ground to go along with 14 touchdowns on the year, and has powered the Huskers’ offense week in and week out. Rutgers has been the pleasant surprise of the Big Ten this year. Nobody had them at five wins this early in the season.

Nebraska is coming off a win against Northwestern, and no it did not come down to the wire with a miracle Hail Mary or field goal, that has them poised to control their own destiny to get back to the Big Ten title game.

Rutgers continues their tour of the big boys of the Big Ten. After losing at the Horseshoe last week 56-17, the Scarlet Knights travel to another raucous environment in Lincoln. Rutgers is led by inconsistent quarterback Gary Nova, who when hot can be scalding, but his temperature is not a guarantee. Nova has thrown for 1,793 yards and 13 touchdowns so far in 2014. A win in Lincoln may be the programs’ biggest ever and would make them bowl eligible in their first year in the Big Ten.


Maryland (5-2, 2-1) at Wisconsin (4-2, 1-1) 12pm, Big Ten Network

Maryland comes into Madison off a come from behind win over Iowa last week and will be looking to score that all important sixth win of the year. Wisconsin, who has had their issues so far in 2014, is coming off a bye week. The week off should help the Badgers ghastly passing game, but they do have to face one of the nation’s best corners in Will Likely.

Maryland does not jump off the page as a team that does anything great, however they do win games. The Terps rank 50th in the nation in passing yards per game with 251.7 and 87th in rushing yards averaging just 150.6 yards on the ground. Not stellar numbers, but the win column speaks for itself.

Wisconsin will lean on their second-ranked run game led by Melvin Gordon, who averages just under eight yards a carry. The Badgers have yet to truly impress this year, and need a win Saturday to keep their conference title hopes alive.


Minnesota (6-1, 3-0) at Illinois (3-4, 0-3) 12pm, ESPNU

Illinois should expect to see a lot of Minnesota running back David Cobb on Saturday. The Illini sport the conference’s worst rush defense, giving up a mind blowing 271.1 yards per game and 402 yards per Big Ten game. It will be strength versus weakness as the Gophers try and get to 4-0 in the conference and make a run at the West division crown.

Cobb is quietly putting together a great season, already eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark just seven games into the season. It seems as if head coach Jerry Kill has this team doing all of the little things that a title contender does, but is flying far below the radar.

Illinois comes into this game after losing three of their last four games while also losing QB Wes Lunt for the year to a broken leg. They started the season needing at least a bowl berth to give head coach Tim Beckman a chance at keeping his job. After a 3-1 start, the Illini are staring at another winless Big Ten season and that home loss to Purdue on October 4 likely sealed his fate in Champaign.

*Section Photo credit to Rick Osentoski, USA Today Sports; Featured Photo (above) credit to Optimum Scouting

Week 9 Pick ‘Em
Week 9 Pick ‘Em