We are entering the final month of the regular season in the Big Ten, and lucky for us there are five November Saturdays worth of football. This weekend is a historic mark for the conference as the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Illinois Fighting Illini will play the first ever night game in the month of November for the Big Ten (It’s about time). So let’s take a look at all the games on the slate for the Big Ten this weekend.
Illinois (4-3, 1-3) at Ohio State (6-1, 3-0), 8pm ABC- Why the Big Ten chose this edition to be the first ever night game is beyond me, maybe they are still living in 2007. Although this game is lopsided on paper, it does feature one of my favorite trophies in college sports, the Illibuck.
One of the things to watch this game is the amount of playing time Buckeye quarterback J.T. Barrett gets. Barrett sprained his MCL in the win over Penn State last week. The Illini are coming off arguably their biggest win in the Tim Beckman Era, yeah there have not been many of them but still, and have a chance to catch the Buckeyes looking forward to their showdown next week in East Lansing. However, the Buckeyes have enough talent and head coach Urban Meyer will not let this team sleep walk through a trophy game.
Northwestern (3-4, 2-2) at Iowa (5-2, 2-1), 12pm Big Ten Network- Both teams sit squarely in the middle of the pack in the West, however the winner of this game does get back in the race. The Hawkeyes are coming off a bye week that saw them lose a linebacker due to an arrest and a restless fan base voice their opinion on the coaching staff. Even at 5-2 Iowa has more going on under the surface than what meets the eye.
Northwestern comes into Kinnick Stadium on a two game skid after opening conference play 2-0. The Wildcats seemed to have turned a corner with wins at Penn State and at home against Wisconsin, but those good feelings have disappeared quickly with losses to Minnesota and Nebraska.
This matchup is always entertaining, it went to overtime last year and has seen an underdog Northwestern team derail Iowa’s season a couple of times since 2009.
Maryland (5-3, 2-2) at Penn State (4-3, 1-3), 12pm ESPN2- Maryland’s wake up call to the Big Ten has come. Last week they had to travel to Camp Randall, where they got throttled. This week they have to play at Happy Valley, where a very stout Nittany Lion defense is waiting for them. Maryland sits at five wins and needs just one more to become bowl eligible, but that win has proved elusive in the last couple weeks.
Penn State is coming off a heart breaking loss in double overtime to Ohio State. This can be a classic let down game as the Lions go from playing a prime time game against a great opponent to playing a nooner in front of a less fired up crowd.
The matchup to watch here is how Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg attacks a defense featuring Will Likely. Can Likely force a turnover or two and change the tide of the game?
Wisconsin (5-2, 2-1) at Rutgers (5-3, 1-3), 12pm ESPN- Rutgers is quickly becoming a tough place to play in the Big Ten. The fans and the team have embraced their move to the Big Ten better than I thought, but the harsh reality is that the Scarlett Knights have now faced Ohio State, Nebraska, and Wisconsin in back-to-back-to-back weeks. That’s life in the Big Ten and it will eat teams alive.
Wisconsin’s only two losses this season have been away from the comforts of Camp Randall Stadium. The biggest question is can the quarterbacks handle a tough team on the road. The Badgers have hinted at running a two-quarterback system the rest of the year, but it really comes down to the play of running back Melvin Gordon.
Purdue (3-5, 1-3) at Nebraska (7-1, 3-1), 3:30pm ABC- The Huskers have played themselves into the role of second best team in the conference as of this week. They are back in control of their own destiny for a West Division title and are looking to keep the ball rolling when Purdue comes to Lincoln. Ameer Abdullah is a legitimate Heisman candidate and faces a Purdue team that really is not great on the defensive side of the ball.
The Boilermakers come into the game off an open week and looking to score the biggest win in the Hazell Era. It will be tough sledding for a team with just one Big Ten win since 2012, but Purdue has been playing better. Despite their improvement the Boilers are still a year away from bowl contention.
Indiana (3-4, 0-3) at Michigan (3-5, 1-3) 3:30pm Big Ten Network- Both of these teams have had their share of drama on and off the field. Michigan comes in off a beat down from Michigan State and another petty controversy involving a tent stake. Add in that fans will be wearing “Fire Brandon” shirts and ready to turn on the coach at a moment’s notice and the Wolverines are ripe for the picking. Things in Ann Arbor have turned to dumpster fire levels and a loss to the Hoosiers would sure make things turn into a nuclear meltdown.
This would be great news for the Hoosiers if they were not down to their third string quarterback Zander Diamont. However the Hoosiers do have a guy named Tevin Coleman who is pretty good at running the ball.
While this may not be a great game on paper the tension in the stands will be palpable if the Hoosiers jump out to an early lead. It might not be pretty football, but this game could have the most drama.
*Section Photo credit to Stephen Dunn, Getty images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Denny Medley, USA Today Sports