Entering Week 2 of conference play, let’s break down what there is to see in the Big 10. With the quick rise of the Wisconsin Badgers, we are now seeing three Big 10 teams in the top 10, a great feat. This makes for great competition week in and week out, as so many teams are fighting for their birth into the Playoff come January.
All times eastern.
8 Wisconsin Badgers @ 4 Michigan Wolverines, 3:30 p.m. on ABC
Clearly the marquee Big 10 matchup of the weekend featuring a red-hot and very surprising Wisconsin team and preseason Playoff-favorite Michigan team. Before last weekend, it would be easy to call this an expected win for Michigan, but after Wisconsin completely dismantled a strong Michigan State team AT Michigan State: ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE (ode to the now-retired Kevin Garnett)! With this being said, I still think Michigan has the upper hand, especially at home. Even if Wisconsin can limit the production from Jake Butt and Amara Darboh and continue to play stingy run defense, their offense will struggle, They face a tough task trying to generate points against a talented Michigan defense under one of the best Defensive Coordinators in College Football. However, if this year has taught us anything, it’s that Wisconsin comes to play every week so it certainly should be a phenomenal game.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights @ 2 Ohio State Buckeyes, 12:00 p.m. on BTN
To say that Rutgers is an underdog in this game is an understatement. Ohio State is a National Title contender, despite many doubts about them coming into the season. They are loaded with talent from J.T. Barrett at quarterback to emerging star safety Malik Hooker. While Rutgers isn’t completely without talent and actually hung around with Iowa last week, they don’t matchup well with one of the elite teams in the country. If Rutgers wins this game, it honestly could be considered the upset of the year, as they are 38 (!!!) point underdogs. Even if Coach Ash brings his Scarlet Knights to Columbus ready to play, they will need a lot of help from Ohio State to pull off the upset.
Northwestern Wildcats @ Iowa Hawkeyes, 12:00 p.m. on ESPNU
Here is an interesting matchup between two teams that had strong 2015 seasons, but have fallen in 2016. Two weeks ago, Iowa was upset by North Dakota State, and certainly did not look convincing in their 14-7 win over Rutgers. Despite this, Iowa is by no means a bad team. Quarterback C.J. Beathard brings a sense of veteran calm to a relatively inexperienced offense. On the other hand, Northwestern is also reeling from a series of surprising losses. However, Northwestern over Duke should not be overlooked, as they just beat Notre Dame. The key for both teams will be limiting their turnovers. Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson almost has more interceptions than touchdowns while Beathard rarely throws the ball away. If Northwestern can limit turnovers, look for an interesting and very close game.
Illinois Fighting Illini @ 15 Nebraska Cornhuskers, 3:30 p.m. on ESPN2
Once again, here is another heavy underdog situation. Nebraska has looked solid all year with a quality win against Oregon and dominating a few lower level teams. Nebraska features a top-25 rushing attack as well as a top-25 defense in terms of points allowed (quality of offenses played can be called into question though), while Illinois has been mediocre at best. If Illinois wants to have any chance in this game they need to avoid being dominated on the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. If they can do this, they have a small chance at winning, but don’t get your hopes up Illinois’ football fans.
Purdue Boilermakers @ Maryland Terrapins, 3:30 p.m. on BTN
While it may not be a showdown of two heavyweight contenders, this game features two teams with something to prove. Maryland is out to a 3-0 start, but is yet to play a team of any real talent. On the other hand, Purdue is 2-1 with a pretty rough loss to Cincinnati. Neither team is known for their football programs, but that does not mean they cannot produce a good game. Maryland in particular is a very interesting team. They have the 11th most rushing yards per game in the country right now and their defense has actually held firm. I would pick Maryland as the favorite to win this game, and quite honestly they are a dangerous team that could knock off one of the big boys (Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, or Ohio State) this year.
Minnesota Golden Gophers @ Penn State Nittany Lions, 3:30 p.m. on BTN
The Gophers face the Nittany Lions in what will mostly likely be a very close game. Penn State is technically a three-point favorite, but it’s hard to foresee the winner of this game. Minnesota is 3-0, but questions still remain how they will fare against a Big 10 caliber team. On the other hand, Penn State is fresh off being handed a 39-point beat down at the hands of Ohio State. What makes this game very interesting is that it could very well determine if PSU coach James Franklin keeps his job. It’s no secret that Penn State has struggled the last couple of years, and a loss this week could seal the deal. With that being said, I think that Penn State comes out with a fire under them to try to grind out a close win.
17 Michigan State Spartans @ Indiana Hoosiers, 8:00 p.m. on BTN
Being a student at Indiana University, I wish I could sit here and talk about how everyone better be on upset alert for this game. Unfortunately, I cannot in all seriousness do this. Indiana is coming off a solid bowl season last year, but lost three of the arguably most important starters from the top 15 ranked offense in the country last year. With this being said, the Indiana offense could still be very potent with a strong receiving core, four returning Offensive linemen, and a very promising new running back. Even with these weapons, it is hard to imagine this same offense that threw 5 interceptions to Wake Forest last week doing a lot of damage to the stout Spartan defense featuring a potential All-American in Malik McDowell as well as many other talented players. Even with Michigan State’s depressing loss to Wisconsin last week, it is hard to picture the Hoosiers pulling this one off.