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NCAA Week 5: Taking a Look Around the Big Ten

October 1, 2016 • Jon Lowe • Front Page, NCAA, Predictions, Preview

Finally, non-conference season is over in the Big Ten, and seven conference games will be played this afternoon, headlined by No. 8 Wisconsin and No. 4 Michigan.

I think everybody is ready for the conference to start beating up on itself and see who can come out on top, and possibly into the College Football Playoff. If you were coming here looking for a Wisconsin-Michigan preview, look at my previously posted article for a full-on game preview, as I specialize in the Badgers and each week do a separate article on their game.

For those of you concerned with the other six games, or five once you realize a very unfavorable matchup this weekend, this is where you belong.

MOST LOPSIDED

This is the game that I mentioned really isn’t one, since I think Rutgers, Purdue, and probably Illinois are the bottom feeders of the Big Ten Conference this season, and when one of them gets the unfortunate pairing with Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin or Michigan State I almost feel sorry for that team. Since Michigan State is reeling at the moment, and Wisconsin and Michigan play each other, the match-up has to be Ohio State, and more importantly, this game is in Ohio. They will be having Rutgers joining them for what only could be a 40 point margin of victory for Ohio State. If Rutgers plays them close, the Buckeyes are over-ranked, but quarterback J.T. Barrett has plenty of new weapons that he wants to show off to the conference. I’ll be asleep during this game, but if it becomes close, well, it won’t. Final score: Ohio State 55, Rutgers 14.

OFFENSE VS. DEFENSE

Indiana hosting Michigan State is the definition of offense vs. defense. Indiana laid an egg with that loss to Wake Forest in Bloomington last weekend, but they have also not failed to score 28 points yet this season. Quarterback Richard Lagow is the leader in passing yards in the Big Ten this season (at this point), and has played one less game than many teams out there, while running back Devine Redding is only 45 rushing yards behind the Big Ten leader in one less game. Meanwhile, Michigan State is known for defense, always has been, and Sparty is angry after getting spanked by Wisconsin at home last week. Look for Michigan State to utilize running back L.J. Scott and the defense to try to slow Indiana down.I did like the Hoosiers before they lost to Wake Forest, but never pictured them beating Michigan State. Final score: Michigan State 24, Indiana 19.

THE UNINSPIRING GAME

This is when a consistently bad team in the Big Ten goes up against either Maryland or Rutgers (in other words, teams the rest of the Big Ten fans feel don’t belong), and since Rutgers is about to get demolished by Ohio State, this game involves the Terrapins. They will be hosting the Purdue Boilermakers, and although Purdue already has two wins this season (although Nevada at home and FCS Eastern Kentucky aren’t difficult wins), don’t expect more than four from West Lafayette. Maryland has a real chance of going 4-0 to start the season this week, and has a reasonable shot of being in its’ first bowl game as a member of the Big Ten. Final score: Maryland 35, Purdue 21.

THE UNDERRATED GAME

Minnesota traveling to State College to take on the Penn State Nittany Lions is the most underrated game, as Minnesota is off to a 3-0 start where Penn State is reeling and trying to get back into the Big Ten picture after getting trounced by Michigan. Penn State had hopes for this season, but with the Michigan’s and Ohio State in your division it’s hard to get them high, but now at 2-2 including a loss to Pittsburgh it has some in Pennsylvania worried. Penn State is having no trouble scoring (except against Michigan) and running back Saquon Barkley has shown why he has the amount of hype he does, and they will be hosting a Minnesota team nobody really thought was in the West picture. At 3-0, this is probably the game that will decide if Minnesota is for real or not. Same goes with determining if Penn State is any sort of threat.  I’m leaning with Penn State here. Final score: Penn State 21, Minnesota 17.

THE BEST OF THE WEST?

Is Nebraska really the best team in the western half of the Big Ten? Well, we won’t find out this week, as they host the 1-2 Illinois Fighting Illini. I know Western Michigan and North Carolina are good teams, but you can’t just get blown out at home like that, Illinois. Twice. Now, the Illini are going to Nebraska, where people in Lincoln are believing again, and they could theoretically run the table until they go to Madison for Halloween weekend. And by then, the Badgers will have gone through the rest of death row and will hope to make up the ground Nebraska (and probably Iowa) will have. Final score: Nebraska 31, Illinois 14.

GAME OF THE WEEK

Besides Wisconsin at Michigan, the game of the week is Northwestern traveling to Iowa. Why is the team with the worst record in the Big Ten part of the game of the week? Well, many believed Northwestern to be a front-runner for the West Division crown along with Iowa and Nebraska, and after losing to Nebraska last weekend, and with a 1-3 record, this could be the end for Pat Fitzgerald and the Wildcats. I think coach Fitzgerald belongs on the hot seat as well, with losses to Western Michigan and ILLINOIS STATE at home. Iowa, meanwhile, also has an FCS loss, but that was to defending FCS champion North Dakota State. Iowa took care of business at Rutgers, and now has a chance to knock a contender out of the picture in the Big Ten West. It’s a fight for dear life between these teams at this early stage in the season, but I have to go with the home team here. Iowa is the better team already, but Northwestern has shown no signs of life yet this season. Final score: Iowa 30, Northwestern 21.

Photo: Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

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