NCAA Week 13 Preview: One Last Big Ten Look-Around

November 25, 2016 • Jon Lowe • Big Ten, Front Page, NCAA

Previewing each of this week’s Big Ten match-ups:

Places Swapped

Yes, this is the Michigan State-Penn State game in State College, and although I never once thought Penn State could be 3-8, I did think Michigan State could be in the position Penn State is in, with Penn State hovering around six or seven wins. This game was supposed to be a lot better going into things, but with the struggles of Michigan State, all eyes are in Columbus this week. Penn State should win this game, eventually eliminating the Buckeyes from the Big Ten Championship conversation, but this is Michigan State’s last chance to do something special. Don’t count out Sparty, but I’ve foolishly supported them during their seven game losing streak. Penn State wins. Final score: Penn State 31, Michigan State 21.

A Bowl Eligibility “Gimme”

Maryland is 5-6, and a loss could eliminate them from the bowl game conversation entirely. Five wins technically makes them eligible, but most five win teams don’t make it, especially with Maryland’s resumé. They need a sixth win to guarantee a bowl berth, and what better way to do that then with a game where they can host Rutgers. Maryland is probably the second worst team in the Big Ten East, and although Michigan State has been proven worse, I still think Maryland’s talent is not there. Despite that, they should have no trouble beating Rutgers, the debate is more on will there be a fifth shutout? Final score: Maryland 30, Rutgers 10.

The Indiana Bowl

The only guaranteed East-West game of the Big Ten is Indiana vs. Purdue, as there are really no bigger rivals among the Big Ten, except pretty much every other rivalry. Still, it is a rivalry game, a game for state pride, and a game that normally has favored Purdue over time. Not this year, as not only is it in Bloomington, but Purdue is still a couple years away from being relevant again. Meanwhile, Indiana is among the most dangerous 5-6 teams in the country, after scaring Michigan and Ohio State recently. They also kicked Michigan State into irrelevancy the week after Wisconsin knocked them out. I like the direction the Purdue program is headed, but Indiana is going to get a 13th game this season. Final score: Indiana 35, Purdue 28.

The Illinois Bowl

There are a lot of fortunate 5-6 teams in the Big Ten this year, as this is the third game involving a bowl eligible team that needs that sixth win to lock them in place for a 13th game. And, all of these teams have home games too, which really says a lot about how the schedule is playing out. Ultimately, 10 of the 14 Big Ten teams should get in, and the last one is Northwestern. The Wildcats have had a weird season, losing easy games and beating better teams, and yet when it is all said and done, the Wildcats are 5-6 with the lowly Illinois Fighting Illini coming to Evanston. Illinois is just coming off of a home shutout against Iowa, and this game shouldn’t have too different of a result. Final score: Northwestern 33, Illinois 14.

Friday Night Fight

Let Jim Delany know that Friday games are only acceptable in college football the day after Thanksgiving, not during the rest of the regular season when a small money grab affects the attendances of high school football in the states that support these universities. This game is an exception, and the 9-2 Nebraska Cornhuskers are heading into Iowa to take on the Hawkeyes to hope to stay alive for first place. Meanwhile, after a disappointing season, Iowa still has hope left to finish third in the West with another upset over Nebraska. Iowa has lost three out of its’ four losses at home, and are 3-3 heading into Friday’s matchup. I don’t think that this Iowa football team is below .500 in any aspect, and I don’t see them losing a fourth time at home. I like Iowa here, especially if there is no Tommy Armstrong. Final score: Iowa 29, Nebraska 24.

Game of the Season

Ohio State and Michigan are the mind and heart, respectively, of the Big Ten. I don’t like these programs, and fans of the other 12 schools probably agree on this, but this is No. 2 vs. No. 3 playing for all the cards (except if Ohio State wins, then the pressure shifts to Penn State). There’s really not a lot to talk about here, if Michigan wins, they are in. If Ohio State wins, they are in the College Football Playoff, but won’t be Big Ten Champions unless Penn State loses. As a Badger fan, I hope for a Michigan win or a Penn State loss, but if Wilton Speight can’t go, and the game is already in Columbus, I have to go with Ohio State here. It’ll be close, but Ohio State should pull through. Final score: Ohio State 31, Michigan 28.

Photo: Leon Halip/Getty Images

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