NCAA Week 8 Preview: Big Ten Look-Around

October 22, 2016 • Jon Lowe • Big Ten, Front Page, NCAA

Well, I was wrong about the Badgers, but I was pretty darn close to being right. The game at Camp Randall Stadium last week was encouraging for both teams, and it appears that the Badgers may have an offense again. I was also wrong about Michigan State, as I believed they would finally take care of business against Northwestern, but it was the other way around. I also was wrong about who would win the Rutgers-Illinois game, but I don’t think anybody cares about that. However, I was right about Nebraska going on the road and beating Indiana by a slim margin, I was right about Purdue not being able to handle the Iowa Hawkeyes, and I was also right about Minnesota heading into Maryland and winning. As a matter of fact, no team in the Big Ten won a home game on Saturday, but with Rutgers going on the road plus Michigan being at home, that will surely change.

Like usual, I cover the Badger game in a separate article, so Iowa fans and Wisconsin fans will have to check that one out separately. However, there are no byes this week in the Big Ten, and a couple of chances for some teams to make a major push in the schedule. Like it has for the last four weeks, the game Wisconsin is in takes the cake as far as being the game of the week in concerned, but there are still some out there to keep an eye on.

Is 100 Too Much

After their first road trip of the season and then going on a bye last week, Michigan comes back to Ann Arbor to face Illinois. After their 78-0 win over Rutgers on the road, and basically just running the ball, Michigan hosts a pretty bad Illinois team this week. Illinois hasn’t beaten a decent team yet this season, and with Michigan being by far their toughest opponent yet, I find it conceivable that Michigan could actually score 100 this game. Yeah, they probably won’t, but with the way the Illini are playing and how well Michigan did against Rutgers, I wouldn’t put it past them. I’d say 60 is a more reasonable benchmark for Michigan. There likely won’t be another shutout, but if Illinois gets past 19 points I’ll be shocked. Michigan should be at the point after the first quarter. This one is easy. Final score: Michigan 63, Illinois 10.

Still Not a True Test

Yeah, Purdue is actually OK this season, but Nebraska is a top 10 team for a reason. Have they beaten anybody that is truly good yet? No, but they’ve had a few nice wins and it feels like quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. has been there since 1950. Armstrong is a dual-threat QB, and although he doesn’t run it a ton, he still has over 300 yards. Plus, he is fifth in the Big Ten in passing yards. Oh, and with Penn State on a bye week and an injury to Indiana QB Richard Lagow, Purdue QB David Blough took over as the Big Ten pass yards leader. Who would’ve thought a Purdue Boilermaker would be leading the league? I don’t think that’s happened since Drew Brees was there, but I could be mistaken. Anyway, Nebraska shouldn’t let Purdue do too much, especially in Lincoln, so I’ll take Nebraska here. Final score: Nebraska 33, Purdue 21.

Do They Get 10

Well, Minnesota should be heading into a road matchup with Illinois at 5-2, as they have Rutgers coming into town after beating Maryland last week. Minnesota really got the full benefits of the Big Ten schedule, as they don’t play Northwestern, Nebraska, or Wisconsin until the end of the season, and should be 7-2 going into that stretch. I don’t think Minnesota is a real threat yet, but they will appear one to ignorant reporters who solely look at the numbers. Minnesota should have no trouble with Rutgers, and I don’t even want to be talking about Rutgers. They should go back to the American Conference, and we can take Notre Dame or someone else. Anyone else. Final score: Minnesota 35, Rutgers 7.

Pray for Danontio

One of the biggest stories in the Big Ten this season is Michigan State falling off of a cliff after their loss to Wisconsin back in week 4. They went on to lose to Indiana, BYU and Northwestern after that, all games they should have won. Wisconsin has proven to be a formidable opponent this season, even with two losses, but Indiana is 3-3, BYU is an independent, and Northwestern started the season 1-3. I don’t know what went wrong here. Meanwhile, they are going to face a Maryland team that has already proven their 4-0 record to be a sham, but with the way Michigan State is playing, I don’t know if I can pick them to win. That once “dominant” defense let Northwestern score 54 points in East Lansing. If Michigan State can’t win this one, they won’t win again outside of their future Rutgers game. This is the last time I will let myself be fooled by Michigan State. Final score: Michigan State 31, Maryland 21.

Will Lagow Play

I think we all know that Purdue’s quarterback David Blough should not have the most passing yards in the Big Ten. That should belong to Hoosiers quarterback Richard Lagow, who was taken out of the game (I can’t find out why anywhere online) thus allowing Blough to pass him. Anyways, they are travelling to Northwestern this weekend, and this Wildcat team is on the rise after crushing Michigan State’s and beating Iowa the game before. Without Lagow, Northwestern should go back above .500 on the season, and even with him, Indiana probably won’t win this game.  I like this Hoosiers’ team, but not enough to beat a Northwestern team that I’ve been proven wrong about twice now.  I’ve learned my lesson, coach Fitzgerald. Final score: Northwestern 27, Indiana 17.

Game of the Week

Outside of the Iowa-Wisconsin game, there really isn’t a lot of quality games in the Big Ten slate this week. Indiana-Northwestern may be OK, and it will be interesting to see if Michigan State still has a heartbeat.  But I chose the (second) game of the week to be the game with the combined best records, Ohio State travelling to Penn State. Penn State hasn’t had a bad season this year, as one of their two losses is at Michigan, and now they have a chance to try to upset Ohio State. After coming through victorious in Wisconsin, however, I don’t see how they can lose. Wisconsin has the best defense in the country, as Ohio State’s 30 is one less than the combined score of the other two games (Georgia State’s 17 and Michigan’s 14). Penn State doesn’t have that defense, and Penn State might get rolled this week.  I hope to think they will keep it interesting for a while, but Ohio State will get through in the end. Final score: Ohio State 41, Penn State 28.

Photo: Michael Reeves/Getty Images

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