Things to watch during Week 6 of play in the Big Ten Conference:
GAME OF THE WEEK
Iowa (3-2, 1-1 Big Ten) at Illinois (4-1, 1-1)
Illinois is riding a wave of momentum under second-year coach Bret Bielema, and he put out a call to fans to fill the stadium for an “Orange Out” at only the third Saturday night Big Ten game in Champaign since 2014. An Illini win would be a fourth in a row and set up another huge home game against Minnesota next week. Iowa could use a quality win to jumpstart its West Division title defense. Look for a low-scoring game in the matchup of two of the country’s best defenses.
Purdue (3-2, 1-1) at Maryland (4-1, 1-1)
This game features two of the Big Ten’s top quarterbacks in Purdue’s Aidan O’Connell and Maryland’s Taulia Tagovailoa. O’Connell was good enough to beat Minnesota in his return from injury despite not throwing a touchdown pass for the first time in 14 games. Tagovailoa has led the Terrapins’ surge the first half of the season, averaging a Big Ten-best 301 yards per game in total offense and establishing himself as one of the program’s most prolific passers.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Wisconsin is 0-2 in the Big Ten as Jim Leonhard enters the game at Northwestern, his first as interim head coach. The Badgers haven’t finished below .500 in conference play since 2008. … No. 3 Ohio State has won six straight over Michigan State by an average score of 38-6. … Rutgers, which hosts Nebraska on Friday night, is 8-0 since 2020 when not committing a turnover. … At 9-8, Bielema is the first Illinois coach to start .500 or better through his first 17 games since John Mackovic was 10-6-1 in 1988-89. … No. 4 Michigan is 5-0 in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2010-11. … LB Cam Jones’ 54 tackles are the most by an Indiana player through five games since at least 2005.
Northwestern is a 9 1/2-point home underdog to Wisconsin, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. There’s probably no better time for the Wildcats to play the Badgers, who are transitioning from Paul Chryst to Leonhard. Northwestern won 17-7 when the Badgers visited Ryan Field in 2020. The Wildcats are 5-18 since and have lost 10 of 11, the only win coming against Nebraska in the opener.
Nebraska QB Casey Thompson on Monday volunteered to reporters — and Rutgers’ physical defense — a rundown of body parts injured this season: calf, shoulder, wrist, hip, jaw. He held his right (throwing) shoulder and was slow to get up after a big hit from Indiana last week. The Huskers will be playing their first true road game against the Scarlet Knights, and it’s crucial for him to be on the field if the Huskers are going to win consecutive Big Ten games for the first time since 2018.
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