Here’s what to watch in the Big Ten this week:
GAME OF THE WEEK
No. 16 Michigan at No. 7 Penn State
This feels like a must-win situation for Michigan (5-1, 3-1) if it hopes to stay in the Big Ten East race. For Penn State (6-0, 3-0), this is the only home game in a challenging four-game stretch that continues with trips to Michigan State and Minnesota. The Wolverines routed Penn State at the Big House last year and have won four of the last five meetings. Beaver Stadium promises to be rocking with the fans all dressed in white T-shirts. The annual “Whiteout” is reserved for the most important home game of the season.
Michigan front seven vs. Penn State offensive line
The Wolverines have 12 of their 19 sacks the last two weeks and will be looking to put heat on Big Ten passing yards leader Sean Clifford. LB Josh Uche had three sacks last week against Illinois, and DL Kwity Paye had 2.5 the week before against Iowa. Penn State’s line has protected better than it did last season, having allowed 10 sacks in six games, but Michigan’s blitzing linebackers are formidable. Penalties also are an issue. Penn State’s line was flagged four times for holding and once for a false start, all in the second half, against Iowa last week.
FACTS AND FIGURES
Ohio State (at Northwestern) is playing a regular-season game on a Friday night for the second time, and first since 1959. … Northwestern is going for its first win over the Buckeyes since 2004 and its first over a top-five opponent since 1961. … Iowa (vs. Purdue) has a total of 15 points in its last two games, its lowest for back-to-back games since losses of 31-0 to Illinois and 38-10 to Ohio State in 2000. … Wisconsin (at Illinois) will be playing its first away game in 50 days, the longest in-season stretch between road games since at least 1946. … Illinois leads the nation in forced fumbles (11) and fumble recoveries (10). … Minnesota will be the final Big Ten team to make its first initial visit to Rutgers. … Maryland (vs. Indiana) has forced a turnover in 18 straight games, the longest streak in the Big Ten.
Purdue, 17-point underdog at Iowa
QB Jack Plummer has grown into the starter’s role since Elijah Sindelar’s latest injury, and he looks quite comfortable as long as his offensive line keeps him upright. Freshman WR David Bell is picking up the slack with Rondale Moore injured, with 20 of his 26 catches coming in the last three games. The Boilermakers’ problems always come back to the defense. The good news for them is that Iowa is having difficulty finding offensive rhythm, though that can be explained away by the fact the Hawkeyes have faced two of the nation’s best defenses the last two weeks.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Indiana WR Whop Philyor
The junior is the hottest receiver in the Big Ten, following up his 14-catch game against Michigan State with 10 more against Rutgers. This could be another big week for him. The Hoosiers go on the road to Maryland and will be playing against the conference’s worst pass defense.
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