Here’s what to watch in the Big Ten this week:
GAME OF THE WEEK
No. 13 Michigan State (No. 12 CFP) at No. 11 Ohio State (No. 13 CFP).
First place in the East will be on the line. Michigan State is coming into the game off a stunning upset of Penn State. The Buckeyes’ hopes for getting to the college playoffs took a major hit with a loss at Iowa. Ohio State has won 10 of 13. This could be a wide-open game. Spartans QB Brian Lewerke threw for 400 yards against Penn State, one week after throwing for a school-record 445 yards against Northwestern. He is the first Spartan quarterback to post consecutive 400-yard passing games and the third Big Ten student in the past 20 years to pull off that feat (Purdue’s Drew Brees in 1998; Northwestern’s C.J. Bacher in 2007). Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett has thrown for 2,374 yards and 28 touchdowns. J.K. Dobbins is on pace to become the fourth freshman in program history to rush for 1,000 yards.
While they won’t be on the field together, the game between No. 6 Wisconsin and No. 25 Iowa will be decided by the defenses. Wisconsin ranks No. 4 nationally in scoring defense (13.3 points per game) and is No. 5 in total defense, allowing an average of 267.8 yards. The Badgers rank No 4 in rushing defense (87.8) and No. 5 in passing efficiency defense (99.1). Iowa ranks No. 16 nationally in scoring defense (18.1). It has held eight opponents below their scoring average.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin have clinched bowl berths by reaching six victories on the season. … Iowa QB Nate Stanley has 22 touchdown passes, tied for 11th in the nation. … Penn State RB Saquon Barkley needs 136 rushing yards for his third 1,000-yard rushing season. . Nittany Lions QB Trace McSorley has thrown a touchdown pass in 24 straight games. … Rutgers has 27 touchdowns in nine games this season compared to 23 all of last year. … Northwestern became the first FBS program to win three consecutive overtime games after the Wildcats’ 31-24 victory at Nebraska last weekend. … Minnesota senior punter Ryan Santoso leads the conference with a 44.5-yard average. … Nebraska junior receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. is second in the Big Ten in receiving yards (690), receiving yards per game (86.3), and receiving touchdowns (7). … Illinois has 14 forced fumbles, tied the lead the nation in forced fumbles per game (1.56) along with Tennessee, Mississippi State, Utah State and Nevada. … Indiana is the only program in the country to face three top five opponents and one of two (West Virginia) to meet five ranked foes this season.
No. 25 Iowa, 13½ point underdog at No. 6 Wisconsin
Iowa waxed Ohio State last weekend and it is now a two-touchdown underdog against Wisconsin. Stanley is throwing touchdowns and the Hawkeyes have shown they can score. Why not two upsets in a row. Wisconsin needs to win if it wants any shot at a berth in the playoff tournament.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Maryland QB Ryan Brand, if he plays.
The walk-on took over for a dinged Max Bortenschlager on Maryland’s final series against Rutgers and led a 16-play drive that ended with an incomplete pass in the end zone. The incompletion came after a touchdown pass was nullified by a holding call. He was 8 for 12 for 68 yards and looked like he knew what he was doing. Michigan will be a bigger test but the Terps need wins to become bowl eligible.
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