Another week, another Big Ten showdown
A look at what to watch in the Big Ten this weekend:
GAME OF THE WEEK: Last weekend, Ohio State established its supremacy in the East Division with a victory at Michigan State. Now it’s time for a showdown in the West when No. 22 Wisconsin (7-2, 4-1) hosts No. 11 Nebraska (8-1, 4-1).
Those two are tied for first place with Minnesota, and since the Golden Gophers (7-2, 4-1) have to play No. 8 Ohio State, the Wisconsin-Nebraska winner could easily be alone atop the division by Sunday morning.
”Looking forward to playing a heck of a football team in a great environment,” Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. ”We know we’re going to be really challenged.”
Ohio State (8-1, 5-0) is ranked No. 8 by the college football playoff committee, and the Buckeyes look like the league’s likeliest potential entry. But Nebraska is 16th, and its only loss was at Michigan State. Win out, and maybe the Cornhuskers can mount a case.
Wisconsin and Nebraska haven’t played since the Badgers routed the Cornhuskers 70-31 in the 2012 Big Ten title game.
BEST MATCHUP: Aside from Wisconsin-Nebraska, the Minnesota-Ohio State game is the one with the most obvious Big Ten title implications. The Gophers play both Nebraska and Wisconsin after this weekend, so all is not lost even if they fall to Ohio State.
Minnesota presents another tough road challenge for the Buckeyes, although they had a surprisingly easy time moving the ball last weekend in their 49-37 victory over Michigan State. Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett has thrown for 26 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He’s completed 64 percent of his passes.
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said Minnesota’s success this year makes it easier for his team to avoid a letdown. There should be no taking the Gophers lightly.
”It’s not by accident the way they’re winning games,” Meyer said. ”This is an excellent team – in my opinion a top 25 team without question.”
INSIDE THE NUMBERS: Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah leads the nation with 187.9 all-purpose yards per game, while Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon leads with 166.8 yards rushing per game. Gordon is second to Abdullah in all-purpose yards per game. … Penn State hosts Temple this weekend in a series the Nittany Lions lead 38-3-1. … Indiana’s Tevin Coleman rushed for 71 yards last weekend against Penn State, finishing below 100 for the first time all year.
LONG SHOT: Maryland (6-3, 3-2) is having a solid season in its first year of Big Ten play, and this weekend’s home game against No. 12 Michigan State (7-2, 4-1) offers a chance for a signature win. The Spartans are coming off their first loss to any Big Ten opponent since 2012, and beating them will be a tough task for the Terrapins. But with its hopes of a national title now pretty much gone, Michigan State will need to guard against a letdown.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Abdullah, Nebraska’s star running back, has been dealing with a left knee injury from earlier this month, although he was able to practice this week wearing a brace. The three-time 1,000-yard rusher had some extra time to rest because the Cornhuskers didn’t play last weekend. He was hurt Nov. 1 against Purdue.
Abdullah had only five carries against Wisconsin in the 2012 league title game.