Some things to watch in the Big Ten Conference during Week 7 of the season:
GAME OF THE WEEK: No. 7 Michigan State (6-0, 2-0) at No. 12 Michigan (5-1, 2-0). The winner of this game gains the inside track to challenging Ohio State for superiority in the East Division. The Spartans have won six of the last seven meetings, but Michigan has come on so strong under first-year coach Jim Harbaugh that the Wolverines actually are favored. Michigan State struggled at Rutgers last week and its defense hasn’t been nearly as stout as in years past. Michigan, meanwhile, has posted three straight shutouts and would merit joining the College Football Playoff discussion with a win at the Big House.
BEST MATCHUP: Northwestern defense vs. Iowa offense. The Wildcats (5-1, 1-1) are smarting after losing 38-0 at Michigan. Their defense still is allowing just 12.2 points and 269.5 yards a game and has a chance to atone at home. The Hawkeyes (6-0, 2-0) have shown great balance while generating 31.7 points and 409.3 yards a game. They probably will be without four offensive starters, and QB C.J. Beathard is banged up but said he’ll play.
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INSIDE THE NUMBERS: Wisconsin (4-2, 1-1) will be going for a 10th straight win against Purdue (1-5, 0-2). That would extend the longest win streak by either team in the 83-game series. The Badgers’ average winning margin over the last nine meetings is 23.4 points. Wisconsin has outscored the Boilermakers 140-27 in the last three games in Madison. … WR Leonte Carroo of Rutgers (2-3, 0-2) goes into the game at Indiana (4-2, 0-2) with six touchdowns in 10 quarters played. He’s averaging a TD every 3.88 receptions in his career.
LONG SHOT: Penn State (5-1, 2-0), which pushed Ohio State to two overtimes before losing 31-24 in Happy Valley last year, has an opportunity to put its program back on the national radar. No one has been impressed with any of Penn State’s wins to date, and the Lions go to the Horseshoe as 17-point underdogs. Ohio State (6-0, 2-0) still is looking for that breakout game, and you can be sure Joey Bosa and the rest of the Buckeyes’ front seven will be coming hard after Christian Hackenberg.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner is going to be asked to pass, maybe a lot, against Nebraska (2-4, 0-2). It makes sense. The Cornhuskers have the nation’s worst pass defense and last week Wisconsin did the unthinkable for its program by throwing 50 times in Lincoln. The Gophers (4-2, 1-1) have run on 57 percent of their plays, and Leidner is 11th in Big Ten passer rating. If he’s even decent against the Huskers, that just might be good enough for Minnesota.