Penn St. can dent Michigan playoff hopes, polish bowl resume
Here’s what to watch in the Big Ten this week:
No. 14 Penn State at No. 5 Michigan
Michigan (7-1, 5-0, No. 5 CFP) needs a win to remain at least one game ahead of Ohio State in the Big Ten East and further enhance its resume for the College Football Playoff. The Nittany Lions (6-2, 3-2, No. 14 CFP) are all but out of the East race, but they could still make a New Year’s bowl if they win out.
Blough had been about the hottest thing going in the Big Ten before throwing three interceptions last week against Michigan State, his last one coming at the Spartans’ 22 when the Boilermakers (4-4, 3-2) were down 16-13 with 10 minutes left in a 23-13 loss. Blough faces another big challenge against Iowa (6-2, 3-2, No. 16 CFP), which held Trace McSorley and Tommy Stevens to 13-of-29 passing for 194 yards in a loss at Penn State.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Nebraska and Ohio State have combined for 1,800 all-time victories. Ohio State is second all-time with 905 victories; Nebraska is fifth with 895 wins. … Raheem Blackshear leads Rutgers with 90 rushing attempts and 27 receptions. The last time the same player led the Scarlet Knights in those two categories was Brian Leonard in 2003 (213 carries, 53 receptions). … Wisconsin’s Paul Chryst, with a win over Rutgers, would become the third coach in modern Big Ten history to win 40 games in his first four seasons at a school. The first two were Urban Meyer (50, 2012-15) and Jim Tressel (40, 2001-04), both of Ohio State. … In the six quarters since he took over as the starter, Minnesota QB Tanner Morgan has completed 28 of 40 passes (70 percent) for 516 yards and three touchdowns and rushed six times for 33 yards and one TD. … Illinois RB Reggie Corbin’s 8.03 yards per carry ranks first in the Big Ten and second nationally. … Michigan State would become the 27th FBS program to win 700 games if it beats Maryland. The Spartans are 699-456-44 all-time. … The Maryland defense’s 14 interceptions are tied for most in the country, with Fresno State and LSU. The Terrapins are the only Big Ten team with at least one interception in every game.
Northwestern, 9 ½-point underdog at home to Notre Dame
The Wildcats (5-3) have had a charmed season, starting 1-3 before ascending to the top of the Big Ten West. This nonconference game against the third-ranked and unbeaten Irish (8-0, No. 4 CFP) is a chance for Northwestern to raise its profile and ding Notre Dame’s playoff hopes. In their last meeting, in 2014, Northwestern erased an 11-point deficit late in the fourth quarter to beat the Irish 43-40 in overtime in South Bend.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
The Buckeyes‘ ground game has generated fewer than 100 yards in two straight games, a major red flag for an offense that needs Dobbins and Weber to complement precision passer Dwayne Haskins. Teams committed to the run can do damage against Nebraska, the Buckeyes’ opponent this week, so this is an opportunity for Dobbins and Weber to get well.