Ohio St. can enhance resume, knock Spartans out of East race
Some things to watch in the Big Ten during Week 12 of the season:
GAME OF THE WEEK: Michigan State at Ohio State. Now the real fun starts in the East Division. Defending national champion Ohio State closes the regular season with the Big Ten's most anticipated games, against the Spartans and Michigan. Winning out sends the Buckeyes back to the Big Ten championship game and strengthens their playoff seeding. A loss puts a huge dent in their conference and national title hopes. For Michigan State, a loss here ends any chance to win the Big Ten.
BEST MATCHUP: Michigan rushing defense vs. Penn State freshman RB Saquon Barkley. The Wolverines gave up 307 yards on the ground to Indiana last week, the most since Ohio State ran for 393 against them two years ago. Michigan remains No. 8 in the nation against the run (103.2 yards per game). But was its struggle against Jordan Howard (238 yards) and the Hoosiers a one-week aberration? The 5-foot-11, 222-pound Barkley is averaging 6.3 yards per carry and coming off a bye week after running for 120 yards and 2 TDs vs. Northwestern.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS: Iowa's Jordan Canzeri (256), Akrum Wadley (204) and LeShun Daniels (195) have each rushed for at least 195 yards in a game. Iowa is the first FBS team since LSU in 1997 to have at least three different players run for 195 yards in a game in the same season. Only Ohio State (254 yards per game) is averaging more than the Hawkeyes' 222 rushing yards in conference games.
LONG SHOT: Northwestern has won two of its last three against Wisconsin but is a 10-point underdog for its visit to Madison. QB Clayton Thorson will have to pull the Wildcats out of an offensive funk if they're going to move into a second-place tie in the West with Wisconsin. Thorson was benched for a couple series in the second half of a 21-14 win over Purdue last week while the Badgers are coming off a bye.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Michigan State QB Connor Cook injured his right shoulder in the first half against Maryland last week and didn't play the second half. Backup Tyler O'Connor did fine while playing about 40 snaps against the Terrapins. But this game is against Ohio State, and the Spartans need Cook at his best, or close to it, to win in Columbus.