I strongly considered including the LSU-Alabama showdown in this week's Big Ten preview. After all, the two editions of that SEC matchup last year featured defensive slugfests only the staunchest of Big Ten fans could be proud of. It remains to be seen if those two teams will be able to find the end zone tonight or if it will be Michigan State-Wisconsin, Part II.
Back to the heartland, there's five Big Ten Conference games on the schedule. Badger fans will want to keep an eye on the Indiana-Iowa game in Bloomington, as the Hoosiers will look to keep the Leaders Division berth to Indianapolis in play with a win over the Hawkeyes. In East Lansing, Michigan State takes on Nebraska in an important divisional road test for the Huskers. Finally, keep your eye on the Battle for the Little Brown Jug. Sure, Minnesota has fared even worse against Michigan than against Wisconsin in the past 20 years, but the Wolverines should be on upset alert today.
Week 10 (all games on Saturday):
11 AM CT:
Michigan Wolverines (5-3 overall, 3-1 Big Ten) at Minnesota Golden Gophers (5-3, 1-3) [BTN]: The Little Brown Jug rivalry game kicks off today's Big Ten slate at TCF Bank Stadium. The Gophers have not had much success in this rivalry, winning only one of the last 21 meetings between the two teams (the victory was in 2005). Even more absurd is the fact that Minnesota hasn't won at home against Michigan since 1977. So does Minnesota have any chance of breaking the 35-year home drought? Freshman quarterback Philip Nelson's excellent performance last week against Purdue offers real hope for the future in Dinkytown. But Denard Robinson will be back after missing the second half of the loss to Nebraska due to injury, and Michigan's offense is hard to slow down when he's healthy. This one will be closer than conventional wisdom would suggest, but the Gopher defense just doesn't have the chops to keep Michigan out of the end zone.
Line: Michigan -10.5. Prediction: Michigan 34, Minnesota 24.
2:30 PM CT:
#20 Nebraska Cornhuskers (6-2, 3-1) at Michigan State Spartans (5-4, 2-3) [ABC/ESPN2]: Nebraska is currently in the driver's seat to win the Legends Division, but a trip to East Lansing has the potential to end that narrative faster than you can say "Little Giants." It's hard to get much going against Michigan State's defense, and the Spartans offense has to be feeling confident after finishing strong in last week's win in Madison. One thing is for sure: Nebraska will have to establish their offense both on the ground and through the air. One-dimensional offenses can't get much done against Sparty. If the Huskers can keep the Spartan defense guessing, they will be able to do just enough to secure a close victory.
Line: Nebraska -1. Prediction: Nebraska 21, Michigan State 17.
Illinois Fighting Illini (2-6, 0-4) at Ohio State Buckeyes (9-0, 5-0) [ESPN]: Ohio State hasn't been afraid to play down to their opponent's level this season, exhibit A being the Indiana game. And the OSU defense will give up its fair share of points. Still, Illinois isn't going to get a dismal first season under Tim Beckman turned around on the road against the last undefeated team in the conference. There's just too much going awry on both sides of the ball for the Illini. The Buckeyes retain possession of Illibuck with an easy victory, though garbage time points from Illinois ensure that the over hits in this one.
Line: Ohio State -27.5. Prediction: Ohio State 44, Illinois 14.
Penn State Nittany Lions (5-3, 3-1) at Purdue Boilermakers (3-5, 0-4) [ESPNU]: This game features two of the more interesting coaching situations in the conference. Purdue's Danny Hope is in severe jeopardy of losing his job after a 0-4 start to conference play, the most recent loss coming at the hands of Minnesota. Penn State's Bill O'Brien has done a masterful job leading his team to a 5-3 record in less than desirable circumstances, but things won't be getting any easier for him and his program in the next few seasons due to ongoing scholarship reductions and bowl ban. I think Purdue could win if they play inspired football, but Penn State has already displayed an ability to take care of business on the road this season.
Line: Penn State -3.5. Prediction: Penn State 27, Purdue 17.
Iowa Hawkeyes (4-4, 2-2) at Indiana Hoosiers (3-5, 1-3) [BTN]: Everything's coming up crimson and cream. Not only do they have the preseason #1 basketball team in Bloomington, but the football team is emerging as a dark horse in the Leaders Division race. You should be skeptical of the chances of Indiana actually heading to Indianapolis for the B1G Championship, but it could turn into an ugly race to the bottom if the Hoosiers beat the Badgers next week. This one doesn't matter quite as much for Indiana, but every win helps at this juncture of the season. The Indiana offense should be fine no matter who is throwing the ball. The Iowa offense? Hard to say. AIRBHG has been one busy deity this year, but sophomore halfback Damon Bullock will play and could find some success against the Hoosier defense. I'm going to pick Indiana to win their first home game against a FBS opponent, but I can't say I feel confident about my pick. Anything could happen.
Line: Indiana -2. Prediction: Indiana 28, Iowa 24.
Season to Date:
Overall Record: 55-19 (74.3%); Last Week: 3-3.
Record Against the Spread: 41-32-1 (56.1%); Last Week: 2-4.