Picks, Predictions and Prognosis for Every Week 11 Big Ten Football Game
Lat week the Big Ten saw the return of the Iowa-Wisconsin rivalry and the Heartland Trophy game for the first time since the 2010 season.
This week? The return of the mighty Governor's Victory Bell, which hasn't been played for since that same 2010 season between the mighty rivals that are Penn State and Minnesota.
Luckily, that isn't the biggest game of the week, though, as Nebraska has a chance to make it a two-team race in the Legends division in a big game against Michigan.
Unfortunately, it won't have the national implications most thought it would, but don't be fooled, this game is vital to the present and futures of both programs.
This week doesn't bring a ton of amazing matchups in the Big Ten, but one team should have the spotlight in perhaps the best matchup of the month of November—Wisconsin.
UW hosts BYU in a rare November nonconference contest, one that has BCS Standings implications for both teams.
So, don't sleep on this week's slate of games, there is something for everyone on the menu.
Last Week: 5-1 (5-1 ATS)
2013 Picks: 58-16 (39-34-1 ATS)
*All odds are courtesy VegasInsider.com. All rankings are official BCS rankings.
Penn State at Minnesota (-2.5)
Saturday, Nov. 9 at noon ET (ESPN2)
History tells us to buckle up for the battle for the Governor's Victory Bell. Minnesota officially leads the series 4-3 thanks to Penn State vacating the last four games, which were all wins.
Not only that, but all four of Minnesota's wins have been of the single-digit variety. In total, six of the 11 matchups have been settled that way.
Add that history to how these teams have gone about their respective seasons this year, and you have a very good case that the Gophers will end the losing drought in the series.
That also means a four-game win streak, something that hasn't happened in Big Ten play for the Gophers since 1973.
If Philip Nelson and the Gophers build off of their shockingly good passing performance from last week, Penn State is in some serious trouble.
They may be in trouble anyway, considering how in flux the position is and the fact that they give up nearly 240 yards a game through the air.
A Gophers team that can be balanced on offense is a nightmare for opposing defenses, considering they are just one of four teams to average over 200 yards rushing as a team in the Big Ten.
Interestingly, this game may hinge not on the Gophers run game, but that of Penn State.
Bill Belton has seen a lot of the football the past two games, and he has taken a physical beating to the point that his contact in practice has been limited this week.
What makes me leary of Penn State in this game is Christian Hackenberg against the Gophers secondary—a secondary that has allowed just 214 yards passing per game over the three game win streak.
I'll take that aggressive secondary against Hackenberg and his recent troubles with accuracy (55.5 percent passing over last three games).
Pick: Minnesota 31, Penn State 24
Iowa (-15) at Purdue
Saturday, Nov. 9 at noon ET (BTN)
Let's just get this out of the way—Purdue is a bad football team.
Just how bad though?
They're averaging a whopping 4.2 points a game.
Yes, you read that correctly...4.2 points a game, in conference play.
Iowa's defense is one of the best in the Big Ten, and that all adds up to a bad day for Danny Etling, Akeem Hunt and the rest of the Boilermakers.
On the other side, Iowa fans got good news when starting quarterback Jake Rudock appeared as just that, the starter, on this week's depth chart. He suffered a knee injury during the Wisconsin game and his return makes them an overwhelming favorite.
Add in Mark Weisman and a power running game against a weak defense, and things could get ugly quick in West Lafayette.
Pick: Iowa 38, Purdue 10
Illinois at Indiana (-10)
Saturday, Nov. 9 at 3:30 p.m. ET (BTN)
If you like offense this will be the game to watch this weekend. These two teams combine to average 71 points a game and 913.8 yards a game.
Defensively, things are the exact opposite, as the Hoosiers and Illini are two of the worst teams in the Big Ten in that area.
They are so bad that the best either team ranks in any major category in the Big Ten is eight, which is Illinois' ranking in pass defense.
That may be the key to who wins what should be a shootout.
At least the Illini defense has the ability to get a stop or two when needed through the air.
The Illini are staring an 18-game losing streak in the face, and earlier this week it was made clear that they are sick of the losing.
Will they have enough to get it done on the road in Bloomington?
Expect this game to come down to who can actually stop the opposing run game, which seems counter-intuitive, but is reality.
Tevin Coleman is a huge threat with the ball in his hands, averaging over 92 yards a game and 6.4 yards a carry this season, while also being a major contributor in the pass game as well.
Illinois also have a dual-threat running back on their hands in Josh Ferguson, who leads the team with 395 yards rushing and 31 catches.
It all adds up to these teams being near mirror images of each other and a game that will likely be very close and perhaps the highest scoring game since Michigan-Indiana earlier this year.
Pick: Indiana 45, Illinois 38
Nebraska at Michigan (-7)
Saturday, Nov. 9 at 3:30 p.m. ET (ABC)
When the season started, this matchup had major Big Ten championship implications written all over it.
Fast forward 11 weeks and these two teams are fighting to just keep their hopes of a Legends Division title from completely collapsing.
Michigan's hopes are hanging by a thread after its bad loss to Michigan State, while Nebraska has a chance with a win to be the only team that is left to challenge the Spartans.
The key matchup on Saturday doesn't feature a star player vs. a star player, but it is old-school Big Ten and that's because the game will be decided in the trenches.
Breaking it down even further, it could specifically come down to Michigan's defensive line versus Nebraska's offensive line.
Since losing Spencer Long, the Nebraska offensive line hasn't quite been the same, and if Michigan has a hope of winning the game they need to win the battle upfront and control the Huskers run game a bit.
Of course, that's been easier said than done with a guy like Ameer Abdullah in the backfield.
Abdullah is averaging 160.9 yards a game in conference play, which is nearly 30 yards more a game than his season average.
He is known for the explosive play and we've seen this Michigan defense give up plenty of those throughout the season.
The only question mark is who will be at quarterback for the Huskers. If it's Martinez, Michigan could be in some serious trouble.
Conversely, Michigan needs to prove its offensive line can come together and put last weekend behind them. Nebraska is fourth in conference play in sacks, and if they are forcing Gardner to run or make quick decisions that doesn't bode well for the Wolverine's chances.
Pick: Nebraska 31, Michigan 21
BYU at No. 24 Wisconsin (-7.5)
Saturday, Nov. 9 at 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Nebraska-Michigan may have the biggest name value, but if you're looking for the best football game in the Big Ten this weekend—look no further than Camp Randall in Madison, Wisconsin.
BYU and Wisconsin is not only a matchup of 6-2 football teams, but two great running offenses.
These two teams are both ranked in the top 15 in rushing as a team, with Wisconsin averaging 287 yards a game and BYU 258.8 yards a game.
Something has to give, then, and the difference may be the ability of each team to stop the run game, which is a huge advantage to the host Badgers.
Wisconsin is 5th against the run nationally, giving up 90.3 yards per game on the year.
However, it isn't just how good they were against bad nonconference opponents either, as the Badgers are giving up 93.6 yards to conference opponents.
BYU on the other hand? They rank just inside the top 50 and are giving up over 145 yards a game.
If the Cougars pull the upset, it will be because they will have a balanced approach on offense, which is what they've done nearly all season—averaging just six more yards a game on the ground than through the air.
Wisconsin at home is a tough team to bet against, and this weekend they pick up a very nice win for their resume in a close and highly entertaining football game.
Pick: Wisconsin 38, BYU 30