Road to The Roses: The 12 Biggest Games Left In The Big Ten
Thus far into the season it has become apparent that the Big Ten has not come to shape as some may have predicted before the season began.
The Michigan State Spartans have shaken the scene of the conference up with an undefeated 7-0 start with key wins over Notre Dame and Michigan; however they have not played a game yet outside of the state of Michigan.
The Iowa Hawkeyes who were tauted by many to perhaps win the conference have proven to be a true contender for the title; with convincing wins over Michigan and Penn State. The true tests for the Hawkeyes still lie ahead, but are in Kinnick.
The Purdue Boilermakers are 2-0 in conference play despite key injuries which include a season-ending knee injury to quarterback Robert Marve. Few expect them to keep up this pace, but a bowl appearance is not out of the question at this point.
The Wisconsin Badgers are the team of interest for many as they recently knocked off the top team in the country in Ohio State. An easy schedule awaits them if they can walk out of Iowa City with a win, and a conference title is possible.
The Ohio State Buckeyes for obvious reasons cannot be discounted to still be the top dog in the conference after the loss in Madison.
As for the rest of the teams in the conference, any one of them could make a late season run, and position themselves nicely for an excellent bowl, minus Minnesota.
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Wisconsin Badgers at Iowa Hawkeyes
This is a game that could prove to be the catapult that launches the winner to the Rose Bowl, and the loser to the Gator Bowl.
Wisconsin and more specifically running back John Clay have had their struggles against the Hawkeyes in recent years, and it will not be easy to get the offense going when it gets loud in Kinnick Stadium. Bret Bielema, an Iowa graduate wants to win this one very badly, will no doubt pull out all the stops to keep the momentum of the Ohio State victory rolling.
Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes look to capture the Heartland Trophy yet again in this matchup, as Ricky Stanzi tries to move his team's winning streak to four. Iowa has the advantage of home-field and this one will be in the trenches.
Michigan State Spartans at Northwestern Wildcats
Michigan State is the darling of the conference at the moment as some have already penned them in for a date in Pasadena already. They have a tough defense led by Greg Jones, and a well-rounded offensive attack. Every week they win—they prove more and more doubters wrong. They go into Evanston looking to move up the top ten.
Northwestern is lying silently in the grass ready to shock the world with an upset; which over the years has become their speciality. Last year they ruined the Iowa Hawkeyes dreams of a perfect season, and in year's before did the same to Ohio State and Michigan. This year they are a talented bunch led by a outstanding motivator in Pat Fitzgerald, and they could win this game.
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Michigan Wolverines at Penn State Nittany Lions
This is one of the games that could end up shaping the future destiny's of these two storied programs.
Michigan is in a very weird place right now. With two straight loses at home many believe they will fall into the rut that they did last season. Others think that the offensive power with Denard Robinson will lead them back to a bowl this season, and greater things next year. Either way Rich Rodriguez needs to beat a struggling Nittany Lions team to keep the favor of a fan base that doesn't accept this volume of losing.
With the way things are going for the Nittany Lions this season so expect that legendary coach Joe Paterno may step aside after this season. It has been said before in past year's, and the team has answered the bell for their coach. I do not expect Penn State to go quietly into the night, and finish in 10th in the conference ahead of the miserable Golden Gophers.
Michigan State Spartans at Iowa Hawkeyes
Nobody can forget Marvin McNutt of the Hawkeyes catching the pass last season at the end of regulation to give Iowa a stunning win in East Lansing over Michigan State.
This win propelled Iowa onto a BCS berth, and Orange Bowl victory; while Michigan State was relegated to middle of the conference mediocrity. One play changed everything, and it can be expected that this game will come down to the wire. Looking at the gamut of games that weekend it would appear Gameday would be in Iowa City for this battle as the top matchup.
Iowa will have to rely on runner Adam Robinson against the hard-nosed Spartan defense. If he has a big day than it could lead to a Hawkeye victory, and shift the power of control to the Hawks. If Michigan State stops Robinson and Stanzi than MSU will avenge last season.
Michigan State has alot of rivalry games on their schedule, but for the players that were a part of the game last season, they may have circled this matchup on their calendars. This should be a close one, and this could be the game that defines Kirk Cousins career.
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Illinois Fighting Illini at Michigan Wolverines
Few would have thought that this game would have the meaning that it should have in week 10.
Both head coaches are thought of to be the next most likely to be on the chopping blocks now that Minnesota coach Tim Brewster is gone. Illinois went into State College and surprised the Nittany Lions with a commanding victory. They also played Michigan State tough for one half of football before faltering. If they can get Mikell LeShoure going in the Big House than it could be a big win for the Zooker.
Plainly put, Rich Rod needs to soundly win this matchup. If they lose big than it could bring about some decisions to be made in the off-season. Hopefully Denard Robinson will be 100 percent by that period of time, and will be back to his dominance that he showed in the first month of football.
Wisconsin Badgers at Purdue Boilermakers
If the Badgers are able to go into Iowa City, and come out victorious they will have beaten the top two teams in the conference in the preseason in consecutive weeks. They than go into a bye week before playing the Boilermakers on the road. It was that point in the year that a confident Buckeyes team went into Purdue last year, and were spanked. Wisconsin has to keep their guard up for this one, as they have weaknesses that can be exploited.
Purdue seems to be placing themselves as the team that could spoil many of these "top teams" dreams this season. If they keep playing their brand of football, and pass rusher Ryan Kerrigan keeps playing like an All-American they could win this game.
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Iowa Hawkeyes at Northwestern Wildcats
Two people that want to win this game more than anybody, Ricky Stanzi and Pat Fitzgerald.
Stanzi hurt his ankle when tackled by Corey Wooten of the Wildcats last season; which knocked him out of the game, and played a part in the Hawkeyes first lose of the season in that game. The Hawkeye QB was also forced to miss the next game in his home state of Ohio against the Buckeyes; which was for a Rose Bowl berth, and Big Ten Title.
Fitzgerald broke his leg in the Rose Bowl for the Wildcats when he was an All-American linebacker. It occurred in a late season game against none other than Hayden Fry, and the Iowa Hawkeyes. Since than Coach Fitzgerald has taken pleasure in beating the Hawkeyes on several occasions over the past five years.
This game will be interesting no matter what the outcome is.
Penn State Nittany Lions at Ohio State Buckeyes
Penn State will be hoping to be playing for a decent bowl game at this point, or at the very least avenge the embarrassing 16 point loss that they suffered at home against Ohio State last season. They could be ruining the Buckeyes chance at being conference champions; which has been one of the only consistencies in the Big Ten in recent years.
Ohio State runs into the big fellas' of the conference over the course of the last few weeks of the season, and last season they ran the gauntlet defeated Penn State, Iowa, and Michigan. This season they have to do it again with two of these games at home. If Pryor plays like he did last season against the Nittany Lions then this one could get ugly.
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Ohio State Buckeyes at Iowa Hawkeyes
Last season this contest was the un-official Big Ten Title Game in Columbus.
The Hawkeyes played a gutsy game behind true freshmen quarterback James Vandenburg who was thrown into the lion's den in front of a national audience, and a frenzied Horseshoe. This season Ricky Stanzi hopefully will be under center, and it should yet again be a close affair coming down to the wire, and be put on the leg of either Devin Barclay or Michael Meyer.
The Buckeyes will be hoping to quite the loud Iowa fans early, and somehow stop Adrian Clayborn from making big plays; which he has done so frequently under the bright lights. Jim Tressel has owned the Hawkeyes in his tenure, and no matter what the situation, the Buckeyes are always to be favored.
Wisconsin Badgers at Michigan Wolverines
This battle should be an explosive affair this year.
In the Big House the Wolverines will be hopefully be trying to put the final touches on a bowl bound season. A victory over the team that defeated the No. 1 team in the country at one point would and should stamp their ticket to a bowl destination somewhere.
Wisconsin could be playing for more than simply a bowl appearance at this period of time. Bret Bielema could be trying to bring the Badgers to Pasadena for the first time since the days of Ron Dayne and Brooks Bollinger under Barry Alvarez.
Also a bonus game of interest will be the Northwestern vs. Illinois game at Wrigley Field.
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Michigan State Spartans at Penn State Nittany Lions
Michigan State could be playing for all the marbles in this one.
A Rose Bowl, A perfect season, and a title could be on the line against JoePa. Coach Dantonio will have to have his boys in check as many will no doubt be rooting against his Spartans in a cold and loud stadium full of white.
Could this be JoePa's last game as the coach of the Nittany Lions?
It could be a very important game both in terms of Big Ten rankings and in a sentimental sense as well.
Michigan Wolverines at Ohio State Buckeyes
The Big Game
Every year it is the game that every college fan comes to wait for in anticipation. This year will be no different.
With the changes in the conference coming with the addition of Nebraska next season no one knows how the change will affect or damper the rivalry of rivalries.
Jim Tressel has dominated the Wolverines over his tenure in Columbus, and Rich Rodriguez is still looking for that trademark win in the maize and blue. It could be the end of the T-Pryor era in Columbus as he may come out early, and it could be Denard Robinson's chance to have his "moment" in the rivalry like Charles Woodson and Desmond Howard before him.