Just as it is every Saturday, Week 9 brings huge Big Ten implications to the table. Michigan State travels to Lincoln to take on the Cornhuskers for power in the Legends division, while Iowa and Michigan look to keep their name in the running. Can Penn State continue to be the Leaders' front-runner?
Here are my predictions for the Big Ten on Saturday.
An upset was pulled by the Golden Gophers last season, as they won the Floyd of Rosedale in a 27-24 shocker. Could that happen again?
Iowa comes in with a relatively worse team than last season, at least visually. The defense lost players such as Clayborn and Sash, and has also dealt with scattered injuries. It has, surprisingly, been their weak point after so many years of carrying the team.
Fortunately for the Hawkeyes, Marvin McNutt and James Vandenburg are on a tear. The offense has brought this team to 5-2 overall, 2-1 in conference.
On the other side, Minnesota seems frustrated by the lack of growth from year to year. They have only a single win this season, accompanied by six defeats. They do have Marqueis Gray, who is leading the Gophers in both rushing and passing. Iowa has struggled with elusive quarterbacks this season, so that would be what Minnesota has to build on in order to win this game.
I see the Hawkeyes being more focused this season than last, and taking this game over, but they will give up some points with the struggling defense. This should be similar to the Indiana game.
Iowa 49 Minnesota 24
A battle of the Wildcats (2-5) and the Hoosiers (1-7) for their first win in the Big Ten takes place at 11:00 a.m. CT on Saturday.
This isn't exactly a powerhouse battle, but...I'm not sure where I'm going with that. This game doesn't decide anything but if Northwestern can hold on to a slim chance of a bowl game. Northwestern is not as bad as their record indicates, and neither is Dan Persa. He should dominate Indiana, a team that is as bad as their record indicates.
Northwestern 38 Indiana 17
The Boilermakers are on their way back to being a middle-of-the-road football team, and should keep improving. They also are not as bad as their 4-3 record shows, and should give Michigan (6-1) a run for their money...and that's just what Michigan will be doing: running with Denard Robinson.
Michigan's hopes of winning the Big Ten were put on hold as their cross-state rival Spartans beat them two weeks ago. The Wolverines still have a hope if Sparty goes down to Nebraska and another Big Ten team and Michigan wins out. Purdue will give them a shot, but Shoelace holds on.
Michigan 31 Purdue 24
Illinois seemed overrated to me this entire season, and the last two weeks they have proven it with losses to Ohio State and Purdue. Can they bounce back against a team currently undefeated in the Big Ten in Penn State?
Penn State's defense is keeping them at the top of the Leaders division. They finally settled on Matt McGloin at quarterback, and have found offensive life with Silas Redd at running back.
Illinois (6-2, 2-2) is essentially out of the race for the Leaders division, but can still make an impact in the bowl race, although they will drop their third straight in a close one.
Penn State 21 Illinois 20
Before the season, this looked huge. It still is, but not nearly as hefty as it could have been.
Wisconsin (6-1, 2-1) still controls their own fate to the Big Ten championship game, but lost any hope of a national championship after last week's loss on a Hail Mary to Michigan State in the closing seconds.
Ohio State (4-3, 1-2) delivered Illinois their first defeat of the season in their last contest, and have been preparing the last two weeks for Russell Wilson and the Badgers. Dan Herron looks to be back where he was last season, despite missing the opening five games.
Ohio State keeps it close for three quarters, but Wilson pulls his team away in the fourth.
Wisconsin 38 Ohio State 17
Can Nebraska make a statement in the Big Ten? The Sea of Red will be doing their part, as always.
Michigan State enters a whole new atmosphere when they pull into Lincoln. This will be Taylor Martinez's most important game of the season thus far. With a win, Nebraska will control the Legends the rest of the way.
If Michigan State wins, the only threat left in the Legends will be Iowa, as the Spartans will have the tiebreaker over the Wolverines and Cornhuskers.
The Cornhusker defense has been suspect at times, and Kirk Cousins hopes to take advantage of that. But, if Taylor Martinez can keep his mistakes to a minimum and Nebraska uses their ability to run the ball, this could be a hell of a game.
Fortunately for Michigan State, this will be a morning kickoff, so the atmosphere won't be as bad as it could be. I think the Spartans score a late touchdown to put the Huskers away.
Michigan State 31 Nebraska 20