|Is Northwestern legit? October will tell us. File photo.|
Outside of Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue all playing Notre Dame, there's really no enticing matchups to get that excited about. Nebraska-UCLA is probably the only other big-name matchup the Big Ten has going for it...which is sad.
But then, October strikes, and it's all conference matchups. The meat of the Big Ten schedule is always in November, and that's certainly the case for 2013. But October, weeks 6-9, should muddy up the waters of the B1G standings quite nicely going into the last 5 weeks of the regular season.
Minnesota @ Michigan
Michigan State @ Iowa
Illinois @ Nebraska
Indiana @ Penn State
Ohio State @ Northwestern
My game of the week is Ohio State @ Northwestern. Sure, the league schedule is a little light this week, but that's when dramatic upsets can sneak up on you. The Buckeyes will be coming off a big game against Wisconsin at home the week prior, so it's entirely likely that Fitz and the Wildcats could give the Urbanites a game in Evanston. Ryan Field is not an intimidating venue for visiting teams, but neither is Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, but that doesn't stop Ohio State from having trouble there.
This game will really boil down to whether Northwestern can move the ball effectively against a very stout Ohio State defense. I have no doubt that they can at least make this a game, but it will take some cleaver play-calling a lot of luck to pull off this upset.
Michigan @ Penn State
Indiana @ Michigan State
Nebraska @ Purdue
Northwestern @ Wisconsin
Only four games on the B1G slate this week, and they're all cross-over games. Clearly, Michigan @ Penn State will get top league billing, but we're not here to discuss that. This is a preview of the biggest non-Michigan games of the year. So this week we're going with Northwestern @ Wisconsin.
For no other reason that I'm just intrigued by both of these teams for 2013, Northwestern @ Wisconsin could provide a very interesting look at both teams. Two teams with vastly different offensive attacks.
First, I want to see how NU travels into a hostile environment and performs. And second, how Wisconsin reacts to an upstart opponent playing at noon on the Big Ten Network. In the past, with Bielema, I would've said this one would be over by halftime. But with the question marks for Wisconsin going into this season, this game could be a wild one.
Indiana @ Michigan
Iowa @ Ohio State
Purdue @ Michigan State
Minnesota @ Northwestern
Wisconsin @ Illinois
Still plenty of inter-division goodness going on this week.
I'll be interested to see Purdue @ Michigan State. Both schools will be picked to finish in the middle of the pack for 2013, and I won't argue that. But this game is intriguing because both teams are in rebuilding mode. Michigan State has a few major holes to fill, and Purdue likewise but with a new coaching staff. I fully expect Sparty to win this game, but given the rest of the league schedule this week, I had to pick one, so this was it.
Northwestern @ Iowa
Michigan State @ Illinois
Nebraska @ Minnesota
Penn State @ Ohio State
Michigan is off this week so they'll have two weeks to prepare for a trip to East Lansing on November 2nd.
Obviously, Penn State at Ohio State is the Big Ten game of the week. Penn State's 23-35 loss in Happy Valley last year was a tough one, and things won't get any easier going into the snake pit this season. Likely a primetime game, this should be a big win for the Buckeyes. Penn State played with tremendous passion and resilience last year, but the lack of scholarships and the post-season ban will slowly start to take it's toll on the Nittany Lions.
In the past, I'd say this could be the game of the year, but I think those days are over for a while. When it comes to Big Ten stock, Penn State is a sell. Ohio State is the class of the league, in the media's eyes anyway, so games like this should only expose that notion even more. Sure, Penn State has a shot, of course, but it's not as good as it used to be.
Coming up, part 3 of this series where we dive head first into the November schedule, where all hell breaks loose.