Big Ten football weekend preview: Chance for teams to make serious moves.
By this point, everyone realizes that Penn State has bigger fish to fry, but there is a huge game coming up this weekend at Happy Valley between the Nittany Lions and Nebraska Cornhuskers.
It will be the first game where Joe Paterno is not part of the university since before a majority of us were even born, and you have to think it's going to be weird for the kids at Penn State.
I think the distractions will prove to bee far too much for the Nittany Lions, and I think Nebraska will win a big game on the road, further complicating matters in the Big Ten as it currently stands. Nebraska has a very talented team and a rushing attack that could seriously test the interior of that Penn State defense, one that is arguably the most dominant in the conference.
If Penn State is going to win this game, they are going to need to put up some points, and it all starts with running back Silas Redd, who has emerged in his sophomore season as one of the best running backs in the entire country. Redd is running with a lot of confidence and had a huge month of October to help Penn State to a 5-0 record in Big Ten play.
Should Penn State lose this weekend, it would be a huge help for the Wisconsin Badgers, who are slightly reeling in terms of their play in the Big Ten with two losses on Hail Mary passes against Michigan State and Ohio State. If Wisconsin is able to take care of business as they are expected to at Minnesota this weekend, they could potentially be tied with Penn State with a record of 8-2.
The Badgers are fresh off of a huge victory against Purdue, one that included an absolutely stellar performance by team MVP Montee Ball, who is looking like he could be a Heisman Trophy contender.
Quarterback Russell Wilson has received a majority of the publicity for his play this season, but it's been Ball who has been the true workhorse for Bret Bielema's squad, which is averaging just under 250 yards rushing per game.
I think Wisconsin will beat Minnesota, which is hardly going out on a limb, and I think it could have huge implications on the rest of the season should Penn State lose to Nebraska.
Perhaps the biggest game in the conference this weekend will be played in Iowa City, where Kirk Ferentz's Hawkeyes are undefeated at home and hosting Legends leader Michigan State.
The Spartans have not had a good second half of the season and only lead the division by one game. In fact, Iowa would take over their spot in the standings should Penn State beat Nebraska and the Hawkeyes win this weekend.
It's pretty incredible that this Iowa team is still possibly in line for a first place finish after losing to Minnesota and Iowa State already this year, but at 6-3 they are only one game out of the division lead.
Michigan State has been pretty terrible on the road this year, losing to Notre Dame and Michigan as well as scoring merely 10 points in a 10-7 victory against Ohio State earlier this season. I think Iowa will win this one at home, which would mean that Hawkeye fans would be really rooting hard for Illinois to win a home game against the Michigan Wolverines, who lost a heart-breaker to the Hawkeyes this past week.
After six wins to start the seasons, Illinois has lost three straight in the conference to Pudue, Penn State, and Ohio State. They are another team in the hunt for the Legends division crown, and a win against the Wolverines would go a long way. Illinois certainly has the offensive firepower to be able to hang around with Michigan, but can their defense step up to the task?
Ohio State faces two late season matchups against both Michigan and Penn State, but they will first have to get past a Purdue team that has given some of the other teams in the conference some fits this season.
The Buckeyes have won three straight games, and it's no coincidence that they were able to get a serious boost offensively when Dan Herron returned from suspension. Braxton Miller has been doing a good job of running the ball out of the quarterback position, but it has been the return of Herron which has added another dimension to the Ohio State running game.
If Herron and company can continue to take care of business, I think Ohio State will go into their home game against Penn State with a 7-3 record and possibly a chance to steal one against the Nittany Lions, who like I said have to be seriously distracted right now.
Either that, or they are going to be really ticked off.
No matter what happens, it promises to be another great weekend of football in the Big Ten, a conference race that continues to get more and more interesting.