BT Blast: Showdown At The 'Shoe

Welcome to Big Ten Blast!

Ohio Stadium should be electric Saturday night as Ohio State (and RB Carlos Hyde) hosts Nebraska

This will be a regular weekly column where we will provide some news and notes from around the conference.

After last Saturday’s games, this week’s biggest game figures to be the prime time showdown between No. 12 Ohio State and No. 21 Nebraska at Ohio Stadium.

Each of those teams needed late rallies to win their Big Ten openers last week. The Buckeyes took a hard fought 17-16 win at Michigan State. Meanwhile, the Huskers rallied from down 17 in the third quarter for a dramatic 30-27 win over visiting Wisconsin.

With Minnesota’s loss at Iowa (31-13), the lone remaining unbeaten teams in the Big Ten are Ohio State and Northwestern (each 5-0). Northwestern, which moved into the AP poll at No. 24 this week, will put that record on the line at Penn State.

Michigan and Purdue will each open Big Ten play with their match-up at West Lafayette. Michigan State and Indiana will each try and rebound from losses when they meet in Bloomington. Likewise, Illinois and Wisconsin will try and bounce back when they collide in Madison.

Three Big Ten schools will celebrate their Homecoming games this weekend: Indiana, Ohio State and Penn State.

Below, we look at each of these match-ups. Here goes this week’s Big Ten Blast:

Nebraska (21) at Ohio State (12)

Nebraska (4-1, 1-0) will take its act to Ohio State (5-0, 1-0), where Huskers head coach Bo Pelini was a team captain as a senior safety in 1990. Pelini knows the Buckeyes will be stoked to avenge last year’s 34-27 loss in Lincoln, where the Buckeyes blew a 21-point lead.

“We know we have a great challenge lying ahead of us going to Columbus,” Pelini said. “We know we will have to play our best football on Saturday. We are playing a really good football team.”

Huskers quarterback Taylor Martinez came up big with 288 yards total offense as Nebraska rallied to defeat Wisconsin.

“Being in the second year in this system, he is more comfortable,” Pelini said of Martinez. “He has more of an idea how to manage the offense. He has become more efficient and detail-oriented in his fundamentals, his footwork and his reads. He has grown and grown in every manner as a quarterback. He still has a lot of room for improvement.”

Looking at Ohio State, Pelini knows the Buckeyes’ offensive and defensive lines are starting to come together.

“They are well coached,” Pelini said. “They have good talent up there and they play physical. They have a good group and they play well on both sides of the ball.”

OSU outgained Michigan State 204-34 on the ground in that win, showing how those lines were able to give the Buckeyes an edge in that game.

“I saw a marked improvement on both sides,” Meyer said. “I saw (defensive end) Nathan Williams, who has been kind of rusty because he had not played, starting to play really. Our defensive front just did a nice job against a very good offensive line.”

Meyer named OSU’s five-man offensive line as the team’s offensive player of the game for that MSU win. Nursing a one-point lead, OSU got the ball back on a punt with 4:10 left. They churned out three first downs and ran out the remaining time.

“I don’t want to say I was surprised,” Meyer said. “But I have a lot of respect for (MSU’s) front four and their linebackers and did a nice job against them.

“The praise they received was more than just that last drive. They ran the ball against one of the nation’s top defenses for over 200 yards. It was a much maligned unit and they did a good job.

“That’s how we won that game – with our offensive and defensive lines.”

Meyer sees a Nebraska team that is also putting all of its pieces together, led by the dynamic backfield of Martinez and running back Rex Burkhead.

“(Martinez) is one of the most dynamic runners at the quarterback position,” Meyer said. “I have been watching him for several years. We just have a lot of respect for him. You will see two of the finest and most athletic quarterbacks in America on the field this weekend.”

The Buckeyes will be shooting to reach 6-0 to start a season for the fourth time in seven years, dating to 2006. Over the last 20 years, OSU has reached at least 6-0 on at least eight occasions: 1993 (started 8-0), 1995 (started 11-0), 1996 (started 10-0), 1998 (started 8-0), 2002 (finished 14-0), 2006 (started 12-0), 2007 (started 10-0) and 2010 (started 6-0).

Nebraska moved up one spots from No. 22 to No. 21 after the win over Wisconsin. Click here for more coverage from Huskers Illustrated.

Ohio State moved up from 14th to 12th in the AP poll after its win over MSU. Click here for more Ohio State coverage from Bucknuts.com.

Illinois at Wisconsin

Illinois (2-3, 0-1) will try and snap a two-game losing streak as it visits Wisconsin (3-2, 0-1). This all-time series is one of the Big Ten’s closest with Illinois owning a 37-35-7 edge, although Wisconsin has won two in a row and six of the last seven meetings.

“It was a tough defeat last week,” Illinois coach Tim Beckman said of his team’s 35-7 home loss to Penn State. “With the turnover situation and giving up big plays, those really put us behind the 8-ball. Credit to Penn State and Coach O’Brien, they did a great job of coming and preparing for the football game.

“The things we continue to stress are taking our program and trying to get better each and every week. There are things that have happened in these last two weeks that have really bitten us. We have been our own worst enemy.”

Illinois is sitting ninth in the Big Ten in scoring offense (22.6 ppg) and 11th in total offense (349.8 ypg).

“We haven’t had that spark offensively,” Beckman said. “(Quarterback) Nathan (Scheelhaase) has been out because of injury. He’s back to full Nathan. It’s just making proper decisions and leading, like he has been. Really, he’s only played 1-1/2 games. We know he will progress and we’ll get better offensively as we get more healthy.”

Beckman said that ailing linebacker Jonathan Brown and defensive end Michael Buchanan are each coming back off of injuries.

“Both of them practiced (Tuesday),” he said. “They’re not 100 percent yet.”

Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said there was no silver lining in playing well at Nebraska before faltering down the stretch in that loss.

“We had some successes but we also had some failures that ended up costing us the chance to win on the road in a very tough environment,” Bielema said. “We’ve gotten better every week. You don’t want to be a 3-2 football team but that’s where we’re at.

“We are getting healthy. We are getting some guys back that haven’t played the last couple of weeks. It should be an interesting game.”

Bielema said he likes the Illinois running back tandem of sophomore Donovonn Young and freshman Josh Ferguson.

“Ferguson is very gifted,” Bielema said. “He is explosive. He is coming on the scene for the first time and catches your eye in a big way. Young is a physical back. They are both playmakers. They both have their own game and they know how to make an explosive play out of it.”

Click here for coverage of Wisconsin from Badger 247.

Michigan State at Indiana

Michigan State (3-2, 0-1) will be taking on Indiana (2-2, 0-1) for the Old Brass Spittoon. The trophy game began in 1950, and the Spartans own a 41-12-1 advantage in the series. Michigan State has won three straight contests in the series, as well as seven of the last eight and also holds a 41-15-1 overall advantage in the series.

MSU coach Mark Dantonio said defensive end William Gholston, who appeared to be knocked out by a hit from teammate Isaiah Lewis during the OSU game, is fine.

“He looks fine to me,” Dantonio said. “He seemed to be walking around with no problems.”

Gholston left the game briefly and was shaking his head before returning in the fourth quarter.

“We don’t talk about injuries to that extent unless it is something that is going to keep people out,” Dantonio said of Gholston’s injury or status.

Dantonio and the Spartans have had to deal with injuries on the offensive line. Center Travis Jackson was lost for the year after the OSU game.

“We lost two pretty good players, but we are getting one back in Blake Treadwell,” Dantonio said. “Travis Jackson is lost for the season as well as Fou Fonoti. Fou could probably play in the last couple games, although he does have a redshirt year available. We can roll in some guys who have started for us in the past like Blake and Jack Allen. We have six players still available who have started and played for us. We will have to make it work.”

MSU announced that freshman Aaron Burbridge would be listed as a starter at wide receiver this week. Quarterback Andrew Maxwell was victimized by drops by other receivers in the loss to OSU.

“We have always played four or five receivers,” Dantonio said. “I want to make it apparent that we want to try and get Burbridge some playing time. We want to give him some opportunities.”

Dantonio reiterated that Bennie Fowler, Tony Lippett, Andre Sims, Macgarrett Kings and Tony Mumphery will also be involved at that position.

“We have six guys in the mix,” Dantonio said.

Indiana coach Kevin Wilson talked about game planning against MSU’s offense, led by RB Le’Veon Bell. Bell is still sixth nationally in rushing at 131.0 ypg despite being held to 45 yards on 17 carries in the OSU game.

“It all starts with getting a running game going and they complement that with play action passing, whether it’s intermediate or taking a shot,” Wilson said. “You better be able to hold up out there one-on-one. You better be up there also to stop the run. If they get that run game going, it becomes much easier for them.”

Wilson said that, at least for the time being, Cameron Coffman and Nathan Sudfeld will continue to platoon at wide receiver. Coffman started last week at Northwestern, although Sudfeld came on and played well during a comeback in the second half.

“We didn’t make a big deal of who went first,” Wilson said. “They are kind of similar. They both do some good things. No one is established doing some great things. We don’t want to have a revolving door. We need them to significantly improve. There is not a great deal of separation. They both play about the same.

“Whether Cam goes out first or Nate, the offense is not going to change a whole lot. It is a competition. We need competition at every position. It’s a good thing.”

MSU dropped from 20th to out of the AP poll after the loss to Ohio State. Click here for more MSU coverage from Spartan Tailgate.

Click here for coverage of IU athletics from Inside Indiana.

Northwestern (24) at Penn State

Northwestern (5-0, 1-0) heads to Penn State (3-2, 1-0) on Saturday hoping to start the season 6-0 for the first time since 1962. Penn State leads the all-time series at 12-3 with five straight wins over NU.

Northwestern moved into the AP poll this week at No. 24. It is the first time NU has been rated since December 2008, when the Wildcats were rated 23rd after posting a 9-3 regular-season record. The Wildcats fell out of the poll after an Alamo Bowl loss to Missouri (30-23 in overtime).

NU is also shooting to possibly be the first team nationally to become bowl-eligible. It would put the Wildcats in a bowl for a school-record fifth straight year and 11th time overall.

“It has a good ring to it,” said NU coach Pat Fitzgerald. “But our focus is on improvement. We have not put together four quarters of three-phase football. We are starting to grow up and mature a little bit.”

Last year, Kain Colter starred as a runner, receiver and quarterback in relief of the injured Dan Persa. Colter opened the season as the quarterback, but missed time due to injury. That opened the door for Trevor Siemian to get his foot in the door. Last week, NU put up a school-record 704 yards of total offense in its 44-29 win over Indiana. Siemian went the distance at quarterback with Colter back in his all-purpose role.

“He’s an unselfish guy,” Fitzgerald said of Colter. “He does a lot of things very well. The best part of Kain is his character. He is such a competitor. He loves to play the game. After a couple of weeks, we looked at it and said, ‘What are we doing taking him off the field?’ He and Trevor are each in what we think are our best 11. We will build things around his skill set … and frankly just have a lot of fun with it.

“The guys are executing at a high level and having a fun time playing with and for each other.”

Fitzgerald is leery of going up against Penn State and QB Matt McGloin for the third year in a row. In 2010, McGloin was 18 of 29 passing for 225 yards and four touchdowns in a 35-21 home win for PSU over Northwestern. In 2011, McGloin was 17 of 26 passing for 192 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-24 PSU win.

“I wouldn’t say Matt’s had some success,” Fitzgerald said. “I’d say he’s had a ton of success. He has killed us. We have to be gap sound. He has escapability and moves well in the pocket. He is crafty. You can see he knows where to go with the ball. He’s taking what the defense is giving him.”

Linebacker Michael Mauti, who had two interceptions in last week’s win over Illinois, has been lifted up as PSU’s inspirational leader. But PSU coach Bill O’Brien said the senior class as a whole has stepped forward in a time of much adversity for the program.

“He’s an excellent leader,” O’Brien said of Mauti. “But he would be the first to tell you he is a member of a strong senior class. They love Penn State and play extremely hard. They love to practice and they are good students. There are a lot of guys there like (Gerald) Hodges, (Mike) Zordich, (Matt) Stankiewitch, McGloin and Stephon Morris. They’ve done an unbelievable job of leading. Hopefully we can keep it going.”

Since Penn State is ineligible for a bowl game, O’Brien said his seniors are treating each week like a special game.

“Those guys are playing with a sense of urgency because they know they only have seven more times to have the opportunity of playing for Penn State,” O’Brien said. “They come to practice every day and look forward to that. They know all the games that are left are difficult games.”

Click here for more coverage of Penn State from Lions 247.

Michigan at Purdue

Purdue (3-1) defeated Marshall 51-41 last week, while Michigan (2-2) was idle. So their match-up Saturday at West Lafayette will be the Big Ten opener for both teams.

“We have already found out a lot about our team,” said Purdue coach Danny Hope. “We’ve won three games here at home and played a ranked Notre Dame team to the wire. I think we have done a lot of nice things already. We are a competitive team that cares about winning. We have beaten the teams we were supposed to beat.

“But this is a great opportunity to start conference play with one of the best teams in the Big Ten.”

Purdue is second in the Big Ten in scoring at 42.5 ppg, but Hope noted, “The best thing about our offense is we haven’t arrived yet. We have manufactured some points and our defense has done a good job with takeaways.”

It sounds like backup QB Robert Marve is on his way back from an ACL injury, although Caleb TerBush will remain Purdue’s starter.

“There is a chance Robert could play this week,” Hope said. “He hasn’t had any practice reps since his latest injury three weeks ago.”

Michigan coach Brady Hoke is hoping his team can re-start its season after the nonconference season produced losses to current top-10 foes Alabama and Notre Dame.

“I think we got a lot done during the bye week,” Hoke said. “It was a good time for us to evaluate where we’re at and look at the things we need to improve on. As a coaching staff, we want to make sure we are doing a good job of coaching with clarity and our expectations.

“We are facing a tough challenge down in West Lafayette against Purdue. With us playing on the road, we have to have a quicker start and play better.”

The Michigan-Purdue series has been lopsided in favor of Michigan (43-14 all-time). Michigan has won two in a row, seven of the last nine, 17 of the last 21 and 30 of the last 37 meetings.

Click here for more coverage of Michigan from Wolverine 247.

Sittting This One Out: Minnesota, Iowa

Iowa (3-2, 1-0) and Minnesota (4-0, 0-1) will be idle this week after their match-up last Saturday.

The Hawkeyes rushed for 163 yards on 19 carries and passed for 165 yards on 19 pass attempts in the first half in jumping out to a 24-0 lead over the visiting Gophers.

“That’s the best 30 minutes of football that we’ve played,” said Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, whose team returns to action Oct. 13 at Michigan State. “The second half wasn’t terrible, but the first half is what you’re looking for.”

It’s unclear where Iowa would be without Air Force transfer/walk-on RB Mark Weisman. He filled in beginning in Week 3. In three games since becoming a regular, Weisman has piled up 507 rush yards and seven touchdowns. That average of 169.0 ypg would ranked third nationally. (Weisman had two carries for 8 yards in Iowa’s opener and he also played without getting a carry in Week 2.)

Minnesota will return to action next Saturday by hosting Northwestern. UM coach Jerry Kill thinks the time is right to take a break.

“Our football team got an education in the first half at Iowa,” Kill said. “They were a little shell-shocked. They settled down a bit and did better in the second half. They were able to play better. We certainly have some work to do. The off week comes at a good time for us. Hopefully, we can get healed up a little bit and get ready for Northwestern.”

Click here for coverage of Iowa athletics from Voice of The Hawkeyes.

Quick Hitters

* This was interesting. CBSSports.com’s Bruce Feldman sent out this Tweet: “The Big Ten's leading passer (McGloin); leading WR (Jared Abbrederis) & 3rd-leading RB (Weisman) all came to school as walk-ons.”

* The Big Ten continues to be a bankable commodity for its television partners.

Last Saturday’s Ohio State-Michigan State game was the day’s most viewed game with an overnight rating of 3.6 and nearly 5 million viewers nationally for ABC. It beat CBS’ game in that 3:30 p.m. time slot (Tennessee-Georgia), which drew a 2.8 overnight rating.

The prime time games were almost a wash. Fox’s Texas-Oklahoma State game led that time slot with a 2.8 overnight rating, while ABC’s Wisconsin-Nebraska game was a 2.6.

One more factoid: A whopping 34.9 percent of the Columbus market watched the OSU-MSU game.

It will be interesting to see which game wins the ratings battle this week. The Saturday prime time slot is loaded with No. 8 West Virginia at No. 11 Texas (7 p.m. on FOX), No. 5 Georgia at No. 6 South Carolina (7 p.m. on ESPN), Miami (Fla.) vs. No. 9 Notre Dame (7:30 p.m. on NBC) and Nebraska-Ohio State (8 p.m. on ABC).

* Illinois is entering the meat of its schedule. In the next five weeks, Illinois will play road games at Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio State.

“Whatever the atmosphere is going to be, we can only control the things we can control,” Beckman said. “We have to bond together as a team and try and make strides to get better.

* Wisconsin’s Bielema noted that his team’s roster boasts 50 freshmen, but just nine seniors.

“That ratio is a bit unusual for us,” Bielema said. “But this may be a group that rebounds quicker than an older group.”

* An AP reporter asked OSU’s Meyer if he was concerned about his reputation across his new conference after the video flap with Michigan State last week.

“It doesn’t concern me at all,” Meyer said.

Meyer was asked if he had anything new to shed light on what happened with the video sent to MSU. (MSU assistant Pat Narduzzi said OSU’s tapes were edited and did not include pre-snap shifts and motions by the offense.)

“I don’t know,” Meyer said. “I’ve moved on. That’s between the video coordinators.”

For MSU’s Dantonio, he is done discussing that matter.

“I’m not going to go through that right now,” he said. “I am going to set my sights on what’s important to us and that’s winning the next football game. What happened on the game field on Saturday translated into winning and losing that game. That’s where I am going to leave that.”

Nebraska’s Pelini said there were no issues – to his knowledge – with the game tapes OSU sent to Nebraska before this week’s game.

* Pelini was asked if it is strange for the Big Ten to only have three ranked teams – and none in the top 10.

“I think it’s a good conference with good depth,” he said. “You can’t judge a conference yet. You have to see how it plays out. There is a lot of football to be played. That’s why you play a 12-game schedule.”

* Ohio State announced a home-and-home series against TCU for 2018-19. TCU is in its first year as a member of the Big 12. That deal is part of a push for Ohio State to play multiple opponents from BCS conferences in years to come.

* Weekly award winners from the Big Ten included:

Co-Offensive Players of the Week: Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez (288 yards total offense, three TDs vs. Wisconsin) and Northwestern QB-WR Kain Colter (297 yards total offense, four TDs vs. Indiana).

Defensive Player of the Week: Penn State LB Michael Mauti (six tackles, two interceptions vs. Illinois).

Special Teams Player of the Week: Nebraska kicker/punter Brett Maher (3 of 4 on field goals, averaged 46.7 yards on punts vs. Wisconsin).

Freshman of the Week: Illinois LB Mason Monheim (11 tackles vs. Penn State).

Big Ten Standings

Leaders Division

Ohio State (5-0, 1-0)
Penn State (3-2, 1-0)
Purdue (3-1, 0-0)
Wisconsin (3-2, 0-1)
Indiana (2-2, 0-1)
Illinois (2-3, 0-1)

Legends Division

Northwestern (5-0, 1-0)
Nebraska (4-1, 1-0)
Iowa (3-2, 1-0)
Michigan (2-2, 0-0)
Minnesota (4-1, 0-1)
Michigan State (3-2, 0-1)

Sept. 29 Games (All times Eastern)

Penn State 35, Illinois 7
Iowa 31, Minnesota 13
Northwestern 44, Indiana 29
Ohio State (14) 17, Michigan State (20) 16
Purdue 51, Marshall 41
Nebraska (22) 30, Wisconsin 27
Idle: Michigan

Oct. 6 Games (All Times Eastern)

Michigan State at Indiana, noon (Big Ten Network)
Northwestern (24) at Penn State, noon (ESPN)
Illinois at Wisconsin, 3:30 p.m. (ABC regional, ESPN2 outer market)
Michigan at Purdue, 4 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
Nebraska (21) at Ohio State (12), 8 p.m. (ABC national)
Idle: Iowa, Minnesota

October 13 Games

Wisconsin at Purdue, noon (Big Ten Network)
Iowa at Michigan State, noon (ESPN or ESPN2)
Northwestern at Minnesota, noon (ESPN or ESPN2)
Illinois at Michigan, 3:30 p.m. (ABC regional; ESPN outer market)
Ohio State at Indiana, 8 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
Idle: Penn State, Nebraska

Picks Update

On Thursday, I made my picks for Week 5.

I ended up 20-3 straight-up and 10-12-1 against-the-spread. For the year, I am now 100-30 SU and 58-61-1 ATS.

In Big Ten games, I was 6-0 straight-up and also 3-3 ATS. Through five weeks, I am 42-10 straight-up and 20-24 ATS.

Stay tuned this week for our Big Ten Primer (with updated predictions and observations), Picks for Week 6 on Thursday and a Chat on Thursday morning.

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