Finally. A Big Ten game with national import.
For weeks, the season has been pointing toward Ohio State-Michigan State as the game of the year in the Big Ten, perhaps overshadowing the conference title game.
Indeed, the stakes have been building after both teams have been able to rebuild their reputations despite Week 2 losses.
The showdown in East Lansing will play a major role in deciding the Big Ten East division, but the battle for the West is just starting when Iowa and Minnesota meet for the Floyd of Rosedale.
Big Ten Week 11 Power Rankings
All games Saturday. All times Eastern.
1. Ohio State at Michigan State
8 p.m., ABC
In the short term, this game will determine a leader in the Big Ten East and end the College Football Playoff hopes for the winner. For the long term, either team could stake a claim to being the Big Ten’s dominant program, a title Michigan State has by virtue of a 34-24 win over the Buckeyes in the Big Ten title game a year ago. Before last season, Ohio State had won eight of the previous nine meetings. Including the playoff and Big Ten implications and the backstory, everything about this game indicates a powerhouse matchup. These are the top two offenses in the Big Ten and two of the top four defenses. Not surprisingly, the game may be decided by the quarterbacks. Against two solid defenses in Virginia Tech and Penn State, Ohio State redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett has completed 21-of-48 passes with two touchdowns and five interceptions. Meanwhile, last year’s game against Ohio State was a turning point for Michigan State’s Connor Cook, who has completed 60.6 percent of his passes for 9.14 yards per attempt with 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 10 games since the first meeting.
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2. Iowa at Minnesota
The Big Ten West will be decided in November, starting with this matchup for the Floyd of Rosedale. Both teams still have fellow West contenders Wisconsin and Nebraska during the next four weeks, and Nebraska visits Wisconsin next week. Minnesota’s hopes of sneaking into the Big Ten title game were dented when the Gophers lost at Illinois two weeks ago. Meanwhile, Iowa had the look of a division champion a week ago with a 48-7 win over Northwestern. Jake Rudock had his best game of the season, completing 12-of-19 passes for 239 yards with a touchdown. That said, Iowa isn’t that far removed from giving up 316 rushing yards to Indiana and 212 to Maryland. Run-oriented Minnesota will try to replicate that success against the Hawkeyes’ defense.
3. Wisconsin at Purdue
Wisconsin will have one more game against the lower tier of the Big Ten before the pivotal stretch of the season against Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota in the final three games. The Wisconsin offense continues to be Melvin Gordon first and Corey Clement second, but the Badgers’ defense has been solid in the last two games. Wisconsin has held opponents to 2.7 yards per carry and 35.7 percent passing. Granted, that was against Maryland and Rutgers. Purdue will try to regroup at home after its progress was stalled in a 35-14 loss at Nebraska.
4. Penn State at Indiana
Noon, Big Ten Network
Penn State still has a good chance to be bowl eligible despite a four-game losing streak. The Nittany Lions have Indiana, Temple and Illinois in the next three games, but only Temple plays in Happy Valley. As for this week, the Indiana defense will be a welcome sight. The Hoosiers are 12th in the Big Ten in yards allowed per play and 12th in sacks. If Penn State can’t move the ball against Indiana the outlook might not be promising. Penn State is averaging 3.1 yards per play and 1.2 yards per carry during its losing streak. The Hoosiers aren't faring much better. Indiana’s prolific offense has come to a halt without starting quarterback Nate Sudfeld. The Hoosiers averaged 77.5 plays and 500 yards per game in the first six games and 51 plays and 207.5 yards in the last two. The move to a third-string quarterback couldn’t come at a worse time as IU faces three of the best defenses in the Big Ten (Michigan State, Michigan and Penn State).
5. Michigan at Northwestern
3:30 p.m., ESPN2
It’s the Make-it-Stop Bowl. As recently as Oct. 6, 2013, both of these teams were ranked in the AP poll. Now, Michigan is 6-11 in its last 17, and Northwestern is 4-12 in its last 16. The latter may be in bigger trouble. Northwestern has lost three in a row since an increasingly shocking win over Wisconsin. Michigan will need to win this game and defeat Maryland to reach bowl eligibility unless the Wolverines have something truly shocking in store for Ohio State to finish the season.
Big Ten Week 11 Staff Picks
Penn State (-7) at Indiana
Iowa (-1 1/2) at Minnesota
Wisconsin (-17) at Purdue
Michigan (-1 1/2) at Northwestern
Ohio State at Michigan State (-3 1/2)