Big Ten Preview: Week 11 Edition – Wisconsin and Brigham Young Meet in Intriguing Non-Conference Matchup

There’s some great-looking games on this weeks football schedule, and the Big Ten is no different, with some key conference games, and a worthy non-conference matchup between Wisconsin and Brigham Young. Minnesota look to keep their divisional dreams alive (yes, I said that) against Penn State, while Nebraska and Michigan also fight to stay in the race. Iowa, Illinois and Indiana are all fighting for bowl eligibility, so expect some degree of urgency from at least two of the teams. Expect a potential upset too.

Nov 2, 2013; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Christian Hackenberg (14) runs the ball during the third quarter against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Illinois 24-17. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O

Penn State @ Minnesota

12:00 PM ET

 

The skinny: The struggling Nittany Lions take on the surprising Gophers.

 

Three things to watch for:

 

  • Run Gopher, run: Minnesota like to establish the run, pounding away with the increasingly impressive David Cobb. The Lions, on the other hand, have struggled at times against the run, and will need to be at the top of their game to keep Minnesota from enforcing their will. An equally beleaguered secondary will need to keep an eye on quarterback Philip Nelson too.

  • Bring the heat: PSU quarterback Christian Hackenberg has been pretty good as a freshman, and has some nice highlights already this season. But, like every freshman, he gets jittery when he’s under pressure. The Gophers’ pass rush blows hot and cold, but they’ve a quick front seven who could create some problems. What they can’t do is allow Hackenberg to sit back and pick his targets (Allen Robinson).

  • Letting history repeat itself: These two have played 12 times over the years. Penn State won the first 4, the Gophers took the next 4, and Penn State are back on a 4 game streak. If history repeats itself, then the Gophers are going to win. Regardless,this is going to be close, but I still think Minnesota have the edge.

 

Prediction: Minnesota 23, Penn State 20.

Nov 2, 2013; West Lafayette, IN, USA; Purdue Boilermakers running back Raheem Mostert (8) runs in the first half against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ross Ade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa @ Purdue

12:00 PM ET

 

The skinny: With bowl eligibility at stake, can the Hawkeyes avoid an upset at the hands of the troubled Boilermakers.

 

Three things to watch for:

 

  • Score early, score often: The Hawkeyes aren’t built to put up lots of points, then coast as their backups finish the job. Instead, they have to take advantage of every scoring opportunity early to keep Purdue from hanging around and making a game of it. Keeping Jake Rudock healthy (knee injury last week) will be a big part of it.

  • Last chance saloon: I think, if the Boilermakers are going to beat an FBS team this season, then Iowa could be their best chance. The reason? The Hawkeyes are well coached, and their starting unit is rock solid, but they lack the depth of most other teams at many positions, and they don’t have the kind of speed or offensive system to tear up Purdue’s defense. The Boilermaker front seven is underrated, and could keep them in the game if they can make some big plays early on.

  • “Without further ado, it’s time to start…running!”: Iowa’s defense is solid, but they’ve given up over 218 yards in each of their last 3 games, albeit to better opposition than Purdue. If the Boilermakers are ever going to get their run game going, now would be a good time, as Akeem Hunt has the speed to take advantage of any cracks that the offensive line may make in the Iowa defense. If Purdue are going to beat anyone else this season, I think it will be Iowa. I just don’t believe it will happen.

 

Prediction: Iowa 31, Purdue 7

Nov 2, 2013; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions tight end Adam Breneman (81) runs the ball during overtime against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Illinois 24-17. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O

Illinois @ Indiana

3:30 PM ET

 

The skinny: Two teams fighting to stay alive in the bowl race.

 

Three things to watch for:

 

  • “No offense but, wait, make that no defense…”: Neither of these teams can stop opposing offenses, so don’t expect that to change with both teams able to move the ball well. Illinois’s have the “edge” on defense, as the Hoosiers are particularly vulnerable to the pass, the Indiana’s offense is far more explosive. If you want plenty of points, then this is game for you.

  • The return of the Illinois running attack: Indiana’s secondary is dreadful, but their run defense isn’t a whole lot better, and it makes sense for the Illini to control the clock some, as they don’t really stand a chance if they have to trade haymakers with the Hoosiers. Illinois’ run game isn’t a power unit, but they certainly have the backs to do some damage in this game.

  • Will Indiana stick with one QB?: Indiana have shuttled Tre Roberson and Nate Sudfeld all season, with varying degrees of success. At times, one has struggled in a game (usually Sudfeld), only for the other (usually Roberson) to step in and play like a world-beater. While both have different skill-sets, and have something to add to the offense, but is the switching hurting the team?

 

Prediction: Indiana 42, Illinois 32.

Nov 2, 2013; Lincoln, NE, USA; Nebraska Cornhuskers quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. (4) recovers a fumble against teammate Cethan Carter (11) and Northwestern Wildcats player Treveon Henry (10) at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Nebraska @ Michigan

3:30 PM ET

 

The skinny: Big Red Vs Big Blue – former NCAA heavyweights fighting to stay alive in the division race.

 

Three things to watch for:

 

  • Gardner’s mindset: In case you missed it, the Wolverines, and in particular Devin Gardner, were beaten to a bloody pulp last week by Michigan State. The offensive line was manhandled by the Spartans as they racked up 7 sacks and allowed a ridiculous -53 yards rushing. Even Western Michigan topped that against MSU (11 yards). Gardner’s an easygoing guy who doesn’t get down on himself too much, but can he get his confidence back in time for Nebraska.

  • …and on that point: I’m not going to start comparing Nebraska’s defense to Michigan State’s because, well you get the drift. But, the Cornhuskers have themselves a pass rush, one that has mustered 21 sacks in the last 6 games. With the Wolverines interior line struggling (19 sacks allowed), it may be time to amp up the heat on Gardner.

  • Ameer trifle: In all likelihood, Taylor Martinez won’t be available for the matchup with Michigan, so the combo of Tommy Armstrong and Ron Kellogg will play again. While both have been good, even great at times, the Cornhuskers will need to focus on the run to keep them confident. Michigan will need to make sure Nebraska earn every yard, although to be fair, their defense has been strong for most of the season. Now is not the time to collapse.

 

Prediction: Nebraska 30, Michigan 28.

Nov 2, 2013; Iowa City, IA, USA; Wisconsin Badgers running back James White (20) runs for the touchdown against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Kinnick Stadium. Wisconsin beat Iowa 28-9. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Brigham Young @ Wisconsin

3:30 PM ET

 

The skinny: Two teams who like to run the ball and play tough defense – what’s not to like? Expect an increase in sales of Radox on Sunday morning.

 

Three things to watch for:

 

  • UpHill battle: When most late-season non-conference games tend to be blowouts against overmatched opponents, kudos to both teams for scheduling this one. Both like to run, but BYU QB Taysom Hill has channeled his inner Ty Detmer lately, throwing for 756 yards and 7 TDs over the last two games. With Hill and Cougar RB Jamaal Williams also a threat on the ground, even the salty Badger defense will have its hands full.

  • Spread the field: When the running game takes precedence, receivers can often make the difference in the game, and there are a couple of good ones in BYU’s Cody Hoffman and Badger Jared Abbrederis. Abbrederis has been the most productive, but Hoffman has a better supporting cast, which could tip the edge over to the Cougars.

  • Keeping drives alive: It doesn’t always work to match stats against stats, as it provides a really limited viewpoint of football, but the Cougars have struggled this season on 3rd down, converting just 34.9% of their attempts. While they’ve compensated with big plays, they will have to sustain drives against Wisconsin, who are allowing just a 29.2% conversion rate. Something has to give on Saturday.

 

Prediction: Wisconsin 17, Brigham Young 14.

Topics: Akeem Hunt, Allen Robinson, Brigham Young Cougars, Christian Hackenberg, Cody Hoffman, David Cobb, Devin Gardner, Illinois Fighting Illini, Indiana Hoosiers, Iowa Hawkeyes, Jake Rudock, Jamaal Williams, Jared Abbrederis, Michigan State Spartans, Michigan Wolverines, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Nate Sudfeld, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Penn State Nittany Lions, Philip Nelson, Purdue Boilermakers, Ron Kellogg III, Taylor Martinez, Taysom Hill, Tommy Armstrong Junior, Tre Roberson, Ty Detmer, Western Michigan Broncos, Wisconsin Badgers

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