What to watch in the Big Ten this week:
GAME OF THE WEEK
No. 13 Wisconsin (9-2, 6-2 Big Ten, CFP No. 12) at No. 9 Minnesota (10-1, 7-1, CFP No. 8)
Ohio State-Michigan is big, but this one is bigger. The winner of Paul Bunyan’s Axe will play Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game Dec. 7. Minnesota lost 14 straight to the Badgers before taking back the Axe last year. The Gophers haven’t won consecutive games in the series since 1993-94. Picked near the bottom of the West Division in the preseason, the Gophers are going for their first 11-win season since 1904 and their first Big Ten title game appearance. Wisconsin is trying to get to the conference championship game for the sixth time since 2011.
Michigan QB Shea Patterson vs. Ohio State defense
Patterson is playing some of his best football the last couple weeks for the 10th-ranked Wolverines (9-2, 6-2, CFP No. 13), completing 68% of his passes (44 of 65) for 750 yards and nine touchdowns, with one interception, against Michigan State and Indiana. He will be facing the nation’s best pass defense. Second-ranked Ohio State (11-0, 8-0, CFP No. 1) has picked off 14 passes, allowed six touchdowns through the air and is allowing just 4.9 yards per attempt.
FACTS AND FIGURES
Wisconsin and Minnesota are playing for the 129th time in the Football Bowl Subdivision’s most-played rivalry, which stands at 60-60-8. … Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor has run for at least 200 yards in three straight games. … Minnesota is going for its first perfect record at home since 1954. … No. 19 Iowa (8-3, 5-3) enters its game at Nebraska (5-6, 3-5) allowing 12.2 points per game, the lowest figure in coach Kirk Ferentz’s 21 years. … No. 10 Penn State (9-2, 6-2) will have double-digit wins for the third time in four years if it beats Rutgers (2-9, 0-8) at home. … Purdue (4-7, 3-5) is 60-31-3 against Indiana since the teams began playing for the Old Oaken Bucket in 1925. … Indiana (7-4, 4-4) needs one win to record eight in a season for the first time since 1993. … Illinois (6-5, 4-4) would finish above .500 in Big Ten play for the first time since 2007 if it beats Northwestern (2-9, 0-8) at home. … Maryland (3-8, 1-7), which visits Michigan State, has scored 145 points in its last nine games after scoring 142 in its first two. … Elijah Collins of Michigan State (5-6, 3-5) is the school’s first player to record three 100-yard rushing games since Javon Ringer in 2005.
Michigan, 9 +-point underdog at home to Ohio State
The Wolverines have found their stride the last month and are hungry to flip the series. They’ve lost seven in a row to the Buckeyes and 14 of the last 15. Ohio State, coming off a 28-17 win over Penn State, looked unbeatable until the Nittany Lions rallied in the second half. Michigan can draw confidence from that.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Nebraska QB Adrian Martinez
The Huskers’ game against Iowa could come down to Martinez. He’s had a bumpy sophomore season, and two of his top four receivers could be out. Martinez has become a more confident runner in recent weeks, and that could serve him well. He played one of the best games of his career in last year’s 31-28 loss to the Hawks, accounting for 336 yards and three touchdowns.
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