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Five B1G Things To Watch For -- Week Fourteen
Brady Hoke

Posted Nov 30, 2013


Phil Harrison solves scours the heartland of this great country of ours looking for the holy grail of what to watch for in this weekend’s slate of Big Ten games. You have questions and he has answers -- or something like that. It’s Rivalry Week.


By Phil Harrison
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFN
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Five B1G Things To Watch For - Week 14

5. Can Wisconsin keep plowing towards a BCS game?

Remember the Badgers? Since the loss to Ohio State, Wisconsin has been banished to irrelevant Island because it hasn’t been involved in too many spotlight games. Quietly though, Gary Andersen and gang have done nothing but win and are now in the coveted top 14 of the BCS, right in position to pounce.

To do it, Wisconsin will need to take care of Penn State at home and hope that Michigan State loses to Ohio State in Indy. Another win will vault the team higher in the BCS, making it more attractive, while a Spartan loss could move them back behind Wisconsin. Couple that with the fact that Badger fans historically travel better and things could be looking up in Madison.

4. Will Michigan State give a Spartan effort this week?

The Spartans have already had a successful season. They’ve already wrapped up the Legends division and no matter what happens against Minnesota, nothing really changes for the prospects of what can happen from its chances of winning the Big Ten and getting to a BCS bowl.

So what do you do if you are Mark Dantonio? Ohio State is going to throw everything at its rivalry game with Michigan, so what happens in East Lansing if things stay tight? Do you keep all of the starters in and go for the gusto, or save something for next week? You can bet that Dantonio only knows how to give it his all, but it’s still intriguing to think about.

3. Can Northwestern get a win in conference -- finally?

My oh my, what has happened to Pat Fitzgerald’s crew? The Wildcats might just be the best 0-7 Big Ten team ever. It has been truly staggering to watch the team lose close game after close game since its “moral victory” against Ohio State. Something is clearly amiss from a confidence standpoint.

There’s good news though. Northwestern has a fairly good chance of going into Champaign and beating an Illinois team that is still in rebuild mode. A bowl-game is off the table for the Wildcats, but a win in the last game would give the team something to build upon for next year.

2. Who will finish second in the Legends division?

There isn’t a whole lot up for grabs in the league since OSU and MSU have wrapped up each division title already, but there is an intriguing one in Lincoln.

Iowa has had a great bounce-back year and is headed to a bowl game, while Nebraska’s season has been a disappointment for Nebraska fans with Bo Pelini having to stiff-arm the coaching hot-seat rumor mill ad nauseum. An Iowa win gives the Hawkeyes and ‘Huskers a share of second place in the division and will have something to do with where each team goes bowling.

And … Kirk Ferentz will be returning to Iowa City regardless, but in the event that Nebraska loses, the Bo Pelini status watch could be on the clock .

1. Who will win The Game?

Ah, Ohio State vs, Michigan. Gray skies in chilly November with a Scarlet and Gray vs Maize and Blue pallet. This game always means the world to both sides no matter what’s at stake, and there have been plenty of examples of one team spoiling really big things for the other.

In this case, Ohio State has more than a Big Ten championship on its collective mind. It is hoping to still elbow its way to Pasadena for a BCS National Championship appearance, and Michigan would love nothing more than to put a wedge in those dreams.

Clearly the Buckeyes are the better team on paper. They have a diverse and balanced offense with a Heisman-type talent under center. But don’t be fooled about Michigan’s chances in the 110th edition of The Game. You can bet that the Wolverines will play their best game of the year to try and and put lipstick on the pig to make this season worthwhile.

Historically speaking, the team that wins the rushing battle generally walks away with the victory in this one, and OSU looks like the team that has a better shot at pulling off that feat. It is ranked in the top ten in the nation in rushing and is third in the Big Ten at stopping the run. On the other hand, the Wolverines offensive-line has struggled opening up holes at the tail end of the season.

Still, you know the emotion and energy will be on the side of the Maize and Blue at the Big House. Throw the records out as they say, mix up the ingredients, and let’s see what we get.

Rivalry on.



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