October 30, 2010

Breaking down Big Ten Saturday

MADISON - When the rest of the Big Ten takes to the field this afternoon, the Wisconsin football team will be watching intently throughout the day. Though the Badgers don't play, a few things could play in the UW's favor.

Consider this your primer to the day's Big Ten football action. BadgerBlitz.com talks about each game and how each one can hurt and help the Badgers. We've listed every game, from the least important in relation to UW's conference chances to the most important.

5.) Northwestern (5-2, 1-2) at Indiana (4-3, 0-3): 11:00 A.M. central time.

The word: Had Northwestern not blown a 17-0 and 24-14 edge against Michigan State last weekend, the landscape of Big Ten football would be drastically different. But, give credit to the Spartans for coming back in a game many thought they wouldn't be able to.

Now, with a struggling Indiana team up next for the Wildcats, expect a high scoring affair loaded with big plays. Both quarterbacks are able to sling the ball around at a high rate and both offenses are geared towards scoring points. If nothing else, this should be an entertaining watch.

How this game affects UW: In short, this game really doesn't affect UW. While the Badgers play both of these schools in the second half of the conference slate, neither are tabbed title contenders. Really, this game is only big for each of the schools involved and their bowl opportunities.

4.) Michigan (5-2, 1-2) at Penn State (4-3, 1-2): 7:00 P.M. central time.

The word: This should serve as a blueprint for what each of these two schools are capable of. Michigan stormed out of the gates behind the legs of Denard Robinson, but have lost two in a row. Penn State has struggled throughout the majority of the season.

It will be interesting to see how this game plays out, particularly with two teams that look to be pretty similar on paper.

How this game affects UW: Again, it doesn't really affect UW directly, but it can be said the Badgers will learn either a little bit about how good Michigan really is and what it's capable of against a typically solid defense.

More importantly, UW could learn that Penn State is or isn't capable of playing well at home against a big time opponent. That could be important as the season progresses and the Nittany Lions get ready to square off with Michigan State in the finale.

3.) No. 11 Ohio State (7-1, 3-1) at Minnesota (1-7, 0-4): 7:00 P.M. central time.

The word: Ohio State took it's frustration out on an overmatched Purdue squad a week ago, just one week after losing to Wisconsin in Camp Randall. The Buckeyes are one of the better teams in the conference and have proven to play well on the road. Minnesota, on the other hand, is struggling. It's record would be able to tell you that much. Do they have a shot at throwing a wrench in the bowl race with a win over Ohio State? Do I have a shot at dating Jennifer Aniston? It's very doubtful.

How this game affects UW: Ohio State is probably going to win and it's probably going to win big. The only way this game affects the Badgers is if Minnesota plays the best games it's played in a number of years and Ohio State forgets to pack their shoulder pads. I don't see anyway Minnesota wins this game.

2.) Purdue (4-3, 2-1) at Illinois (4-3, 2-2): 11:00 A.M. central time.

Purdue, though it just got crushed at Ohio State, is still in the conference championship race. With only one loss in league play, the Boilermakers have a chance to hang around with a win over Illinois. That seems to be easier said than done, however. Especially if Illinois is able to play at a high level, like it has in a couple of games already this season.

How this game affects UW: Since Purdue is the squad the Badgers face coming out of the bye week, it makes sense the Badgers would have an interest in this game. A Purdue win sets up a showdown of one-loss conference teams. Should Purdue lose, it will likely head home motivated to knock off one of the nation's elite teams next week.

1.) No. 5 Michigan State (8-0, 4-0) at No. 18 Iowa (5-2, 2-1): 2:30 P.M. central time.

The word: Michigan State's season so far has been one of beauty. They've won games many didn't think they would (Notre Dame, Wisconsin) and they've continued to push along when adversity strikes (Dantonio's heart attack). Now the Spartans will face their toughest test inside Kinnick Stadium. It doesn't help their case knowing the Hawkeyes are coming off a disappointing home loss to rival Wisconsin. Emotions will be high in this one and the implications behind this game make it one of the nation's premier contests.

How this game affects UW: The Badgers already took care of Iowa this year. So, should the Badgers win out they won't have to worry about what Iowa does because they would hold the head-to-head advantage.

Should Iowa beat Michigan State, though, the conference race will really take an interesting turn. It would mean MSU is even with Iowa, Ohio State (most likely), Wisconsin and potentially Purdue as one-loss conference squads.

That would really set up a fun month of November in the Midwest.

Should Michigan State beat Iowa, the Spartans would have a strangle hold on the conference and a major lead in the chase for Pasadena. Regardless, Saturday's slate of games, headlined with this slugfest, should be pretty entertaining.

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