Most matchups this week have huge bowl game implications, whether teams are aiming for a Bowl Championship Series bowl or just trying to sneak into post season play. But for a few other teams, only dignity is at stake, and this week is merely a chance to come up with a win.
No. 18 Illinois (3-1 Big Ten, 6-1 overall) at No. 15 Purdue (3-1, 5-1), 12 p.m., ESPN: Sole possession of second place is not the only motivation in this game as both teams are looking further ahead. Illinois and Purdue are competing to stay in the running for the Big Ten championship, and for a shot at a BCS bowl game. Saturday”s game in West Lafayette will be the first time in 78 meetings that both teams are ranked.
Illinois senior quarterback Kurt Kittner is protected by an offensive line that has only allowed seven sacks this season the second best figure in the league. And Kittner”s partner in crime, wide receiver Brandon Lloyd, has 710 total receiving yards this season, ranking him second in the conference.
For Purdue, the key to the game will be attempting to contain an Illinois passing attack that ranks first in the Big Ten and 25th in the nation. While the Illinois running backs are slowly becoming more involved, 3.6 yards per carry is not sufficient, and the Illini will need to utilize both Antoineo Harris and Rocky Harvey to nullify the pressure on the receivers.
Both teams crawled home from Michigan Stadium this year with their first loss, but the only ranked opponent each team has played is the Wolverines. With the strength of both teams” schedules in doubt, how good can the Illini and Boilermakers claim to be? Saturday”s game will be another test to prove the strength of the Big Ten, and whoever comes up with the win will be a team that should be taken seriously.
Illinois 37, Purdue 30
Iowa (2-3, 4-3) at Wisconsin (2-3, 4-5), noon: Desperation is the theme for Wisconsin this weekend. To avoid missing a bowl game for the first time since 1995, the Badgers need to defeat at least two of their final three opponents. And with one of those remaining games against first-place Michigan, tackling Iowa is now a necessity.
Iowa senior quarterback Kyle McCann will still be starting this week despite junior transfer Brad Banks replacing him for two possessions in the first half against Michigan. McCann returned, and was sacked three times and threw two interceptions, helping in Michigan”s comeback victory.
Home-field advantage will be an important factor, as these two teams are evenly matched in many respects. It”s anyone”s guess which Wisconsin team will show up this week, but look for Wisconsin to step up to the pressure and stay in the running for a bowl game.
Wisconsin 33, Iowa 27
Ohio State (2-2 , 4-3) at Minnesota (1-3, 3-4), 7:45 p.m. ESPN: After losing two of its last three games, Ohio State is suddenly in jeopardy of not making a bowl game. With its next three games against ranked opponents (Purdue, Illinois, and Michigan), a victory at Minnesota on national television becomes essential.
Ohio State has too much on the line not to go in and make the kill. But Minnesota cannot be underestimated and will make a tough showing of its own. Ohio State quarterback Steve Bellisari will have to overcome his inconsistency and run the offense efficiently in order to earn a victory for the Buckeyes.
Ohio State 24, Minnesota 14