Spartans rebound, put selves in position to win Big Ten East
Some things to watch in the Big Ten during Week 13 of the season:
GAME OF THE WEEK: Penn State (7-4, 4-3) at Michigan State (10-1, 6-1, No. 5 CFP). Lots of people wrote off the sixth-ranked Spartans after they were upset by Nebraska in Lincoln three weeks ago. But they’re back, fresh off beating Ohio State without star QB Connor Cook and one win away from representing the East Division in the Big Ten title game against Iowa. Cook’s sore right shoulder is still healing, and if he can’t play, Tyler O’Connor is in line for his second start. Penn State is out to play spoiler and spruce up its bowl resume.
BEST MATCHUP: Ohio State (10-1, 6-1, No. 8 CFP) at Michigan (9-2, 6-1, No. 10 CFP). Motivation is never an issue when these two games get together for “The Game,” and fans have been waiting all season for the coaching matchup between Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh. But let’s see how the eighth-ranked Buckeyes respond to having their 23-game win streak ended last week at home by Michigan State. They better arrive at the Big House ready for 12th-ranked Michigan’s best shot because the winner goes to the conference championship game if Michigan State is upset by Penn State.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS: Northwestern (9-2, 5-2) plays Illinois (5-6, 2-5) at Soldier Field in Chicago and has won nine games for the fifth time since 1995. Coach Pat Fitzgerald has been part of each nine-win squad, playing on the 1995-96 teams and coaching the 2008, 2012 and 2015 teams.
LONG SHOT: Purdue (2-9, 1-6) is a touchdown underdog at home to Indiana (5-6, 1-6) in the battle for the Old Oaken Bucket and is all that stands between the Hoosiers and bowl eligibility. The Boilermakers played Northwestern within a touchdown two weeks ago and hung with Iowa deep into the second half last week, with both of those games on the road. Do the Boilers, who beat Nebraska at home on Halloween, have one more surprise left in them?
PLAYER TO WATCH: Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard might need to play his best game of the season against improving Nebraska (5-6, 3-4) for the Hawkeyes (11-0, 7-0) to get out of Memorial Stadium with a win Friday. It’s been hard for offenses to run against the Cornhuskers, and the Blackshirt defense is sure to be motivated with bowl eligibility at stake. This is Beathard’s stage to make his argument for best QB in the Big Ten, and to get Iowa a step closer to the College Football Playoff.