Here’s what to watch in the Big Ten this week:
GAME OF THE WEEK
No. 4 Ohio State at No. 9 Penn State
The highest-scoring teams in the nation meet Saturday night in State College, Pennsylvania, and the winner will gain the inside track in the Big Ten East race and put a big check mark on its College Football Playoff resume. The last two games between these teams have been thrillers, and this one sets up to be another one. Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins has been a precise and prolific passer in his first year as the starter. Penn State’s Trace McSorley hasn’t matched the numbers he put up the last two years so far, but has plenty of support with RB Miles Sanders averaging just under 124 yards per game.
Northwestern offensive line vs. Michigan defensive line
The Wildcats’ season is on the line in more ways than one. They’re 1-2 after getting upset by Akron and host Michigan after a bye week. The offensive line has underperformed in the first three games, and the retirement of RB Jeremy Larkin for health reasons this week creates even more pressure for QBs Clayton Thorson and TJ Green. Michigan has one of the best defensive fronts in the country, and with Northwestern having no proven running threat, it’ll be imperative to keep Thorson and Green upright.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Michigan State leads the nation in rushing defense at 32.7 yards per game. The Spartans have held five straight opponents under 50 yards on the ground since last season and under 100 yards in six in a row. Michigan State has held opponents under 100 yards rushing in 75 of 148 games coached by Mark Dantonio. … Purdue freshman do-it-all man Rondale Moore has held the football 53 times and is averaging 13.8 yards per touch. … Indiana, which visits Rutgers, hasn’t won its Big Ten road opener since beating Iowa in 2007. … Rutgers has been outscored 149-30 in its last three games (Ohio State, Kansas, Buffalo). … Michigan’s offense has been among the most balanced in the nation. The Wolverines are averaging 212 yards rushing and 209 yards passing through four games. … Northwestern’s Larkin averaged 24 carries and 115 yards through three games. With Larkin out, John Moten IV has the most total carries on the team: 12 for 21 yards and a touchdown.
Winless Nebraska is a 3 ½-point underdog at home to Purdue and desperate to end a seven-game losing streak dating to last season. The Boilermakers lost their first three games by a total of eight points before breaking through to beat a then-ranked Boston College. David Blough has a firm hold on Purdue’s starting QB job and will be facing Nebraska for the fourth time. The Huskers managed only 132 yards in a 46-point loss at Michigan, but they’re confident they can get coach Scott Frost’s first win with QB Adrian Martinez close to full health and cleaner play from their special teams.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Michigan State linebacker Joe Bachie. He goes into the game against Central Michigan having led or tied for the team lead in tackles in all three games. He’s averaging a Big Ten-best 10 per game.
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