With four teams idle, and no games pitting ranked teams against each other, this weekend has to be precisely when the unexpected occurs, right? Here are the games, storylines, and predictions for this Saturday (times Eastern):
Northwestern (5-2, 1-2) at Nebraska (3-4, 1-2), 12:00 p.m., ESPN2
Northwestern needs a win to prove that its strong start was no fluke and that it’s turned a corner from the last two seasons’ disappointment. The Huskers, having finally escaped from last-second heartbreak with a safe and sound win over Minnesota, need to keep that momentum going. Given the history of this former Legends Division series, this one could get nuts.
Prediction: Nebraska 21 Northwestern 16
Penn State (5-2, 2-1) at Maryland (2-4, 0-2), 2:30 p.m., ESPN
Maryland, off its bye and now led by interim coach Mike Locksley, needs to legitimize its no-handshakin’ upset win last year in Happy Valley. The Lions remember, and their stingy defense will also want to the bad taste of the whipping it took last week in Columbus out of its mouth. The Lions’ discombobulated offense will look great against the Terps’ utterly porous defense.
Prediction: Penn State 31 Maryland 6
Wisconsin (5-2, 2-1) at Illinois (5-2, 1-2), 2:30 p.m., BTN
Each team is askew from recent tradition: Wisconsin is 12th in the B1G in rushing while the Illini are 30th overall in total defense. Illinois will be missing top running back Josh Ferguson, and three of its four top wide receivers, while the Badgers, among other personnel losses, may be without top back Corey Clement. Of note, however, Illinois’ Wes Lunt and Wisconsin’s Joel Stave are both top five in the B1G in passing yards/game.
Prediction: Wisconsin 23 Illinois 13
Indiana (4-3, 0-3) at #7 Michigan State (7-0, 3-0), 2:30 p.m., ABC/ESPN2
If Kevin Wilson can yet again get Indiana up off the mat after his defense let a 25 point, fourth quarter lead slip away, his offense is easily good enough to make this one interesting. Could the inconsistent, but of course still undefeated Spartans, themselves coming off yet another insane rivalry win, be had?
Prediction Michigan State 41 Indiana 24
#1 Ohio State (7-0, 3-0) at Rutgers (3-3, 1-2), 8:00 p.m., ABC
With J.T. Barrett now in complete charge of the offense, Urban Meyer and OC Ed Warriner’s experimentation may continue, but now in other, probably fascinating directions. Rutgers can be plucky in night games at home, especially with Kyle Flood back and everyone riding last week’s monster comeback win. Both teams are, however, still exactly who we think they are.
Prediction Ohio State 55 Rutgers 24