Big Ten Football 2012
Big Ten Football Preview - Week 10
Big Ten Week 10 Football Schedule
Week ten of the Big Ten season offers a game that does stand out above and beyond the others… just not in the ways that most pigskin pundits were predicting before the season began.
With Ohio State sure to roll over Illinois and Michigan likely to smack Minnesota, the Big Ten slate on the first weekend of November is limited in its box-office appeal. Penn State should be able to handle a Purdue team that is cratering; the Boilermakers have not become the Leaders division threat that some commentators once envisioned. Indiana is a slight favorite at home against Iowa, and is technically still in the running for the Big Ten Championship Game, but the Hoosiers have hardly distinguished themselves this season. There's really only one game to watch on a crowded November Saturday, and that's the one that will take place in East Lansing, Mich.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers carry a brand name that is matched or exceeded by very few programs in the larger college football world. For four straight decades – the 1960s through the 1990s under iconic coaches Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne – Nebraska football stood for excellence at the highest levels of competition on autumnal Saturdays. Yet, a look at the ledger sheet over the past 13 years shows that the Huskers' trophy case has been surprisingly barren of late. Nebraska hasn't bagged a conference title in football since 1999. Nebraska came within a fraction of a second of beating Texas for the 2009 Big 12 championship, but almost and could-have-beens are not supposed to exist in Lincoln. Now, with the rest of the Big Ten Legends Division in tatters, Nebraska and head coach Bo Pelini know what kind of opportunity they have in front of them this November. They can gain a clear upper hand in the Legends race if they can win at Michigan State, a program that has underachieved in a big way this season.
Michigan State began this campaign with such high hopes – not just in the preseason, mind you, but after beating Boise State in a hard-fought season opener. Michigan State hurt itself with turnovers on that August night yet still found a way to beat one of the more overachieving programs in all of college football over the past six years. The Spartans and coach Mark Dantonio appeared to be on their way to greatness this season.
However, just when the light of promise was flowing into East Lansing, quarterback Andrew Maxwell simply failed to develop as a pocket passer. Two months into this season, Maxwell is still a tentative and shaky field general, one who has not been able to create the passing attack that can (and must) complement the between-the-tackles bulldozing of running back Le'Veon Bell, who is immensely talented and built for a lot of touches each game. With a solid passing offense, Michigan State could set up its running game and become an elite team, but Maxwell simply hasn't been able to make the grade. As a result, Michigan State has not yet sealed even so much as a bowl bid, a minimal goal that seemed to be beyond dispute or questioning at the start of the season, but which has become very much in doubt as November arrives. If the Spartans fail to beat Nebraska, they'll face a tough test from Northwestern before their season finale at Minnesota. A loss here might mean that Michigan State will end its regular season at 6-6, which would be a terrible embarrassment for Dantonio's program.
Nebraska might be the better team in this clash, but it can't expect to roll over its opponent this weekend. Michigan State might be inferior to the Huskers in terms of overall resumes, but the Spartans – being angry and intent on repairing some of the damage that's been done to their name this season – are going to be tough for the Cornhuskers to deal with, especially when Nebraska has the ball. Michigan State's defensive front is one of the toughest in the United States, powered by pass-rushing stud William Gholston. Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez is a turnover-prone player, and if Michigan State can get Martinez to cough up the pigskin, the Spartans can play this game on their terms.
Nebraska has a chance to reclaim prosperity and embrace it with totality. Michigan State needs to earn back some of the respect it has lost this season. The Big Ten will be worth watching when these two schools meet on Saturday.
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