Big Ten Football 2012
Big Ten Football Preview - Week 8
Big Ten Week 8 Football Schedule
Penn State at Iowa
Indiana at Navy
Michigan State at Michigan
Purdue at Ohio State
Minnesota at Wisconsin
Nebraska at Northwestern
Week eight of the Big Ten season has three matchups that stand above the crowd, and three games that won't get much attention on a national level. Obviously, let's focus on the games that will create a news buzz in the college football world.
The biggest game on the slate is the battle for the state of Michigan. The Spartans from East Lansing will travel to Ann Arbor to take on the Wolverines. Michigan State is reeling after losing a double-overtime game to Iowa in which the visiting Hawkeyes tied the score with 55 seconds left in regulation. Michigan State dominated Iowa for three and a half quarters, but failed to score touchdowns on long drives. The Spartans' offense repeatedly bogged down inside the Iowa 12-yard line, settling for three-point tallies that kept the Hawkeyes close. Michigan State's defense had only one bad possession, but it was the very possession in which Iowa scored its lone touchdown of the game. The Hawkeyes, smothered on offense for over 50 minutes, uncorked a 35-yard pass play and produced a 37-yard run that led them into the end zone. In overtime, Iowa managed two field goals on two possessions, but that meager display of offense was enough to win because Michigan State quarterback Andrew Maxwell threw an interception in the second overtime following a disappointing field goal in the first overtime sequence. The Spartans are simply a mess on offense, and as a result, they are 3-3 on the season despite the fact that their defense has played so well.
Michigan State has to carry a rally-around-the-flag approach to this game, a rivalry rendezvous against a Michigan squad that, while hardly impressive outside the Big Ten, has rolled to two easy victories within the conference. Michigan's athleticism is certainly better than any other Big Ten team not called Ohio State. The Wolverines have outclassed Purdue and Illinois by wide margins. Quarterback Denard Robinson, who looked so awful against Notre Dame in September, has been able to impose his style of play on Big Ten foes. Michigan State is therefore entering this game at a substantial disadvantage; it needs Maxwell to become a much better signal caller, but right now, Michigan holds a major edge at that position.
Michigan's difference-making unit, though, is its defense, led by coordinator Greg Mattison. The Wolverines had been a dumpster fire on defense when former coordinator Greg Robinson served under previous head coach Rich Rodriguez. Mattison – brought to Ann Arbor by current head coach Brady Hoke – has engineered a swift transformation of the Wolverines, bringing them back to their old-school identity, one that the iconic Bo Schembechler would have loved if he were still alive today.
All in all, the onus here is on Michigan State to show it can move the ball. If it can't, Michigan will affirm its grasp on the Big Ten Legends Division.
Nebraska and Northwestern are two Legends division contenders. The winner of this weekend's game will stay in the hunt while the loser will almost certainly get knocked out. Northwestern's defense needs to contain Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez. The Cornhuskers have a rich tradition based largely on their defense and their ability to play physical football, but the modern-day Huskers are based on offense and their speed. If Northwestern can't slow down Martinez, the Huskers will pull away on the road in Evanston, Ill.
The final intriguing game on the Big Ten slate is Penn State's visit to Iowa to take on the Hawkeyes. Iowa is 2-0 in the Big Ten after its upset of Michigan State. Penn State is battling Ohio State for the lead in the Big Ten Leaders Division, and even though the Nittany Lions aren't eligible for the postseason, they know that they can take a big step forward this season by conquering Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City.
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