B1G Week 13 Preview: The End is Drawing Near

I can’t believe how fast this season has flown by. It seems like just yesterday we were kicking off the season. The B1G has certainly had its share of interesting moments and hasn’t lacked in entertainment to say the least. I also believe the conference has noticeably improved compared to last season. The top three teams in the conference (Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin) are pretty strong and I would have no problem putting them up against the top three teams from another conference. Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa and Michigan are pretty solid teams too, despite their flaws. Northwestern has been disappointing, but that isn’t completely their fault (injuries). Penn State, Illinois, Indiana and Purdue are rebuilding their programs. Only Illinois may be making a coaching change out of the four, but the other three seem to be heading in the right direction. With the season drawing to a close, everyone is trying to get another win either for the BCS, bowl positioning or for personal pride. So let’s look at week 13:

Illinois @ Purdue

So for the first time in conference play, I’m actually giving Purdue a good shot at winning this game. This is because the Boilermakers are coming off one of their best performances of the season, it’s at West Lafayette and Illinois has lost 20 straight B1G games. Illinois is coming off a surprising good performance against Ohio State. The Fighting Illini found holes in the Buckeyes’ secondary and were able to throw for 288 yards. The Illinois defense was even worse though and just could’t stop the Buckeyes’ offense. Purdue has won seven out of the last eight games against Illinois. The lone win for Illinois came in Champaign. I think Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase has a big game and will be the difference in a close Illinois win.

Michigan @ Iowa

When these two play teams play, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a close game. Michigan always seems to play close to the vest when traveling to Iowa City. Take a look these two over the last several years and you’ll see what I mean. Iowa has won three out of the last four match-ups. I think this game favors Iowa because Michigan hasn’t played their best on the road this season and Iowa always seems to play better at Kinnick Stadium. The Hawkeyes love to pound it out on the ground to set up short, easy passes for quarterback Jake Rudock. Michigan is a team that is hard to describe. The only for certain about them is that quarterback Devin Gardner can do enough to keep them in games until the end, which is what I think he will do this Saturday. I really can’t call a winner here because it’s just too close to call.

#13 Michigan State @ Northwestern

I feel for Northwestern and their fans. After losing to Ohio State and Wisconsin in consecutive weeks many thought they would turn it around and finish with at least eight to nine wins. But with injuries and horrible luck, they went into a tailspin they still haven’t recovered from it. The Wildcats will not even be going to a bowl this season. It’s only going to get worse this weekend when they face one of the best defenses in the country. The Spartans can smell an 11-1 season on the horizon and a potential BCS bowl bid. The offense is getting better every week, especially quarterback Connor Cook. Cook isn’t the next Peyton Manning, but he’s a good leader and doesn’t turn the ball over. And when you have a great running back like Jeremy Langston and a fierce defense, that’s all you need. I expect Michigan State to win this game easily and continue on their march to Indianapolis.

Nebraska @ Penn State

The last time Nebraska visited Happy Valley was in the wake of the Sandusky Scandal and was the first game after the firing of Joe Paterno. It was an emotional game. Nebraska won last year 32-23 in Lincoln and have won three straight in the series. The Huskers had a disappointing loss against Michigan State last weekend, which effectively eliminated them from returning to the B1G Championship for a second straight season. Nebraska’s offense is relying heavily on star running back Ameer Abdullah, who has been lighting up opposing teams all season. They also have a freshman quarterback Tommy Armstrong who is still getting acclimated to major college football. Speaking of freshman quarterbacks, Penn State has one in Christian Hackenberg, who has had a solid, but unspectacular season. The Nittany Lions have also been relying on the run a lot lately, especially Zach Zwinak. So both teams should pound it out on the ground in this game with some success, which means whoever is better at stopping the run should win. Turnovers have been issues for both this season too. I like Penn State’s chances to pull off the upset, but I’m picking Nebraska to win this one.

#19 Wisconsin @ #25 Minnesota

We have a top 25 match-up in the B1G and it involves Minnesota. Nobody saw this coming. The surprising Golden Gophers are 8-2 on the season and a pretty solid team. They have a great running game and bend, but don’t break defense. And all of this has been accomplished with head coach Jerry Kill battling health issues all season. Gophers running back David Cobb has rushed for 942 yards and seven touchdowns on the season and has been the best offensive player for Minnesota. Quarterback Philip Nelson has been steadily improving too. But the Gophers face their toughest test yet when they face Wisconsin this weekend. The Badgers have won nine straight games in this series and have been beating down every team in their path since losing to Ohio State. Wisconsin still has a shot at a BCS at-large bid too. So a lot is on the line for both teams. Everyone knows about the Badgers excellent rushing attack and it will face a solid test against a Minnesota defense that has done well against the run. The game being in Minneapolis will definitely help the Gophers. I think this game will be close at the half, but I just don’t see how Minnesota can stop Wisconsin enough to win this game. Minnesota is a good team that deserves praise for their season, but Wisconsin is on another level.

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