B1G Week 14 Preview: Rivalry Week

One of the best weeks in the entire season has arrived: Rivalry Week. All around college football many teams play their most hated rival and play for bragging rights, conference titles and even national title implications. Many coaches jobs are dictated by how they play against their main rival. Just ask former Ohio State coach John Cooper. Cooper’s 2-10-1 record against the team up north ultimately cost him his job. Losing to your rival can ruin seasons and careers. So expect teams to kick it up a notch when they face their enemy this weekend. Of course I only talk about the non-Ohio State games in this column, but if you’re interested in hearing my thoughts on “The Game” be sure to tune into my B1G Rivalry Week Google+ Hangout this Friday at 3 pm ET. More info about the hangout can be found here and information regarding all of the Rivalry Week festivities on Google+ can be found on USA Today’s Landing Page. Now onto the games…

Iowa @ Nebraska

The winner of this game will receive the Heroes Trophy. It’s a pretty nice looking trophy if I do say so myself. When Nebraska joined the conference in 2011 Iowa was established as the chief rival of the Huskers. And I think its slowly turning into a good rivalry. Both are relatively close to each other in proximity and this season both are pretty evenly matched. Iowa is seeking it’s eighth win, while Nebraska is trying win nine games for the sixth straight season under Bo Pelini. I’ll be interested to see who is starting at quarterback for Nebraska after Tommy Armstrong suffered an ankle injury against Penn State. Personally I would start Ron Kellogg III because he’s a senior and seems to have good chemistry with the offense. One thing for certain is the Huskers will be handing the ball off to running back Ameer Abdullah a lot this weekend and will try to get the ball in the hands of play-making receiver Kenny Bell too. Iowa’s offense is similar to the Huskers in that they haven’t relied a lot on the arm of quarterback Jake Rudock and tend to pound it out on the ground, while only passing when necessary. And who could blame them when they have Mark Weisman (the definition of “manball”) and Damon Bullock. Iowa has lost both games since this was established as a rivalry game and their success in this game on offense will be dictated by which Nebraska defense shows up to play. I’ll be surprised if this game doesn’t go to overtime and it should be an entertainingly close game.

Minnesota @ #11 Michigan State

This is the one non-rivalry game in the B1G this weekend. But that doesn’t mean this isn’t a good game. Minnesota just fell out of the top 25 after losing a hard-fought game to Wisconsin and Michigan State is trying to finish the season with an 11-1 record. Both teams aren’t very flashy and like to rely on their running game to set up short passes for their quarterbacks. Minnesota’s offense is led by running back David Cobb, who is coming off his worst game of the season, which doesn’t bode well when facing the #1 defense in the country. Only Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah has been able to find success running the ball against a tough Spartans’ defense. Michigan State is developing a pretty good running back of their own in Jeremy Langford, who has rushed for over 1,000 yards and 15 touchdowns. Quarterback Connor Cook has been steadily improving too. I expect this game to play out just like the Wisconsin-Minnesota game last weekend. Minnesota will be hard pressed to score a touchdown and Michigan State will pound the Gophers with Langford.

Purdue @ Indiana

Old Oaken Bucket

Even though both teams aren’t exactly super powers in college football, this is one of the most storied and fierce rivalries in college sports. The winner of this game will receive the Old Oaken Bucket (pictured above), which they’ve played for since 1925. These two schools hate each other and this game is pretty important to each fan base. Since neither will play in a bowl game, this will be the final game of the season for each of them. Their seasons will be dictated by this game. Purdue only has one win on the season, but have been showing some signs of improvement late in the season. Running back Akeem Hunt ran for over 100 yards last week against Illinois, which is encouraging. Quarterback Danny Etling also seems to be coming around. Indiana has had a great offense all season (except against Ohio State and Wisconsin), but a horrendous defense. The Hoosiers are 24th in the country in scoring offense, but 118th in total defense. Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld has thrown for over 2,500 yards and 21 touchdowns, while running back Tevin Coleman is just shy of 1,000 yards rushing. Purdue is going to play their best football all season, but Indiana’s offense will be just too much for the Boilermakers’ defense to handle.

Northwestern @ Illinois

The Land of Lincoln Trophy

Many casual fans will associate these two teams with their game they played a couple of season ago in Wrigley Field. While it was an entertaining game, many don’t realize that these two always have an interesting game. The all-time series is pretty evenly matched, with Illinois leading with a record of 54-47-5. The winner of this game will receive the Land of Lincoln Trophy, which replaced the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk after the 2008 game. Northwestern is coming into the game with a seven game losing streak and has some of the worst luck in college football. The Wildcats came into the season with a lot of promise and now aren’t even going to a bowl game. Head coach Pat Fitzgerald should get his team motivated to play and senior quarterbacks Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian are going to play great games. Senior Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase wants to go out on a good note of his own too. Despite his team’s mediocre play, Scheelhaase has had a pretty good season. He’s thrown for 2,965 yards and 19 touchdowns, which should prompt some NFL teams to give him a good look. I think this game will be high scoring with both teams getting a lot of passing yards from their quarterback. I know I called it a few weeks ago and was wrong, but I think Northwestern will finally get a win and end their season on a good note.

Penn State @ #15 Wisconsin

There was talk of this game having a rivalry trophy on the line, but it never came to fruition. It’s understandable for Penn State wanting a trophy for this game because of NCAA sanctions banning them from a bowl game and a trophy would give them something to play for at the end of the season. Between sanctions starting to set in and breaking in a new freshman quarterback, Penn State has had a pretty rocky season. One bright spot for the Nittany Lions as of late has been running back Zach Zwinak, putting up big numbers over the last couple of weeks. He had a fumbling problem earlier in the season, but has rebounded nicely here at the end of his senior season. Wisconsin is looking to notch their 10th win of the season and are only one spot away from the coveted 14th place spot in the BCS, which would make them eligible for a BCS at-large bid. Give Badgers’ head coach Gary Andersen a lot of credit for keeping his team motivated and playing well after the debacle in the desert with Arizona State. Wisconsin is without a doubt a top 10 team and I believe they’re one of the most balanced teams in the country. Penn State will put up a valiant fight, but the Badgers are just too good to let this game slip through their fingers. Wisconsin should win this game and will patiently wait to see if they receive a BCS bowl bid.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: