Some things to watch in the Big Ten on Saturday:
GAME OF THE WEEK
No. 2 Ohio State at No. 8 Wisconsin. This is the first meeting of the teams since the Buckeyes rolled the Badgers 59-0 in the 2014 Big Ten championship game. Cardale Jones started that game at QB for Ohio State in place of an injured J.T. Barrett and led the Buckeyes to the national championship. Barrett goes into Saturday looking to strengthen his Heisman Trophy candidacy after last week’s poor passing performance against Indiana. The stakes are especially high for Wisconsin . A victory would give the Badgers, for the first time, three wins in the same season against top-10 opponents. However, a loss in this game, two weeks after their loss at Michigan, would all but end their College Football Playoff hopes.
Northwestern at Michigan State. These two teams are the biggest underachievers in the Big Ten, so why is this the best matchup? Both are desperate to save their seasons. The Wildcats are 2-1 in their last three and coming off a road win against Iowa two weeks ago. But they’ve been beaten by West leader Nebraska and can afford no more losses if they hope to keep pace in the division. The Spartans, meanwhile, are 0-2 in the conference, have lost three straight and are unsettled at quarterback . For the defending Big Ten champions, it’s all about securing the best possible bowl destination.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Ohio State is third nationally in scoring (53.2 points per game) and second in points allowed (10.8 ppg). The Buckeyes remain the only FBS team to not allow a rushing touchdown. … Nebraska has gained at least 400 yards in seven straight games, the Huskers’ longest streak since 2012. … Iowa heads to Purdue on an eight-game road win streak that is the Hawkeyes’ longest since 1920-23. … Purdue is going for back-to-back victories for the first time since 2012 and its first home win over Iowa since 2007. … Minnesota’s Conor Rhoda, expected to start in place of injured Mitch Leidner at Maryland, has completed 1 of 2 career passes for 6 yards. … Illinois’ Chase McLaughlin had made the first 22 kicks of his career (8 FGs, 14 PATs) before he missed in the final seconds of regulation against Purdue last week. … Five players have taken a snap behind center this season for Rutgers: Chris Laviano, Janarion Grant, Giovanni Rescigno, Tylin Oden and Zach Allen.
Rutgers is a six-point underdog at home against Illinois. The Scarlet Knights have been outscored a combined 136-0 by Ohio State and Michigan the last two weeks. If first-year Rutgers coach Chris Ash can get his players’ minds right, the Illini present their best chance for a conference win. Illinois is coming off a loss at home to Purdue and faces uncertainty at quarterback after Wes Lunt was knocked out of that game in the second quarter.
PLAYER TO WATCH
QB Richard Lagow is the key to Indiana’s bid to beat a top-10 opponent for the first time since 1987. He enters his home game against 10th-ranked Nebraska with a Big Ten-leading 15.7 yards per completion and 292 yards a game. He has 11 passing TDs, one rushing and one receiving. Other than a brutal five-interception game against Wake Forest, Lagow has lived up to expectations in his first year as successor to Nate Sudfeld.
AP college football website: http://collegefootball.ap.org