Three Big Ten games get national TV attention in Week 7, and you can come pretty close to watching all three in their entirety. Here’s the rundown on the Big Ten football TV schedule for Saturday…
Indiana–Michigan State (Noon, ESPN2): A cross-divisional game that probably means more to Sparty than it does to the Hoosiers. Michigan State is looking to win the Leaders Division. Unless you think Indiana is going to win consecutive road games over Ohio State and Wisconsin in November, they aren’t looking to win the Legends Division.
What IU is thinking about is bowl eligibility and they have to find three more wins. The most logical path is home victories over Minnesota, Illinois and Purdue in which the Hoosiers will almost surely be favored. Stealing a road win at minimum provides cushion, and potentially moves up the bowl selection pecking order. The game presents a contrast in styles, with the Hoosiers’ attacking, passing offense and the Spartans’ more traditional Big Ten ground-pound-play-defense formula.
Northwestern-Wisconsin (3:30 PM ET, ABC/ESPN2): These teams are in opposite divisions of the Big Ten, but there are some serious stakes. Northwestern, even with its loss to Ohio State, is very much alive for the Leaders Division title in a race with Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska, so long as the Wildcats win in Madison. Wisconsin needs to run the table to get an at-large BCS spot and this game may represent the biggest challenge.
All the intangibles favor Wisconsin–they’ve got an opponent coming off an emotional big game, while the Badgers have had two weeks to prepare, and the game is in Camp Randall. I don’t see how you pick against Wisconsin, but jacking the line up to (-11) seems a little disrespectful to Pat Fitzgerald’s team.
Michigan-Penn State (5 PM ET, ESPN): The Nittany Lions have given up 34 points to Central Florida and 44 to Indiana, both in losses, the latter a decisive defeat. Michigan’s raised its share of eyebrows this year, but they looked sharp in dismantling Minnesota last week, they’re still undefeated and they’re running the ball pretty well with Fitz Touissant. Michigan quietly keeps building its perfect resume with a decisive win.
The fourth conference game on the docket is Nebraska-Purdue (Noon ET) on the Big Ten Network. It’s looking like Taylor Martinez might not play, so that’s one more problem for the Bo Pellini and the Cornhuskers in a year that’s threatening to run off the track, but in which Nebraska is still 1-0 in the Big Ten.