miller push off D shot

B1G Leaders Week 10 Preview: Bowl Eligibility Is the Name of the Game

It’s Week 10 already?  How do only four games remain on the Big Ten schedule??  Enjoy November guys, cialis because it will all be over before we know it.  Sniff, sniff.

For some of us, Week 9 was awesome.  The Ohio State Buckeyes eradicated the Penn State Nittany Lions, 63-14.  It was already 42-7 at the half.  And it was the worst PSU’s been beaten in 114 years.  OSU had 686 offensive yards and 9 offensive touchdowns.  That’s a Buckeye record for the most yards ever against a Big Ten opponent.

QB Braxton Miller racked up five touchdowns, three with his arms and two with his feet, threw for a career-high 252 yards, and leads the Big Ten this season in completion percentage (70.6 percent) and third-down conversion percentage (45.7 percent).  His plays were exciting to watch once again, especially when he actually uses the opposing team’s defense to push himself off of and keep on running. (Evidence above.)

RB Carlos Hyde was everything we expect from the bullish runner, and is averaging 137 yards per game in league games and has seven rushing touchdowns in the Buckeyes’ four Big Ten wins.  I really do want a t-shirt that says Roll Hyde.  A lot.

PSU QB Christian Hackenberg was intercepted early and sacked often, with two of those coming from former Penn State recruit, DL Noah Spence.  Linebacker Ryan Shazier had 10 tackles and a sack against Penn State, and is now tied for the most tackles for loss in the Big Ten.  He also was announced this week as a semifinalist for the Bednarik and Butkus awards.

The Bucks probably couldn’t have asked for a much better game and to all my friends I gave the “ummmmmm…” look when they asked me if they should have taken the 15-point spread, I’m sorry.  Holy schnikes was I (gloriously) wrong.

And now, it’s Week 10. Rivalries, the fight for the Title game and securing bowl eligibility make the last few weeks a fun ride.


11:00 a.m. on BTN:  #4 Ohio State (8-0) at Purdue (1-6)

Why you should care:   Ohio State has a bye this weekend…..errrr, I mean they play Purdue.

Yes, Purdue has won 3 out of 4 of the last OSU match-ups in West Lafayette.  Yes, last year the Boilermakers took Bucks QB Braxton Miller out of the game and to the hospital for tests.  But these are both awfully different teams this year – one may be the best in the B1G and the other just may be the worst.

Ohio State has won eight games this season, Purdue just one.  OSU has the longest winning streak in the country.  Purdue couldn’t even get a streaker at their tailgates.  Ohio State has 79 rushes of 10 yards or more, first in the B1G.  Purdue has 19, placing them last.  Ohio State hasn’t lost a game in 22 months, Purdue hasn’t lost a game in 2 weeks.  (It’d be less, but they’re coming off a bye.)

OSU has a better and faster Braxton Miller and a ton of weapons, while Purdue has a freshman QB, Danny Etling, who only became the starter after the team’s loss to Northern Illinois a few weeks into the season and lost 2012’s QB Caleb TerBush and the AkeemsShaver and Hunt – all of whom were big playmakers.

The Boilermakers like to try to make life miserable for the Buckeyes, especially when OSU is having a good season.  “The Spoilermakers,” as my alumni friend on the West Coast likes to call them.  But this year, their fun has probably ended.

Purdue’s defense is ranked 69th, and on average they give up 400 overall yards per game.  They especially struggle against the run – in rush yards it’s 194 per game, 274 against B1G opponents.  Ohio State excels with the run, and just ran for 408 yards against Penn State.  I don’t see them finding a way to stop Carlos Hyde.  Or Dontre Wilson. Or….oh you get it.

The only real way for the Boilers to shake up OSU’s offense would be with turnovers.  But OSU has played turnover-free games for the past few weeks against much tougher opponents.  The level of skill and aggression Purdue will need just doesn’t seem to be there this year.

OSU’s Malcolm Jenkins, Brian Robiskie, Marcus Freeman, Alex Boone and James Laurinaitis just before the 2008 season. All are currently in the NFL, with the exception of Coach Freeman.

Interesting facts:  Purdue is coached by Darrell Hazell, a former OSU assistant.  Purdue also consulted with former OSU head coach Jim Tressel when hiring Hazell.  Plus, Purdue’s linebackers coach?  Former Ohio State linebacker Marcus Freeman.  His good buddy and teammate James Laurinaitis (currently of the St. Louis Rams and a top draft pick) recently stopped by his house where Freeman made him sign the wall of his West Lafayette home.  Little Animal’s masterpiece?  “Go Bucks!”  Which Freeman loved.

The spread is 31 points.  After last week against Penn State and this rather glaring mismatch, I say take the spread.  And the Boilermakers are doing another one of their scurry blackouts – everyone wears black – in the stadium.  Um, you guys may want to save any blackouts for the bars after the game, when you’ve seen the final score.


11:00 a.m. on ABC:  #24 Wisconsin (5-2) at Iowa (5-3)

Why you should care If you weren’t aware, this is actually a pretty good and longstanding rivalry game in the conference, and currently a division vs division face-off.  The Badgers and the Hawkeyes play for The Heartland Trophy in this match-up, designed and created only in 2004 despite 80+ years of games.  Though these two have not met since 2010 (but will regularly again after the next conference realignment) the series currently stands tied at 42-42-2.  Which makes it just that much more fun.

Ironically, these two teams stand pretty tied when it comes to their 2013 story, too.  They have nearly identical records, both are one win away from bowl eligibility.  They both beat Northwestern (what happened to you Wildcats??  From #16 to four straight defeats and back to obscurity) and both gave it a good go against the top-ranked Buckeyes.  And both have continued to improve week after week this year.

This game may be a question of who runs the ball better.  Both teams excel at the run game.  The Hawkeyes have RB Mark Weisman, who has carried for 732 yards so far this season.  But the Badgers have RBs Melvin Gordon and James White, who are in 1st and 3rd place in the conference for rushing yards per game.  Gordon is a serious weapon for Wisconsin; he leads the Big Ten with 1,012 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns through seven games.

Iowa’s pass defense ranks #2 in the conference, so it’s good Wisconsin has such a strong run game.  Though the Hawks are still one of the best at stopping the run, the Badgers’ rush defense is better.  They’re averaging giving up just over 87 yards per game.

The Badgers are happy to get star linebacker Chris Borland back this weekend, who’s been out for two weeks with a hamstring injury but recently announced as a semifinalist for the Bednarik and Butkus awards.  The Hawkeyes have a defensive leader in linebacker James Morris, who had eight tackles, a pair of sacks and a fumble recovery against Northwestern last weekend, earning him his second Big Ten Player of the Week award.

This is a good match-up and going to be some real smashmouth B1G football.  Expect the Badgers to hang in there longer and dominate though.

Fun fact for Badgers fans: Star RB Melvin Gordon actually decommitted from Iowa to commit to Wisconsin.  I’m guessing he’ll get a warm welcome in Iowa City.


Illinois (3-4) at Penn State (4-3):

Last week Penn State gave up 63 points.  Illinois gave up 56.  But both team’s offenses are averaging 30 points per game.  Illinois is weak when it comes to defending the run, giving up an average of 219 yards per game, so the Lions should probably focus on RB Bill Belton.  Illinois’ offensive style may be the better one here, so the Lions need to pound the ground and eat the clock.  And don’t dwell on last week, Lions, just move on.

Minnesota (6-2) at Indiana (3-4):

The most interesting thing about these two teams is that each has a signature win – Indiana took down Penn State and Minnesota just surprised Nebraska.  It’s also an interesting match-up stylewise.  The Gophers love to pound the ball on the ground while the Hoosiers are all about the quick strike air attack.  Defense could be a problem for Indiana here, but if they can upset another B1G team, Minnesota is probably one of them.  After all the Hoosiers are the only team in the Top 25 Nationally in points per game that doesn’t have a winning record.  They’re tied for 8th at 42.4.

About the author: Kristin Conrad is a college football-loving graduate of Ohio State – she bleeds Scarlet & Gray and considers the Varsity Club hallowed ground. A PR pro who just moved back to Columbus from Manhattan Beach, Chicago and NYC, she’s been happy to find that some of her favorite friends ever are from schools she used to hate and that nothing brings people together like sports does.

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