By Eric Olson
AP college football writer
Things to watch during game week 13 in the Big Ten Conference:
GAME OF THE WEEK I
No. 3 Michigan (11-0, 8-0 Big Ten, No. 3 CFP) at No. 2 Ohio State (11-0, 8-0, #2 CFP)
The stakes are always high “The game,” never again on saturday. The winner represents the East in the Big Ten championship game and remains in first position for a college football playoff bid. The underdog still has a path to the playoffs and, worst-case scenario, a spot in New Year’s Six Bowl. The Buckeyes have been boiling over for a year with their first loss to Michigan since 2011. The Wolverines are looking for back-to-back wins over Ohio State for the first time since 1999-2000. This will be the fourth time in 19 meetings that both teams finish in the top five when they meet.
GAME OF THE WEEK II
Nebraska (3-8, 2-6) at Iowa (7-4, 5-3)
This Black Friday game is nowhere near as impactful as Michigan-Ohio State, of course, but it highlights what was a remarkable turnaround from Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes. Iowa would secure the Western title and return to the Big Ten championship game with a win over the swooning Cornhuskers. Iowa had four straight wins from a 1-3 conference play opener. Playing in the worst division of the Power Five, the Hawkeyes were able to offset one of the worst offenses in the nation with one of the best defenses.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Wisconsin enters Paul Bunyan’s Ax game against Minnesota having won 26 of its 31 games played with a traveling trophy on the line. … Penn State’s Nick Singleton (863) and Kaytron Allen (748) are the first pair of FBS freshman running backs on the same team to have 700+ rushing yards apiece Buffalo’s Jaret Patterson (1,013) and Kevin Marks (845) in 2018. … Of the three Big Ten quarterbacks with five 400-yard passing games since 2000, two are active: Ohio State’s CJ Stroud and Purdue’s Aidan O’Connell. Third was the late Dwayne Haskins, who had all five of him in 2018 for Ohio State. … As of 2018, Nebraska’s .279 hitting percentage in Big Ten games (12-31) is second worst behind Rutgers’ .136 (6-38). Ohio State is first at . 950 (38-2).
Indiana is a 10-and-a-half point home underdog against Purdue, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. The game for the Old Oaken Bucket is the Hoosiers’ bowl – unless they go 5-7 and are needed to fill a bowl slot – and there’s nothing they’d love more than crushing their rival’s hopes going to the conference championship game in the event Iowa loses to Nebraska on Friday. The Hoosiers have some mojo after a double overtime win at Michigan State ended a seven-game losing streak.
Illinois RB Chase Brown is poised to significantly add to his nation-leading rushing total of 1,582 yards against a Northwest defense that allows a Big Ten-worst 4.64 yards per carry. Semifinalist Doak Walker is averaging 28.1 carries per game in the Bowl split and has had at least 29 in five of his last six games. The Illini have lost three straight, and to sneak into the Big Ten title game, they must win the Land of Lincoln Trophy and send Iowa and Purdue losing.