This past week in college football was a wild one and while no Big Ten teams were a part of the fun, they had implications for several teams in the Big Ten. Wisconsin survived a tough game against a pesky Boilermaker team. Ohio State trounced Nebraska while Michigan needed OT to beat IU. Michigan State looked good going to Minnesota and pulling out the win while Rutgers (!!!!!) beat Illinois in the Best Worst Game of the Week. With the top Big Ten teams taking care of business and the chaos this weekend in the top 10 of the AP polls, we now find three Big Ten teams in the top 6 of the poll. Penn State slid behind Alabama as the second best team in the nation, Wisconsin finds itself as the least talked about top 5 team in history and Ohio State finds itself moving back up the rankings. This should make for a fun few weeks as we dive in to the meat of the Big Ten schedule. Here are the three things to watch this weekend in Week 8.
1. Maryland @ Wisconsin. Before the year, I would have probably passed this game over and not thought twice about it but Maryland has had such a roller coaster season and Wisconsin has found itself in the top 5. Coming off a closer than expected game against Purdue at home, Wisconsin needs to make sure that doesn’t happen again verses an athletic Maryland team.
2. Michigan in Happy Valley. Michigan has beaten Penn State each of the last three years and have won 5 of the last 8 match ups in Happy Valley. Michigan looked sloppy at times this past week against Indiana but expect Harbaugh to have his boys ready to go Saturday night.
Also, lets not forget that 2005 game in Ann Arbor when undefeated and number 7, Penn State, lost to Michigan on a Mario Manningham touchdown as time expired. Michigan spoiled Penn State’s perfect season and championship run. That remained the Nittany Lion’s only loss on the season.
3. Playmakers for Michigan. Former classmate of mine Drake Harris has been switched back to WR from CB for the Wolverines this past week. The redshirt junior has been ineffective in his first few years but has struggled to find the field due to injury and players ahead of him. After watching him play in high school for 3 years there is no doubt that he can add a dynamic aspect to Michigan’s offense if he sees the field. With the lack of any wide receivers for the Wolverines wanting to make plays, Harris could start making an impact as soon as this week.
Match Up to Watch This Week: Penn State O-Line vs. Michigan O-Line.
Michigan must be able to protect O’Korn and open up holes for the Michigan running backs. Michigan needs to find themselves in manageable 3rd down situations. They need success on first and second down running the football to leave themselves 3rd and short. Michigan’s offense has yet to find any true playmaker on the outside and O’Korn hasn’t developed rapport with anyone. They lost the game a couple weeks to Michigan State in the trenches and they can not let that happen again or things could get ugly in Happy Valley. The real question mark is right tackle as many Wolverines have split time out there and no one has seized the spot. As for Penn State, their front five looked sloppy against Northwestern and couldn’t create anything for Barkley who had more TD’s than he did yards at one point. Penn State needs to do a better job of opening holes for Barkley or at least blocking long enough for him to find yards. They go up against one of the best front sevens in the country so they will have their hands full keeping McSorely upright and Barkley going forward. The team that rushes for the most yards and allows the fewest sacks will win the game, I know that sounds cliche but in this instance it is especially true. I think that Michigan can pull the upset with their strong front seven and run game. Look for Harbaugh and crew to get creative with some play calling to help spring the offense.