Ann Heisenfelt
November 21, 2014

A look at what to watch in the Big Ten this weekend:

GAME OF THE WEEK: Everyone wants to see what Melvin Gordon will do for an encore when 14th-ranked Wisconsin (8-2, 5-1 Big Ten, No. 16 CFP) visits Iowa (7-3, 4-2) on Saturday.

Gordon's 408 yards rushing against Nebraska last week set the Bowl Subdivision single-game record, and now he'll go against a Hawkeyes defense that has had its own issues stopping the run.

How does Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz plan to keep Gordon under control?

''It's going to take a really - I don't want to say perfect, because that puts unreal pressure on you - but it's going to take our best football,'' he said. ''We're going to have to play real well at all 11 positions.''

Iowa, which would be eliminated from the Big Ten West race with a loss, already has seen three of the nation's top seven running backs this season. Last year, James White, now a rookie with the New England Patriots, ran 19 times for 132 yards and Gordon 17 times for 62 in Wisconsin's 28-9 win over Iowa.

''They graduated one back to the NFL and have a guy that's even better, with all due respect to James White,'' Ferentz said. ''They've had a tradition of great backs. I'm not sure I've seen a better one than what we're going to see on Saturday.''

BEST MATCHUP: We've already seen Gordon shred Nebraska's defense. Now it's David Cobb's turn to take a crack at the Blackshirts.

Minnesota (7-3, 4-2) is still in control of its fate in the Big Ten West, needing to win at Nebraska (8-2, 4-2, No. 23 CFP) and at Wisconsin next week to reach the conference championship game.

Cobb is averaging 135 yards a game on 25 carries a game. The 5-foot-11, 229-pounder hurt Nebraska last year, going for 138 on 31 carries in the Gophers' win in Minneapolis.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS: Wisconsin's Gordon leads the nation in all-purpose yards per game (199.2), rushing yards per game (190.9), rushing touchdowns (29) and yards per carry (8.56). ... Gordon's 408 yards rushing against Nebraska and Coleman's 307 against Rutgers, both last week, marked the first time since 2002 that Big Ten running backs have produced two 300-yard games in a single season. ... Big Ten backs have accounted for 13 200-yard games, most since 2000. ... Six Big Ten teams rank 101st or lower in total offense.

LONG SHOT: Illinois (4-6, 1-5) is a 6 1/2-point underdog at home against Penn State (4-6, 1-5). The Illini must beat the Nittany Lions on Senior Day in Champaign and Northwestern next week to achieve bowl eligibility for beleaguered coach Tim Beckman.

Beckman said this week that his team is better than the one that lost to Penn State 24-17 in overtime on the road last year. The Illini played West-leading Wisconsin within 10 points on the road and upset Minnesota at home but are coming off losses of 55-14 to Ohio State and 30-14 to Iowa.

PLAYER TO WATCH: If Rutgers (6-4, 2-4) has any chance to upset Michigan State (8-2, 5-1, No. 11 CFP) on the road, or even keep the game close, it will need QB Gary Nova at his best. Nova leads the nation with his 15.9 yards per completion and is third in the Big Ten with 16 touchdown passes. He'll face a defense whose pass coverage has dropped off from where it was in recent years but, overall, is still among the best in the country.

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