Some things to watch in the Big Ten in Week 10 of the season:
GAME OF THE WEEK
No. 9 Nebraska at No. 6 Ohio State has huge implications for both teams in the Big Ten and for their College Football Playoff hopes. The Cornhuskers (No. 10 CFP) must win to maintain sole possession of the West Division lead. The Buckeyes (No. 6) are tied for second in the East with Penn State (which owns the tiebreaker) and must win to assure they stay a game behind Michigan. Nebraska has been horrid against ranked opponents away from Lincoln, having not beaten a top-10 team in a true road game since 1997. QB Tommy Armstrong Jr. must be sharper than he was last week in the overtime loss at Wisconsin. Ohio State is 32-2 at home under Urban Meyer and is due for a breakout after three straight uninspired performances.
No. 8 Wisconsin at Northwestern probably is a knockout game for two of the four teams stacked up behind Nebraska in the West. The Badgers will be plenty tough for a Northwestern offense that has improved. Wisconsin came out of its win over Nebraska knowing it must get more out of QBs Alex Hornibrook and Bart Houston. Northwestern has beaten the Badgers five straight times at home and should be confident after a narrow loss at Ohio State.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
History collides at the Horseshoe. Nebraska (46) and Ohio State (35) have combined for 81 conference championship. ... Michigan State heads to Illinois rushing for an average of 235 yards on the road and 120 at home. The Illini are 11th in Big Ten rushing defense (194 ypg). ... Minnesota, which hosts Purdue, is going for a fourth straight conference win for the first time since 2013. ... The combined record of the first three opponents Purdue interim coach Gerad Parker will have faced (Nebraska, Penn State, Minnesota) is 19-5. ... Big Ten rushing leader Saquon Barkley of Penn State has 888 yards and is nearing his second straight 1,000-yard season. ... Maryland is 33 yards from totaling its most yards on the ground since gaining 2,487 in 2003. ... Giovanni Rescigno is the eighth different starting QB for Rutgers in 10 years.
Iowa goes to No. 20 Penn State as a 7 +-point underdog. Look for the Hawkeyes to go hard with the 1-2 punch of RBs Akrum Wadley and LeShun Daniels, Jr. Both rank in the top 10 in Big Ten rushing and combine for 160 yards a game. The Nittany Lions are allowing an average of 188 yards on the ground in conference games. Iowa enters with a school-record nine straight road wins. Penn State is 5-0 at home, has won its last two meetings with the Hawkeyes and is going for a three-game sweep of its 2016 West opponents.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Let's see what coach Jim Harbaugh of No. 2 Michigan has in mind for do-it-all man Jabrill Peppers when DJ Durkin brings Maryland to the Big House for the first time since leaving his job as Wolverines' defensive coordinator to take over the Terrapins. Peppers is a bona fide Heisman Trophy candidate after his performance against Michigan State last week. His work on defense and special teams is obvious. Expanding his role on offense a bit more just might get Peppers to New York next month.
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