Sunday, November 6, 2011

November has arrived and the games get bigger in the B1G

No, the Big Ten isn't playing as strong as the SEC right now. But, as the first weekend of November closes, two big upsets open up the division race in the Legends, while off the field issues hit hard in Happy Valley.

Who will win the Legends Division?

Two games threw a wrench into a couple of teams sites on winning the first Legends division title. First, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, the Iowa Hawkeyes upset Michigan 24-16 to remain in the division hunt. Both teams are now 3-2 in the division. Then, down in Lincoln, Northwestern went on the road, using three quarterbacks, knocked off Nebraska 28-25 to throw the Huskers to 3-2 and into a three way tie for second in the division with Iowa and Michigan.

Michigan State is leading the division with a 4-1 record, after holding off the upset minded Golden Gophers in a 31-24 win over Minnesota in East Lansing. This Saturday, the Spartans will travel to Iowa City with first place on the line. Minnesota will be home for the holidays, due to their the seventh loss of the season, but they can certainly make some noise as a spoiler in final three games of the Big Ten season.

Legends Division Standings

Michigan State 4-1, 7-2

Nebraska 3-2, 7-2

Iowa 3-2, 6-3

Michigan 3-2, 7-2

Northwestern 2-4, 4-5

Minnesota 1-4, 2-7

Game of the Week: Michigan State @ Iowa

Rivalry of the Week: Nebraska @ Penn State

Oldest Rivalry of the Week: Wisconsin @ Minnesota

Leaders Division Standings

Penn State 5-0, 8-1

Ohio State 3-2, 6-3

Wisconsin 3-2, 7-2

Illinois 2-3, 6-3

Purdue 2-3, 4-5

Indiana 0-6, 1-9

Penn State is coming off a bye week. The lone loss for the season came in Happy Valley in Week 2, when Alabama took the Nittany Lions down, in non-conference play. Plenty of off the field distractions for the Nittany Lions heading into the big game with Nebraska? Will the Nittany Lions have the bye week blues? Will the off the field issues hurt Penn State? Nebraska will look to rebound, after a disappointing loss at home.

With help from Minnesota and Purdue, the Nittany Lions could wrap up the division with a win over Nebraska, along with upsets in Minneapolis and West Lafayette, if Wisconsin and Ohio State both go down, respectively. Minnesota is playing better the last two weeks, while Purdue has not, after back to back road losses at Michigan and at Wisconsin. The most recent was a 62-17 loss to the Badgers. If Purdue wants to go to their first bowl game under coach Danny Hope, in his third season, they can't afford many more losses. The Boilermakers return home for the first of two home games, with Ohio State coming to town, followed by Iowa.

Wisconsin heads to Minnesota this week for the first of two road games, before closing out the season at home with division leading Penn State. Illinois enjoyed a bye week to open November, but will host Michigan on Saturday, in the first of two home games.

Northwestern return to Evanston on a two game winning streak and seeking a couple more wins to get bowl eligible. The Wildcats play their final non-conference game of the season, with Rice (3-6, 2-4 C-USA) coming to town, then back to back home games in Big Ten play, with Minnesota and Michigan State.

Indiana gave Ohio State one strong half of play in Columbus, with a 13-13 halftime score. But, freshman QB Braxton Miller pulled Ohio State ahead for a 34-20 win. IU will enjoy a bye week, which will hopefully help the continued development of freshman QB Tre Robinson. The Miller-Robinson game was the first time, since 1988, when true freshman quarterback squared off in Big Ten play.

Thoughts heading into the Week:

  • How will Iowa prepare coming off a win over Michigan, third straight for the first time in the series?

  • Is this Joe Paterno's final season at PSU?

  • Last week, Iowa fans were a little frustrated with Kirk Ferentz and his team's play at Minnesota, so how will Nebraska fans feel with Bo Pelini in staff, after game with PSU?

  • Is Kirk Cousins ready to avenge last years debacle in Iowa City, where he threw three INTs and Iowa cruised to a 37-6 win?

  • How good will the 2011-12 College Basketball season be, as teams complete exhibition play?

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