Here’s what to watch in the Big Ten this week:
GAME OF THE WEEK
No. 15 Wisconsin (4-1, 2-0) at No. 12 Michigan (5-1, 3-0). This crossover game is huge for the Wolverines and Badgers. Michigan is beginning a tough stretch that also includes a visit to Michigan State and a home game against Penn State. It can afford one loss in the Big Ten race, but probably not two with third-ranked Ohio State chugging along like it is. Wisconsin is the only West team with no conference losses, and its biggest obstacle after Michigan is a Nov. 10 game at Penn State. Wisconsin beat Michigan 24-10 in Madison last year but lost 14-7 in its previous trip to Ann Arbor.
Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor against Michigan run defense. The Badgers need consistent production from Taylor at the Big House. The national rushing leader had a hard-earned 113 yards on 25 carries three weeks ago against an Iowa defense ranked in the top five against the run. This time he’ll be going against the No. 6 run defense, one allowing 96 yards rushing per game. No individual has run for more than 65 yards against the Wolverines.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Iowa has won 10 straight games when scoring at least 20 points. … Rutgers has given up eight scrimmage plays of 50 yards or longer. Only three teams in the nation have allowed more. … Maryland’s Ty Johnson rushed for a total of 296 yards and averaged 12.9 yards per carry in three previous games against Rutgers. … Nebraska has had double-figure penalties in all five of its games, and its penalty average of 97.4 yards ranks last in the nation. … Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson is the only Big Ten quarterback with two games of 350-plus yards passing. … Of Minnesota’s 2,689 yards passing, rushing and receiving, 1,949 (72 percent) have been produced by freshmen. … Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins is the first quarterback in Big Ten history to have three games with at least five TD passes, according to Big Ten Network research. … Purdue’s David Blough is completing 68 percent of his passes for an average of 398.7 yards over the past three games. … Illinois‘ 2.0 interceptions per game leads the Big Ten and is tied for second in the country.
Indiana, 5 1/2-point underdog at home to Iowa. A run of injuries has made Iowa (4-1, 1-1) vulnerable, with two freshmen set to start at cornerback again, the top two middle linebackers out and tight end Noah Fant and running back Ivory Kelly-Martin banged up and questionable. The Hoosiers (4-2, 1-2) hung with Ohio State into the fourth quarter on the road last week and feature a budding star in freshman running back Stevie Scott and a precision passer in Peyton Ramsey.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Penn State QB Trace McSorley. McSorley passed for a total of 757 yards and seven touchdowns in his last two games against the Spartans, and the spotlight will be on him again because Michigan State famously stuffs the run but can’t stop the pass. McSorley’s statistics don’t jump off the page — 52.9-percent completion rate and 209 yards per game — but Pro Football Focus notes he has been hurt by a Big Ten-high 17 drops. That won’t stop him from testing the Spartans with deep balls.