Like I have stated in previous articles, Big Ten football produces some of the most hard-hitting and intense football you can find. And while I’m still confused on what the conference was thinking when they named the divisions (Leaders and Legends?), here is a countdown of the ten most important games on the Big Ten conference slate in 2013.
10. Saturday, October 26 – Penn State @ Ohio State
The quarterback battle in this game is really intriguing, as Ohio State QB Braxton Miller will likely go up against Penn State true freshman Christian Hackenburg. Hackenburg and the Nittany Lions will play this game after their test versus Michigan, and they will have to play exceptionally well during this stretch to keep up in the Big Ten title race.
9. Saturday, October 12 – Michigan @ Penn State
Penn State will have this one at home, a huge advantage against a young Michigan team. However, Michigan’s Devin Gardner will be in stride by this point in the season, so look for this to be a high-scoring contest.
8. Saturday, November 23 – Michigan State @ Northwestern
For Northwestern, this game will likely decide their Big Ten fate, as they will come into this contest right after games against Nebraska and Michigan. The matchup to watch in this game will be Northwestern tailback Venric Mark against the physical Michigan State defense.
7. Saturday, October 5 – Ohio State @ Northwestern
This is a trap game for the highly-rated Buckeyes, as they will be tested by Northwestern quarterback Kain Coulter and a darkhorse Heisman candidate in running back Venric Mark. Look for this game to be circled on the Wildcats’ 2013 schedule, who are looking to get to their first Big Ten championship game.
6. Saturday, November 23 – Nebraska @ Penn State
Considering their schedule in 2013, Penn State will have to win some very tough games in 2013 to get to the conference title game, and this is one of them. But for Taylor Martinez, Ameer Abdullah, and the Nebraska Cornhuskers, this will their last true test of the year, and will need every conference win they can get.
5. Saturday, November 9 – Nebraska @ Michigan
With Devin Gardner leading a Michigan team that lost some key starters from 2012, the Wolverines will need every home win they can muster. However for Nebraska, a win in the big house would go a long way in the conference picture, and not to mention Taylor Martinez and Ameer Abdullah’s possible Heisman hopes being put to the test.
4. Saturday, November 16 – Michigan State @ Nebraska
Yet another game involving Nebraska, seems to be a trend in the Big Ten conference title picture. This game, though, will be big for Michigan State as they look to make up for a disappointing 2012 campaign. This game is another trap game for Nebraska, as they will tired from their trip to Ann Arbor a week before.
3. Saturday, November 2 – Michigan @ Michigan State
By this point in the 2013 season, I fully expect Andrew Maxwell and the Spartans to have BCS aspirations on their shoulders. To get there, however, they will have to impress voters with some impressive wins, including this one versus rival Michigan. Both Michigan and MSU experienced somewhat disappointing seasons in 2012, so look for them to have games like these circled on the schedule.
2. Saturday, September 28 – Wisconsin @ Ohio State
For Wisconsin and Ohio State, who had a combined 20 wins in 2012, this matchup could be the most important of the year. September 28 seems like an early game to be this vital, and it is, so look for mostly juniors and seniors to step up. Wisconsin will have to find a consistent quarterback to contest with Braxton Miller, but look defense to rule in this one.
1. Saturday, November 30 – Ohio State @ Michigan
Michigan has only beaten archrival Ohio State twice since 2000, but if they were to do that here, it could spoil the Buckeyes’ chances at a national title. Wolverines quarterback Devin Gardner could be playing like one of the better signal-callers in the country by this point, and the defense will be more experienced. Michigan will have the advantage by playing at home, but depending on where these teams are ranked by late-November this game could be a toss-up.