As it stands, Michigan State sits atop the Legends Division at 4-1. Iowa, Michigan and Nebraska are all right behind Sparty tied at 3-2. If Michigan State wins Saturday, they are one step closer to playing in the first Big Ten Championship game. If Iowa can continue their home win-streak, at the very least these two teams will be tied.
Michigan State had a close call last week against Minnesota, gaining the lead in the fourth quarter for a 31-24 victory. Le’Veon Bell ran for 96 yards and two touchdowns and Kirk Cousins threw for 296 yards and two scores while completing 23-of-34 passes. The Spartan defense allowed 22 first downs and 415 yards, but forced a fumble and intercepted Gopher QB MarQueis Gray twice.
Last year Iowa handed Michigan State their first loss of the season, as the Hawkeye’s win streak over the Spartans increased to seven. Iowa became bowl eligible after beating Michigan, and is looking to close out its home schedule 7-0. Iowa held the potent Michigan offense to 323 total yards last week in the 24-16 victory at home. Marcus Coker had 29 carries for 132 yards and two scores one week after gaining a career-high 252 yards on 32 carries in a 22-21 loss at Minnesota. Coker has scored two TDs in each of the last four games while rushing 647 yards during that span.
#19 Nebraska Cornhuskers (7-2) at #12 Penn State Nittany Lions (8-1)
12:00 pm – Beaver Stadium, University Park PA
Things are not so happy in Happy Valley this week as beloved coach, and winningest in college football, Joe Paterno was fired Wednesday by the Penn State Board of Trustees amidst a sex scandal that has rocked the nation. Tom Bradley has been a member of the Penn State coaching staff for 33 years and will take over as interim head coach for the remainder of the season.
Bo Pelini said he won’t discuss with his team the potential distraction in State College, and Nebraska Chancellor Harvey Perlman said his school’s participation in the game “in no way condones the conduct that has been alleged or makes a statement about the truth or falsity” of the allegations against Sandusky. The Cornhuskers entered last weekend with a shot at the Big Ten championship game representing the Legends Division after coming off a 24-3 win over Michigan State two weeks ago, but fell 28-25 at home to Northwestern.
Senior Day at Beaver Stadium will be a somber one for the students as they struggle to deal with the controversy surrounding their program, and the firing of Paterno, who coached the Nittany Lions for 46 years. Penn State has the country’s eighth-ranked defense (282.3 ypg), will focus on stopping the run as Nebraska is 5-0 when Rex Burkhead rushes for more than 100 yards. The Huskers have lost its last two games when he didn’t; including 69 yards on 22 carries against the Wildcats. The Nittany Lions, who have allowed two of their past three opponents to rush for more than 160 yards, are 46-1 since 2005 when holding teams under 100 yards rushing. Penn State is in first place in the Leaders Division by a margin of two games.
#24 Auburn Tigers (6-3) at #14 Georgia Bulldogs (7-2)
3:00 pm – Sanford Stadium, Athens GA
Auburn had last week off after defeating Mississippi 41-23 on October 29th and will start sophomore QB Clint Moseley for the second game. In his first start against Ole Miss, Moseley threw for 160 yards and four touchdowns. One of Moseley’s TDs went to Emory Blake, who returned after missing three games with an ankle injury to have five catches for 71 yards. This week, he should have another target back. Trovon Reed has missed four of the last five games with a shoulder injury. Talented RB Michael Dyer is second in the SEC with 989 rushing yards rank second in the SEC. Against the Rebels, he ran 27 times for 177 yards and his ninth touchdown of the campaign. The Tigers rushing defense is ranked 85th in the country and allows an average of 185.7 yards per game. Auburn snapped a four-game losing streak in this series last season with a 49-31 home victory, but two Tigers players were ejected for throwing punches in the increasingly chippy rivalry game. Auburn has lost its last two visits to Athens, and hasn’t claimed a win there since 2005.
Georgia started off the season 0-2 and rumors were rampant head coach Mark Richt would be fired at season’s end. Since then, the Bulldogs have won seven straight, and can clinch the SEC East with a win over Auburn and a South Carolina loss. Running backs Isaiah Crowell and Carlton Thomas both return from one game suspensions reportedly stemming from failing drug tests. Aaron Murray helped the Bulldogs make up for the losses at running back throwing a career-high five touchdown passes in the 63-14 rout of New Mexico State. Thomas has rushed for 200 yards and two touchdowns this season while Crowell’s 689 rushing yards rank sixth in the SEC. Georgia’s leading receiver with 438 yards, Malcolm Mitchell, could also return after missing three games with a hamstring strain.
TCU Horned Frogs (7-2) at #5 Boise State Broncos (8-0)
3:30 pm – Bronco Stadium, Boise ID
Boise State and TCU have met three times all in post season play with the Broncos leading the series 2-1. Boise State won the first meeting 34-21 in the 2003 Fort Worth Bowl, the Horned Frogs defeated the Broncos in the 2008 Poinsettia Bowl 17-16 and Boise State gained the series lead, winning 17-10 in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl. Now the teams meet in a battle for the MWC crown, as both are undefeated in the conference with just a few games remaining. This will be the only MWC meeting between the two since TCU will be moving to the Big 12 next season.
TCU had a couple hiccups early in the campaign, but have won the last four with an explosive offense led by QB Casey Pachall. Pachall is completing 68.5% of his passes for 1,940 yards and 19 TDs with five interceptions. The Horned Frogs rank ninth nationally in points scored per game (41.6), 16th in rushing offense (227.56 ypg) and 22nd in total offense (451.6 ypg). The ground attack has been a three headed monster this season with Waymon James, Matthew Tucker and Ed Wesley, who have combined for 1,712 yards and 16 touchdowns, and average 6.8 yards per carry between them.
Boise State opened their season with a two touchdown victory over Georgia in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Classic in Atlanta and hasn’t looked back since. The Broncos have won six games by at least 20 points and two by at least 50. The offense, anchored by Kellen Moore, is ranked seventh in points scored per game (43.9), 15th in total offense (479.00 ypg) and 17th in passing with 294.4 yards per game. Moore has the most wins by a quarterback in NCAA history with 46 and is completing 74.1% passes this season (tied for third for highest completion percentage) for 2,229 yards with 29 TDs and only five INTs.
Miami Hurricanes (5-4) at Florida State Seminoles (6-3)
3:30 pm – Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee FL
Neither team has been ranked in a top 25 poll for weeks, and with Virginia Tech’s win over Georgia Tech and Clemson with one loss, neither team is playing for the ACC title either. What these two teams are playing for is pride in a heated rivalry that goes back decades.
Miami is looking to put an end to the Seminole’s series win-streak, which now stands at three, and salvage a season that was marred in the beginning with scandal and suspensions. Last week, Lamar Miller ran for two touchdowns and became Miami’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 2002, finishing with 147 yards. Jacory Harris passed for 202 yards and three touchdowns, all in the first half, in the 49-14 victory over Duke at Sun Life Stadium. The Hurricanes defense is allowing 21.2 points per game, 384.7 yards of total offense with 179.00 allowed on the ground.
Last week EJ Manuel completed 12-of-16 passes for 180 yards and a touchdown while rushing 16 times for 37 yards and a score in the 38-7 rout of Boston College. Devonta Freeman ran for 62 yards and two touchdowns, and Nick O’Leary caught three passes for 87 yards as Florida State did most of its damage with touchdowns on three straight possessions in the first half. The Seminoles held the Eagles to 207 total yards of offense, intercepted the BC QBs twice, and forced three fumbles recovering two.
#6 Oregon Ducks (8-1) at #3 Stanford Cardinal (9-0)
8:00 pm – Stanford Stadium, Stanford CA
Oregon is the biggest threat to end the nation’s longest winning streak but will have to attempt handing Stanford their first loss in 18 games on the road. The Ducks will counter the power of Andrew Luck with the spread-option no-huddle offense headlined by the speedy RB LaMichael James. James leads the nation with an average of 151.57 yards rushing per game with an average of 7.98 yards per carry. Oregon’s defense gives up 383.8 yards per game but holds opponents to 20.8, the 26th best in the country.
The Ducks and Cardinal lead the Pac-12 and also rank among the Top 10 in the nation in almost every major offensive category. Stanford is third in the FBS for points scored per game at 48.2 and eighth in total offense with 505.8 ypg, while Oregon is fifth with 46 ppg and seventh with 510.7 total yards of offense. Luck has led most Heisman watch lists all season, completing 71.3% of his passes with an average of 269.3 yards per game, 26 touchdowns and five interceptions. The Cardinal defense is also solid, ranked 11th in scoring at 16.6 ppg, 18th in total defense with 324 ypg, and tied for third in rushing defense, allowing only 78.89 ypg.
Dory LeBlanc, covers Gator sports for Gators First and BourbonMeyer.com. Not just a college sports enthusiast, Dory is also a fan of NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLB. Born outside Philly, she moved to Tampa, and now resides in Illinois, giving her a broad perspective on the sporting world. You can follow Dory on twitter @DoryLeBlanc