The Big Ten landed three teams in the top 10 of this year's initial College Football Playoff poll. All three have interesting tests this weekend.
The dust has hardly had time to settle from an instant classic in Columbus last weekend. No. 6 Ohio State has to head to Iowa's Kinnick Stadium, where many a postseason dream has gone to die. Penn State needs to rebound from a heartbreaking loss and prepare for a tough Michigan State team, the Nittany Lions' third consecutive divisional opponent. And No. 9 Wisconsin has an early start and an under-the-radar, tricky challenge at Indiana. Will all three take a step in the right direction this Saturday?
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No. 7 Penn State at No. 24 Michigan State, Noon ET, Fox
Tom VanHaaren: I don't see Penn State coming out flat in this game after a tough loss to Ohio State on a national stage. They have a lot to play for still, and you never know what can happen late in the season, so the Nittany Lions are going to need this win over Michigan State. The Spartans are coming off a loss to Northwestern, and this Penn State defense is likely going to make it difficult for quarterback Brian Lewerke and the Michigan State offense to do enough to win. Penn State 27, Michigan State 17
Mitch Sherman: If a win last year over Ohio State triggered Penn State's surge to prominence, could a loss this year signal the Nittany Lions' demise? Don't count on it. The schedule turned difficult a week earlier than expected for the Spartans, who now hit a brutal two-week stretch, kicked off against an angry PSU squad. The Spartans have won eight of their past 13 games over opponents ranked in the top 10. Nevertheless, the Land Grant Trophy will not change hands. Penn State 31, Michigan State 20
Dan Murphy: The Spartans have yet to face an offense with the type of speed and options that Penn State will bring to East Lansing this weekend. They have made big strides on defense since giving up 35 second-half points to the Nittany Lions in a loss a year ago, but not enough to slow down Saquon Barkley. It's not yet time to pull the plug on playoff hopes in Happy Valley. Penn State 34, Michigan State 21
No. 9 Wisconsin at Indiana, Noon ET, ABC
Murphy: Is this the week? Can the Hoosiers finally get over the hump and beat a top-10 team after pushing so many of them to the brink only to fall short? Wisconsin stars Jonathan Taylor, Quintez Cephus and D'Cota Dixon were all listed as questionable as they work through injuries this week. Even if they all play Saturday, the Badgers aren't at full strength. A sleepy noon start dooms Wisconsin this week and lowers a big blow on the West Division's credibility. Indiana 24, Wisconsin 21
Illinois at Purdue, Noon ET, BTN
Sherman: Purdue lost the past two weeks by a total of three points and has dropped its past three games by 11. Are the Boilermakers regressing after a hot start, or are these the expected growing pains of an improving program that does not yet understand how to finish victories? Yes to both. As for Illinois, it's just losing, a trend that likely won't end this year if it can't shake the struggles this week. Purdue 28, Illinois 14
No. 6 Ohio State at Iowa, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
VanHaaren: The Buckeyes are rolling right now, and this offense has kicked it into another gear. As it stands now, Ohio State is No. 2 among all FBS programs in total offense, putting up 571.3 yards per game. Sitting outside the top four in the College Football Playoff rankings, Ohio State also has a lot to play toward to ensure they have a spot at the end of the season. Ohio State 31, Iowa 13
Sherman: Iowa has won three of its past four home games against top-five teams, with the lone loss to Penn State in September, a 21-19 classic decided on the final play. That said, I just don't see the Hawkeyes hanging with the Buckeyes, which rank second nationally in scoring and have won 19 of 20 in November under coach Urban Meyer. J.T. Barrett hasn't thrown an interception since Week 2. He'll stay hot this week. Ohio State 31, Iowa 10
Murphy: Strange things happen when it gets dark at Kinnick Stadium, but these Hawkeyes aren't built to hang with Ohio State. K.J. Hill continues to shine in the horizontal-focused passing attack that Barrett is conducting like a maestro in recent weeks. The Buckeyes will try to make it hard for the playoff committee to keep them on the outside looking in. Ohio State 41, Iowa 20
Northwestern at Nebraska, 3:30 p.m. ET, BTN
Sherman: Whose “N” looks better? It's a question that rages endlessly in the Big Ten West. (Actually, no one cares.) But this year, it's the purple version -- at least of late as the Wildcats have resurrected their season with three straight wins. Overtime victories against Iowa and Michigan State the past two weeks solidified Northwestern as the second-best team in the division as a strong run defense has helped to forge an identity for this group. Northwestern 27, Nebraska 21
Maryland at Rutgers, 3:30 p.m. ET, BTN
Murphy: The Terps' offense seems to have regained some of its footing last week ahead of the Eastern expansion game in New Jersey. A third conference win is on the line for Rutgers, but it's hard to see the Scarlet Knights keeping both D.J. Moore and Ty Johnson bottled up for a full four quarters. Those two will break enough big plays for a comfortable Maryland victory. Maryland 28, Rutgers 17
Minnesota at Michigan, 7:30 p.m. ET, Fox
VanHaaren: The Wolverines made the switch to Brandon Peters at quarterback against Rutgers, and it looks as though Peters has given that offense a spark. The Gophers, meanwhile, have struggled in conference play with their only win coming against Illinois. The passing game isn't there for Minnesota, and Michigan's defense is going to swarm to the ball to shut down the run. Michigan 30, Minnesota 14