This weekend is especially crucial in the Big Ten Universities conference, with every team in action.
In the East Division, the top four teams, which make up the top six in the entire conference, are playing each other Saturday, as Michigan State travels to Indiana and Michigan goes to Ohio State.
The Buckeyes haven’t banked a win in nearly a month, tying Michigan State last week, taking the week prior off and losing to Indiana in week two. So they’ll be eager to get back in the win column with the Wolverines visiting Columbus. In previous years, Michigan coming to town would have meant an automatic win for Ohio State, but those days appear to be over, as Michigan is 1-1 against common opponents this season.
Michigan (2-1) is already overachieving, but a win over Ohio State (1-1-1) would be a huge program victory. Surely, keeping his team focused on simply improving this week was a challenge for Michigan coach Matt Trenary.
Indiana (2-1) and Michigan State (2-0-1) are second and first in the division, respectively. So Saturday’s winner will take pole position in the divisional race. If the game’s as close as it’s expected to be, it could come down to a kicking contest between Indiana’s Lewis Shaw and Michigan State’s Rory Hill. The flyhalves are first and third in points in the BTU, respectively.
In the West, Illinois (2-1) needs its third win in a row to keep pace with Wisconsin. The Illini have allowed just one try in each of their last two games, and Purdue is coming into Champagne winless. This is the first cross-divisional game of the BTU season, however, and it should provide some insight as to whether the East or West is stronger. Purdue is going to have to try and slow down Martin Giannetti, the Illinois center who did his best Red Grange impersonation lat week, running in five tries against Nebraska.
The Cornhuskers (0-2) will try and rebound from that 54-7 loss at the hands of Illinois. They do so in Iowa City against the Hawkeyes (1-2). Iowa can play a good 10-man game, with a pack that has the ability to score tries and a dangerous runner at scrumhalf in Taylor Young.
And in Minneapolis, Minnesota tries to get its season back on the right track against undefeated rival Wisconsin. These two teams have played each other plenty over the years, and there’s no love lost between them. Nothing would make a 1-2 start to BTU play better for the Golden Gophers than a win over Wisconsin. If that’s going to happen, Minnesota has to slowdown the one-two punch of Jordan Heginbottom and Thomas Hemmnings. The two Badgers have combined for 87 points this season, which is 39 more than the Golden Gophers have scored as a team.