Harrison: Five B1G Things to Watch - Week 13

Phil Harrison scours the heartland of this great country of ours looking for the holy grail of what to watch for in this weekend’s slate of Big Ten games. You have questions and he has answers -- or something like that

By Phil Harrison
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Five B1G Things to Watch - Week 13

5. Can Ohio State do it in style?

The Buckeyes are circling the runway just waiting to land onto the College Football Playoff runway. To put down the landing gear, Urban Meyer’s crew has to start winning in impressive fashion. Good or bad, this thing has some elements of a beauty pageant.

Enter the Indiana Hoosiers. Unfortunately for Ohio State, beating up on the anklebiter on the playground will do little towards impressing the College Football Playoff Committee. It’s really a no-win situation, but OSU has to not just win, but win big to continue to show those making the decisions that it deserves to be in over TCU, Baylor and others looking to put swimsuits on and answer questions about world peace.

4. Who gets voted off the island?

It’s Survivor, Big Ten West Division, and the elimination challenge shifts to Lincoln, Nebraska this week. Both Minnesota and Nebraska lost last week to fall a game back of Wisconsin, and both need to win to stay in the race.

The Gophers are coming off of a close loss at home against Ohio State, while the ‘Huskers are still putting ointment on their backsides from letting Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon make a Heisman poster against them. Give the advantage to Nebraska at home, but don’t count out a hungry Gopher team. A win and there’s hope, a loss and it’s time to reset some goals.

3. Can Michigan get bowl-eligible?

Despite the trainwreck of a season the Wolverines have put together so far this year, there seems to be some light flickering at the end of the tunnel. What’s this you say? Yes, yes, believe it or not, Michigan and all of Brady Hoke’s statement releases this year are just one win shy of becoming bowl-eligible.

It won’t be easy, but getting the Terps at home is definitely manageable. Get it done this week and some Michigan fans might say the misery is prolonged, lose and face the uphill climb of trying to add another moment to the history of The Game by knocking off arch-rival Ohio State. Nobody likes the chances of that occurring this year.

2. Can Tim Beckman make the case for keeping his job?

I’m not one for calling for a man’s livelihood, but it’s no secret that things have not gone well under Illinois head coach Tim Beckman’s watch. The Illini have technically gotten a little better each year by simply judging the win totals, but there’s still no postseason appearance to show the progress that the brass in Champaign would like.

So, with that in mind, here we sit staring at an Illini team that has four wins up and six down. There are two games left on the schedule, which has led to my third-grader just reminding me that both games need to go in the win column for Beckman to take his team to a bowl. It starts this week with a home game against a Penn State team that has had issues moving the ball this year.

Find a way to outscore the Nittany Lions and then next week on the road against Northwestern become huge for the Mr. Beckman’s future.

1. Can Wisconsin keep rollin’?

The Badgers are clearly on the rise after the Melvin Gordon show last week. The defense is statistically the best in the league, while the combination of Gordon running behind a dominant offensive-line has the rest of the league taking notice.

Very quietly, Wisconsin could clinch the West division with a win and a Minnesota loss, and at this point who would be surprised? Either way, Gary Andersen has his team knocking on the door of the top ten, and perhaps on a collision course with Ohio State in Indy. But first things first, it’s time to go on the road and continue the campaign for Melvin Gordon and the Heisman.

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