Five B1G Things To Watch For -- Week Ten

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 For - Week 10

5. Can Bo Pelini Stiff-Arm Criticism?

Nebraska continues to not live up to what its fans would like. The ‘Huskers are on the short list of top programs in the country, but its short-lived life in the Big Ten has been anything but a celebrated maiden voyage. Probably most surprising is how a defensive-minded head coach can't seem to field a defense to keep Big Red in games. The result is that folks are starting to call for a change at the top in Lincoln.

Pelini can ill-afford to go to the podium after the game on Saturday to explain another poor showing. If things break right in East Lansing, and Nebraska can hold-serve at home against a suddenly struggling Northwestern team, there's still a chance to get to Indy. Lose, and the whispers only get louder, and the coaching seat hotter than a thousand suns.

4. Can Wisconsin Earn Respect?

The Badgers are literally a couple mistakes and a zebra brain-cramp away from being undefeated. Aside from the two games that narrowly escaped them, everything else has been blow-out city. The defense has been lights out, the offense has scored and imposed its will almost anytime called for, yet Wisconsin has been in a staring contest with Rodney Dangerfield in the polls -- no respect.

All Gary Andersen and company can continue to do is keep winning, and low and behold here comes another chance against Iowa on the road. If the Badgers can pluck the feathers of the Hawkeyes on national television, and continue to be impressive, maybe, just maybe, people will begin to take notice.

3. Will the Real Penn State Please Stand Up?

Coming from behind and beating a ranked Michigan team at home in four overtimes -- good. Losing by two-thousand points in Columbus -- very, very bad. It's quite likely that we gave the Nittany Lions too much mileage for beating the Wolverines, but it's also just as likely that they aren't as bad as last Saturday night showed.

Bring on the next piece of evidence to give the jury a chance to determine if Bill O'Brien's outfit is worth something or not. If the Nittany Lions are any good, they'll simply take care of business with a hapless Illini team coming to town. Struggle or lose and there'll be no choice but to render a verdict closer to what happened against Indiana and Ohio State.

2. Can Ohio State Keep Rolling and Improving?

For all the good that OSU did from a perception standpoint last Saturday against Penn State, it can all be undone with a flat showing in West Lafayette Saturday. There is no reason to beat around the bush here. Purdue is a bad football team simply looking to set a new culture and standard in year one. The Buckeyes should win big. The Buckeyes have to win big to continue to get Buckeye leaves in the public eye.

You can't take any game lightly, and you better believe that Urban Meyer dusted off some tape of the last two visits to Purdue (both losses) as motivation for this year's team to keep focused and take care of business. Simply put -- Ohio State has bigger business it is striving towards and it has to put on a clinic and continue to get better, especially on defense. Saturday is a perfect time to work on continued improvement.

1. What's the Best College Football Team in the State of Michigan?

In case you haven't noticed, Michigan State seems to have turned things around a bit since the rather pedestrian loss to Notre Dame. Since then, nary a team has really challenged the Spartans. The defense has been the best in the conference, the running game solid and efficient enough to play ball-control, and there even seems to be a quarterback that the coaches trust now with Connor Cook left on the last chair after all the music stopped.

Michigan, on the other hand, has had problems hitting on all cylinders this year. There have been uninspiring wins against the likes of Akron and Connecticut, and a baffling choke job in overtime in Happy Valley. Still, the Wolverines sit with just one loss, meaning a lot of goals for the year are still on the table.

So here we go. The Spartans are a game up on the Wolverines in the loss-column for the lead of the Legends division, while both are ranked and sitting with just one-loss overall. Bragging rights are on the line, but more importantly, the winning team is going to be in much better shape towards getting to Indy than the loser because of what's still out there on the respective schedules. It is THE game of the weekend in the Big Ten, and Paul Bunyan awaits.

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