Things to watch during Week 10 of play in the Big Ten Conference:
GAME OF THE WEEK
No. 9 Penn State (7-1, 4-1 Big Ten) at Maryland (5-3, 2-3), Saturday, 2:30 p.m. CDT (Fox)
The Nittany Lions, who host No. 2 Michigan next week, need to right themselves following a disappointing showing against Ohio State and a flat performance against Indiana. Maryland is following its familiar script, stringing together losses the second half of the season after a promising start.
Penn State QB Drew Allar should be able to build some confidence against a mediocre Maryland pass defense. Northwestern had three pass plays over 30 yards and three over 20 against Maryland last week. Allar’s 57-yard, game-breaking TD pass to KeAndre Lambert-Smith was only the Lions’ second pass of 40 yards or longer.
Maryland QB Taulia Tagovailoa is the Big Ten’s leading passer, but he’s lost two straight to the Nittany Lions. He was sacked seven times in a 30-0 loss last year.
Illinois (3-5, 1-4) at Minnesota (5-3, 3-2), Saturday, 2:30 p.m. CDT (Big Ten Network)
This is close to a must-win situation for both teams.
Minnesota is among the four teams tied for first in the West, and this could be the easiest of their final four games. They are 1 1/2-point favorites, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. They go to Purdue next week and finish at Ohio State and at home against Wisconsin.
Illinois needs to win three of its last four games to be bowl-eligible for a second straight year. The Illini still have to play Iowa on the road and their rivalry game with Northwestern at home.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Ohio State and Rutgers enter their game in New Jersey as the only teams in the nation to not give up a play of 40 yards or longer. … Michigan, which hosts Purdue, has scored at least 30 points in a school-record 11 straight games. … The last three meetings between Nebraska and Michigan State have been decided by a combined seven points, with the Huskers winning two of them. … Wisconsin would be bowl-eligible for a 22nd straight year if it beats Indiana. That would be the third-longest streak in the nation. … Maryland has three-plus sacks in five straight games, its longest such streak since 1996. … Iowa plays Northwestern at Chicago’s Wrigley Field, the first time in 99 years that the Hawkeyes have played a Big Ten opponent in a baseball stadium. The last time was against Minnesota on Thanksgiving Day 1904, an 11-0 Gophers win at Athletic Park in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Indiana (2-6, 0-5) is a 9 1/2-point underdog at home against Wisconsin (5-3, 3-2), according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
The Hoosiers are coming off their best performance of the season, playing on even terms with Penn State on the road until the final three minutes. Wisconsin has serious injury issues. RB Braelon Allen, the conference rushing leader, and WR Chimere Dike are questionable. QB Braedyn Locke, who took over for the injured Tanner Mordecai, has shown some promise despite completing only 49% of his passes.
Nebraska QB Heinrich Haarberg is 5-1 since taking over as the starter, and he has managed the offense well enough on a defensive-minded team for the Cornhuskers to be in the logjam atop the Big Ten West. Haarberg has been fearless as a runner, and he took some devastating shots against Purdue last week. Coach Matt Rhule has told Haarberg to be more cautious. The question is how he will hold up this week against a physical Michigan State defense.