Hawkeyes off, but plenty to watch Saturday in Big Ten

Andrew Logue

Perhaps Iowa football fans needed a Saturday off. Last week's loss to Maryland still stings.

Then again, with the Hawkeyes idle this afternoon, scoreboard-watching may raise aggravation levels.

Iowa (5-2 overall, 2-1 Big Ten) could fall another half-game behind Minnesota (6-1, 3-0) in the Big Ten's West Division standings, while No. 16 Nebraska (6-1, 2-1) can continue its climb and Wisconsin (4-2, 1-1) can solidify its status as a conference title contender.

Kind of depressing, huh?

Maybe it'll be more fun if we focus on a trio of intriguing subplots. While the Hawkeyes prepare for their Nov. 1 return against Northwestern, this is what's playing out on your television:


The Big Ten features two of the nation's top tailbacks, and they'll be ripping thorugh defenses simultaneously.

Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon, who averages an NCAA-best 174.3 yards per game, will try to maintain that pace when the Badgers host Maryland at 11 a.m. on the Big Ten Network.

Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah is fourth when it comes to rushing yards per game (146.3), but No. 1 nationally in all-purpose yards (192.7). Rutgers will try to tame Abdullah at 11 a.m. on ESPN2.

In case you've forgotten, Gordon and Abdullah will take turns visiting Kinnick Stadium the last two weeks in November.


Embattled fourth-year Michigan coach Brady Hoke has lost two of his previous three meetings against Michigan State.

Would beating the Spartans at 2:30 p.m. on ABC help Hoke silence the naysayers?

"This game, in this state, means an awful lot," Hoke told reporters, "and it means an awful lot every year in the Big Ten."

Mark Dantonio is 70-30 in seven-plus seasons as Michigan State's coach, including 5-2 when playing his in-state rival.

The Wolverines used to bristle after losses to Ohio State. Now, they're looking up at the suddenly elite Spartans.

For those Hawkeye followers who grouse about coach Kirk Ferentz, let this be a warning: Michigan hasn't been the same since Lloyd Carr was ushered out.


When quarterback Braxton Miller suffered a season-ending shoulder injury, Ohio State's playoff hopes went limp.

It turns out, though, his backup is more than capable.

J.T. Barrett is completing 65.2 percent of his passes for 1,615 yards, 20 touchdowns and five interceptions.

At 7 p.m. on ABC, Barrett will take aim at a Penn State defense that ranks sixth nationally, allowing 15.2 points and 283.3 yards per game.

The Buckeyes are moving toward a Nov. 8 showdown at Michigan State, with the winner gaining an inside track to the East Division crown and keeping its College Football Playoff chances alive.