Dugan: What I’m Watching For This Week

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Photo: Gregory Shamus | Getty Images

This weekend will play host to the best game in the Big Ten all season long as Penn State travels to Columbus to take on the Buckeyes. Let’s get right to it, here’s what I’m watching for this weekend:

The Game Of The Year

Saquon Barkley. JK Dobbins. Trace McSorely. JT Barrett. Need I say more? Well, not really, but I will anyway.

These are the two best running backs in the Big Ten. You can disagree with me if you want, but just know you’re wrong if you do. Dobbins is incredibly shifty and a total bruiser. Barkley is…well, he’s Saquon Barkley. But, as is probably not a surprise to hear if you listen to the podcast, this game will come down to the quarterback play.

McSorely has proven me wrong this year. He can throw it with the best of them in the Big Ten, even without deep threat targets. His receivers have been reliable and they move down the field with ease thanks to a great variety of short, medium and long throws (you reading this, Mick McCall?) and options with Barkley. But he isn’t the most important quarterback in this game.

That title goes to JT Barrett. I have been incredibly hard on him this season, and for good reason. He simply cannot throw the ball in big games. Clemson, Michigan, Oklahoma, you name it, he was brutal. Yes, his competition has been underwhelming to say the least since the Oklahoma loss, but man, is he on a tear. He hasn’t thrown the ball like this his entire career. Twenty-one (!) touchdowns and one (!!) interception on the season are tough to disrespect. Simply put, he’s been remarkable since Oklahoma. And this is the big game where he finally breaks through.

I trust Urban Meyer with my life, and he says Barrett looks like a new QB, and his offensive line has improved tremendously. If that’s the case, Ohio State can win the national championship. We will find out on Saturday afternoon, and I cannot wait. I believe in JT Barrett and his ability to turn it around. I have been rooting for him to turn it around, because he is one of the hardest workers we’ve seen in recent Big Ten history and a joy to watch when he plays well. His numbers are undeniable, and his potential to be one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the conference is large.

So, JT, your legacy is on the line. Your 60 minute game can put you in a position to win a second national title at Ohio State, or it can cap a career full of letdowns after your freshman campaign. What’s it gonna be?

The Battle For My Heart

For those who don’t know, I’m a junior at Indiana. My college football man crush is DJ Durkin. Conveniently enough, the Hoosiers travel to College Park to face Durkin’s Terps. As a model journalist, I of course will remain objective in this one. OK, maybe it’s because I’m completely torn emotionally, but I’m objective nonetheless. Indiana deserved to beat Michigan State last weekend, and could have taken down Michigan the week before, but went 0-2 in those contests. There is zero doubt in my mind Tom Allen’s boys will come out swinging.

As for DJ, I expect the same. This will be Indiana’s first unranked Big Ten opponent, and Maryland better be ready. The Hoosier offense has been ready to break through and shown flashes, but cannot string together a couple of consecutive drives. On the other side of the ball, Maryland needs to establish a running game. It’s what they do best, and it’s their only chance at winning this one.

Both teams are desperate for a victory in terms of reaching a bowl game. Indiana still has a great chance at winning seven games, while Maryland could go bowling despite misfortune after misfortune at the quarterback position.

Michigan vs Rutgers

Am I really writing about this game? I am actually writing about this game. It would genuinely surprise me if Michigan covers the spread. Their offense has been absolutely awful in the past few weeks. And no, it’s not because their opponents have been good defensively. It’s because they are a mess offensively.

I don’t know why Jim Harbaugh wouldn’t turn to a freshman at quarterback. Their season is over in the grand scheme of things, they won’t win a conference title and they need to plan for the future. There’s no way they lose this game, but they better obliterate the Scarlet Knights or there is a zero percent chance I back off my Jim Harbaugh criticism.

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