Dugan: What I’m Watching For This Weekend

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Photo | Charlie Neibergall

So…raise your hand if you had Ohio State and Penn State losing by a combined 34 points. Okay, you’re all liars, put your hands down. Two weeks ago was wild. Last weekend was on another level of wild. I care more about Iowa-Wisconsin than I do Ohio State-Michigan State (no, seriously). Here’s what I’m watching for in that game and others across the Big Ten this weekend.

Can Iowa spoil another team’s season?

The Hawkeyes more than likely eliminated Ohio State from playoff contention with their blowout victory over the Buckeyes last Saturday, and now they travel to Madison to try and ruin Wisconsin’s run to the playoff. The undefeated yet injury-plagued Badgers eventually found their footing against Indiana and ran away with a big win behind the strong running of freshman stud Jonathan Taylor, who could make the case as the conference’s best running back.

This will be textbook Big Ten football. Two slow paced teams who take care of the football, and the better team will come out on top in a slugfest of a game. Anything short of an undefeated season would be a disappointment for Wisconsin, and this will likely be their toughest test all year. I’m excited to find out if Taylor and the Badgers can continue their streak of careful, fundamentally sound football against a red-hot Iowa team.

Just how bad is Nebraska?

Minnesota coach PJ Fleck made headlines this week with his demonstration of what “success” looks like during his press conference. After a 1-5 start in the conference, it’s tough to find anything close to the word success in his first season as the head coach of the Gophers. He can, however, find some silver lining if he can lead his team to a win over Nebraska.

Yes, I know, Nebraska is in a free fall, but when you’re 1-5 in the conference and playing for a “trophy,” any big win counts. It also would put the Gophers one step closer to a bowl game but despite their tough end to the season, that seems unlikely. But hey, whatever rows the boat.

Peak Northwestern

The Wildcats could finish 9-3.

Let that sink in.

Northwestern, who was obliterated by Duke, could finish 9-3. Charlie and I have discussed this at length over the past few weeks, and Northwestern teams of the past would absolutely lose this game. A well-coached team scrambling to find life against a Wildcat team that is fresh off of three improbable wins historically doesn’t bode well for Northwestern. They cannot let that happen, especially given the fact that they could still finish with double digit victories for the second time in three years if they win their bowl game.

Justin Jackson deserves another double-digit win season. He has worked tirelessly and humbly throughout his entire career at Northwestern. From a Big Ten fan’s perspective, I would like nothing more than for him to shine in his final four games as a Wildcat and set a school rushing record that may never be broken.

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