Of the two undefeated teams remaining in the Big Ten, only one is in action this week in a slate that includes five conference games: Michigan (7-0) is on a bye, along with Illinois, Michigan State and Nebraska. Ohio State (6-0), steady at No. 2 in this week’s AP poll, hosts Iowa (3-3, 1-2) with the Hawkeyes looking to pull off the upset. Elsewhere the Minnesota Gophers (4-2, 1-2) travel to No.16 Penn State (5-1, 2-1) and Wisconsin (3-4, 1-3) looks to bounce back from a 34-28 overtime loss to Michigan State in Week 7 when they take on Purdue (5-2, 3-1), who will sit atop the Big Ten West with a win. See below for a full schedule, previews, and best bets in another week of Big Ten football.
Big Ten Football Week 8 Schedule
Saturday, October 22nd
Iowa vs #2 Ohio State – 12pm ET
Indiana vs Rutgers – 12pm ET
Purdue vs Wisconsin – 3:30pm ET
Northwestern vs Maryland – 3:30pm ET
Minnesota vs #16 Penn State – 7:30pm ET
Week 8 Preview: No. 2 Ohio State looks to stay undefeated against stout Iowa defense
Both Iowa and Ohio State are coming off byes last week, so both should be well-rested for this East-meets-West showdown. But 6-0 Ohio leads the nation in points per game (48.8) and has outscored opponents 293-94 along the way, including a 49-20 drubbing of Michigan State last time out. The good news for Iowa is that their defense is their strength – the Hawkeyes rank third nationally in scoring defense (9.83 points per game) and 7th in total defense (264.7 yards per game). But Iowa hasn’t faced a test like Ohio State’s passing game, led by junior quarterback C.J. Stroud, whose play has him in the Heisman conversation this season. Stroud, along with North Carolina’s Drake Maye, leads FBS in pass TDs (24) and is second in yards per completion (15.37).
Iowa players have embraced their massive underdog status this week. “It’s completely us against the world,” sophomore O-lineman Mason Richman said Tuesday. “I’m sure everyone is going to be picking Ohio State across the board. The mentality we have is we’re 70 guys getting on a plane against 100,000 plus over in Columbus.
Stroud, for his part, isn’t underestimating the Iowa defense. “This is football, man,” Stroud told reporters Wednesday. “No one fears us. We don’t fear nobody… I’m preparing for a lot of different things — different angles they can come at. So I’m not preparing for them to be super deep or up close. I’m kind of preparing for everything.”
One element that’s missing from the high-powered Ohio State offense is wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who’s been out since Week 2 with a hamstring injury. Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day said Smith-Njigba would need to continue to be evaluated throughout the week to determine his readiness for Saturday, but his teammates have been excited to see him more active in practice over recent weeks. “It can be historically great,” WR Marvin Harrison Jr. said of the Ohio State offense with Smith-Njigba back in the lineup. “I really don’t know what you do as a defensive coordinator.”
A capable defense is a great thing, but here’s a tough stat to swallow if you’re Iowa: the Hawkeyes rank last, 131st of 131 teams, in total offense, putting up a paltry 238.8 yards/game. Only four teams have put up worse numbers in terms of scoring offense – Iowa is averaging 14.7 points per game, ahead of just Colorado, New Mexico State, Colorado State and Massachusetts. This is Iowa’s second matchup this season against a top-five opponent (they fell to #4 Michigan 27-14 at the start of October) and unless the defense can come up with a true miracle, Ohio is likely on its way to 7-0.
Purdue bids for top spot in Big Ten West with matchup against Wisconsin
Illinois, currently at the top of the Big Ten West, is on a bye this week. A win for Purdue (5-2, 3-1) would give them at least one week alone in the top slot, as well as a five-game win streak that already includes victories against Minnesota, Maryland and Nebraska. The Boilermakers two losses came against top-25 opponents (#16 Penn State, #14 Syracuse) and the team kept pace in both of those games, losing by a collective seven points. The Badgers have won the last 15 matchups against Purdue dating back to 2003, but that streak looks primed to end with Wisconsin sitting at 3-4 (1-3 in the conference) and coming off a momentum sapping double-overtime loss to Michigan State Week 7.
The team at NBC Sports EDGE took a deep dive on this week’s Big Ten slate and are serving up their favorite plays for the week with a focus on the Iowa-Ohio State matchup:
Iowa @ Ohio State: Ohio State 1Q -7
Vaughn Dalzell (@VmoneySports)
No idea why this is not -7.5 or -8 but getting OSU by 7 points in the first quarter at home seems like a gimmie.
Iowa’s offense is putrid behind Spencer Petras. Iowa should struggle to score a touchdown in this game and that’s not from, but the sports books. The Hawkeyes Team Total is 9.5 for this outing, so I have strong doubts they score at all in the first quarter.
Ohio State leads the country with 16.3 points per game in the first quarter and Iowa is 52nd at 6.2, plus 10 total points in the first quarter of two road games (@ Illinois, Rutgers).
Over the previous two games, Iowa managed a field goal versus Illinois in the first quarter but did not score in the first half versus Michigan. I like the chances Ohio State leads by at least seven points in the first 15 minutes and holds Iowa scoreless in the process.
Iowa @ Ohio State: Ohio State 1Q -7
Zachary Kruger (@ZK_FFB)
I agree with Vaughn. This is the top play on the Big Ten board this weekend as one of the nation’s best offenses faces off against one of the nation’s worst offenses.
Ohio State enters Saturday as 30-point favorites against the woeful Hawkeyes and needs just eight points to cover in the first quarter of this one. Iowa, who prefers to win games by not scoring points, ranks 126th in the nation in points per game (14.7) and is averaging just 2.3 points in the first quarter when playing on the road. At home, Ohio State is averaging 16.8 points in the first quarter — the fourth-most of any team in the nation.
If Iowa is to cover this first-quarter spread, they will likely do so on the back of their defense, which ranks 14th in the nation in overall success rate at 35.8%. However, Ohio State’s defense is ranked fourth in the nation in defensive success rate (32.0%) and could wreak havoc on an Iowa team that has not moved the ball all season.
I will put my money on the Buckeyes’ defense forcing a few punts in the first quarter, and C.J. Stroud and company turning them into some easy points in a game that will not be close for long.
For more Big Ten analysis and Week 8 advice from the EDGE team, click here. And if you’re looking for a deeper dive on Week 8 highlights across college football, don’t miss NBC Sports’ college analysts breaking things down Saturday at 11am ET on the NBC Sports EDGE YouTube page.
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