<
>

Another Wisconsin showdown in Michigan highlights Week 5 in Big Ten

Wisconsin is getting used to this whole Top 10 showdown thing.

The Badgers opened the season by beating LSU, which was ranked No. 5 at the time. Last week, they dismantled No. 8 Michigan State 30-6 in East Lansing. So it shouldn't feel too unfamiliar or too intimidating when they return to the Mitten State this week to take on No. 4 Michigan in Ann Arbor.

"I like these big situations we come across," running back Corey Clement said Saturday. "I just think we play better against bigger opponents. So keep bringing on the big matchups, and we'll be ready for them."

The Badgers-Wolverines clash is intriguing for a lot of reasons. It's the first time these two programs have met since 2010. Michigan has the No. 4 scoring offense in the FBS at 52 points per game, while Wisconsin's defense ranks seventh nationally in scoring defense, allowing only 11.8 ppg. Paul Chryst's team is as battle-tested as any in America, while Jim Harbaugh's club has had a relatively easy go of it during it four double-digit victories, all at home (though the win over Colorado looks better in hindsight). Both teams live to be physical in the trenches, and we'll find out a lot about Michigan's run game against a Badgers defense that absolutely stuffed Michigan State's ground attack.

So it's going to be straight up lit in the Big House at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday. But while that's clearly the must-see game of the week in the Big Ten, there are plenty of other things worth monitoring. All 14 teams are in action, and it's our first weekend of wall-to-wall league contests. Some other highlights for the week that will be:

Unbeatens try to stay that way: Minnesota and Maryland are both 3-0 but are largely unproven. They both enter Big Ten play this week looking to build on those strong starts. The Golden Gophers have a big game at Penn State, where they will look to retain possession of the Governor's Victory Bell. OK, so that's not exactly a well-known trophy and these two teams haven't played since 2013, but Minnesota could announce itself as a real West Division contender with a win in State College. Penn State needs that win just as badly after getting blown out and beaten up at Michigan. There's no trophy between Maryland and Purdue; in fact, these teams have only played once before -- a 2006 win by the Terrapins. D.J. Durkin's club had a bye week to get ready for the visiting Boilermakers and has a good shot at getting to 4-0. And let's not forget Nebraska when talking about unbeatens. The Cornhuskers host Illinois this week in a game they should win to get to 5-0. The schedule sets up for Mike Riley's crew to get to 7-0 before they go to Wisconsin Oct. 29.

The Rutgers-Ohio State coaches' reunion: Odds are good that this won't be a competitive game in the Horseshoe. But it won't be for a lack of familiarity. First-year Scarlet Knights head coach Chris Ash was Urban Meyer's co-defensive coordinator the previous two seasons, including the 2014 national championship team. Meanwhile, new Buckeyes co-defensive coordinator Greg Schiano was the Rutgers head coach from 2001-2011. There's little chance that Rutgers would even be in the Big Ten right now if not for Schiano's work in turning that program around. Expect all sorts of talk about this mini-reunion this week.

Defending division winners look to get on track: What's become of Iowa and Michigan State, the two teams that met in last year's Big Ten title game? Iowa won last week but had to hold on for dear life in an ugly 14-7 decision at Rutgers. That, of course, came a week after the Hawkeyes lost at home to North Dakota State. Meanwhile, Michigan State looked totally out of sorts against Wisconsin, and any street cred the Spartans earned by winning at Notre Dame two weeks ago is out the window thanks to the Irish collapse. Both teams will be favored this week but with caveats. Iowa hosts Northwestern, which has played pretty well in recent years in Iowa City. Michigan State is on the road at Indiana, which has a dangerous offense that could give the Hoosiers a punching chance. Neither the Hawkeyes nor Spartans can afford another slip-up to have any shot of returning to Indianapolis.