No. 13 Penn St hosts No. 2 Buckeyes in key Big Ten East game

October 27, 2022 GMT
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Penn State head coach James Franklin watches against Michigan in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
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Penn State head coach James Franklin watches against Michigan in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Things to watch during Week 9 of play in the Big Ten Conference:

GAME OF THE WEEK

No. 2 Ohio State (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) at No. 13 Penn State (6-1, 3-1)

Penn State fans expect James Franklin to produce, and big, after signing that 10-year, $70 million contract last November. The Nittany Lions must win this one to have a realistic chance to reach the Big Ten championship game for the first time since 2016. Because of their debacle against Michigan two weeks ago, they still would need help to get to Indianapolis even if they win out. They’ll face an Ohio State team on a roll, averaging better than 54 points over the last six games and holding six of seven opponents under 300 yards. The Buckeyes are 15 1/2-point favorites, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

BEST MATCHUP

Michigan State (3-4, 1-3) at No. 4 Michigan (7-0, 4-0)

Nothing would take the edge off Michigan State’s disappointing season more than a third straight win against its in-state rival. The Spartans don’t appear to be as well-equipped to get it done this year. Kenneth Walker ran for 197 yards and five touchdowns in last year’s game and the Spartans came back from an eight-point, fourth-quarter deficit to win 37-33. Walker has moved on to the NFL, and the Spartans are averaging just 61 yards rushing per game against conference opponents.

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INSIDE THE NUMBERS

Not including the 2020 pandemic season, Iowa’s average of 227.3 yards per game is second lowest by a Power Five team through Week 8 of a season since Wake Forest averaged 206.7 in 2014. ... Northwestern’s 215 yards rushing against Maryland last week were its most against a Big Ten opponent since running for 411 against Illinois in 2020. ... Michigan State has won five of the last seven meetings over Michigan in Ann Arbor, including three of the last four. ... Rutgers’ eight road wins since 2020 are tied with Iowa and Michigan for most among Big Ten teams. ... Minnesota leads the nation in third-down conversions at 58.3% (49 of 84).

LONG SHOT?

Nebraska is a 7 1/2-point home underdog against West Division-leading Illinois, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. The Cornhuskers are playing with renewed energy under interim coach Mickey Joseph and should have plenty of motivation. An upset would put them in a three-way tie for first in the division. Illinois has played only two away games — the season-opening loss to Indiana and a 34-10 win over Wisconsin the day before Badgers coach Paul Chryst got fired.

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IMPACT PLAYER

Minnesota QB Tanner Morgan could return from concussion protocol against Rutgers. There’s a faction of Gophers fans who want coach P.J. Fleck to turn things over to Athan Kaliakmanis, who made his first career start at Penn State last week and is seen as the future. Morgan completed just 22 of 45 passes with no touchdowns and four interceptions in his previous two games. Fleck is loyal to his sixth-year QB and may see him as the best option for keeping this season from going off the tracks.

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