Want to know what Week 12 games are worthwhile? Here’s the scoop from sports copy editor Joe Vozzelli Jr., who is trying to improve after going 2-3 last week.
No. 24 Indiana at No. 9 Penn State, 11 a.m., ABC
On-air talent: Jason Benetti (play-by-play), Rod Gilmore (analysis),and Quint Kessenich (sideline reporter)
Pick: Penn State, 30-20. Indiana has the playmakers, specifically Stevie Scott III and Whop Philyor, to create problems for Penn State’s defense. But something tells me the Nittany Lions are a step above Indiana’s weight class.
No. 15 Wisconsin at Nebraska, 11 a.m., BTN
On-air talent: Kevin Kugler (play-by-play) and Matt Millen (analyst)
Pick: Wisconsin, 27-21. ESPN headline on Wednesday: “Is Nebraska football too far gone, even for Scott Frost?” I’ll defer to our resident Nebraska football guru (Bob Asmussen) for the answer. But don’t need help picking a winner here.
Michigan State at No. 14 Michigan, 11 a.m., FOX
On-air talent: Gus Johnson (play-by-play) and Joel Klatt (analyst)
Pick: Michigan, 21-17. Is Mark Dantonio really on the way out in East Lansing? The fans are calling for him to no longer have a job. Best way to get back in their good graces (at least for a week)? Beat rival Michigan. Dantonio’s record against the Wolverines is pretty good (8-4), but the Spartans can’t be trusted.
UMass at Northwestern, 11 a.m., BTN
On-air talent: Lisa Byington (play-by-play) and J Leman (analyst)
Pick: Northwestern, 28-6. Northwestern hasn’t won since Sept. 14, while UMass’ last win came on Sept. 28. In other words, there is no reason to watch this game.
No. 2 Ohio State at Rutgers, 2:30 p.m., BTN
On-air talent: Brandon Gaudin (play-by-play) and James Laurinaitis (analyst)
Pick: Ohio State, 51-6. Ohio State sure missed Chase Young last week. Well, not really, handing out yet-another beatdown (Ohio State 73, Maryland 14). The Buckeyes should add to their rather sizable average margin of victory (42.4 points) against in a Rut-gers (sorry for the pun).
No. 7 Minnesota at No. 23 Iowa, 3 p.m., FOX
On-air talent: Joe Davis (play-by-play) and Brock Huard (analyst)
Pick: Minnesota, 24-22. Vegas has the Hawkeyes as a three-point favorite. Initial thought? That’s crazy. On second thought? The Gophers are coming off huge win (Penn State), so a letdown is possible. A win here and against Northwestern next week and P.J. Fleck’s crew will be rowing the boat to Indianapolis. Hard to believe.
How sports copy editor Joe Vozzelli Jr. views the races for 2019’s top honors:
BIG TEN MVP
PLAYER, TEAM POS.
1. Justin Fields, Ohio State QB
2. J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State RB
3. Tanner Morgan, Minnesota QB
4. Chase Young, Ohio State DE
5. Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin RB
Joe’s take: Tanner Morgan saved his best for one of Minnesota’s biggest games in a long time. The 6-foot-2 sophomore out of Union, Ky., was 18 of 20 for 339 yards and three touchdowns, helping the Gophers outduel fellow Cincinnati-area product Sean Clifford and Penn State last week in Minneapolis.
1. Dele Harding LB
2. Brandon Peters QB
3. Josh Imatorbhebhe WR
4. Jake Hansen LB
5. Reggie Corbin RB
Joe’s take: Josh Imatorbhebhe has become the big-play receiver the Illini desperately needed with his 20.6 yards-per-catch average helping the Southern California transfer become one of the Big Ten’s top wideouts. Imatorbhebhe’s five touchdowns in the past four games gives him nine on the season. With one more score, he’d tie Brandon Lloyd and David Williams for the program’s single-season touchdown record.
BIG TEN COACH OF THE YEAR
1. P.J. Fleck Minnesota
2. Ryan Day Ohio State
3. Tom Allen Indiana
4. James Franklin Penn State
5. Lovie Smith Illinois
Joe’s take: This season from Lovie Smith reminds me a little of what Barry Odom did at Missouri in 2017 (minus the fire-and-brimstone press conference after a loss to Auburn). Odom’s Tigers were 1-5 at one point before ripping off six straight wins to make a bowl that season. Lovie’s Illini have a chance to win six — and possibly seven in a row — if they can beat Iowa and Northwestern to end the regular season and win their bowl game.
BIG TEN BOWL OUTLOOK
Playoff Ohio State
Citrus Penn State
Armed Forces Iowa
Music City Illinois
Pinstripe Michigan State
Quick Lane —
Joe’s take: And then there were two. Ohio State and Minnesota are the last remaining unbeatens in the Big Ten and the only two teams in contention for the College Football Playoff. The Gophers underwent the biggest-ever jump in the CFP’s weekly rankings, moving from No. 17 to No. 8. Even winning out may not get Minnesota in final top 4, though.