DES MOINES, Iowa – A look at some of the key factors to watch out for this weekend in the Big Ten:
GAME OF THE WEEK: Nebraska at Michigan State. The Huskers (5-0, 1-0) and Spartans (3-1, 0-0) have looked as strong as any team in the much-maligned Big Ten, and Saturday's matchup in East Lansing could be a preview of the league title game in December. It could also be a College Football Playoff elimination game for the loser. Michigan State (50.3) and Nebraska (45.4) are first and second in the conference in points per game, and Michigan State scored 41 against the Huskers in a win at Lincoln last season. But the Spartans will have to find a way to slow Nebraska star Ameer Abdullah, who leads the nation with 212 all-purpose yards per game.
BEST MATCHUP: Maryland WR Stefon Diggs vs. Ohio State's secondary. Cincinnati's Chris Moore had 221 yards on just three catches against the Buckeyes last week — and Moore is no Diggs. Ohio State's leaky pass defense is going to get quite the test from Diggs, who has 29 receptions for 398 yards and two touchdowns. Maryland is unsettled at quarterback though, with starter C.J. Brown's nursing a sprained left wrist.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS: Big Ten teams went 4-1 on the road last week. The only home winner was Nebraska, which beat Illinois 45-14. ... Ohio State's J.T. Barrett, who only became a starting quarterback when Braxton Miller injured his shoulder and will likely return to the bench in 2015, leads the league with 13 TD passes. ... Eight Big Ten teams are allowing 20 points or less per game, led by Wisconsin (14.5). ... Penn State ranks second in the country in rush defense, allowing just 60.2 yards per game.
LONG SHOT: North Texas at Indiana. Trying to figure out Indiana — which beat Missouri on the road and got drilled by Maryland at home — could be quite a maddening exercise. But the Hoosiers (2-2, 0-1) are the only Big Ten team to host a nonconference opponent this week, and North Texas will be a two-touchdown underdog in Bloomington.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Illinois QB Wes Lunt. The Fighting Illini is expected to get Lunt back after he missed the loss at Nebraska with a sprained right knee. Lunt had solidified the quarterback situation at Illinois before the injury, throwing for 11 touchdowns in four games. Given how tough the Illini's schedule looks from here on out, a win over the struggling Boilermakers (2-3, 0-1) might be crucial to their hopes of reaching a bowl.