‘Around the Big Ten’: Football title game set, latest from the hardwood & more

In this edition of the Around the Big Ten series, SiriusXM host Pete Pistone delivers the latest news about the Big Ten Football Championship Game and the Players of the Week, plus observations about the string start to the men’s basketball season, a hockey update and more.

For more news and analysis about the conference, start listening to SiriusXM Big Ten Radio (Ch. 372) on the SiriusXM app now.

FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME SET

The journey to the Big Ten Football Championship Game in Indianapolis wasn’t simple by any means. But the match-up is set – Ohio State will take on Northwestern for the second time in three years. The Wildcats locked up the West Division title and are 5-1 heading into this weekend’s rivalry match-up against Illinois. Ohio State, which has had two games cancelled due to opponents’ COVID-19 outbreaks including this week’s edition of “The Game” versus Michigan, was declared East Division winner by conference officials.

The Big Ten Conference Administrators Council, which includes the Directors of Athletics and Senior Women Administrators from all 14 member institutions, voted Wednesday to eliminate the minimum-game requirement for participation in the 2020 Big Ten Football Championship Game. That number was determined to be six before the season began. The decision was based on a competitive analysis which the conference determined that Ohio State would have advanced to the Big Ten Football Championship Game based on its undefeated record and head-to-head victory over Indiana regardless of a win or loss this week against Michigan.

Ohio State beat Northwestern 45-24 in 2018 to win the conference championship.

FOOTBALL PLAYERS OF THE WEEK ANNOUNCED

Week 7 of the Big Ten season produced a number of stellar efforts from individuals that were recognized for their performances.

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields continued his outstanding season to earn Offensive Player of the Week honors. Fields threw for two touchdowns and ran for a couple more in OSU’s 52-12 win over Michigan State. He completed 17 of 24 passes for 199 yards and ran for a career-high 104 yards, as well. It was the second time Fields picked up the award this year.

Indiana linebacker Micah McFadden was named Defensive Player of the Week. The Junior matched a career high with two sacks and added a team-high nine tackles in the Hoosiers’ victory at Wisconsin.

Indiana’s Haydon Whitehead and Ohio State punter Drew Chrisman were co-winners of the Special Teams Player of the Week honor.

BASKETBALL SEASON OFF AND DRIBBLING

The Big Ten entered this week with a combined record of 45-6 (.882 pct.), marking the highest winning percentage by any conference this season. The conference has more than held its own in the annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge, including wins by Iowa over North Carolina, Ohio State beating Notre Dame, Rutgers topping Syracuse and Illinois taking down Duke. The first conference game of the season is set for Sunday when Penn State travels to Michigan.

ICE, ICE BABY

The Big Ten hockey season is also going full steam ahead, as the first half of the schedule continues. Six Big Ten players find themselves among the top 10 nationally in points this season. Wisconsin’s Linus Weissbach leads the nation with 10 points through eight games, followed by Michigan’s Kent Johnson (T-2nd, 8 points) and Thomas Bordeleau (T-4th, 7 points), and Wisconsin’s Cole Caufield (T-2nd, 8 points), Owen Lindmark (T-4th, 7 points) and Tarek Baker (6th, 6 points).

WAIT, WHAT?

Deciphering “coach-speak” is an art. For instance, take this comment from Illinois head coach Lovie Smith when asked earlier this week during a media session whether Brandon Peters will start this week against Northwestern:

“We know what we’re going to do at the quarterback position. Now, we’re not going to talk about it now.”

Guess we’ll have until Noon ET on Saturday to find out.

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