‘Around the Big Ten’: Football title rematch, Championship Weekend & basketball action

In this edition of the Around the Big Ten series, SiriusXM host Pete Pistone previews the Big Ten Football Championship Game and other matchups set for Championship Weekend, plus provides updates on both men’s and women’s basketball, hockey 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 REMATCH

Ohio State and Northwestern met to decide the Big Ten football title in 2018. The Buckeyes rather handily took care of the Wildcats 45-24. The two teams match up again Saturday at Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis to determine this year’s champ. It’s become old hat for OSU as this marks the fourth straight year they’ve played for the title and sixth time overall. A win Saturday would be the fourth straight conference crown for Ohio State and more than likely assure a berth in the College Football Playoff on New Year’s Day.

The Buckeyes were granted a reprieve from the six-game minimum threshold the conference had in place at the beginning of the season allowing their 5-0 record to be good enough for a shot at the crown. Northwestern won the West Division after a 6-1 regular season and come into Championship Weekend on the heels of a 28-10 victory over Illinois.

Kick-off is noon ET Saturday afternoon.

BONUS FOOTBALL

The concept of Championship Weekend added additional games to the slate in the Big Ten’s revamped football schedule. In addition to Northwestern and Ohio State playing for the title, four other contests featuring East Division vs. West Division match ups are on the slate. Friday night Nebraska visits Rutgers to open up the slate. Three games round out the schedule on Saturday  with Minnesota traveling to Wisconsin, Illinois at Penn State and Michigan State making the trip to Maryland. Unfortunately, two games were cancelled due to COVID-19 outbreaks with Purdue-Indiana and Michigan-Iowa scrubbed.

RED HOT HOOPS

It’s been a stellar start to the Big Ten Men’s basketball season. The conference entered the week with six undefeated teams and the conference boasts a combined record of 61-15 (.803 pct.), marking the highest winning percentage by any conference this season. Last week’s Big Ten-ACC Challenge saw the conference go 8-5 in the annual match up including taking six of seven games on opening night. There are a number of marquee games on the upcoming weekend schedule including three games on Saturday featuring ranked teams; Iowa (#3) against Gonzaga (#1), Louisville (#23) versus Wisconsin (#12) and Ohio State (#19) taking on North Carolina (#21). There are also a couple of conference games set for Sunday with Illinois traveling to Rutgers and Michigan States heading to Northwestern.

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL HONORS

Once again this week, Iowa’s Caitlin Clark was named the Big Ten Player and Freshman of the Week. Clark, who also became the first Big Ten freshman ever to be named the espnW National Player of the Week, averaged 34.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists in the Hawkeyes’ two games last week. The West Des Moines, Iowa, native is also the first conference freshman to be a two-time Big Ten Player of the Week in the same season since 2015-16 (Nebraska’s Jessica Shepard).

HOCKEY HEADING HOME (FOR NOW)

Three schools take the ice in the final week of Big Ten Hockey play before the holiday break. No. 16/- Notre Dame-Michigan State and No. 18/- Ohio State and Arizona State square off.

Five Big Ten teams appear in the USCHO.com and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine polls this week. Minnesota is No. 1 in the nation in both polls for the first time since 2014. Michigan follows at No. 6/6 and Wisconsin checks in at No. 14/13. Notre Dame (16th) and Ohio State (No. 18) are also ranked in the USCHO poll and both are receiving votes the USA Hockey Magazine poll.

Minnesota sits atop the national polls this week after starting their season 8-0-0 for the first time since 1987-88. The Golden Gophers are the first Big Ten team to be named No. 1 in the USCHO.com and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine polls since conference teams claimed that spot for three weeks in a row from Oct. 8 to Oct. 22, 2018.

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