Week 12 in the Big Ten included surprising scares for the two best teams in the conference, as No. 2 Ohio State (11-0) escaped a close one at Maryland (6-5) and No. 3 Michigan (11-0) needed a last-minute field goal to survive against Illinois (7-4) at home.
A possible explanation is that both teams were already looking ahead to Week 13, when they’ll go head-to-head in one of the biggest regular-season matchups of 2022. Ohio State will host the rivalry game this season, a year after its playoff hopes were dashed by the Wolverines in an Ann Arbor upset.
Before the showdown for the Big Ten East title, though, Iowa (7-4) controls its own destiny in the West on Friday afternoon against Nebraska (3-8). A win will send the Hawkeyes to their second straight Big Ten Championship game (they lost to Michigan 42-3 in 2021). A loss by Iowa would put Purdue (7-4) in the driver’s seat in the Big Ten West, giving the Boilermakers a chance to clinch the division with a win Saturday at Indiana (4-7).
Best Bets: Ohio State -7.5, Over 56
A year ago, the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes traveled to Ann Arbor to take on No. 5 Michigan for The Game, the name ascribed to the 125-year-old rivalry between the two schools. On a snowy afternoon at the Big House, the Wolverines combined strong defense and ground game to win The Game for the first time in 10 years, earning a spot in the Big Ten title game and ultimately their first trip to the College Football Playoff.
If you ask Ohio State, everything the team has done in the last year has been a reaction to that result.
“We have scars,” head coach Ryan Day said Tuesday. “It motivated us all offseason.”
Junior offensive lineman Paris Johnson Jr. was more specific about his feelings. “Looking up at the scoreboard, I felt like not only did we fail at our number one goal, but all the past people who kept the tradition of beating [Michigan]… I felt like I let them down,” he said Tuesday. “I’ve been holding onto that.”
Buckeyes tight end Cade Stover called it the “greatest rivalry in all of sports” during his media time on Tuesday, adding how personal it feels for players like him who grew up in Ohio.
The energy in Columbus this week stood in contrast to what emanated from Ann Arbor. “We’re very grateful to be in this position, to be playing this game,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said Monday. “We’ve got a great group of players who are happy warriors. They’re on a happy mission.”
Wolverines quarterback J.J. McCarthy seemed to embody that description on Tuesday, remarking that “the stars are aligning and it’s finally here, and we couldn’t be more excited.”
Harbaugh likened the game to “two superheroes going against each other,” which is not far off from what the statistics suggest: Ohio State (sitting at No. 2 in CFP rankings) is the second-most efficient passing offense in the country, led by Heisman favorite C.J. Stroud at quarterback. Michigan (No. 3 in CFP rankings) is the fifth-best passing defense in the nation, and the fourth-best rushing offense.
That rush game has been highlighted by junior running back Blake Corum, who’s fourth in the FBS with 1,457 rush yards and second in FBS with 18 rushing touchdowns this year. But Corum’s status for this Saturday is unknown after he left the Illinois game last week with an undisclosed injury to his left knee.
Harbaugh offered that Corum’s knee is “structurally good, which is good news,” but hasn’t commented on his ability to play against Ohio State. Day says his team is preparing as though Corum will play.
Even if Corum plays, he may not be at 100% health, likely increasing the workload for J.J. McCarthy in the passing game. Harbaugh says McCarthy “has the ability to turn water into wine” and that his message to his quarterback on Saturday will be to “have at it.”
While McCarthy’s accuracy has left some to be desired (his completion percentage hasn’t risen above 53% in November), he’s become a reliable steward of the ball this month with no turnovers since October 15. Fumbles have been an issue for McCarthy – he has five this season, all recovered by his teammates – and he can’t afford them against the Buckeyes’ defensive front.
Both teams looked like they had work to do in their Week 12 tilts: Ohio State was losing to Maryland at halftime and the Terrapins were within 3 points of the Buckeyes for most of the fourth quarter, while Michigan needed a last-minute field goal to survive Illinois.
“Some people call it a character builder, I called it a character revealer,” Harbaugh said of the close call.
Day reminded reporters that their number one goal is “to win and move on” in his postgame comments on Saturday. “There’s been times this year when we’ve had style points… And there’s going to be games we don’t jump out as fast as we would like to.”
With all the talk about gratitude at Michigan and of last year’s motivation at Ohio State, both sides know the stakes of this game. The winner takes the Big Ten East and should be a heavy favorite in the conference title game with an easy path to the playoff. There is a path for both teams to get into the playoff if this weekend’s game is close, but it’s narrow.
“There’s nothing quite like The Game,” Day told reporters. “This is our number one goal every season.”
“Winner takes all,” Harbaugh said.
Prediction: It feels tough to take Michigan in this one, on the road with their best player banged up at best, out at worst. The Wolverines defense should be able to slow down the Buckeyes’ offense, and the Michigan ground game should be able to wear down the Buckeyes defense, but ultimately Stroud and the OSU receivers break this open enough to win by 10, and to put the Over in play.
Best Bets: Iowa -10.5, Under 38.5
The Iowa Hawkeyes are currently atop the Big Ten West standings, winning a tiebreaker against Purdue. A win against the Nebraska Cornhuskers this weekend will send the Hawkeyes to Indianapolis to play for the Big Ten title against the winner of Ohio State-Michigan.
The rivalry game between Iowa and Nebraska has been played on Black Friday since Nebraska joined the Big Ten in 2012. The game is known as the Heroes Game, with the Heroes Trophy up for grabs each season. Fans of each school are encouraged to nominate everyday citizens of Iowa and Nebraska who have performed extraordinary acts of heroism; one nominee from each state is invited to attend the game to receive on-field recognition, and their names are inscribed on the game trophy.
This is the final hurdle – and should be the lowest hurdle – for Iowa to clear in November. They’re on a four-game winning streak, including last weekend’s close 13-10 win on the road at Minnesota.
“We haven’t had many easy games and Saturday was an example of that,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday.
Nebraska, meanwhile, comes to Iowa City on a five-game losing streak and hasn’t scored more than two touchdowns in a game since October 15.
Iowa’s offense is even more unproductive – Nebraska ranks 11th in the conference in scoring offense while Iowa ranks 13th. The difference will come on the other side of the ball, where Iowa is fourth in the conference in scoring defense and Nebraska is 12th.
The Cornhuskers are coming off a particularly painful loss to Wisconsin, who scored a go-ahead touchdown with 35 seconds remaining after trailing the entire game.
“This one hurts,” Nebraska interim head coach Mickey Joseph said immediately after that loss.
Scoring woes or not, recent history says this game should be close. Iowa has won the last seven Heroes Trophies, but in the last four editions of the game, their margin of victory has been a touchdown or less.
That’s among the reasons Ferentz says he’s encouraged his players to focus on this week, rather than getting caught up in what’s at stake. “The worst thing that we could do is start thinking about stuff from the outside.”
With nothing but pride at stake for Nebraska, Joseph says his team is similarly single-minded. “We’ve got one mission left,” he said Tuesday, in what could be his last week in his post. “I expect and I know our boys will come out and give full effort this last game.”
Prediction: Iowa’s offense is far from standing out nationally (or even in the conference), but it has shown improvement in the last month, especially against teams with weak defenses like Nebraska. Iowa covers at home and the Under is in play, as it nearly always is when Iowa is involved.
The team at NBC Sports EDGE has taken a deep dive on this week’s Big Ten slate and are serving up their favorite plays for the week. Here’s a preview:
Michigan State @ Penn State: Game Spread Michigan State +18 (-110)
Vaughn Dalzell (@VmoneySports)
I hate this bet, but Michigan State would hate to lose out on Bowl Eligibility, and this is the last chance after losing in double overtime to Indiana last week (39-31).
Penn State is 9-2 and has its bowl eligibility secured. MSU covered six of the past nine meetings with Penn State including a 30-27 win last year in East Lansing. The Spartans have won outright just once in their last three trips to Happy Valley – 21-17 in 2018. However, we just need Michigan State to cover.
MSU has been bowl-eligible for the past four seasons (excluding the Covid season). They will want to continue that tradition or Mel Tucker could start to hear footsteps even though he signed that massive extension late last season.
This is the final Big Ten regular-season game of the season, so expect some weird things to happen, like an MSU backdoor cover or potential win. Penn State has covered five-straight spreads entering this game, but the past three have come versus Rutgers, Maryland and Indiana. MSU is a step up and has motivation to pull off the upset.
For more Big Ten analysis and Week 13 advice from the EDGE team, click here. And if you’re looking for a deeper dive into Week 13 in College Football from a Bettor’s Perspective, join NBC’s team of college analysts at 11am Eastern on Friday and Saturday for an NCAA College Football Betting Preview Q&A on the NBC Sports YouTube page.
**Betting stats are provided by BetMGM. Must be 21+ years of age or older to wager. Must be present in NY. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, help is available. Call (877-8-HOPENY) or text HOPENY (467369).
The 49th annual Bayou Classic is set for this Saturday on NBC and everyone in Louisiana is excited, especially the ROTC departments at Southern University and Grambling State University. What makes this event so special for those particular groups? Every year, the day before the football game, Southern University Army and Naval ROTC and the Grambling State University ROTC come together to run the Bayou Classic game football from Baton Rouge to New Orleans, Louisiana. This tradition dates back 30 years to 1992, originated by army cadets and midshipmen from Southern University. Every year, the participants start their journey at 5:00am on Friday at the Southern University F.G. Clark Activity Center, and this year is no exception.
Jaguar Battalion Professor of Military Science, David Marshall Jr., says this football carry is incredibly special and creates a sense of nostalgia and a connection to the past each year admist the rivalry on the football field between Southern and Grambling State Universities. He, along with the SU Army and Navy ROTC staff, are adamant about doing the run each year in order to preserve its history.
“Mission first, Jaguars always,” Marshall said of the tradition.
RELATED: 2022 Bayou Classic: It’s Not Over Until It’s Over
Choosing the runners is an essential and involved process. Marshall says the runners are selected based on physical fitness abilities and academic excellence throughout the school year, and there are a total of 40 runners between three ROTC programs this year. The route from Baton Rouge to the Caesars Superdome may sound like it takes all day, but it actually takes about seven and a half hours to make it to New Orleans from Southern University.
Jeff Ejekam, the event coordinator and event liaison for the Southern University Army ROTC Program, said the group will travel along Highway 61, going 80 miles to New Orleans, with the help of the Louisiana State Troopers to be escorted safely. He added that each cadet will run between 200 to 400 meters each time they possess the ball and once their leg is completed, they will hand the ball off to the next cadet. Upon arrival at the Superdome, home to the Bayou Classic football game and the New Orleans Saints, the participants run on the field to the 50-yard line to meet with representatives of the sponsors of the Bayou Classic, Proctor and Gamble.
RELATED: 2021 Bayou Classic Highlights
ROTC Battalion Commander Serena Herbert said that what excites her most about the run is the opportunity to partake in a tradition that has happened for so long alongside her battle buddies. The run involves team building and is a unique opportunity to strengthen bonds between the branches that aren’t working together day in and day out. She considers the experience to be a personal competition to improve on her previous run, last fall semester, by saving time and finding ways to improve. She keeps herself motivated in the run by constantly uplifting herself and her battle buddies. When taking part in this historic tradition, it astonishes her how much spirit and teamwork everyone pours in, the unity and greatness that both Universities put in for this traditional run. The the legacy continues on with her and her battle buddies, and when leaving the program and commission, they will always rejoice in the fact that they were able to embark in something bigger than all of them and add a chapter to the tradition carried by many people before them.
Southern and Grambling will face off Saturday, November 27th at 2pm ET on NBC and Peacock. Halftime of Saturday’s game will include a presentation of the Battle of the Bands, the celebrated tradition between the Southern and Grambling State marching bands.
Author’s Note: Jasmine Elliott is a graduating senior at Southern University, aspiring sportswriter and broadcaster studying Mass Communications with a focus in Broadcast Journalism. You can follow her on instagram @jasminenicole_._._ or watch her packages on her LinkedIn.
The 2022 Bayou Classic takes place on Saturday, November 26 on NBC and Peacock as the Southern Jaguars and Grambling Tigers go head-to-head at Caesars Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. This is the 49th installment of this historic rivalry. Live coverage begins at 2:00 p.m. ET, see below for additional information on how to watch and live stream the game.
With Southern and Grambling both winning 24 games apiece since the series began in 1974, the Bayou Classic rivalry is tied however it was Grambling who picked up the 29-26 win in last year’s meeting. Grambling State is seeking back-to-back Bayou Classic victories for the first time since winning three straight from 2015.
RELATED: NBC Sports to present three HBCU College Games this Season
Grambling (3-7) fell 41-7 against Texas Southern last week–another painful loss in what has been a disappointing season for the Tigers who look to rebuild. This marks the second consecutive season in which they’ve lost at least 7 games. The last time the Tigers lost over 7 games in a season was in 2013. Grambling is led by first-year head coach Hue Jackson who has nearly 20 years of experience coaching NFL offenses – five seasons were spent serving as an offensive coordinator and four seasons as a head coach (Raiders 2011, Browns 2016-18). This is Jackson’s first head coaching job since being fired by the Cleveland Browns midway through the 2018 season.
RELATED: 2021 Bayou Classic Highlights
Southern (6-4) is coming off a 27-7 victory over Mississippi Valley last week–another blowout win for the Jaguars who have had five of their six wins this season come by three scores or more. Southern has outscored their opponents 289-47 and is averaging 48.1 points per game. A win on Saturday will send the Jaguars to the SWAC championship, where they would face Jackson State.
The Jaguars are led by first-year head coach Eric Dooley, a former Grambling State wide receiver (1985-88) who was the offensive coordinator and quarterback/wide receiver coach for the Tigers from 2014-17. Dooley spent the last 4 seasons as head coach at Prairie View A&M.
RELATED: 2022 Bayou Classic – It’s Not Over Until It’s Over
The game will start at 2:00 p.m. ET.
Sign up for a Peacock Premium plan to start watching. With Peacock Premium, you can watch all our live sports like Premier League, Sunday Night Football, and cycling; next-day airings from channels like NBC, USA Network, and Telemundo; plus all the movies and TV you want on Peacock.
If you want to watch everything ad-free,* choose our $9.99/month Peacock Premium Plus plan.
*Please note: due to streaming rights, a small amount of programming will still contain ads (Peacock channels, events, and a limited number of shows and movies).
You can change or cancel your paid plan anytime.