Buckeyes expect challenge from Spartans


Andrew Seligman

AP Sports Writer

No doubt this is a big week for No. 2 Ohio State.

The defending national champions are 10-0 with 23 straight wins and staring at perhaps their toughest test when they host No. 9 Michigan State on Saturday.

A win over the Spartans combined with a loss by Michigan to Penn State would lock up the East division and send the Buckeyes to the Big Ten title game for the third straight year.

Coach Urban Meyer said it’s basically been business as usual for veterans this week, although they might be doing some extra video work on their own. But for young players, it’s a little more intense.

“It’s two top teams in the country, a rivalry within itself,” Meyer said. “But for the guys that show up every day and go, I see it every week. They take care of business. But for the young guys, where this is all kind of new to them, yeah, I can see it ratcheted up a little bit.”

The Buckeyes (6-0 Big Ten, No. 3 CFP) might be catching Michigan State (9-1, 5-1) at a good time. Spartans quarterback Connor Cook is expected to play after sitting out the second half of Saturday’s win over Maryland with a shoulder injury. But if he’s limited, that could work in favor of the Buckeyes.

After all, he has thrown for more than 300 yards against them the past two years, with Michigan State winning the 2013 conference championship game and the Buckeyes beating the Spartans the following season in early November.

OUT WEST: Iowa (10-0, 6-0) also has a chance to lock up a spot in the Big Ten title game. The Hawkeyes can clinch at least a share of the West and a berth in the championship game with a win over Purdue or a victory by Northwestern over Wisconsin.

REMEMBERING BO: Tuesday marked the ninth anniversary of Bo Schembechler’s death. The coach was on the mind of Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh.

“Coach Schembechler’s a daily source of inspiration and remains that for me and all the people he coached or was associated with,” Harbaugh said. “Today’s a special day in remembering coach Schembechler.”

Schembechler was a seven-time Big Ten coach of the year, compiling a 194-48-5 record at Michigan from 1969-89. He led the Wolverines to 13 Big Ten titles and two Rose Bowl victories.

Harbaugh played for Schembechler and returned to coach his alma mater this year after a four-year run with the San Francisco 49ers that included a Super Bowl appearance.

NO CHANGE: Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said quarterback Clayton Thorson will start at Wisconsin after being benched briefly during last week’s win over Purdue.

The Wildcats switched to Zack Oliver late in the third quarter against the Boilermakers after the struggling Thorson threw an interception. But he came back early in the fourth after watching two possessions from the sideline to lead a touchdown drive that lifted Northwestern to a 21-14 victory.

Thorson was 9 of 19 for 82 yards against Purdue.

BOWL-BOUND?: At 5-5 heading into the final two games against Minnesota and Northwestern, Illinois is staring at the possibility of both a winning record and a bowl game. Those are no small accomplishments considering the turmoil surrounding the program.

“I’m overexcited about the passion of our players,” interim coach Bill Cubit said. “They’ve had to go through a lot and I think it would be a heck of an accomplishment if we get one of these games or both those games and get them to a bowl game and really enjoy it. We’ve gone through a lot.”

Cubit took over after Tim Beckman was fired a week before the start of the season. An investigation found Beckman tried to influence medical decisions and pressure players to play with injuries.

There was more turmoil last week when the school let athletic director Mike Thomas go, saying a change was needed after football and women’s basketball players said they had been mistreated by their coaches.

Andrew Seligman

AP Sports Writer

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