Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck

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Chen: What To Watch For In Week 12 In Big Ten

Minnesota has a tough matchup at Iowa as it looks to stay unbeaten.

Mike Chen
November 15, 2019 - 10:13 am

(670 The Score) Let's break down the most important Big Ten storylines of the week and what awaits this weekend.

Young and not so reckless

After news broke last week that Ohio State star defensive end Chase Young -- the nation's sacks leader -- had accepted money to pay for his girlfriend to attend the Rose Bowl last season, he sat out his team's win against Maryland. Young explained he took the money from a family friend as a loan and paid it back. On Wednesday, the NCAA hit Young with a two-game suspension, calling the loan an extra benefit due to the length of the friendship.

Once again, the NCAA dropped the ball in handing out this punishment. Young was honorable in the entire ordeal yet was punished.

He'll have to sit out one more game -- against Rutgers this Saturday. He'll be eligible to return for Ohio State's tough closing stretch.

Eyes on Iowa City

Minnesota (9-0) marched on with a 31-26 upset win against Penn State last Saturday as quarterback Tanner Morgan put on a show and defensive back Antoine Winfield Jr. had two interceptions.

Now, Minnesota's matchup at Iowa (6-3) on Saturday will be telling. If the Gophers beat the Hawkeyes, they could wrap up the Big Ten West title against the Northwestern Wildcats the next week. Part of what separates elite teams from good teams is how they handle the next game following an emotional win. 

Minnesota made a big jump in the College Football Playoff rankings, moving up to No. 8. Now, the nation will be watching if the Gophers truly deserve that spot and if they can remain in the playoff race.

'We're going bowling'

Illinois did the unthinkable last Saturday, erasing a 25-point deficit and earning a 37-34 win against Michigan State. With the win, coach Lovie Smith and the Illini improved to 6-4 and became bowl eligible.

In an appearance on 670 The Score on Wednesday, Smith told Joe Ostrowski that he used the bowl game as motivation.

"We didn't want to go out that way," he said.

Illinois last earned a bowl berth in 2014, when it played in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. It's now time to dream where the Illini may end up.

The Big Ten currently has the most bowl-eligible teams of any conference in the nation. Illinois could play in the the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl (Fort Worth), the Quick Lane Bowl (Detroit) or the Redbox Bowl (San Francisco). It's the New Era Pinstripe Bowl that's the most appealing, though. It's held at Yankee Stadium. Playing an ACC team in "The House That Ruth Built" would be an entertaining way to cap a fun season.

One streak ends, but another continues

Northwestern finally put a halt to its touchdown-less streak against Purdue last Saturday, but its momentum didn't hold. The Boilermakers held the Wildcats off for a 24-22 win, which handed Northwestern its seventh straight loss and dropped it to 1-8.

Saturday brings Northwestern's most winnable game left on the schedule, as it welcomes UMass before finishing against Minnesota and Illinois. The offensive progress gained against Purdue needs to translate to this weekend, as much less talented UMass is last in the nation in allowing 53.1 points per game.

Meanwhile, Northwestern ranks 129th out of 130 teams in the nation in averaging 11.1 points per game. Something has to give in Evanston.

Mike Chen is a producer at 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @mfc2123.