BOULDER, Colo. – Iowa and Purdue have both struggled so far this season. Iowa, coming off of an impressive third-place finish, has seen a major decrease in production after graduating many players. Purdue came into this season with higher expectations because of more experience on the team, but its outcome has so far been the same as last fall. Though it’s been a tough season, these two have had the hardest schedules out of all the teams in the Big Ten. Each side has faced the likes of Indiana, Ohio State, and Wisconsin, and have come out of those matches on the wrong side of some nasty blowouts. But from here on out, though still difficult, their schedules are letting up and both teams will look to get their first wins in the closing weeks of the season.
No. 14 Ohio State vs. No. 12 Wisconsin
In what might be the most highly anticipated match of the 2015 Big Ten season, the Buckeyes will get another crack at a Badger team that got the best of them in last year’s Big Ten Championship game.
“We are very excited for this Saturday,” said Ohio State Head Coach Ron Bowers. “We were very disappointed with our performance last year and made Wisconsin a team we needed to emulate to be successful. So this week will be an indication how our work over the last year has panned out.”
Read a full preview of this exciting match here.
Purdue vs. Illinois
After an 0-2 start, Illinois has been able to put up back-to-back wins against Iowa and Minnesota, and plans on making that three straight with a win over Purdue this weekend.
The Fighting Illini could have given up after losing captain Matt Ramsey during their 52-10 loss to Ohio State, but instead they rebounded hard and came up with two wins thanks to the help of tremendous play by scrum half Mario Lozano and the experienced pack. Illinois will need all of its players to hold back a hungry Purdue side.
The Boilermakers, like Illinois, started the season 0-2, but gave Wisconsin a surprise with an early try in their match. They dropped the match against the Badgers, 63-24, but showed that they have the capability to score. Dian Crowder and Jeremy Lehman will have to produce this weekend like they did against the Badgers if they want a chance against Illinois, and their defense will need to continue to improve, but this is the first opponent that Purdue has faced that is not in the Top 20. The Boilermakers will be clawing for that first win, and Illinois should be ready for a hard-fought match.
No. 5 Indiana vs. Michigan State
The Hoosiers have looked unstoppable so far this season, and are coming off of a victory against powerful Mid-South side No. 8 Davenport, ranked fifth in the nation before last weekend. For Michigan State to have a chance to win, it will need to play its best rugby of the season.
The Spartans have continued to get better throughout the season, currently sitting at 1-2, with one loss coming in a close match against rival Michigan This weekend’s match, however, will be their toughest of the season. To stop the star-studded back line of Indiana, Michigan State’s centers, Aaron Stuk and Kyle Gallagher, will need to step up their defense, as will the Spartan wings.
Though this match will be a hard one for Michigan State to win, it will provide the group with a glimpse at the best in the Big Ten, and a benchmark at where they are as a team. The Spartans will give it their all, but it will be near impossible to stop the tear Indiana has been on this season.
Michigan vs. Iowa
Michigan has found itself on the cusp of the D1A Top 20 for a couple weeks now, flowing in and out of the No. 20 spot. It will need a big win against Iowa to force its way past LSU in the polls, and into contention to get into the Big Ten Championship game.
Iowa’s struggles will likely continue this week, but all the experience its young players are receiving this season will help it in the future. The Hawkeyes will face another test this weekend; Michigan is a good defensive team that held Indiana to its fewest point total all year.