BOULDER, Colo. – September may have just concluded, but contenders for the Big Ten Universities Championship have already begun to reveal themselves. Currently three teams from BTU own a spot in D1A’s Top 20, and all three will be in action Saturday.
No. 16 Indiana is coming off of a strong showing which resulted in a 50-27 victory over Ohio State and must now hit the road to face an Iowa team who had an equally impressive performance last week. The Hawkeyes put up big numbers while shutting out a deflated Purdue team.
Last week, Michigan State (1-1) looked to be on its way to a 2-0 start and potentially joining Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan in the Top 20. However, Minnesota spoiled those plans by scoring 21 unanswered, second half points to turn back Sparty. Michigan State’s objective to get over .500 won’t come easy. Ohio State travels to East Lansing and the Buckeyes are hungry for their first conference win.
For Minnesota, the comeback win over Michigan State could propel the Gophers to a winning streak and contention for the Big Ten Universities Championship. Their win streak should at least push to two matches with Illinois (0-1) coming to town.
The trademark match of the weekend out of BTU comes way of No. 10 Michigan versus No. 18 Wisconsin. The Badgers are 2-0 and have outscored their conference opponents 115-22. Michigan (1-0) came into the season favorites in many peoples’ eyes to win the conference. While the winner of Saturday’s Top 20 showdown could solidify themselves as favorites in the Big Ten, Michigan’s head coach, Brandon Sparks, knows it is still just one game.
“These are the kind of matchups you want to be playing every week because it’s a good measuring stick as a team, as an athlete, and as a coach,” said Sparks. “A win will be great to keep us at the top of the standings, but because of our conference’s point-scoring system a loss won’t hurt us. We are more focused on showing up and playing Wolverine rugby.”
Part of playing Wolverine rugby is getting solid play from the loose forwards. However, after getting a look at Wisconsin, Sparks knows his team is not the only team in the conference with quality athletes in the back row.
“I think they are an extremely dynamic team,” Sparks said. “I’ve watched them on film and their back row is impressive and should match up with our back row quite well.”