Wisconsin at Ohio State is top Big Ten game of Week 5

This isn't a busy week in the Big Ten, with just four games involving league teams. And two of them are non-conference contests against teams from the MAC.

But the two league games are big, for different reasons. Iowa-Minnesota is important to both teams' bowl hopes. Ohio State-Wisconsin is hugely important in the conference title race, and in the national title race for the Buckeyes.

The Badgers-Buckeyes contest is one of the top-three games of the weekend nationally. The coaches are good friends -- Wisconsin's Gary Andersen worked for Urban Meyer at Utah -- and there are enough storylines to make up for there not being more than two conference games: Braxton Miller's health, two stud linebackers on the same field and Melvin Gordon's big-play ability to name just three.

Here is a look at all the contests involving league teams this week, ranked from worst game to best:

4. Miami (Ohio) at Illinois, Saturday, 12 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network

Rating: 1 star

The skinny: Miami has gained 448 yards in three games. That's not an average, that's a total. Illinois senior LB Jonathan Brown (6-feet-1, 230 pounds) has returned to his sophomore form, and that makes him a draftable player. How high he goes in the draft is the question. Brown has made 38 tackles in three games and should thrive against the RedHawks' weak offense.

3. Northern Illinois at Purdue, Saturday, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Rating: 2.5 stars

The skinny: Senior QB Jordan Lynch and NIU already have beaten one Big Ten team in Iowa. Now the Huskies go for their second Big Ten win. Lynch (6-0, 216) is ninth nationally in total offense (355.3 yards per game) and will be going against a mediocre defense. Purdue senior DT Bruce Gaston (6-2, 310), a third-day draft prospect, needs to make some plays. He has 18 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and two sacks this season, but both sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss came against FCS foe Indiana State. NIU senior SS Jimmie Ward (5-11, 192) has 30 tackles and two picks, and his playmaking ability and big-hitting ways have impressed NFL scouts.

2. Iowa at Minnesota, Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC regional/ESPN2

Rating: 3 stars

The skinny: This is the battle for "Floyd of Rosedale," a bronze pig that is one of the most, uhhh, offbeat trophies in college football. This also is a battle between teams that could have trouble getting the requisite six wins needed for bowl eligibility, so it carries added importance. Both want to run to win; if either is forced to the air, it won't be pretty. Iowa QB Jake Rudock has shown a modicum of ability to throw it around. Both teams have linemen who potentially could be at least second-round picks: Iowa junior OT Brandon Scherff (6-5, 315) and Minnesota senior DT Ra'Shede Hageman (6-6, 311). Iowa junior RB Mark Weisman (6-0, 236) leads the nation with 95 rushing attempts and is sixth nationally with 468 rushing yards.

1. Wisconsin at Ohio State, Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, ABC

Rating: 5 stars

The skinny: This is one of the biggest games of the season in the Big Ten, and it seems a given that the winner will take the Leaders Division title. Ohio State expects junior QB Braxton Miller to play. How rusty will he be after basically not playing since the opener Aug. 31? Ohio State's big offensive line looks to have the advantage over Wisconsin's defensive line. The same can be said for Wisconsin's offensive line against Ohio State's defensive line. Both have star linebackers: Wisconsin with senior Chris Borland (5-11, 246) and Ohio State with junior Ryan Shazier (6-2, 230), who might be the best at his position in the nation. But Ohio State enjoys a huge advantage in the secondary. Look for Ohio State junior CB Bradley Roby (5-11, 192) to spend much of the game shadowing Wisconsin senior WR Jared Abbrederis (6-2, 190). If Abbrederis is shut down, Wisconsin's passing attack is in trouble. Wisconsin sophomore TB Melvin Gordon (6-1, 207) leads the nation with 627 rushing yards, and his big-play ability will tax the Buckeyes' defense. Indeed, if Gordon and senior James White (5-10, 195) don't hit some big plays and help the Badgers rush for at least 225 yards, the Badgers have no chance.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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