Originally posted on The Sports Bank  |  Last updated 11/17/11

In both the present and the future these two teams matter much for Big Ten. The loser between the Nebraska Cornhuskers and the Michigan Wolverines is officially eliminated from the conference title. The winner stands as the #2 should Sparty falter down the stretch, and would grab the trip to Indianapolis in place of Michigan State. That’s the short term.

In the long run, these two programs will have to carry the league flag for awhile. There are only four big traditional powers in the Big Ten, and these two right here will need to step up while the other two (Ohio State and Penn State) are in disarray for a few years. Of course, the level of disarray and the fallout yet to come is a million times worse at PSU.

Coincidentally, the two scandalous league powers play each other this Saturday. While the two “clean” powers do battle with each other as well. I’m sure league officials are really glad now that Nebraska joined, and that Michigan seems to have turned the corner.

#16 Nebraska Cornhuskers (8-2, 4-2) Analysis:

Running back Rex Burkhead is a 1,00o yard rusher already; with 14 TDs and a 5.1 YPC. He was my preseason pick for the league MVP. He has to be in the non-Russell Wilson conversation for the award.

This game will certainly be a match-up of two prominent single threat QBs. “Dual threat quarterback” is a term getting thrown around by the media way too liberally these days. Literally, it means a signal caller that can both pass and run effectively. But the way it’s applied, it actually means a QB who can run.Technically, both Denard Robinson and Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez are “single threat” QBs because both are electric runners, but neither can actually pass the ball very well.

“T-Magic” also has the ugliest throwing mechanics in history. From now on, I’m not calling any woman ugly again. I’ll just say she looks like Taylor Martinez’s throwing motion. The NU run defense has struggled at time this season, but it stiffened last week at Penn State. Losing Jared Crick hurt quite a bit, but Baker Steinkuhler has made some plays. LB Lavonte David is having a Butkus Award type season.

#18 Michigan Wolverines (8-2, 4-2) Synopsis:

Denard Robinson has regressed as a passer this season, especially if you look at the two games versus Northwestern and Notre Dame where he actually did make plays. Those plays were inaccurate jump balls bailed out by his receivers. Almost all his deep throws are just hail marys as he has no accuracy on the long ball.

And how many times have we seen an under 50% completion percentage in his box score? He has no touch on the ball either, and his only chance at the next level is strictly as a punt returner. But enough about the most OVERRATED player in the league.

Fitzgerald Toussaint is developing into a stellar starting tailback now. F. Scott Fitzgerald said “Action is Character.” Fitzgerald running for 8 yards shy of 200 versus Illinois, the nation’s 15th ranked run defense (6th overall defense) defined his character yesterday.

He averaged 7.1 yards per carry and now has 753 yards rushing this season.

“Play Michigan football,” be a “Michigan Defense;” those are common catch-phrases within the team.

After allowing 35.2 points per game in 2010, Michigan’s defense is allowing 15.5 points per game through 10 games in 2011, ranking 2nd in the Big Ten and 5th in the nation in scoring defense. Hard to believe this is just one year after Michigan was ranked near the bottom in almost all relevant defensive categories among all FBS teams. What a difference in Gregs makes! Mattison is has been a total 180 from Robinson as a defensive coordinator.

Prediction to be taken with an entire truckload of salt, not a grain of salt: UM 24, NU 21 (2010-11 prediction record 35-18)

Michigan is at home, so I’m going to go with them in a match-up of very similar in strength, and somewhat in style teams. Look for them to establish Fitzgerald Toussaint early and often. Fitz ran for a career-high high 192 yards on 27 carries yesterday (previous high was 170 yards versus Purdue) and a fourth-quarter TD that ended any remote chances hope of an Illini comeback. Toussaint came out of the gates strong, going 65 yards on his second carry; 121 yards rushing after one quarter.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, a Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports.

A Fulbright scholar and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio all over the world; he’s also a member of the FWAA, USBWA and SPJ. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.

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