Marquee Matchups Highlight Week Two of Big Ten Football

Sept. 8, 2006

Central Michigan (0-1, 0-0 MAC) at No. 10/13 Michigan (1-0, 0-0 Big Ten)
Noon ET, ESPN Plus
Ann Arbor, Mich. - Michigan Stadium
Series: Michigan leads 2-0; Last Meeting:  2004 - Michigan 45, Central Michigan 7

Behind an exceptional defensive effort, No. 10 Michigan kicked off the 2006 season claiming the program's 850th win in a 27-7 defeat of Vanderbilt. The Wolverines, who own the most all-time victories in the NCAA, look to extend their lead in the record books when they host intrastate foe Central Michigan on Saturday.

Mike Hart led the Wolverine offense with 146 rushing yards on 31 carries. After racking up 1,455 yards as a freshman, the Michigan running back was hampered by an ankle injury during most of last season but appears to be back on track. The 31 carries were more than he had in all but one contest in 2005.  Quarterback Chad Henne threw for 135 yards and scored two touchdowns.

Michigan's revamped defense dazzled under new defensive coordinator Ron English. The unit sacked Chris Nickson six times and forced the Vanderbilt quarterback to fumble three times while surrendering only nine first downs. Captain LaMarr Woodley counted four tackles and two sacks, and fifth-year senior defensive end Rondell Biggs made a career-high six stops and two sacks.

Central Michigan nearly upset Boston College in a Thursday night matchup last week before falling 31-24 on the road. The Chippewas rallied from a 21-point deficit and pushed to the Eagles' 34-yard line with less than two minutes to play, but QB Dan LeFevour tossed an interception that ended the comeback.

A redshirt freshman, LeFevour took over after starting quarterback Brian Brunner suffered an injury during the second play of the game. He completed 22-of-37 passes for 221 yards and ran for 72 more, scoring twice on the ground and once with his arm.

Saturday's matchup marks the first time the Chippewas have faced a ranked opponent since 2003, when they played Michigan. The Wolverines hold a 2-0 all-time advantage against Central Michigan, including a 45-7 rout in their last meeting. Kickoff is set for noon ET and can be seen on ESPN Plus.

Illinois (1-0, 0-0 Big Ten) at Rutgers (1-0, 0-0 Big East)
Noon ET, ESPN2
Piscataway, N.J. - Rutgers Stadium
Series: Illinois leads 1-0; Last Meeting:  2005 - Illinois 33, Rutgers 30 (OT)

The Illinois Fighting Illini take to the road this weekend with memories of last season's season-opening thriller against Rutgers. Down by as many as 20 points halfway through the third quarter, the Illini rallied to tie the game at 27 with little more than a minute left before putting away the Scarlet Knights with a 2-yard touchdown run from Pierre Thomas in overtime.

A year later, the teams clash again with Illinois traveling to Rutgers Stadium after a successful opening to the 2006 season with a win over Eastern Illinois.

With 345 rushing yards against Eastern Illinois last week, the Illini put up the best ground game total in the Big Ten and the third-most nationally. While Illinois' dual-threat running game is annually one of the squad's biggest offensive threats, the Illini opened the 2006 season with three strong candidates coming out of the backfield to score six touchdowns, the most in one game since 1999. Leading the way, Thomas chocked up 126 yards - the six 100-yard game of his career - and scored twice. E.B. Halsey scored another touchdown and counted 82 yards, while Rashard Mendenhall ran for 75 yards and two touchdowns.

With its top seven tacklers back this year, the Illini defense got off to a solid start. In the first half, the unit held the Panthers to a measly 18 rushing yards on 12 carries. Junior safety Justin Harrison led the squad with nine tackles and broke up two passes.

The Scarlet Knights will also rely on its hardy rushing attack. Sophomore Ray Rice fueled Rutgers' 21-16 victory at North Carolina last weekend with 201 yards rushing and three touchdowns, while cornerback Manny Collins made a pair of crucial interceptions to secure the victory. The teams face off for the second time on Saturday at noon ET.

Miami Ohio (0-1, 0-0 MAC) at Purdue (1-0, 0-0 Big Ten)
1:00 p.m. ET, ESPN360
West Lafayette, Ind. - Ross-Ade Stadium
Series:  Purdue leads 8-3-1; Last meeting:  1989 - Purdue 27, Miami 10

The Purdue Boilermakers host Miami (Ohio) in their second home game in a stretch of four straight to begin the 2006 campaign. They kicked off the season in record fashion, posting a 60-35 victory over Indiana State last weekend to with the second-most points scored by a Purdue team in the Joe Tiller era.

After leading the Sycamores by only five points at the break, the Boilermakers exploded for 156 of its 190 rushing yards in the second half to seal the win. Kory Sheets led the ground attack with 128 yards and three touchdowns, while Dorien Bryant caught six passes for 154 yards and two scores. Quarterback Curtis Painter ran for two touchdowns and threw for two more and 261 passing yards.

The Redhawks face their second Big Ten team in as many weeks, after dropping an emotional season-opener to Northwestern in which both teams honored former coach Randy Walker. Junior QB Mike Kokal made only his second career start for Miami. He connected on 16 of 26 passes for 175 yards, but the Miami offense only mustered 54 yards in the scoreless first half.

With a win Saturday, the Boilermakers would claim their fifth in a row, dating to last year - the squad's longest streak since winning five straight to start the 2004 season. Game time is set for 1 p.m. ET.

New Hampshire (0-0, 0-0 A-10) at Northwestern (1-0, 0-0 Big Ten)
1:00 PM CT
Evanston, Ill. - Ryan Field
Series:  First meeting

Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald passed his first test as the Wildcats' new head coach last Thursday, leading his squad to an emotional 21-3 season-opening victory at Miami (Ohio). In another weekend of firsts for the youngest coach in the country, Fitzgerald and the Wildcats return home to face New Hampshire on Saturday at Ryan Field.

The Wildcats jump-started the 2006 season with a solid defensive effort and crucial special teams' play. Northwestern held Miami to 72 rushing yards and notched five sacks - accounting for almost half of the 2005 team total (12). Special teams put Northwestern on the scoreboard for the first time this season when Erryn Cobb blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown. A senior tight end, Cobb broke through on Miami's first punt in the second half to bat down Jake Richardson's kick and ran it eight yards for his first career touchdown.

Northwestern will rely heavily on a solid defensive performance when it takes only New Hampshire's potent offense. Quarterback Ricky Santos, the runner-up for the 2005 Walter Payton Award, has thrown for 7,115 yards and 70 touchdowns in his first two seasons. He also boasts a 67.1 career completion percentage. The 2005 Atlantic 10 Player of the Year, Santos is also huge rushing threat, gaining 505 yards last year. His No. 1 target David Ball, is just six touchdown receptions from surpassing Jerry Rice's all-time NCAA record of 50 career touchdown grabs. The senior All-American also needs 1,153 yards to surpass Rice's NCAA receiving yardage mark.

Ranked No. 2 among I-AA programs, New Hampshire finished the 2005 season ranked first in the nation. Northwestern and New Hampshire meet for only the second time in history at 1 p.m. CT.

No. 19 Penn State (1-0, 0-0 Big Ten) at No. 4/5 Notre Dame (1-0)
3:30 p.m. ET, NBC
South Bend, Ind. - Notre Dame Stadium
Series:  Tied, 8-8-1; Last Meeting:  1992 - Notre Dame 17, Penn State 16

Two of the most successful programs in NCAA history collide when Penn State travels to Notre Dame. For the first time since 1992, the two perennial powers resume their old rivalry on Saturday. The Fighting Irish, whose 812 all-time wins rank second in NCAA annals, edged the Nittany Lions, the seventh winningest team with 772 all-time victories, by one in their last meeting to level the series.

Since their debuts in 1887, both programs have become two of the top 10 in all-time victories and winning percentage. Joe Paterno began his 41st season at the helm for Penn State with a 34-16 win over defending Mid-American Conference champion Akron at home. Filling the void of graduated 2005 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year Michael Robinson, junior Anthony Morelli threw for 206 yards and three touchdowns. Less than five minutes into the game, the first-year starter connected on his first pass with a 42-yard scoring strike to Deon Butler for a 7-0 lead. Sophomore receiver Derrick Williams also notched 116 all-purpose yards and a score in his return from injury.

The defense returned just four starters, but the unit was solid in the opening triumph with five sacks, two interceptions and a forced fumble. Junior linebacker Dan Connor earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors with 13 tackles and career-highs for sacks (2) and TFL (3.5). The Nittany Lions overwhelmed Akron, relenting only 33 yards rushing on 34 attempts and just 225 yards in total offense. Penn State also wreaked havoc on QB Luke Getsy, who averaged 265.6 yards per contest in 2005, limiting him to 160 yards.

Head coach Charlie Weis kicked off his second season at Notre Dame with a hard-fought 14-10 victory at Georgia Tech. The then-second-ranked Fighting Irish rallied from a 10-0 first half deficit behind quarterback Brady Quinn. The Heisman candidate passed for 246 yards and scored the first Irish touchdown on a five-yard run. Running back Darius Walker racked up 99 yards and sealed the win with a touchdown run in the third quarter.

The Nittany Lions will look to rock the series, which is deadlocked at 8-8-1, in their favor when the game kicks off at 3:30 ET on NBC Sports.

Iowa QB Drew Tate will pilot the Hawkeyes in their first road game of the season at Syracuse.

No. 14/15 Iowa (1-0, 0-0 Big Ten) at Syracuse
3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Syracuse, N.Y. - Carrier Dome
Series: Tied at 1; Last Meeting:  1976 - Iowa 41, Syracuse 3

Drew Tate and the Iowa Hawkeyes hit the road for the first time in their 2006 campaign to face Big East foe Syracuse at the Carrier Dome on Saturday.

The 14th-ranked Hawkeyes rolled in their first game of year, beating Division I-AA Montana 41-7. In his third-year starting as the Hawkeyes' QB, Tate connected on three touchdown passed and three for 223 yards. Running back Albert Young added more points for Iowa with both his running game and receiving skills. He rushed for 93 yards and a touchdown and caught another score as the Hawkeyes won their home opener for the sixth consecutive year.

Despite playing without defensive leader Kenny Iwebema, Iowa's defense suffocated Montana, giving up only 10 rushing yards and 144 total.

After a dismal 2005 record, the Orangeman dropped a school-record 10th straight game in their opener at Wake Forest last weekend. In a 20-10 setback, Syracuse could only muster 45 yards passing and 136 yards of total offense. QB Perry Patterson completed 5-18 passes for 45 yards and one touchdown, while running back Curtis Brinkley started his
first career game and ran eight times for a team-best 49 yards.

On the other side of the ball, the Syracuse defense could not generate any momentum either, surrendering 363 total yards, including 245 yards on the ground, despite linebacker Kelvin Smith's career-high 16 tackles.

The Hawkeyes, who have lost their last two road openers, will clash with Syracuse for the third time in program history and the first in 30 years. ABC Sports will televise all the action at 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday.

Eastern Michigan (0-1, 0-0) @ Michigan State (1-0, 0-0 Big Ten)
3:30 PM ET, ESPN Plus
East Lansing, Mich. - Spartan Stadium
Series: Michigan State leads 6-0; Last Meeting: 2002 - Michigan State 56, Eastern Michigan 7

When Michigan State squares off with Eastern Michigan this weekend, the biggest battle will be between the teams' quarterbacks, both of which are capable of controlling the game with his arm or legs.

All-American candidate Drew Stanton piloted Michigan State to a season-opening triumph over Idaho with 225 passing yards and a touchdown. The senior quarterback completed 16 of 25 passes and rushed for 55 yards in a nearly flawless performance. He will look to explode against an Eastern Michigan defense that gave up 38 points to Ball State last week. The Eagles' signal caller Tyler Jones ran for 164 yards and a touchdown while connecting on 146 yards and another score through the air.

The potent Spartan offense will rely on its deep receiving corps. Four different receivers caught three or more passes in the opener, while Stanton's running responsibilities will be eased by Javon Ringer and Jehuu Caulcrick. The backfield duo combined for 120 yards and two touchdowns last week.

In their 38-20 loss to Ball State last Thursday, wideout Eric Deslauriers - Jones' favorite target - was the Eagles' other offensive standout. He made 10 grabs for 127 yards and a touchdown.

After surrendering around 200 rushing yards per game in 2005, the Eagles' defense didn't fare too much better in its start to the 2006 season. The unit gave up 159 on the ground against Ball State, but for the Spartan running game to pickup speed, Michigan State will need a bigger blocking game from its offensive line.

The intrastate showdown kicks off at 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday.

Western Illinois (1-0, 0-0 Gateway) at Wisconsin (1-0, 0-0 Big Ten)
2:30 p.m. CT, ESPNU
Madison, Wis. - Camp Randall Stadium
Series: Wisconsin leads 1-0; Last Meeting: 1991 - Wisconsin 31, Western Illinois 13

With round one and a number of firsts checked off the list after last weekend, first-year head coach Brett Bielema will lead Wisconsin in his first contest at Camp Randall. The Badgers gave Bielema his first win with a 35-14 triumph over Bowling Green in his head coaching debut last weekend.

The Badgers' powerhouse offense, which has scored at least 30 points in nine of its last 14 games, filled the void of departed running back and touchdown machine Brian Calhoun with rookie P.J. Hill rushed. The freshman ran for a touchdown and 130 yards, the second-best rushing performance for a UW freshman in his debut. Quarterback John Stocco threw a touchdown pass and ran in another.

Western Illinois is coming off a narrow, two-point loss against Youngstown State. Leading the Leathernecks, quarterback Steve LaFalce hit 28-of-46 passes for 363 yards.

With a win over Western Illinois on Saturday, Bielema would become only the second Wisconsin coach since 1932 to begin his career with two consecutive victories. Dave McClain was the last to accomplish the feat in 1978. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. CT and can be seen on ESPNU.

Indiana (1-0, 0-0 Big Ten) at Ball State (1-0, 0-0 MAC)
6:30 p.m. ET , Comcast Local
Muncie, Ind. - Scheumann Stadium
Series:  Indiana leads 2-0; Last Meeting: 1999 - Indiana 21, Ball State 9

When Indiana heads to Ball State for an intrastate matchup this weekend, the Hoosiers will look to build on its third straight season with an opening victory. The defense and special teams units powered a 39-20 win over Western Michigan to open the 2006 season last weekend.

The Hoosier defense forced three turnovers and held the Broncos to only 39 rushing yards until the final minutes. Sophomore cornerback Chris Phillips returned his first career interception 66 yards for a touchdown. On special teams, Austin Starr added six points with two field goals and junior Tracy Porter returned a punt 86 yards for another score in the victory.

Quarterback Blake Powers will look to build on his 16-for-28, 192-yard passing performance against the Cardinals. The veteran Hoosier pilot also scored one touchdown before leaving the game with cramps. Senior Graeme McFarland took over, adding 60 yards and another score.

The Cardinals started the season with a 38-20 win over Eastern Michigan. After only lead by four at the half, Ball State broke out with 14 straight points in the third quarter to seal the victory. The Cardinal offense featured a pair of reliable quarterbacks in starter Joey Lynch and freshman Nate Davis. A fifth-year senior, Lynch tossed 122 yards and one touchdown. He will see some familiar faces on Saturday with father Bill Lynch, assistant head coach, and brother Billy, wide receivers coach, patrolling the Hoosier sidelines. The game will also be an unofficial homecoming for the IU Lynches, who both lettered at Ball State. Bill Lynch also served as the Cardinals head coach from 1995-2002, and led the team to the MAC title in 1996 and an appearance in the Las Vegas Bowl that same year.

The teams will clash for the first time in Scheumann Stadium on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ET.

Minnesota (1-0, 0-0 Big Ten) at No. 22/23 California (0-1, 0-0 Pac-10)
7:00 p.m. ET, TBS
Berkeley, Calif. - Memorial Stadium
Series:  Tied at 2; Last Meeting:  1987 - Minnesota 32, Cal 23

With the absence of an all-star duo in the Minnesota backfield, the Golden Gophers turned to former linebacker Alex Daniels to fill the void of Gary Russell, the school record-holder for rushing touchdowns, and NFL first-round pick Laurence Maroney. The sophomore didn't disappoint in his running back debut, leading Minnesota to a 44-0 victory over Kent State in its season opener.

Daniels rushed for 155 yards and three touchdowns, while quarterback Bryan Cupito was 8-of-13 for 146 yards and launched a 39-yard touchdown pass to Eric Decker. The ground attack was also aided by Amir Pinnix and Justin Valentine, who both ran six more points apiece. Senior captain Matt Spaeth led the team with three receptions for 58 yards, while the Gophers' defense came up big with six forced six turnovers, including two interceptions.

After a disappointing 35-18 loss it its season-opener against Tennessee, California skidded 13 spots from its highest preseason ranking in over 50 years. The Bears were limited to 64 yards on 23 carries with two quarterbacks putting in time under center. Nate Longshore, who broke his left leg in last season's opener, completed 11-of-20 passes for 85 yards with one interception, while Joseph Ayoob scored twice, once in the air and another on the ground, after taking over in the second half.

Marshawn Lynch, Cal's Heisman candidate running back, will look to bounce back from a slow start to lead Bears. After rushing for 1,246 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, Lynch was expected to be the focus of the Cal offense but was limited to 74 yards on 12 carries in the defeat.

California and Minnesota have split four all-time games. This is their first meeting since Sept. 19, 1987, when Minnesota won 32-23. The Gophers will look to move to 2-0 on the season with kickoff set for 4 p.m. PT.

Ohio State Heisman candidates and former prep teammates Ted Ginn Jr. and Troy Smith look for more touchdown celebrations against second-ranked Texas on Saturday.

No. 1 Ohio State (1-0, 0-0 Big Ten) at No. 2 Texas (1-0, 0-0 Big 12)
7:00 p.m. CT, ABC
Austin, Texas - Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium
Series:  Texas leads 1-0; Last Meeting: 2005 - Texas 25, Ohio State 22

When top-ranked Ohio State travels to second-ranked Texas for one of the most anticipated games of the year, the nation's two highest ranked teams will collide for the first time in the regular season since 1996. And even though the 2006 championship battle is only two weeks old, title implications will be sky-high.

Last year's meeting between the two teams sparked a fresh rivalry when Vince Young led Texas into Columbus, Ohio, and came away with a 25-22 triumph en route to a 14-0 season and national championship win.

This year, Troy Smith - the Buckeyes' Heisman-caliber quarterback who has been likened to Young's do-it-all style - will look to settle the score. Smith delivered three touchdown passes before counting a single incomplete in Ohio State's 35-12 win over Northern Illinois. Ohio State rolled up 488 yards in total offense to claim its 28th-consecutive home opener.
The Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week, Smith was 18-of-25 for 297 yards in the season opener. Another possible Heisman candidate, Ted Ginn Jr., caught two of Smith's scoring passes. Bolstering the Buckeyes' high-octane offense, Antonio Pittman rushed for 111 yards and a touchdown last week. The junior running back is looking to build on his sensational sophomore performance of 1,331 yards.

The biggest question for Texas is filling Young's void. But freshman quarterback Colt McCoy had a strong debut behind center, connecting on three touchdowns and running for another in the Longhorns 56-7 rout of North Texas. His primary target was Limas Sweed, who made five catches for 111 yards and two touchdowns in the opener.

The Longhorns' defense will be without starting cornerback Tarell Brown to cover star wideout Ginn. A senior and Texas' top cover corner, Brown was the most likely candidate for the job but was suspended for an off-field incident. The Longhorns will turn to either junior Brandon Foster or sophomore Ryan Palmer, both of whom have game experience but not as starters.

All the action kicks off at 7:00 p.m. CT on ABC.