110th Season of Big Ten Football Kicks Off Saturday

Sept. 22, 2005

Michigan State @ Illinois, 11:00 am CT, ESPNU/ ESPN Plus
Coming off an emotional overtime win in South Bend, Michigan State travels to Illinois on Saturday to kick off its conference schedule. The Spartans will look to continue their undefeated run, while the Illini (2-1) will look to defend their home turf as they face their second-straight ranked opponent. Illinois head coach Ron Zook posted six wins against ranked teams during his tenure at Florida, including three straight in 2003, but has never played against Michigan State.

The Spartans enter the game at the top of the Big Ten, and fourth in the nation in total offense with an average of 557 yards per game. In last week's game win over Notre Dame, quarterback Drew Stanton accounted for 375 of those yards and added four touchdowns to earn Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors.

Illinois got off to their its 2-0 start since the 2001 season, when the Illini won the Big Ten Championship, but couldn't pull off the upset when it visited No. 15 California. Zook's squad will look to defend its home turf and remain unbeaten at home this season. In their last home game, against San Jose State, the three-headed Illini running attack of juniors E.B. Halsey and Pierre Thomas, and true freshman Rashard Mendenhall combined for 218 yards on 41 carries.

Saturday's game will be the 41st meeting between the two squads, with MSU leading the series 22-16-2, and holding a slight 10-9-1 advantage in Champaign. The game can be seen at 11:00 a.m. on ESPNU.

Iowa @ Ohio State, 12:00 pm ET, ABC Sports
The defending Big Ten Conference co-champion Iowa Hawkeyes travel to Columbus to take on the eighth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday. Both teams enter the game with a 2-1 record on the season, with No. 21 Iowa falling to rival Iowa State two weeks ago, and No. 8 Ohio State the victim of No. 2 ranked Texas on the same day.

Iowa linebacker Chad Greenway is the Big Ten's reigning Defensive Player of the Week after recording 20 tackles in the Hawkeyes' 42-21 win over Northern Iowa last week. It was Greenway's 17th career game with double-digit tackles, and his third player of the week honor. On the other side of the ball, the Iowa offense racked up almost 500 yards last week to go along with 24 first downs. The Hawkeyes enter the week three matchup with the longest current conference winning streak, after victories in their final seven Big Ten games of 2004.

They will attempt to continue that streak against a raucous crowd of over 100,000 Buckeye faithful, and an Ohio State team that has won 23 of its last 25 home games. QB Troy Smith has completed 51 percent of his passes so far this year, and nine different receivers have caught passes so far this season led by Santonio Holmes who has 13 receptions for 189 yards and two touchdowns. The OSU offense is averaging 337 yards per game, and is a remarkable 45 percent on third downs.

The first meeting between these two schools was in 1922, and their intra-conference rivalry continues at noon on Saturday, televised regionally by ABC Sports.

Michigan @ Wisconsin, 5:00 pm CT, ESPN2 (HD)
Michigan (No. 14/No. 13) visits Wisconsin (No. 24) in a game that could be an early determinant of this year's Big Ten championship. Michigan was chosen to win the Big Ten this year according to the preseason coaches' poll, while Wisconsin is one of six Big Ten teams which enter conference play with a perfect record.

Michigan, who won a piece of last year's title, has won 23 consecutive conference openers entering Saturday. Another impressive streak for Michigan is being ranked nationally for the 112th consecutive week. Sophomore quarterback Chad Henne is in his second year as a starter, and hopes to once again lead the Wolverines to a conference title. Henne has a 7-1 Big Ten record going into Saturday, and this season has racked up almost 600 yards in the air to become the fastest Michigan quarterback to ever reach 3,000 yards passing, doing so in only 14 games.

Wisconsin running back Brian Calhoun will attempt to nullify Henne's offense. Calhoun is third in the nation averaging 157 rushing yards per game. Wisconsin's rushing offense ranks sixth nationally with 272.3 yards per game, while the rushing defense has held opponents to a measly 39 yards per game. By scoring an average 45 this season throughout their three games, the Badgers have jumped out to a 3-0 start for the third time in four years after opening the 2004 campaign with nine straight wins.

Saturday night's game will kickoff at 5:00 p.m. CT on ESPN2 from Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin.

Purdue @ Minnesota, 11:00 am CT, ESPN
Minnesota, who is off to its fourth straight 3-0 start will host Purdue this weekend to kick off both teams' conference schedules. The Boilermakers are also undefeated for the second straight year, with both teams hoping to duplicate 5-0 starts in 2004.

The game will match up the nation's best rushing offense in Minnesota, which averages 335 yards per game, against the best rushing defense in the country, with Purdue allowing a net total of 32 yards on the ground through their first two games. Gopher running back Laurence Maroney currently ranks second nationally in average rushing yards with 160.3, sixth in all-purpose yards per game (183.3), and fifth in points per game with 14. The Purdue defense is led by senior linebacker George Hall, who has 13 tackles through two games.

Purdue running back Jerod Void isn't far behind Maroney in numbers with 104 yards per game and an average of 12 points scored through two games. The 11/10th ranked Boilermakers have not lost a conference opener in the past nine years under Coach Joe Tiller, but the Gophers have dominated Purdue in Minneapolis.

Saturday's game will be the 62nd meeting of the two charter members of the Big Ten. Purdue leads the overall series 30-28-3, while Minnesota holds a 26-11-3 record at home. In their last meeting, the Boilermakers beat the Gophers 28-15 behind 21 unanswered points in the third quarter. Kickoff is set for 11:00 a.m. CT from Minneapolis on ESPN.

Penn State @ Northwestern, 11:00 am CT, ESPN2
The Northwestern Wildcats will play host to Penn State on Saturday hoping to extend their eight-game home win streak against the undefeated Nittany Lions. The Wildcats will use a balanced attacked against Penn State led by fourth-year starting quarterback Brett Basanez, who has hit thirteen targets already this season. Basanez has already amassed 7,755 yards over his career heading into the weekend. Wide receiver Tyrell Sutton has already earned Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors after NU's victory over Northern Illinois on Sept. 10, in which Sutton caught four touchdown passes. Also earning Big Ten honors following that win was Special Teams Player of the Week Maurice Cole, who returned two punts for 101 yards, and added a touchdown, an interception, and eight solo tackles in that game.

As Penn State enters its 13th season of Big Ten play, the Lions are looking to improve to 4-0. Quarterback Michael Robinson threw for 274 yards and for the second straight week passed for three touchdowns against Central Michigan at home. But it is the Penn State defense that has once again proven to be key in the Lions' victories so far this season, and allowed just 14 rushing yards and three points to Central Michigan last week, while sacking the quarterback eight times.

Penn State and Coach Joe Paterno will be looking to hit a milestone this week in Evanston with their 100th victory since joining the Big Ten. Last season the Wildcats came to Beaver Stadium to face the Nittany Lions and over 100,000 loyal fans and came away with a 14-7 victory.

The game can be seen on ESPN2 beginning at 11:00 a.m. CT.