Sept. 24, 2004
# 15/15 Purdue (2-0, 0-0 Big Ten) at Illinois (2-1, 0-0 Big Ten)
Champaign, Illinois - Memorial Stadium
Saturday, September 25, 2004 - 11 am CDT - ESPN Plus
Series: Illinois leads 41-34-6, Last Meeting - Oct. 4, 2003: Purdue 43, Illinois 10
Purdue will be rested starting conference play after having the previous week off. For the Boilermakers, this weekend's game is the first of three consecutive road games that will prove challenging for a Purdue squad that has looked good early on. Meanwhile, Illinois will attempt to claim its first win in Big Ten play since the end of the 2002 season. In that same year, Illinois defeated Purdue in overtime, 38-31, in the Boilermakers last visit to Champaign.
Head coach Joe Tiller's defense has been the talk of the Big ten early on after giving up only seven points in the Boilermakers first two games. Illinois will not only have its hands full with the Purdue defense breathing down its neck, but the Fighting Illini must find a way to slow down the Big Ten Conference's top offensive unit - statistically.
In those same two games, the Purdue offense has scored 110 points led by Big Ten Conference preseason offensive player of the year and now Heisman Trophy candidate Kyle Orton. In week one versus Syracuse, Orton matched a career high with four touchdown passes, only to eclipse that mark the following week against Ball State with five. Wide out Taylor Stubblefield has been on the receiving end of five of Orton's nine TDs this season but will be challenged by a strong Illinois secondary.
Kelvin Hayden has two interceptions to his name already in the first three games of his collegiate career at cornerback. The former wide receiver could draw the difficult assignment of stopping perhaps one of the nation's top QB-WR duos. The Illini offense has also shown that it has some teeth early on. E.B. Halsey has reached the end zone five times already this season while averaging 4.7 yards-per-carry. Kendrick Jones has picked up the primary receiver duties that Hayden held a year ago. The junior has pulled in 12 catches for a total of 265 yards - an average of 22 yards per catch.
The quarterback position is still up in the air for Ron Turner's team with the status of senior Jon Beutjer still uncertain. If Beutjer is unable to go, look for Brad Bower to once again step up and run the Illini attack. This season Bower has already seen significant time, throwing for 309 yards and a score while completing almost 60 percent of his passes.
Next Opponents: Purdue at Notre Dame - Sat., October 2, 2004 - 1:30 pm EST - NBC
Illinois at Wisconsin - Saturday, October 2, 2004 - 1:00 pm CDT
Michigan State (1-2, 0-0 Big Ten) at Indiana (2-1, 0-0 Big Ten)
Bloomington, Indiana - Memorial Stadium
Saturday, September 25, 2004 - 11:00 am CDT - ESPN Plus
Series: Michigan State leads 36-14-2, Last Meeting - Oct. 4, 2003: MSU 31, Indiana 3
After early season wins over Central Michigan and at ranked Oregon, Indiana can probably think of no better way to start the 2004 season than by winning its first conference game. Likewise, Michigan State will not only try to get its conference season off on the right foot but will also be looking to bounce back from a tough home loss to Notre Dame a week ago. While the Spartans currently have a record of 1-2, both losses have been by a combined total of 12 points, while their victory over central Michigan, was a dominating performance.
The Spartans entered the 2004 season without a leading candidate to handle the snaps behind center and that is how they enter this fourth game of the season as well. Damon Dowdell, Stephen Reaves and Drew Stanton have all seen significant time at quarterback and each bring a different style of play to Michigan State's spread offense. Dowdell and Reeves have each attempted 39 passes completing 22 with two TDs and 16 with one score respectively. Stanton has used his legs to bring a new dimension to the offense, gaining 92 yards on 10 carries. Stanton may have the edge with his strong effort versus Notre Dame as long as he stays healthy.
Whoever starts at QB will have plenty of support in the backfield. Jason Teague and Jehuu Caulcrick have ach seen their share of the football with both averaging around five yards-per-carry.
Fans in Bloomington are thankful that QB Matt LoVecchio has returned to the form that led Notre Dame to a Fiesta Bowl berth in 2001. Already this season, LoVecchio has thrown more touchdowns than he did all of last season with four while racking up 428 yards.
Like their state pro football franchise - the Indianapolis Colts - the Hoosier's boast their own triplets in LoVecchio, tailback BenJarvus Green-Ellis and wide out Courtney Roby. Green-Ellis leads the Big Ten in carries with 80 and has gained over 300 yards while crossing the goal line twice. Roby is averaging more than 17 yards-per-catch and has been the recipient of three of LoVecchio's four touchdown throws.
On defense, linebacker Kyle Killion is tied for the league lead in tackles with 32 and sacks with three QB drops.
Next Opponent: Michigan St. at Iowa - Sat., Oct. 2, 2004 - 11:00 am CDT - ESPN Plus
Indiana vs. Michigan - Saturday, October 2, 2004 - 2:30 pm CDT - ABC
#-/24 Iowa (2-1, 0-0 Big Ten) at #18/18 Michigan (2-1, 0-0 Big Ten)
Ann Arbor, Michigan - Michigan Stadium
Saturday, September 25, 2004 - 3:30 pm EDT - ABC
Series: Michigan Leads 37-10-4, Last Meeting - Oct. 4, 2003: Iowa 30, Michigan 27
Michigan begins defense of its 2003 Big Ten Conference championship and will attempt to avenge its only conference loss of 2003 when Iowa comes into Ann Arbor. The Hawkeyes have been a thorn in Michigan's side for the past few seasons. The Maize and Blue have dropped their last two meeting versus Iowa including at Michigan Stadium 34-9 in 2002 - Michigan's worst home loss since 1967. The Hawkeyes meanwhile, will be coming off a 44-7 defeat in the dessert to Arizona State and will attempt to make a statement and climb back up in the rankings against Michigan.
The Wolverines avoided an upset by San Diego State last week, winning 24-21. Besides coming out with the win, Michigan may have come out with a new starter at tailback in true freshman Michael Hart. Hart rushed for 121 yards against the Aztecs and could see a lot of the carries this weekend.
The maturation process continues for Chad Henne at quarterback. After an impressive opening day performance versus Miami (Ohio), the true freshman has experienced some growing pains recently. Henne still boasts some decent stats with a 67 percent completion rate and five touchdown passes. Certainly one of Henne's strengths early on is his ability to locate and connect with all-Big Ten receiver Braylon Edwards. Edwards is sixth in country and first in the conference with 350 yards receiving to go along with his four TD receptions.
On the defense, Markus Curry is tied for the NCAA lead with six interceptions. Patrick Massey and Ernest Shazor have each pitched in with two QB sacks and 19 tackles respectively.
Despite last week's loss in Tempe, Iowa's defense must continue to be the main fuel the Hawkeyes run on. Linebacker Chad Greenway is tied for the league lead in tackles with 32 as well as leading the team in picks with two. The defensive line features havoc-wreaker Jonathan Babineaux, who leads the conference with eight tackles-for-loss including three QB sacks.
Iowa's offense has gone from scoring 39 points in an opening weekend win over Kent State to only seven a week ago. Like Henne, signal caller Drew Tate is also learning on the job. Henne and Tate have comparable numbers with the latter completing 59 percent of his passes and averaging 11 yards-per-completion including three passes for scores. The victorious team this weekend could very well be determined by which ever young quarterback makes the fewest mistakes and makes the key plays.
Rounding out the Hawkeye offensive attack is tailback Jermelle Lewis and wide out Ed Hinkel. The two are leading the team in their respective categories with Lewis running for 116 yards and Hinkel averaging 14 yards-per-catch.
Next Opponent: Iowa vs. Michigan St. - Sat., Oct. 2, 2004 - 11:00 am CDT - ESPN Plus
Michigan at Indiana - Saturday, October 2, 2004 - 2:30 pm CDT - ABC
Penn State (2-1, 0-0 Big Ten) at #20/20 Wisconsin (3-0, 0-0 Big Ten)
Madison, Wisconsin - Camp Randall Stadium
Saturday, September 25, 2004 - 4:45 pm CDT - ESPN
Series: Wisconsin Leads 6-3, Last Meeting - Oct. 4, 2003: Wisconsin 30, Penn State
The last time a Badger team started a season 4-0 was in 2002. Coincidentally, that was also the last year Wisconsin lost to Penn State. One of those marks will change after Saturday's game between the two longest tenured coaches currently at their respective institutions in the Big Ten. With upcoming games against Minnesota, Purdue, Ohio State and Iowa, getting off to a good start could be critical if Penn State intends to stay in the conference race. Meanwhile, a win for the Badgers could set up a run for a conference title as well as provide a boost into the higher national rankings.
The backfield is where Joe Paterno will look to try and establish an offensive attack against a Badger defense that has allowed only 16 points all season and only one touchdown. Zack Mills has a completion rate of over 60 percent and has connected on four passes for touchdowns. Lining up with Mills will be tailback Tony Hunt who is averaging an unbelievable eight yards-per-carry and has 303 yards on the season to go along with four touchdowns. Sophomore Austin Scott also showed signs of emerging last week, running for 47 yards on only six carries. Working downfield will be leading receiver Michael Robinson who has 182 yards on the year and a TD. As a team Penn State has gained 672 yards on the ground this season.
Penn State's defense will be fortunate to avoid Wisconsin tailback Anthony Davis but will still have its hands full. Look for Jay Alford (2 sacks this season) to try and pressure the quarterback and make him throw the ball early and force interceptions to the likes of Anwar Phillips (2 ints. this year).
Wisconsin's defense will borrow a page from Central Florida who - despite losing 37-13 - forced six turnovers a week ago and picked off Mills four times. Reginald Cribbs currently leads the Badgers with 19 tackles while Erasmus James has tallied three sacks. As a unit, the Badger "D" has allowed their opponents to convert on only nine-of-forty 3rd down conversions attempts.
The Badger's offense relies heavily on tailback Booker Stanley both in the rushing and passing game. Stanley has 231 yards rushing and has caught eight passes for 65 yards. John Stocco has cemented the QB position in Madison for the foreseeable future with his performance in the early part of '04. The sophomore has 411 yards passing and has thrown three TDs. Despite the success the Badgers have encountered early on, their scoring offense ranks last in the Big Ten with just over 20 points-per-game.
One area that may determine the game is time of possession. Wisconsin is tops in the league, averaging over 33 minutes a game while Penn State is ahead of only Michigan State, averaging just over 29 minutes a game on offense.
Next Opponent: Penn St. at Minnesota - Sat., Oct. 2, 2004 - 7:00 pm CDT - ESPN Plus
Wisconsin vs. Illinois - Saturday, October 2, 2004 - 1:00 pm CDT
Northwestern (1-2, 0-0 Big Ten) at #19/19 Minnesota (3-0, 0-0 Big Ten)
Minneapolis, Minnesota - Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome
Saturday, September 25, 2004 - 8:00 pm CDT - ESPN 2
Series: Minn. Leads 48-28-5, Last Meeting - Oct. 4, 2003: Minn. 42, Northwestern 17
The leading passing team in the Big Ten Conference meets the top rushing squad in the league when Northwestern travels to Minneapolis for the conference opener for both squads. The Wildcats fell on some hard times in the first two weeks of the season losing to Texas Christian in double overtime and Arizona State by only nine points but, NU was able to hang on last week against Kansas to get a "W" in the win column before conference play starts. The Golden Gophers have won each of their first three games by at least 16 points while averagingover 44 points-per-game in the span.
Brett Basanez is the arm behind the Wildcats offense and has attempted over 133 passes - twice as many as any other QB in the conference. The junior has completed over 60 percent of his throws for 933 yards while connecting on five touchdowns. Basanez primary target is Mark Philmore who has hauled in 25 passes for 335 yards. The ground game is in the hands of Noah Herron who has run for 284 yards and three TDs.
Northwestern's defense is led by linebacker Tim McGarigle who has 29 tackles. Defensive end Barry Cofield has already registered three sacks while the team has logged six QB takedowns. A key for the Wildcat defense will be to limit the number of first downs by Minnesota. The Golden Gophers and Wildcats lead the league in first downs with 81 and 77 respectively.
If Marion Barber III and Lawrence Maroney continue their pace throughout this season, they will rush for a combined total of almost 3,000 yards or 1.7 miles. The duo has not only racked up yardage this season, but touchdowns as well with Barber reaching the end zone six times and Maroney three. The result; Coach Glen Mason's squad is second in the nation in rushing and the Golden Gophers are 3-0 to start the year. Minnesota could keep that record spotless if Barber and/or Maroney have a big game this weekend. Bryan Cupito has also been a contributor on offense passing the ball 32 times for 627 yards and throwing five TDs.
The Minnesota defense could have a big day if the Wildcats go to the air as often as they have this season. Trumaine Banks and Ukee Dozier have each pulled down two interceptions and could be difficult to stop for NU. At the same time the Wildcat offense could flourish against a Golden Gopher defense that statistically holds the bottom spot in the conference for pass defense, allowing 7.1 yards-per-pass. However, that ranking may be skewed since Minnesota has opened up big leads in all three games this season.
Next Opponent: NU vs. Ohio State. - Sat., Oct. 2, 2004 - 7:45 pm CDT - ESPN2
Minnesota vs. Penn St. - Sat., Oct. 2, 2004 - 7:00 pm CDT - ESPN Plus
Off Date: #7/6 Ohio State at Northwestern - Sat., Oct. 2, 2004 - 8:00 pm CDT - ESPN2