Second weekend of Big Ten football kicks off Saturday
Sept. 30, 2005
Michigan (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten) at No. 11/12 Michigan State (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten)
When Michigan and Michigan State face off, neither team needs much more incentive to get excited for the game than facing its biggest in-state adversary. But the teams' 98th meeting presents plenty of high-stakes motivation in a match up that could be a huge factor in who wins the Big Ten Conference title.
After a huge win against Illinois last week, Michigan State improved to 4-0 and moved up to 11th in the national rankings. Saturday's meeting marks only the sixth time in the all-time series that a ranked Michigan State team will play an unranked Michigan team, and the first since 1968. But the Spartans' powerhouse offense, which ranks third nationally in totally yardage (594.25 ypg) and fifth in scoring (49 ppg), looks poised to step out of the underdog role in this rivalry.
QB Drew Stanton leads the Spartans' offense with conference-best stats in scoring and passing. They also boast a rushing trio averaging more than 6 yards per carry. Freshman Javon Ringer set a school-record for a freshman, gaining 194 yards on 13 carries against the Illini.
The Wolverines are coming off a hard-fought overtime loss to Wisconsin, which put them at 2-2 and knocked them out of the national rankings for the first time since 1998. Michigan hasn't dropped two consecutive regular season games since 1999, and Coach Lloyd Carr, has guided his teams to a 21-5 record in games following a loss, looks to extend the Wolverines' winning streak against the Spartans to a record five straight victories.
Michigan hopes to get an offensive boost with the return of tailback Mike Hart, who suffered a hamstring injury in the first quarter of its week two game against Notre Dame and has not played since. In his absence, fellow sophomore tailback Max Martin has led the Wolverines' rushing attack with 214 yards and two touchdowns.
If last year's match up is any indication, anything can happen when these two in-state rivals face off. In 2004, the Spartans looked like they would leave Ann Arbor with an upset victory, leading 27-10 with less than nine minutes in the game. A shoulder injury forced Stanton to the sidelines with his team still ahead by 10, but the Wolverines rallied to win 45-37 in a triple-overtime thriller, the longest game in conference history.
The Spartans and Wolverines collide Saturday at Spartan Stadium, and the game will be televised regionally by ABC Sports. Kick off is set for 12:10 p.m. ET.
Indiana (3-0, 0-0 Big Ten) at No. 17 Wisconsin (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten)
Two of the Big Ten's unbeaten teams clash when Indiana travels to Wisconsin on Saturday. While it's the 187th conference game for Badgers coach Barry Alvarez, Hoosiers coach Terry Hoeppner begins his first Big Ten season.
Wisconsin jumped into the national rankings (No. 17) after an exciting come-from-behind upset victory against then-No.14 Michigan. Junior running back Brian Calhoun has been the powerhouse production leader for the Badgers' offense, averaging 156.5 yards per game - third best in the nation. He also caught an Alvarez-era-record seven passes against the Wolverines. QB John Stocco scored his fourth touchdown of the year with a 4-yard, game-winning run with 24 seconds left against Michigan.
As potent as the Badgers' scoring attack is, their defense is reaping credit, too. The Badgers have allowed only 16 second-half points, and none in the third quarter. Their rushing defense, which ranks fifth in the nation (65.5 ypg), has only relented one touchdown.
Sophomore QB Blake Powers has fueled the Hoosiers' offense, passing for 718 yards and 11 touchdowns, while his favorite target, redshirt freshman James Hardy, leads Indiana receivers with 17 catches and averages a league-second 88.7 yards per game. Powers' four touchdown passes against Kentucky made him the first Hoosier to throw at least three touchdown passes in three consecutive games, and his 11 touchdowns already ranks 10th in the school's single-season records.
The Hoosiers are 3-0 for the first time in more than a decade, and hold a two-game winning streak against the Badgers. The teams haven't met since 2002, when Indiana rallied from a 19-point fourth-quarter deficit to defeat the Badgers 32-29. They face a Badgers team looking to extend its home winning streak to 10.
Kick off is set for 11:00 a.m. CT, and the game can be seen on ESPN2.
Illinois (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten) at Iowa (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten)
Coming off tough losses in each of their opening Big Ten matchups, one team will level its conference record when Iowa and Illinois face off Saturday in Iowa City.
The Hawkeyes return home after a 31-6 loss at No. 8 Ohio State, with scores coming from two second half field goals from Kyle Schlicher, including a career-long 52-yard kick in the third quarter. Drew Tate passed for 146 yards, connecting with Ed Hinkel for a team-high six catches for 47 yards. While Tate and the Hawkeyes offense look to rebound in offensive production, the Hawkeyes' defense hopes to pick up where they left off. Linebacker Chad Greenway made a game-high 14 stops, and leads the Big Ten with 48 tackles. Fellow linebacker Abdul Hodge is not far behind him in the league rankings, and completed eight tackles and forced a fumble against the Buckeyes.
The Illini fell 61-14 in an overwhelming Michigan State offense last Saturday, but first-year Illinois coach Ron Zook said his young team has all the motivation it needs to rebound against Iowa. "There are some things that we have to take from that," Zook said. "I told them last night, `If you're going to let someone take your lunch money, they are going to take your lunch money. Sooner or later you've got to stand up.'"
The Illini offense is unstoppable inside the redzone, converting on all 18 trips inside the 20 yard-line this season, including 11 touchdowns and seven field goals. The triple running threat of E.B. Halsey, Pierre Thomas and Rashard Mendenhall looks to power the Illini offense against the Hawkeyes.
The Illini's biggest strength is its special teams. Illinois 28.6 kick off return average ranks 13th nationally and second in the league, and Thomas is fourth-best in the Big Ten kick off return yardage, averaging 25.3 per return. Sophomore kicker Jason Reda has made 8-of-9 field goals, and is automatic in extra point attempts, nailing 11-of-11.
The Hawkeyes enter Saturday's game with a 20-game home winning-streak. The stretch ranks third nationally among Division I-A schools, behind Boise State (26) and two-time defending national champion USC (22). In conference games only, Iowa has claimed a school-record 13 straight home wins, and Iowa did not trail once in its six home games in 2004.
No. 18/19 Minnesota (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) at Penn State (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten)
Another pair of unbeatens face off when Minnesota travels to Penn State on Saturday in a match up that pits one of the nation's best offenses against one of the country's stingiest defenses.
The Nittany Lions are 4-0 overall and 1-0 in the Big Ten for the first time since 1999, and they enter the game with a veteran defense that returned eight starters from the Big Ten's toughest squad in 2004. The Lions have allowed a mere two yards per rushing attempt this year and rank third in the league in total defense, allowing an average of 314 yards per contest. Linebacker Paul Posluszny earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors after his career-best 22-tackle performance in the Lions come-from-behind win against Northwestern in the Conference opener.
Despite their defensive authority against Minnesota in recent years, the Lions have not grappled with a running game as formidable as this year's Gopher sqaud, who is averaging a national-best 326.5 yards rushing per game behind junior running back Laurence Maroney's 174.5 yards per game. Another Big Ten Player of the Week, Maroney is on pace for almost 2,000 yards this season. With a talented offensive line - including All-America candidates Greg Eslinger and Mark Setterstrom - opening up gaping paths, Maroney ran for a career high 217 yards on 46 carries against the Boilermakers. Before the Gophers defeated then-No. 11 Purdue in a 42-35 double overtime win last week, the Boilermakers owned the country's top rushing defense entering that game.
In last year's meeting, the Gophers managed 401 total yards for a 16-7 victory last season, beating the Lions for the fifth straight time. But the Lions defense and special teams units held the Gophers 28 points below their season scoring average and 142 yards short of their season average of 542.8 yards per game. Saturday's game marks the ninth meeting for the teams in a series that is deadlocked at four wins each, and can be seen regionally on ABC Sports at 3:30 p.m. ET.
No. 13/14 Notre Dame (3-1) at No. 22/20 Purdue (2-1, 0-1 Big Ten)
In a Top-25 battle, Purdue (No. 22/20) will try to extend its three-game winning streak against Notre Dame (No. 13/14) on Saturday in the teams' long rivalry that started in 1896. The Boilermakers look to capitalize on the road-weary Irish, who will be playing in their fourth road game in their first five games.
The Boilermakers are coming off a hotly-contested 42-35 double-overtime loss at Minnesota, but look to QB Brandon Kirsch and his Purdue offense to overwhelm a Notre Dame pass defense ranked 105th in the nation. The Boilermakers offensive attack is well-balanced, with four players, including Kirsch, averaging at least 27 yards per game. Purdue has proved no matter how they are forced to go about it, the Boilermakers have proven they can get the ball in the endzone, boasting the nations No. 16 scoring offense (38.3 ppg).
Despite relinquishing 536 yards of Irish offense in last season's meeting, the Boilermakers leveled the score with huge defensive stops, including seven quarterback sacks and one fumble recovery while giving up only 16 points. Purdue has held Notre Dame to a 13-point average in the teams' last two games, but the Irish are averaging 34 points per contest this season.
The Irish are led by a dynamic offensive tandem in QB Brady Quinn and running back Darius Walker. Quinn has spearheaded one of the nation's best passing offenses, passing for an average of 308.8 yards per game, a total that ranks 13th in the country. Quinn enters Saturday's game after back-to-back 300-yard passing performances against Washington and Michigan State. Walker has started a streak of his own, compiling four consecutive 100-yard rushing totals.
The squads' 77th meeting kicks off at 7:45 p.m. ET, and can be seen on ESPN.