Big Ten Football Preview: Week 5

Sept. 30, 2010


(4-0, 0-0 Big Ten)

No. 2/2 Ohio State at Illinois
Saturday, Oct. 2, 2010 • 11 a.m. CT • Champaign, Ill. • Memorial Stadium (62,870)
Big Ten Network • Announcers: Eric Collins, Chris Martin, Charissa Thompson
Series: Ohio State leads, 62-30-4 • Last Meeting: Sept. 26, 2009: Ohio State 30, Illinois 0

(2-1, 0-0 Big Ten)

Second-ranked Ohio State heads to Champaign this weekend for the battle of the Illibuck Trophy and its 97th matchup against Illinois.  The Buckeyes hold a commanding 62-30-4 leads in the series.  Saturday’s contest will bring back some fond memories for Illini fans as the last time they faced such a highly-ranked Ohio State ballclub, Illinois shocked the country with a 28-21 win in Columbus over the then-No. 1 Buckeyes. The victory ended OSU's 29-game regular season winning streak and 21-game Big Ten win streak.  Speaking of streaks, the Illini will be looking for their third-straight victory while Ohio State hopes to leave Champaign with an undefeated mark still intact.  Illinois is 11-26 against Ohio State when the Buckeyes are ranked and just 3-9 versus top-25 opponents over the last three years. OSU is opening Big Ten play on the road for the first time since the 2004 season.

Through its first four games, Ohio State has posted impressive offensive numbers, ranking first in the Big Ten in scoring (49.25), second in total offense (506.75) ad third in rushing (240.25) and passing (266.50).  Current Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week Terrelle Pryor helped the Buckeyes to their highest scoring output in Jim Tressel’s 10 years on the sidelines last week in a 73-20 win over Eastern Michigan.  Pryor was 20-of-26 passing for 226 yards, while totaling 330 yards of total offense and six touchdowns – four passing, one rushing and one receiving.  His primary aerial target, Dane Sanzenbacher, rates fourth in the Big Ten in receptions (5.00) and receiving yards per game (79.0).  Statistically speaking, history leads us to believe the Illini will have an answer for the OSU offense. Illinois has held Ohio State to less than 100 yards passing in each of the last two meetings and is currently holding opponents to just 16.0 points and 102.3 rushing yards per game, which ranks 27th and 25th in the nation, respectively.  In the win over Northern Illinois two weeks back, the Illini held NIU tailback Chad Spann, who racked up 223 yards against Minnesota and ranks 13th in the country at 114.5 rushing yards per game, to just 15 yards on 13 carries.  The defense has racked up an average of 7.7 tackles for loss in the first three games, which is second in the Big Ten and ranks 20th nationally.  Senior CB Travon Bellamy and junior LB Ian Thomas have 4.0 TFL on the year, tied for sixth in the conference. Thomas is currently tied for the team lead in both TFLs and total tackles (25). Butkus Award candidate Martez Wilson had a game-high 11 tackles in the win over NIU two weeks ago and is tied for the team lead and sixth in the conference with 8.33 tackles per game.

In the last three meetings with the Buckeyes, Illinois has averaged 185.3 rushing yards per game and enters Saturday with a season average of 229.0 that ranks 18th nationally. Junior Mikel Leshoure is posting 132.7 yards per game, which is second in the conference, having rushed for 398 yards on 58 carries.  Freshman quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase is second on the team in rushing with 204 yards on 40 attempts, more than five yard per carry.  Scheelhaase has started all three games under center with a 117.2 passer rating. He is 31-of-57 passing for 380 yards with three touchdowns and three INTs. Junior receiver A.J. Jenkins leads the team with 12 catches for 190 yards and two scores.  The Illini rank ninth in the league with 25.3 points per game and 11th in the conference with 130.0 passing and 359.0 total yards of offense each time out.  The OSU defense will look to prey on the Illini’s offense that has been struggling to gain momentum.  While Leshoure has topped the 100-yard mark in all three games this season, Ohio State has not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 27 games.  OSU’s unit ranks first in the Big Ten in pass efficiency defense (100.02) and turnover margin (+2.5), which is second nationally, and second in total defense (240.25) and rushing defense (71.00).  The 71 yards it allows on the ground is also fifth-best in the country.  The Buckeyes have forced 13 turnovers and given up just five touchdowns this season. Chimdi Chekwa has a pair of interceptions on the year, while Ross Homan averages 6.5 tackles each time out.



(4-0, 0-0 Big Ten)

Northwestern at Minnesota
Saturday, Oct. 2, 2010 • 11 a.m. CT • Minneapolis, Minn. • TCF Bank Stadium (50,805)
ESPN • Announcers: Bob Wishusen, Brian Griese
Series: Minnesota leads, 50-30-5 • Last Meeting: Sept. 26, 2009: Minnesota 35, Northwestern 24

(1-3, 0-0 Big Ten)

Saturday is Homecoming at Minnesota and the Golden Gophers are welcoming familiar foe Northwestern to TCF Bank Stadium.  In the 85 previous meetings between the two schools, 16 games have been contested on Minnesota’s Homecoming, with the Gophers owning an 8-6-2 advantage.  Ironically, it’s also the 16th time the Wildcats have played the Gophers in their Big Ten opener.  Minnesota owns a 50-30-5 advantage in the all-time series.  Northwestern, which has won a Big Ten-best nine road games dating to the start of the 2008 season, carries a four-game true road-winning streak into Saturday's action.  The Wildcats also bring a seven-game regular-season winning streak into the opener, which is the team’s longest since capturing seven straight in 1996.

After four games of the 2010 season, or 240 minutes of football, Northwestern has yet to trail at any point.  The Wildcats are averaging 30.0 points and 419.8 yards of total offense, 270.0 of which comes through the air.  That passing mark ranks second in the Big Ten and will remain that impressive as long as junior quarterback Dan Persa remains remarkably consistent.  Persa lead all Division I quarterbacks with an 80.2 completion percentage, having completed 85 of 106 attempts.  He is second nationally with a 186.3 pass efficiency rating and is 12th overall in total offense with 305.3 yards per game.  Junior Jeremy Ebert ranks second in the conference with 82.8 receiving yards per game and sixth in the league with 4.25 catches per outing.  Both Minnesota (35:34) and Northwestern (33:313) rank high in time of possession, primarily because their respective defenses have been impressive in forcing turnovers.  The Gophers’ defensive unit rates 24th nationally with five interceptions on the season, led by a pair from sophomore Mike Rallis.  Minnesota is 11th in the conference in scoring defense (31.0) and rushing (187.8), which could lead NU head coach Pat Fitzgerald to ignite the running game or allow Persa the opportunity to take off and run each down.  The Gophers are allowing 387.0 total yards – 10th-best in the league – and have given up a conference-high 16 touchdowns this season. Keanon Cooper paces the team with 6.2 tackles per outing, while Jewhan Edwards has totaled 5.5 tackles for loss on the year.  That could be good news for the sophomore tackle as Northwestern has already allowed a conference-high 11 sacks on the season.

Minnesota’s time of possession average rates second nationally, but the Gophers have had an interesting time getting things going this season.  They rank seventh in the Big Ten in total yards (417.5) and eighth in rushing (166.2).  Quarterback Adam Weber has the Gophers fifth in conference passing (251.2), having completed 77 of his 123 attempts for seven touchdowns and three interceptions.  The good news is his seven scores are third-best in the Big Ten, but the bad news is his three picks are also the third-highest total in the league. MarQueis Gray is third in the conference in both receptions (5.50) and receiving yards (82.0) per game, while teammate Da’Jon McKnight has been hauling in four balls each time out.  Minnesota’s passing game will face a tough task against a Wildcat unit that ranks fifth in the nation with eight interceptions.  Northwestern picked off two passes in last week’s win and has now recorded at least one INT in its last eight games. Senior linebacker Quentin Davie leads all NU players with a Big Ten-best three interceptions.  As a team, Northwestern rates 10th in the conference in pass defense with 262.2 yards allowed each game – a total that is more than two-thirds what it allows each time out.  Vince Browne is second in the Big Ten with 4.0 sacks and third with 6.0 tackles for loss on the year, while junior Brian Peters paces the ‘Cats with 6.2 stops every Saturday.


(4-0, 0-0 Big Ten)

No. 11/9 Wisconsin at No. 24/21 Michigan State
Saturday, Oct. 2, 2010 • 3:30 p.m. ET • East Lansing, Mich. • Spartan Stadium (75,005)
ABC • Announcers: Mike Patrick, Craig James, Quint Kessenich
Series: Michigan State leads, 27-21 • Last Meeting: Sept. 26, 2009: Wisconsin 38, MSU 30

(4-0, 0-0 Big Ten)

All eyes are once again focused on Michigan State this week as the No. 24/21 Spartans host No. 11/9 Wisconsin in one of only three games in the country this week featuring two 4-0 ballclubs.  It’s also just the third time the two schools have ever met with both teams nationally ranked.  But most importantly, Saturday marks the return of MSU head coach Mark Dantonio, who missed last week’s game following a mild heart attack after the Spartans’ thrilling win against Notre Dame.  Saturday is expected to be another close one.  MSU leads the all-time series 27-21, including a 14-7 mark in East Lansing. However, the Badgers have won nine of the last 13 meetings and the last three games in the series have been decided by a combined total of 12 points. The Spartans, who are 4-2 over the Badgers in Big Ten openers, begin conference action against UW for the third time in the last four years.    
Wisconsin is coming off its most productive offensive outing in school history, after dropping Austin Peay, 70-3.  The impressive totals vaulted the Badgers’ offensive averages as expected, which now sit at 484.0 total yards per game, which is 13th in the country, and 257.5 rushing yards per contest, which is 10th-best in the nation.  UW’s scoring average of 39.5 is 15th nationally and its time of possession of 33:49 is currently the seventh-best mark among all FBS teams.  The Badgers have not turned the ball over since the third quarter of the San Jose State game, primarily due to the play of quarterback Scott Tolzien.  Last week he was 15-of-17 passing for 217 yards and three TDs and is currently eighth in the nation with a passer rating of 176.2.  Tolzien lit up the Spartans last year for 243 yards and four touchdowns in the Badgers’ 38-30 win.  With favorite target Nick Toon sidelined, Tolzien has looked to tight end Lance Kendricks, who currently leads the nation’s tight ends with 299 receiving yards.  In Toon’s two-week absence, Kendricks has hauled in 13 passes for 234 yards and two TDs.  Tailback James White was tabbed Big Ten Freshman of the Week Monday following an effort of 11 carries for 145 yards and four touchdowns.  His backfield buddy, John Clay, has topped 100 yards in 10 straight games – the longest streak in the country – and needs just 98 yards Saturday to eclipse 3,000 rushing yards for his career.  Clay is currently averaging 125.2 yards per game.  Defensively, Michigan State is 10th nationally against the run, allowing just 85.2 yards per game.  The Spartans have allowed only one rushing touchdown in four games and is tied for 12th nationally with 11 takeaways. With four interceptions against Northern Colorado, MSU’s defense has recorded six picks in four games, equaling last year’s 13-game total.  Despite the number of interceptions, MSU ranks ninth in the conference in passing defense with 252.5 yards allowed each time out.  Senior linebackers Eric Gordon and Greg Jones, who picked off two passes last week to earn Big Ten Defensive Co-Player of the Week honors, have combined for 659 career tackles - the most by any active linebacker duo in the country.

Michigan State has proven to be a well-balanced offense this year with 233.2 passing yards and 231.5 rushing yards per game.  The Spartans have rushed for more than 200 yards in all four games this season and currently rank 17th in the nation in rushing. Sophomore Edwin Baker ranks fourth in the Big Ten and 16th in nation with 112.3 rushing yards per game, while Le’Veon Bell paces the conference with seven rushing touchdowns and is fifth in rushing, averaging 99.0 yards per contest.  Junior QB Kirk Cousins is sixth in the league with 215.8 passing yards each time out, but ranks eighth among the nation’s active leaders in career passing efficiency (147.1) and 10th in completion percentage (.630). MSU’s leading receivers Mark Dell and B.J. Cunningham have combined for 195 receptions, 2,879 yards and 12 career touchdowns.  Wisconsin’s defense ranks among the nation’s top 20 in scoring defense (14.2), total defense (265.2) and rushing defense (94.5). UW has given up just five touchdowns this season, tied for second-fewest in the Big Ten, and is looking for a repeat performance from last year, having forced four Spartan turnovers.  In his first season as a starter at defensive end, junior Louius Nzegwu is making an impact. He is tied for the team lead with 17 tackles and two sacks and his 4.0 tackles for loss are just 0.5 behind team leader J.J. Watt.


(4-0, 0-0 Big Ten)

No. 20/19 Michigan at Indiana
Saturday, Oct. 2, 2010 • 3:30 p.m. ET • Bloomington, Ind. • Memorial Stadium (52,929)
ESPNU • Announcers: Pam Ward, Danny Kanell
Series: Michigan leads, 51-9 • Last Meeting: Sept. 26, 2009: Michigan 36, Indiana 33

(3-0, 0-0 Big Ten)

Having started 3-0 for back-to-back years for the first time since the 1993-94 campaigns, Indiana will be looking for several more “firsts” against Michigan on Saturday.  The Hoosiers are looking for their sixth 4-0 start in school history and its first since 1990. Indiana is also looking for its first victory over Michigan since 1987 and its first conference-opening win since 2001, which occurred at Wisconsin.  Not to mention IU is hoping to become the first team to defeat Michigan this season.  The 4-0 Wolverines own an impressive 51-9 advantage over Indiana and visit Bloomington for the first time since 2006. Last season, Indiana fell 2:29 short of defeating Michigan for the first time in Ann Arbor since 1967. The Hoosiers posted new highs in the 60-game series against the Wolverines in total yards (467) and points scored (33). IU's 197 yards rushing marked the second-highest total in the all-time series.

Comparing the two teams on paper, Saturday’s contest could be destined for a shootout.  Indiana (41.3) and Michigan (41.2) rank second and third in the conference in scoring, but eighth (19.3) and 10th (23.0), respectively, in scoring defense. Michigan’s offense has been explosive this season, ranking second in the country in rushing (331.3) and total offense (562.8), 11th in scoring (41.3) and is throwing for 231.5 yards per game.  It seems like each week sophomore quarterback Denard Robinson has made headlines on the field, but last week was for a different reason.  Robinson did not return to last week’s game against Bowling Green after suffering a bruised left knee in the first quarter.  The talented threat has been cleared to play, which is good news for Michigan and bad news for Indiana. Robinson is the nation's top rusher (172.0), second in total offense (354.8) and 18th with an efficiency rating of 162.0. Robinson is 57-of-80 passing with four touchdowns, one interception and 182.8 yards per game. He has 688 rushing yards, six scores, and an 8.7 average per rush.  And to think Michigan put up 65 points last week without Robinson’s services.  Junior running back Michael Shaw is expected to miss the game with injury, but look for Vincent Smith to assist with his 44 carries for 172 yards and three scores this year.  Sophomore Roy Roundtree is tied for fourth in the league with 5.00 receptions per game and has 211 yards and one touchdown. Junior Darryl Stonum holds a team-best 226 yards with 15 grabs and a pair of scores.  Indiana is allowing 338.3 total yards, including 177.0 on the ground, which ranks 10th in the league.  However, the Hoosiers rate second in the Big Ten by allowing 161.3 yards in the air.  Last week against Akron, the Hoosiers allowed 116 yards rushing on 16 carries (7.3 ypc) in the first half, but did manage to hold the Zips to just 44 yards on 14 carries (3.14 ypc) in the second half.  Matt Ernest and Mitchell Evans each have an interception on the season, while Evans and Leon Beckum share the team lead with 5.7 tackles per game.

A week after earning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors, Indiana’s Ben Chappell continues to throw impressively, posting his first career four-touchdown game in last week’s 35-20 win over Akron.  Chappell is tops in the Big Ten and tied for 10th nationally in passing yards per game (296.7), tied for 13th in completions per game (23.67) and 20th in total offense (290.0).  Last week he was 23-of-33 passing for 342 yards, with six balls and 121 yards going to senior Terrance Turner.  Redshirt freshman tight end Ted Bolser hauled in two scores, matching IU's single-season tight end scoring record of four. Chappell's top two targets thus far in 2010, Damarlo Belcher (7.00) and Terrance Turner (5.67), rank one and two in the conference in catches per game and share 14th and 31st nationally. Belcher also leads the league with 94.7 yards per game and Turner is tied for seventh with 63.3 yards per outing.  The Hoosiers are 11th nationally and first in the Big Ten with 304.3 passing yards each time out, while their scoring average of 41.3 is 10th-best in the country.  Michigan’s 3-3-5 defense enters hungry for a Chappell interception.  Currently the Hoosier QB is one of only four quarterbacks in the country with no interceptions and he currently has a streak of 113 passes without a pick dating back to last season.  So far this season, Michigan has picked off six passes, forced a pair of fumbles and recorded five sacks.  The Wolverine defense is allowing 23.0 points, 135.2 rushing yards, 264.8 passing yards and 400.0 total yards per contest.  Sophomore strong safety Jordan Kovacs and senior linebacker Jonas Mouton lead the team with 35 tackles. Kovacs has 24 solos, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, one interception and 2.5 tackles for loss. Mouton is second with 22 solos to go along with two INTs, one sack and 2.5 TFLs. Senior middle linebacker Obi Ezeh is third on the club with 25 tackles and has tallied one fumble recovery and 1.5 stops for loss.


(3-1, 0-0 Big Ten)

No. 22/20 Penn State at No. 17/18 Iowa
Saturday, Oct. 2, 2010 • 7 p.m. CT • Iowa City, Iowa • Kinnick Stadium (70,585)
ESPN • Announcers: Mark Jones, Bob Davie, Jeannine Edwards
Series: Tied, 11-11 • Last Meeting: Sept. 26, 2009: Iowa 21, Penn State 10

(3-1, 0-0 Big Ten)

When it comes to No. 22/20 Penn State and No. 17/18 Iowa, you could say the first one to 12 on Saturday wins.  That statement definitely holds true seeing that the 22-game series between the two teams is tied 11-11.  The team that wins Saturday will take the 12-11 series advantage.  But the 12 could also signify points, as these two squads have stout defensive units.  Iowa is fifth nationally with 12.0 points allowed each time out, while Penn State is eighth at 12.8?  So does the team that holds the other to 12 points Saturday win?  In addition to the number 12, there are also some similarities between the two teams.  Both Iowa and Penn State have dropped non-conference road games to ranked opponents this season and stand 3-1 entering Saturday. The two squads also posted 11-2 overall records a year ago, were both 6-2 in Big Ten play, and were both victorious in January bowl games. Iowa holds an 8-5 advantage since the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten, but the Hawkeyes are just 4-7 in games played at Iowa City.  Iowa has, however, won the last three games in Kinnick Stadium since PSU's 31-7 win in 1999 and has captured eight of the last 10 in the series.

The Nittany Lions rallied from a first quarter deficit to take a 22-13 win over visiting Temple last week and now face an Iowa squad fresh off a 45-0 blanking over Ball State.  Penn State ranks ninth in the conference in passing (209.5) and rushing (159.2), and 10th in scoring (23.2) and total offense (368.8).  That average was inflated last week as PSU put up 439 total yards against the Owls, with solid performances from both Rob Bolden and Evan Royster.  Bolden, the Nittany Lions’ freshman quarterback, completed 18-of-28 passes for 223 yards, with Brett Brackett hauling in five receptions for 62 yards.  The promising note from Saturday is the return to form for Royster, who gained 187 yards on 26 carries.  Despite the breakout, Royster is still averaging just 74.2 yards per game, good for eighth in the league.  Bolden also ranks eighth in the Big Ten at 205.8 passing yards per outing, having thrown three touchdowns and five interceptions on the season.  Penn State has struggled inside the 20 on both sides of the field this year.  The Nittany Lions rank 11th in the conference in red zone offense, scoring just 73.3 percent (11-of-15) of the time, while on defense, they are tied for last having allowed six opponent scores on six attempts.  Iowa leads the nation in total defense (227.5) and ranks third in rushing defense (65.5), two stats Bolden, Royster and head coach Joe Paterno do not want to see.  In last week’s shutout against Ball State, the Hawkeye defense collected six tackles for loss while holding the Cardinals to just 112 yards total offense (56 rushing, 56 passing).  Nine of 12 Ball State possessions were five plays or less. DT Mike Daniels led the defensive line with six tackles, including four of the tackles for loss, and shared Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors for his efforts. LB Jeff Tarpinian led the Iowa defense in tackles (nine) for the third straight game and currently paces the conference with 10.7 stops per game.

In last year’s 21-10 win at No. 4/5 Penn State, Iowa scored the final 21 points of the game after trailing 10-0 in the first period to secure the victory.  This season the Hawkeyes will face another potent unit as Penn State is 17th nationally in pass defense (158.5) and 18th in total defense (275.8).  The Nittany Lions held Temple to just 202 yards of total offense last week, including 91 net yards over the final three periods. Michael Mauti, Nate Stupar and Chris Colasanti each had seven tackles to lead Penn State's defense, while Nick Sukay added two interceptions.  The Nittany Lions are focused on an Iowa unit that averages 445.8 yards of total offense, including 261.0 in the air, which ranks fourth in the Big Ten.  Ricky Stanzi, who rates second in the conference with a 179.4 passer rating, has been very consistent this season.  He is averaging 249.8 passing yards per game and has thrown nine touchdowns to only one interception in four games.  Derrell Johnson-Koulianos hauls in 4.25 receptions and 67.5 receiving yards each time out.  Last week Stanzi had three touchdown passes for the second straight contest, completing 19-of-25 passes for 288 yards, while Johnson-Koulianos had 87 yards on his four receptions.  Tailback Adam Robinson will look to scamper past the stout Penn State rush defense as the sophomore, who has scored six times this year, averages 96.2 rushing yards per game and 5.5 yards per carry.



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