Big Ten Football Preview: Week 5




Sept. 29, 2011

 


(2-1, 0-0 Big Ten)

NORTHWESTERN at #24/22 ILLINOIS
Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011 • 11 a.m. CT • Champaign, Ill. • Memorial Stadium (60,670)
ESPN2 • Announcers: Beth Mowins, Mike Bellotti
Series: Illinois leads, 53-46-5 • Last Meeting: Nov. 20, 2010: Illinois 48, Northwestern 27


(4-0, 0-0 Big Ten)

Coming off a bye week, Northwestern travels to rival Illinois for the “Land of Lincoln” trophy game Saturday, which will be played in front of the Illini’s 101st Homecoming crowd.    Illinois has lost three straight conference openers since winning at Indiana, 27-14, to start the 2007 Big Ten season, but are now 4-0 on the season for the first time since its national championship season in 1951.  The Illini outlasted Western Michigan 23-20 last week, while Northwestern enters 2-1 after falling at Army two weeks ago.  NU has been triumphant in six of its last eight meetings with Illinois dating to 2003, with an average margin of victory of 12.3 points in its six wins. The 'Cats were victorious in their last trip to Memorial Stadium, a 21-16 victory in 2009.  Overall, the Illini lead the series 53-46-5 and 25-20-2 in games played in Champaign.  The Orange and Blue took last year’s rivalry game – a 48-27 College GameDay classic at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
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Northwestern enters the weekend ranked sixth in the Big Ten in rushing (220.7), ninth in passing (169.3) and total yards (390.0), and 10th in scoring (26.7).  Those numbers should improve as Saturday will likely mark the return of senior and All-Big Ten quarterback Dan Persa, who has missed the first three games while recovering from a torn Achilles tendon he suffered late in the 2010 campaign. Persa, who has 2,805 career passing yards and 17 passing touchdowns, was 7-3 as a starter in 2010.  But if Persa can’t go, look for the Wildcats to turn to true sophomore Kain Colter, who ranks seventh in the conference in rushing (79.0) and 10th in passing (130.0).  Wideout Jeremy Ebert is coming off a nice outing two weeks ago as he hauled in a team-high six catches for 108 yards and two TDs to give him 12 scores for his career.  Mike Trumpy helps out in the backfield and returned to the turf for 34 rushing yards against Army, having missed the Eastern Illinois game with a head injury.  The Wildcats might have to take it to the air Saturday as the Illini defense ranks fifth nationally against the rush, allowing a Big Ten-best 56.5 yards per game. Illinois has allowed a total of 226 rushing yards this season and is giving up 230.8 yards in the air each time out.  The Orange and Blue have forced nine turnovers, which have led to 27 points on the season.  Senior linebacker Trulon Henry is leading the Illini and the Big Ten with two interceptions this year, while junior defensive end Whitney Mercilus has forced a pair of fumbles to go along with a Big Ten-best 4.0 sacks and five TFLs and five QB hurries.  Junior cornerback Terry Hawthorne, who is second on the team with 22 stops, collected nine tackles, including a career-high eight solos, three PBUs and one interception in the win over Western Michigan a week ago.

The Illinois offense has found some success against the Wildcats in recent years, having averaged 452.3 total yards and 293.8 rushing yards per game in the teams' last four meetings.  Those numbers ballooned last year when the Illini piled up 519 yards rushing, led by Mikel Leshoure's record-breaking 330-yard performance.  Another effort like that could be in store for senior Troy Pollard, who is currently averaging an eye-opening 10.4 yards per carry.  The senior has some competition though.  Newcomer Donovonn Young was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week on Monday after running for 100 yards on 12 carries (8.3 ypc), including a 14-yard TD run last week.  As a team, Illinois’ rushing average of 241.8 yards per game ranks 14th in the country.  The Orange and Blue are also touting averages of 32.3 points and 423.8 total yards per game.  Sophomore QB Nathan Scheelhaase ranks 16th in the nation and second in the Big Ten in passing efficiency (166.22), completing 47-of-66 passes (71.2 percent) for 637 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. He also has rushed for 224 yards and two TDs.  Northwestern’s defense ranks fifth in the Big Ten against the pass (188.7), eighth in scoring (19.7), and 12th in defending the rush (205.7) and total yards allowed (394.3).  Linebacker Bryce McNaul is fifth in the conference with 9.3 tackles per game and is coming off a career-high 15 stops at Army two weeks ago.  Also touting career highs in the loss were safety Ibraheim Campbell (13), linebacker David Nwabuisi (12), and cornerback Jeravin Matthews (10).


 


(3-1, 0-0 Big Ten)

PENN STATE at INDIANA
Leaders Division Game
Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011 • Noon ET • Bloomington, Ind.• Memorial Stadium (52,929)
ESPNU • Announcers: Clay Matvick, Brian Griese, Allison Williams
Series: Penn State leads, 14-0 • Last Meeting: Nov. 20, 2010: Penn State 41, Indiana 24


(1-3, 0-0 Big Ten)

Indiana and Penn State are set to open not only Big Ten play, but also Leaders Division action on Saturday.  The two teams, which have met 14 times since the Nittany Lions joined the conference in 1993, including each of the last four years, are now battling for position within their own division.  Of those 14 prior meetings, Penn State has been victorious in every single one of them, but the Hoosiers almost earned their first win in the series that last time PSU came to Bloomington – a 36-31 thriller in 2007.  The two teams met last at a neutral site – FedEx Field – in Washington DC, where the Nittany Lions won 41-24. The Nittany Lions are coming off a 34-6 win over Eastern Michigan, while Indiana suffered a 24-21 setback at North Texas.  Penn State’s Joe Paterno returned to the sidelines for a brief moment last week, a sign he is recovering from injuries sustained in a collision with his own player during preseason practice.  Whether JoePa is on the sideline or in the press box, Saturday will mark Paterno’s 700th game since joining the PSU coaching staff in 1950.

While Penn State has been on the strong end of this one-sided series, the two teams enter the weekend with one thing in common:  uncertainty at quarterback.  Luckily for the Nittany Lions, their tandem of Matt McGloin and Rob Bolden have stayed fairly productive this year and actually combined for 335 passing yards last week against Eastern Michigan. McGloin was 14-of-17 passing for 220 yards and three touchdowns, earning him Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Week honors, while Bolden threw for 115 yards and one touchdown on 7-of-13 passing.  On the year, it’s tough to pick out the better of the two.  Bolden is 33-of-71 for 388 yards for one TD and three INTs, while McGloin is 34-of-54 passing for 421 yards with three scores and no picks.  The pair certainly had their pick of receivers last week as 13 different wideouts caught a pass for PSU. Derek Moye, who is sixth in the league with 71.2 receiving yards per outing, caught six balls for 65 yards last week to move into third place in school history with 2,026 career receiving yards.  Silas Redd paces the Nittany Lions on the ground with 75.8 markers each time out, an average this is tied for eighth in the conference.  Indiana has struggled stopping the run this season.  Last week against North Texas, the Hoosiers gave up 226 yards on the ground and saw their rushing defense average increase to 189.8, which ranks 11th in the league.  The Hoosiers did however record three takeaways and currently share fifth in the Big Ten with eight overall (5 FR, 3 INT) in 2011. Senior linebacker Jeff Thomas tops IU with 31 tackles and four tackles for loss. Senior safety Chris Adkins has 30 hits (19 solo) and senior safety Jarrell Drane has 27 stops, with a forced fumble and fumble recovery. Sophomore cornerback Greg Heban has a team-high two interceptions in addition to four passes defended, two pass break-ups, and 21 total tackles.

On offense, Indiana has found success scoring in the final 15 minutes of play, but has not been able to fire in the game’s first three quarters. IU scored 21 points in the fourth quarter last week and is outscoring its opponents 52-21 in the final stanza this year.  The Hoosiers are putting up 413.8 yards per game, including 274.2 yards through the air.  Sophomore QB Edward Wright-Baker has thrown for 925 yards on 80-of-129 passing this season for four scores and two picks, but last week’s rally was led by classmate Dusty Kiel, who tossed long-distance touchdowns of 44 and 67 yards. Damarlo Belcher has a team-high 14 catches for 190 yards and one touchdown, while Kofi Hughes has brought in 13 passes for 204 yards and two TDs.  Freshmen running backs D’Angelo Roberts (41-187-1 TD) and Matt Perez (43-132-4 TD) contribute to the Hoosiers’ ground game in the backfield.  Penn State’s defensive numbers have been solid so far this year.  The Nittany Lions rank second in the conference in pass defense (148.2), third in scoring (12.5) and total yards (249.0), and fifth against the run (100.8).  However, last week the defensive unit took a big hit as linebacker and leading tackler Michael Mauti suffered a season-ending knee injury, while cornerback D’Anton Lynn was carted off the field with concussion symptoms.  Lynn is not expected to be rushed back onto the field this week, so we’ll see what affect that could have defending the Hoosiers’ aerial attack.  The Nittany Lions did earn three turnovers last week, giving them nine takeaways in the first four games after forcing 17 during the entire 2010 season.  They limited Eastern Michigan to just 68 yards rushing on 43 attempts, with the Eagles entering the contest averaging 289 yards per game. The Nittany Lions posted 13 tackles for loss in the game, led by linebacker Nate Stupar with a career-high 3.0 TFL and a sack among his team-high seven tackles.


 


(1-3, 0-0 Big Ten)

MINNESOTA at #19/19 MICHIGAN
Legends Division Game
Saturday, Oct.1, 2011 • Noon ET • Ann Arbor, Mich. • Michigan Stadium (109,901)
BTN • Eric Collins, Chris Martin, Dionne Miller
Series: Michigan leads, 70-24-3 • Last Meeting: Nov. 8, 2008: Michigan 29, Minnesota 6


(4-0, 0-0 Big Ten)

For the first time since 2008, the Little Brown Jug will be up for grabs Saturday as Minnesota travels to Ann Arbor to face an undefeated 4-0 Michigan ballclub that is fresh off a 28-7 victory over San Diego State.  Saturday marks the first time the Golden Gophers, who fell 37-24 last week to North Dakota State, has visited Michigan Stadium since 2007.  The Wolverines are 70-24-3 all-time against Minnesota, including 36-3 in the last 39 meetings and 19-1 in the last 20 contests.  The lone loss came on Michigan’s Homecoming in 2005, but the Wolverines have taken the last three since then, including the most recent matchup – a 29-6 victory in 2008.

Minnesota’s offense enters the weekend ranked eighth in the Big Ten in rushing (173.8) and passing (179.2), 10th in total yards (353.0) and 12th in scoring (22.8).  It’s a balanced attack, but one that is still improving on the season.  MarQueis Gray continues to be the front man of the Gophers’ offense, serving has a jack-of-all-trades throughout his career.  After hailing in 42 receptions for 587 yards and five scores last year, Gray is under center in 2011 and is averaging 130.2 passing yards each time out, while ranking sixth in the conference with 87.8 rushing yards per game.  DaJon McKnight is sixth in the conference with averages of 4.8 receptions and 65.0 receiving yards per outing.  Backup running back Donnell Kirkwood has had two impressive weeks of late, having rushed for 55 yards and a score against Miami (Ohio), followed by 70 yards rushing on 10 carries against North Dakota State last week.  Minnesota ranks 12th in the conference with a minus-1 turnover margin, but the Wolverines’ defense sits atop the league at plus-5.  That pressure should bode well for Michigan, which is 13th in the country with just 13.7 points allowed each time out.  U-M is giving up 351.0 total yards per game, 156.0 of which comes on the ground.  Safety Thomas Gordon and linebacker Kenny Demens both rank ninth-best in the conference with 7.5 tackles per game, followed by safety Jordan Kovacs and linebacker Brandin Hawthorne with 7.0 stops per contest.

Michigan’s offense is averaging over 400 yards per game this season, with 250 of those yards coming on the ground, making the Maize and Blue the nation’s ninth-best rushing offense.  U-M has totaled over 100 yards rushing in all four games, including a season-best 376 against Eastern Michigan and 320 versus San Diego State.  Leading the way is QB Denard Robinson, one of the country’s top runners with 168.7 yards per game.  Last week Robinson accounted for 293 yards, including 200 on the ground, and matched a career best with three rushing touchdowns against SDSU, earning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors for his efforts.  With that performance, Robinson passed Illinois' Juice Williams (2,557, 2006-09) to move into the second spot among the Big Ten's career leaders in rushing yards by a quarterback, and now owns six of the top 12 quarterback rushing performances in conference history.  Junior running back Vincent Smith added 93 yards on the ground last week as well.  The Gophers have fared well against the run this year and currently rate sixth in the Big Ten with 104.8 rushing yards allowed each game.  Minnesota will need to contain Robinson and the Wolverines as it does rate just ninth in the Big Ten with 383.2 yards of total defense, having allowed a league-high 13 touchdowns and 107 points on the season.  Senior DB Kim Royston paces the conference with 10.2 tackles per game, followed by Brock Vereen in 18th with 6.8 hits each time out.  Vereen also leads the Big Ten with teammate Troy Stoudermire with five defended passes apiece. Stoudermire has hauled in two interceptions as well.  Senior Gary Tinsley heads up the linebacking corps with 26 total tackles, eight of which came in the loss last week.


 


(3-1, 0-0 Big Ten)

#rv/25 MICHIGAN STATE at OHIO STATE
Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011 • 3:30 p.m. ET • Columbus, Ohio. • Ohio Stadium (102,329)
ABC (regional), ESPN (outer market) • Announcers: Sean McDonough, Matt Millen, Heather Cox
Series: Ohio State leads, 27-12 • Last Meeting: Oct. 18, 2008: Ohio State 45, Michigan State 7


(3-1, 0-0 Big Ten)

Saturday’s game marks the 40th meeting between Michigan State and Ohio State – a series in which the Buckeyes own a 27-12 advantage.  That overall mark includes a 13-7 record in Columbus and the Buckeyes have kept the Spartans winless at Ohio Stadium since 1998. OSU has won seven in a row and 12 of the last 14 meetings with Michigan State’s last win in the coming in 1999 at Spartan Stadium.  MSU is 6-4 in Big Ten openers since 2001, but is 0-4 against the Buckeyes in those conference openers.  Saturday marks the first time since 1976 that the Spartans have opened Big Ten play against the Buckeyes.  Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio, a former assistant at OSU, will look to get his Spartans to 4-1 on the season, coming into the weekend on the heels of a 45-7 victory over Central Michigan.  The Buckeyes are also focused on improving to 4-1 under the guidance of first-year mentor Luke Fickell, who will be the first Ohio State coach to face a defending Big Ten champion in his conference opener since the Buckeyes began Big Ten competition in 1913.

Michigan State’s offense takes to the field Saturday sitting fourth in the conference in passing (274.0), fifth in scoring (32.5), sixth in total yards (417.2) and ninth in rushing (143.2).  The Spartans have commanded the clock this season, ranking first in the Big Ten at 35:27.  The battles inside the 20 should be interesting Saturday as MSU ranks 11th in the conference in red zone offense, having converted 18-of-24 tries, but the Buckeyes stand 10th in the league in red zone defense as they have allowed opponent scores on 8-of-9 attempts.  Senior QB Kirk Cousins will look to dissect the OSU defense with his impressive 147.9 passer rating, which is fourth overall in the conference.  He ranks third with 236.8 passing yards each time out and often times finds senior B.J. Cunningham for the big plays.  Cunningham leads the Big Ten in both receptions (7.3) and receiving yards (107.0) per game.  Le'Veon Bell (217 yards, 6 TDs) and Edwin Baker (216 yards, 1 TD) are the leading men on the ground.  In last week’s win over Colorado, the Buckeyes’ defense stifled the Buffaloes by not allowing a first down until the 6:55 mark of the second quarter.  Sophomore safety Christian Bryant, making his first career start, led the Buckeyes with six tackles. Cornerback Travis Howard and DT John Simon had two pass break-ups apiece.  On the season, Andrew Sweat has 24 tackles (11 solo, 13 assists), including 3.5 for loss, and one interception.  Among other conference teams, OSU rates fourth in rushing (99.2), passing (177.0) and total defense (276.2), and sixth in scoring defense (15.8).

The Buckeyes are still trying to find some direction on the offensive side of the ball.  Freshman Braxton Miller threw for 83 yards and two TDs and rushed for 83 more in his first career start last Saturday against Colorado.  Freshman Devin Smith and junior Jordan Hall accounted for 231 all-purpose yards, including a 90-yard kickoff return and a rushing touchdown.  Like the Spartans, Ohio State enjoys controlling the game at its pace, ranking third in the conference in time of possession (31:22).  The Spartans lead the nation in total and pass defense, giving up just 172.2 yards per game and 101.0 yards through the air. They also rank third in pass efficiency defense (79.25) and eighth in fewest points allowed (11.0) and have picked off a Big Ten-best six passes in four games. The Spartans boast a plus-5 turnover margin to pace the league along with their in-state rival Michigan.   MSU’s starting linebackers – Max Bullough (24), Denicos Allen (21) and Chris Norman (18) – rank 1-2-3 on the team in tackles. Allen leads the team and ranks tied for second in the Big Ten with five tackles for loss (15 yards).


 


(2-2 Overall)

NOTRE DAME at PURDUE
Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011 • 8 p.m. ET • West Lafayette, Ind. • Ross-Ade Stadium (62,500)
ESPN • Announcers: Brad Nessler, Todd Blackledge, Holly Rowe
Series: Notre Dame leads 54-26-2 • Last Meeting: Sept. 4, 2010: Notre Dame 23, Purdue 12


(2-1, 0-0 Big Ten)

This weekend’s non-conference matchup between Notre Dame and Purdue will mark the 83rd meeting in a series that has seen the Fighting Irish command a 54-26-2 advantage, including a 26-14-2 record in West Lafayette.  Purdue, which has beaten Notre Dame more times (26) than any other school besides USC (34) and Michigan State (28), is coming off an impressive 59-0 rout against Southeast Missouri, which marked the largest margin of victory ever at Ross-Ade Stadium.  That kind of scoring is what the Boilermakers have become accustomed to seeing in this rivalry with the Irish.  Since 1982, a span of 29 games, the winning team has scored at least 23 points in every meeting except Notre Dame's 17-0 triumph in 1993. The winning team has eclipsed the 30-point barrier on 15 different occasions and averaged 34.3 points per contest.  Scoring was not quite as prevalent last week for Notre Dame, but the Irish managed to squeeze out a 15-12 victory over Pitt to move to 2-2 on the season.

The Boilermakers bring a balanced offense to the field, averaging 258.7 passing yards and 212.3 rushing yards per game.  Last week against Southeast Missouri, Purdue racked up 627 yards of total offense, including 393 yards on the ground, and did not have to punt once. Caleb TerBush completed 14-of-17 passing for 143 yards, while Robert Marve made his first appearance of the season at QB, going 7-of-8 for 91 yards and a score.  Marve impressed in his Boilermaker debut last year against Notre Dame, as he was 31-of-42 passing for 220 yards and rushed for a 23-yard TD as well.  In last week’s shutout, Akeem Shavers led Purdue with 70 yards rushing and a pair of TDs on 10 carries, and Ralph Bolden carried the ball 11 times for 57 yards and his first two touchdowns of the season.  Brandon Cottom also saw his first career carries in the backfield, rushing for 70 yards on seven attempts.  In the air, Justin SIller, who had five catches for 61 yards last week, rates tied for eighth in the conference with 4.7 receptions per game. Notre Dame’s defense ranks among the top 40 in rush defense (25th; 93.0), total yards (37th; 330.0) and scoring (39th; 20.8).  The Irish have allowed one offensive touchdown or less in seven of its last nine games continued to show its strength last week against Pitt.  The Panthers entered the contest with Notre Dame averaging 164.0 yards on the ground, 240.33 yards through the air, 404.33 total yards and 32.33 points. The Irish limited the Panthers to 103 yards rushing, 165 yards passing, 268 total yards and 12 points.  ND totaled six sacks and eight TFLs in the contest and currently ranks 23rd in the nation with 2.75 sacks per game.  Junior LB Manti Te'o leads the Irish in total tackles (41) and ranks tied for 22nd nationally in tackles per game (10.25).  Senior DB Robert Blanton not only leads the Irish in tackles for loss (4.0), interceptions (two) and passes defended (tied with five), but he also ranks second in pass breakups (three), third in total tackles (23) and third in solo stops (tied with 15).

Norte Dame’s offense has wasted no time storming out the gates this year, outgaining its first four opponents 464-156 in the opening period.  The Irish have averaged 6.2 yards per play in the first quarter this season, while USF, Michigan, Michigan State and Pittsburgh have averaged just 3.6 yards per play.  Notre Dame is averaging 423.5 total yards per game, including 270.8 yards in the air. Sophomore QB Tommy Rees will make his eighth career start this weekend at Purdue.  Rees, who is 6-1 as the Irish starting quarterback, is averaging 247.0 yards per game and has thrown a touchdown pass in nine straight outings.  Senior WR Michael Floyd owns Notre Dame school records in career receptions (206), career receiving yards (2,963), career touchdown receptions (30), career receiving yards per game (87.1) and shares the mark in career 100-yard receiving games (15).  The ground game is led by tailback Cierre Wood, who has totaled 393 rushing yards on 83 carries and four rushing touchdowns. He ranks 34th in the country in rushing yards per game (98.25) and tied for 90th in all-purpose yards per game (113.0).  Purdue enters ranked sixth in the Big Ten in total defense (321.7), seventh in scoring (16.0) and against the rush (109.0), and eighth in defending the pass (212.7).  Last week the Boilermakers limited the Redhawks to just 153 yards of total offense, which marked the first time a Purdue opponent was held below 200 yards since 2004. The Boilermaker defense had 10 tackles for loss for 29 yards, including a pair of sacks.  Chris Carlino and Will Lucas led the squad with seven tackles apiece, while Ricardo Allen grabbed his first interception of the season and fourth career pick.  On the season, Joe Holland rates sixth in the conference with 9.0 hits per game, while Robert Maci is fifth with 0.67 sacks per outing.


 


(4-0, 0-0 Big Ten)

#8/8 NEBRASKA at #7/7 WISCONSIN
Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011 • 7 p.m. CT • Madison, Wis. • Camp Randall Stadium (80,321)
ABC • Announcers: Brent Musberger, Kirk Herbstreit, Erin Andrews
Series: Nebraska leads, 3-2 • Last Meeting: Sept. 21, 1974: Wisconsin 21, Nebraska 20


(4-0, 0-0 Big Ten)

Let’s be honest… would you have ever thought that an Iowa grad and an Ohio State grad would end up being responsible for a top-10 matchup under the lights at Wisconsin’s Camp Randall Stadium for Nebraska’s historic first-ever Big Ten football contest?  Well, the Badgers’ Bret Beilema (Iowa ‘92) and the Cornhuskers’ Bo Pelini (Ohio State ‘90) have done just that, guiding their respective schools to 4-0 marks on the season and readying their squads for the most anticipated football game since Nebraska joined the Big Ten.  The storylines continue… these two teams have not met since 1974 and the Huskers hold a slight 3-2 advantage over UW.  The two squads have split the two games in Madison, with the Badgers taking the most recent contest at Camp Randall by a 21-20 count in 1974.  Eight years prior to that meeting, current Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez recorded two tackles and returned an interception 25 yards helping his Huskers to a 31-3 victory over the Badgers in 1966.  Alvarez is a 1969 Nebraska graduate and received a Distinguished Alumnus Award from his alma mater in 2003.  Last week Nebraska earned a 38-14 victory at Wyoming, while Wisconsin protected its home turf with a 59-10 rout over South Dakota.

The Huskers’ offense has certain turned heads and opened eyes this season, ranking second behind Wisconsin (48.5) with 42.8 points per game, which also ranks 13th nationally. The 2011 season marked the first time Nebraska opened the season with three straight games of 40-plus points since the 1995 campaign.  The Huskers are finding their offensive productivity on the ground, averaging 272.5 rushing yards per game to lead the conference and rate eighth-best in the country.  The Huskers have topped 200 yards on the ground in each of the first four games, including 309 rushing yards against Washington and 333 rushing yards at Wyoming.  Quarterback Taylor Martinez and I-back Rex Burkhead are the difference makers on the ground. Martinez has rushed 63 times for 421 yards and seven touchdowns, for an average of 6.68 yards per carry, while Burkhead has carried the ball 63 times for 420 yards and seven touchdowns, good for 6.67 yards per tote.  He has topped 100 rushing yards in each of the past two games, including a career-high 170 yards at Wyoming. Nebraska is the only school with a pair of 400-yard rushers this season.  Martinez is also fourth in the Big Ten with 267.0 yards of total offense per game.  Defensively, Wisconsin is allowing just 8.5 points per contest to rank third in the nation, and has held each of its first four opponents to 17 points or less.  The Badgers also boast top-25 national rankings in rush defense (89.2) and total defense (246.5).  UW is allowing only 2.9 yards per rush, but has allowed opponents to complete 64.3 percent of their attempts in the passing game.  Chris Borland is second in the league with 5.0 tackles for loss and seventh with 8.8 hits per game.  Mike Taylor follows in eighth with 7.5 stops each time out.  David Gilbert is the team’s sack leader, having racked up a trio of sacks on the year to rank third in the Big Ten.

The Badger offense is one of the nation's most balanced units and has rolled up more than 530 yards per game in 2011. A week after recording 621 yards of offense against Northern Illinois, Wisconsin churned out 612 total yards against South Dakota, marking the first time in school history the Badgers has posted back-to-back games with 600 yards of offense. UW currently ranks sixth nationally in scoring offense (48.5), eighth in total offense (532.2) and 13th in rushing (245.5).  Like Nebraska, the Badgers have a talented dual-threat standout under center in Russell Wilson.  The NC State transfer ranks among the Big Ten and national leaders in total offense at 311.0 yards per game, and also ranks second in passing efficiency (218.4).  He has thrown for 11 touchdowns to just one interception on the year.  The rushing duo of Montee Ball and James White has combined to rush for 663 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns. Ball ranks fifth in the Big Ten in rushing at 90.0 yards per game and is fourth nationally in scoring at 15.0 points per contest. Wide receiver Nick Toon is Wilson's favorite target in the passing game, with 21 receptions for 353 yards and five touchdowns this season.  Last week Toon tied a career high with seven catches for a career-best 155 yards and two TDs.  On the defensive side of the ball, Nebraska made changes this week to its secondary with hopes to shut down Toon and the Badgers.  The Huskers opened the year 80th in pass efficiency defense, allowing more than 230 yards per game and six TDs to boot, so expect newbies Corey Cooper, Alfonzo Dennard, and Daimion Stafford to contribute more on Saturday.  Also expect senior defensive tackle Jared Crick back in the lineup after his streak of 31 consecutive starts ended last week.  Overall, Nebraska currently allows 22.0 points, 133.2 rushing yards, 216.5 passing yards, and 349.8 total yards per game.


 

 

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