BigTen.org takes an in-depth look at each of the conference teams in action this weekend
Oct. 1, 2009
(4-0, 1-0 Big Ten)
No. 22/20/20 Michigan at Michigan State Saturday, Oct. 3, 2009 Noon ET East Lansing, Mich. Spartan Stadium (75,005) Big Ten Network Announcers: Wayne Larrivee, Chris Martin, Charissa Thompson
Series: Michigan leads 67-29-5 Last Meeting: Oct. 25, 2008: Michigan State 35, Michigan 21
(1-3, 0-1 Big Ten)
The battle for the state is on the line Saturday as Michigan travels to East Lansing to face in-state rival Michigan State. The Spartans have dropped three straight, while the Wolverines have taken the last three on the road against MSU. Michigan leads the all-time series 67-29-5 and last loss at Spartan Stadium in 2001 by a score of 26-24.
Michigan's offense enters the weekend with a bit of a question mark. Freshman sensation Tate Forcier, who has been impressive especially with his late winning comebacks against Notre Dame and last week versus Indiana, is expected to play after bruising his right shoulder against the Hoosiers. The Wolverines would certainly prefer a healthy Forcier to take advantage of a Spartan secondary that has given up 10 touchdowns in the air this year - the most in the Big Ten. Michigan owns the conference's top scoring offense mark of 37.5, while the Spartans rank eighth by giving up 25.8 points per game. Despite MSU's struggling secondary, the Wolverines only rank 10th in the league in passing (182.0), but the Spartans will be forced to stop the run game too. U-M rates first in the league with 240.2 rushing yards per game, and history has shown that the team with the most productive ground attack in this series has won 36 of the last 39 games. Carlos Brown is third in the conference at 80.2 yards per game, while teammate Brandon Minor is seventh at 59.0. MSU does rank fourth against the rush, allowing 113.5 yards per game and giving up only two scores on the ground this year. Greg Jones continues to pace the league and is second in the country with 13.0 tackles per game, while teammate Trenton Robinson earns 7.5 stops per outing.
Michigan State felt as if it found a stable starting quarterback in Kirk Cousins, but it still maintains a two-quarterback system with Cousins and Keith Nichol. Both QBs threw interceptions last week that led to Wisconsin touchdowns and a Badger victory. Despite the picks, the pair combined to throw for 396 yards at Wisconsin, tying for the second-highest total in school history, while Keshawn Martin set career highs for receptions (4), receiving yards (139) and touchdown receptions (2). Fifth-year senior and former walk-on Blair White leads the Spartans in receptions (23), receiving yards (350) and touchdown catches (4). MSU has thrown a league-high 13 TDs and tops the conference with 320.8 passing yards per game. The Spartans rank third overall in total offense with 438.5 yards per outing. Michigan is allowing 385.8 yards per game and gave up 467 last week to Indiana. The Wolverines rate eighth-best in the conference against the pass (243.8), so just as the running game is key for Michigan, the Spartans' passing attack will be equally important. Obi Ezeh leads the ballclub with 8.5 stops per game.
(2-2, 0-1 Big Ten)
Northwestern at Purdue Saturday, Oct. 3, 2009 Noon ET West Lafayette, Ind. Ross-Ade Stadium (62,500) Big Ten Network Announcers: Ari Wolfe, Anthony Herron, Tony McGee
Purdue has dropped the past three games by a combined 12 points, but there are two things that might be working in its favor on Saturday. It's Homecoming in West Lafayette and the Boilermakers are the last team to open conference play. Purdue also owns an overwhelming 49-26-1 advantage over Northwestern, although the Wildcats scored a 48-26 win over the Boilers in Evanston last October.
Purdue's offense ranks fourth-best in the Big Ten with 421.0 total yards each time out and is led by the conference's top rusher in Ralph Bolden and his 122.0 yards per game. That mark, which ranks seventh nationally, is still affected by the 234 markers he put up against Toledo in the season opener. He has been held to only 64 and 67 rushing yards in two of the last games. Quarterback Joey Elliott can put it in the air as well, averaging 240.8 passing yards - second-best in the league - while having recorded seven TDs on the season. Keith Smith leads Purdue with 28 receptions for 358 yards. Northwestern is allowing 132 rushing yards per game and 205 in the air. The Wildcats have given up six passing scores, but have intercepted six passes as well - a mark that ranks third in the league. Quentin Davie leads NU with 7.5 tackles per game.
Northwestern is fifth in the Big Ten and 36th nationally with its 416.8 yards of total offense per game. Will Mike Kafka be able to light up a Boilermaker secondary that is allowing 244.0 passing yards per outing, which ranks ninth in the league? In the past two weeks, Kafka has completed 67-of-89 attempts for 699 yards. Zeke Markshausen leads the Wildcats with 19 receptions (224 yards), while three other players have caught 15 or more passes thus far: Drake Dunsmore (17 for 190, 1 TD), Demetrius Fields (16 for 137, 1 TD) and Andrew Brewer (15 for 280, 3 TD's). NU averages 130.5 yards on the ground, led by Stephen Simmons and his 75 yards per contest. The Boilermakers are last in the conference in total defense (421.5 ypg) and have given up a conference-high 14 touchdowns. They rank ninth against the pass (244.0) and 11th against the rush (177.5). Jason Werner ranks eighth in the league with 8.5 stops each time out, followed by Torri Williams at 7.5.
(4-0, 1-0 Big Ten)
Wisconsin at Minnesota Saturday, Oct. 3, 2009 11 a.m. CT Minneapolis, Minn. TCF Bank Stadium (50,720) ESPN Announcers: Dave Pasch, Bob Griese, Chris Spielman
Yes, there is an ax on the line, but much more is in store for both Minnesota and Wisconsin when the two teams hit the field in Minneapolis on Saturday. The Golden Gophers are looking for their first 2-0 start in Big Ten play since 2004 and the Badgers are hoping to stay perfect at 5-0. The Minnesota-Wisconsin series is the most-played in NCAA FBS history, with the Gophers holding a slight 59-51-8 advantage in the previous 118 meetings.
Wisconsin has not been shy putting up impressive numbers on offense this season. The Badgers are No. 27 in the nation in total offense (428.0), No. 30 in rushing (197.8) and No. 49 in passing (230.2). UW has also posted 36.0 points per game, which is second-best in the conference. Fresh off an impressive week is quaterback Scott Tolzien, who was honored as the Big Ten's top offensive player on Monday. In just his fourth game as a starter, Tolzien set career highs with 19 completions, 31 attempts and four touchdown passes. Sophomore John Clay is second in the league with 99.5 rushing yards every Saturday, while wideouts Isaac Anderson ad Nick Toon each rate ninth in the conference with 59.0 receiving yards per game. Minnesota is allowing 23.0 points and 357.8 total yards each outing. The Gopher linebacking corps has had at least one double-digit tackler in each game this season. Nate Triplett is second in the Big Ten at 11.5 stops per contest, while Lee Campbell (10.0) and Simoni Lawrence (8.8) rate fifth and seventh in the league, respectively.
Minnesota's offense has been trying to find a balance this year and currently ranks 10th in the league with 24.8 points per game. The Golden Gophers are last in total offense (327.2) and on the ground (105.8), while its potent aerial attack of Adam Weber and Eric Decker have mustered up just the seven-best passing offense in the league (221.5). Weber accounts for 219.8 of those yards and has matched his five TDs with five interceptions. Decker has still been Weber's main target, handily leading the conference in both reception (8.75) and receiving yards (124.8) per game. Wisconsin rates tied for first in the Big Ten with a plus-5 turnover margin, which included seven interceptions on the season. UW is allowing 226.0 yards in the air, 145.8 on the ground and 371.8 in total yards.
(1-2, 0-1 Sun Belt)
Arkansas State at No. 13/17/14 Iowa Saturday, Oct. 3, 2009 11 a.m. CT Iowa City, Iowa Kinnick Stadium (70,585) ESPN2 Announcers: Pam Ward, Ray Bentley
Series: First Meeting
(4-0, 1-0 Big Ten)
Iowa falls back into non-conference action after extending the nation's second-longest winning streak to eight games following a thrilling road upset over No. 4/5 Penn State. The Hawkeyes' win in State College marked the first road win over a team ranked in the top five in the nation since 1990. Now Iowa returns to Kinnick Stadium, where it has won 40 of its last 48, and faces an Arkansas State team for the first time.
Arkansas State's offense sputtered a bit in last week's loss to Troy. The Red Wolves have been known to strike with a potent rushing attack, led by Reggie Arnold, but ASU was held to just 70 yards on the ground and only 305 yards of total offense. QB Corey Leonard, who ranks 13th among active NCAA career leaders in total offense, completed 12-of-24 passes for 190 yards and one touchdown, while WR Brandon Thompkins had 82 receiving yards on four catches. Arnold remains tied for first nationally in FCS scoring (14.0 ppg) and is averaging 80.3 of the Red Wolvers' 190.3 rushing yards per game. Iowa, however, has not allowed a rushing touchdown in 29 straight periods, so it's safe to say Arnold will be facing his toughest test yet. The Hawkeyes do rank seventh in the Big Ten with 132.8 rushing yards allowed per game, but are third in the conference with just 11.5 points given up each time out. In last week's win at PSU, the Iowa defense forced three turnovers in addition to a blocked punt, and was led by Pat Angerer and his 14 tackles and one interception, which earned him Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors. Fellow linebacker A.J. Edds and DE Shaun Prater also had interceptions in the game and Jeremiha Hunter added 12 tackles in the win.
Yes, the Hawkeyes' defense stepped up and stopped the Nittany Lions last week, but after trailing 10-0 early, Iowa answered with the final 21 points of the game. Penn State held a narrow 307-298 advantage in total offense, but Iowa rushed for 163 yards and held the ball for over 30 minutes. In fact, the Hawkeyes lead the conference in time of possession at 32:41. Iowa earns 347.8 yards of total offense each time out, which ranks ninth in the Big Ten, and QB Ricky Stanzi throws for 194.8 of that total. Freshman tailback Adam Robinson has fit in nicely in the backfield after the loss of Jewel Hampton, ranking third in the conference with 80.2 yards per game. The Red Wolves rank 25th in rushing defense (100.0) and are tied for 25th in tackles for loss. Last week, ASU was led by Jaquan Kilcrease with 12 tackles, while Demario Davis added nine stops.
(3-,1 0-1 Big Ten)
No. 15/13/12 Penn State at Illinois Saturday, Oct. 3, 2009 2:30 p.m. CT Champaign, Ill. Memorial Stadium (62,870) ABC Announcers: Mike Patrick, Craig James, Heather Cox
Series: Penn State leads 13-3 Last Meeting: Sept. 27, 2008: Penn State 38, Illinois 24
(1-2, 0-1 Big Ten)
Illinois and Penn State will be meeting for the 17th time and the host Fighting Illini will be looking for just their fourth win in the series. The Nittany Lions own a 10-2 mark over Illinois since joining the Big Ten in 1993 and rolled 38-24 last year in State College. Saturday will be a contest of two team's searching. Illinois is desperately trying to figure out what it needs to do to get back on track, while Penn State will be trying to avoid letting a lead slip away once again, just as did last week against Iowa. PSU led 10-0 then watched Iowa scored the game's final 21 points for the upset win at Beaver Stadium.
Penn State's offense has hit a bit of a skid as well, committing six turnovers overall, including four last week while posting a season-low 307 total yards. QB Daryll Clark seemed poised to take control of the game when he completed his first five passes of the game last week and tossed a 79-yard TD to Chaz Powell. Despite the hot start - and perhaps the cold wet rain that fell at Beaver Stadium - Clark finished the game 12-of-32 for 198 yards and three picks. On the year he is averaging 239.5 yards per game and has nine touchdowns to six interceptions. PSU is eighth in the league with 25.0 points per game, but Illinois is 10th by allowing 28.0 points each time out. Evan Royster ranks fifth overall with 76.2 rushing yards per game and now faces an Illinois defense that allowed 236 rushing yards last week at Ohio State. The Illini are giving up 386.0 yards on the year and rank sixth against the rush (132.3) and 11th in defending the pass (253.7). Ian Thomas leads Illinois and is 12th in the league with 8.0 stops per game.
In the 30-0 shutout against Ohio State last week, the Illini offense mustered only 170 yards and quarterback leader Juice Williams was picked off twice and threw for just 77 yards on 13-of-25 passing. He needs only 76 yards against the Nittany Lions to break the school's career total offense record, but 2009 hasn't quite fired like the 2008 campaign did for Williams. After throwing for 3,173 yards and rushing for 719 in 2008, Williams only has 256 and 94, respectively, so far this year. Still, the Illini rushing attack is third in the conference with 192.0 yards per game, and now battles a tough PSU rush defense that actually had a off-game against Iowa, allowing 163 yards on 37 carries. Penn State remains first in the Big Ten against the run (75.5), pass (158.2), total (233.8) and scoring (10.2). Sean Lee (10.7) and Josh Hull (10.2) rank third and fourth, respectively, in tackles per game in the Big Ten.
(3-1, 1-0 Big Ten)
No. 9/9/8 Ohio State at Indiana Saturday, Oct. 3, 2009 7 p.m. ET Bloomington, Ind. Memorial Stadium (52,692) Big Ten Network Announcers: Craig Coshun, Glen Mason, Rebecca Haarlow
Series: Ohio State leads 65-12-5 Last Meeting: Oct. 21, 2006: Ohio State 44, Indiana 3
(3-1, 0-1 Big Ten)
Leave it to Ohio State's arch-rival Michigan to make this weekend's matchup at Indiana much more interesting. The Buckeyes are coming off back-to-back shutouts, but Indiana's valiant effort in the Big House last week has the Hoosiers thinking about an upset in Bloomington. OSU nearly shutout Indiana last time out, scoring a 44-3 victory in Columbus in 2006. The Buckeyes have dominated the all-time series, holding a 65-12-5 record.
OSU has outscored its opponents 68-0 over the past two weeks, but ranks eighth overall in the league with 367 yards of total offense per game. The Buckeyes will once again look to quarterback Terrelle Pryor to move the offensive unit, as he ranks fifth in total offense with 232.5 yards per outing. Pryor has thrown for five TDs this year and rushed for two. His legs could be called upon Saturday as Dan Herron, the team's leading rusher with 233 yards and 5 TDs this year, is listed as questionable with an ankle injury. Junior Dane Sanzenbacher paces the wide receivers with 277 yards, four touchdowns and a 23.1 per-catch average. Pryor might have to scramble because he will be attacked from both ends by Indiana's Greg Middleton and Jammie Kirlew - a combo who owns a nation-leading 42 combined sacks. The Hoosiers rate fourth in the league with 327.2 total yards allowed each game and ranks second against the rush at 94.2. IU's defense has a plus-4 turnover margin and has 11 sacks on the year - both of which are also second in the conference. Austin Thomas has two picks in four games and Matt Mayberry leads the squad with 6.5 tackles per game.
Indiana's offense has been improving game-by-game and now boasts a total-yard average of 398.2. In past years IU has used its spread attack to throw, throw and throw some more. But now in the pistol offense, Indiana has been able to establish the running game. Just last week redshirt freshman Darius Willis had a career-high 152 yards on the ground with two touchdowns. The Hoosiers also notched the most points (33) and total yards (467) ever recorded in the series with Michigan. Ben Chappell and the passing attack has thrown for 239 yards per game and has completed over 64 percent of the passes, but have managed only three scores through the air. IU has found the end zone eight times on the ground and averaged 159.2 yards per outing. The Hoosiers must improve their red zone offense, having settled for just one TD in five attempts last week in Ann Arbor. Ohio State quite simply is looking to continue its scoreless streak. OSU ranks second in the Big Ten in scoring (11.2, seventh in nation), pass (159.0, 20th) and total defense (258.8, 16th) and is third in rush defense (99.8, 24th). The Buckeyes are second in the Big Ten with 11 sacks and have picked off six passes and recovered three fumbles on the year. Junior linebacker Brian Rolle leads the team with 33 tackles in addition to one interception and 1.5 tackles for loss. The Hoosiers might try to exploit the OSU secondary Saturday as defensive leader Kurt Coleman (7.2 tpg, 3 forced fumbles) will sit out this week's game due to an illegal hit in last week's win over Illinois.