Big Ten Football Preview: Week 6

Oct. 2, 2008

(5-0, 1-0 Big Ten)

No. 6/6/6 Penn State at Purdue
West Lafayette, Ind. • Ross-Ade Stadium (62,500)
Noon EDT - ESPN - XMRadio 198

Inside the Series:
Penn State leads 9-3-1 | Last Time Out: Nov. 3, 2007 - Penn State, 26-19

(2-2, 0-0 Big Ten)

Week after week, Penn State has stormed up the Top 25 charts and now enters Saturday ranked sixth in the country.  The Nittany Lions travel to West Lafayette this weekend to challenge Purdue in its conference opener.  The Boilermakers are coming off a 38-21 loss at Notre Dame and will now look to snap their 15-game winless streak against ranked teams.  October 4th has been a lucky date for the Boilers when it comes to doing just that, as they are 10-3-1 overall on the date and have wins over No. 15 Ohio State in 1952 and No. 17 Stanford in 1969.  Penn State owns a three-game winning streak over the Boilermakers and is 9-3-1 overall and 3-1 when visiting Ross Ade Stadium.

The Penn State offense is ranked in the Top 10 nationally in three offensive categories and leads the Big Ten in three of the four primary offensive categories.  The Nittany Lions are fourth in the country in scoring offense (49.8), eighth in rushing (267.6) and ninth in total offense (515.2).  In addition, their 19 rushing touchdowns are tied for the nation's second-best total.  PSU is averaging an impressive 7.2 yards per play this season.  Sophomore Evan Royster is sixth in the conference with 103.6 yards per game and seven overall touchdowns, while senior quarterback Daryll Clark ranks sixth in total offense at 205.4 yards per contest.  Last week Royster finished with 139 yards rushing, which was the second-highest total of his career.  Clark has completed 63 percent of his 98 passes for 179.2 yards per game and a conference-high nine TDs.  Senior Jordan Norwood, who has been slowed by a leg injury, but is probable for Saturday's game, is sixth in the Big Ten with 63.6 receiving yards per game, while teammate Deon Butler is seventh at 54.4.  Last week against No. 22 Illinois, senior Derrick Williams scored a touchdown by way of the ground, air, and kick return for a career-high 241 all-purpose yards, earning him Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week honors for his efforts.  Defensively, Purdue is allowing 26.2 points per game, which is 10th-best in the conference, and is 11th against both the pass (244.8), the run (194.5), and in total defense (439.2).  The Boilermakers are coming off a disappointing loss where they gave up a season-high 38 points to Notre Dame. Senior linebacker Anthony Heygood continues to pace the team with 10.0 tackles per game, which is second-best in the conference.  Other Boilermakers have been stepping on defense as well.  Joe Holland registered a career-best 11 total tackles last week and David Pender tied his single-season high of six pass breakups with a pair of knock downs.

Much like the Nittany Lions, Purdue has seen improvement in its backfield this year.  Senior Kory Sheets' average of 109.8 rushing yards per game is fourth in the conference and 19th in the country.  Sheets has matched Royster's seven touchdowns this year and his 22-yard touchdown run in the first quarter last week tied him with Mike Alstott for the Purdue career touchdown record (39).  But outside of Sheets, Purdue manages only 15 more yards rushing on the ground, leaving the Boilers with an average of 125.8 that ranks 11th in the conference.  It's no secret that Purdue likes to air the ball out as it leads the conference with 278.2 passing yards per game, increasing its total offense average to 404.0, which is fifth in league play.  Curtis Painter took over third place on the all-time Big Ten charts in both attempts (1,438) and completions (857) last week and is currently fifth in conference history in passing yards (9,876).  Desmond Tardy had career highs in both receptions (10) and yards receiving (175) last week at Notre Dame, and ranks second and third, respectively, in Big Ten receptions (5.75) and yards (91.5) per outing.  Senior Greg Orton is second with 6.25 catches each time out and fourth in yardage at 71.8.  While Painter is throwing for just under 280 yards per game, Penn State's defensive unit is only allowing its opponents just over 250 yards per outing, which includes a conference-best 3.9 yards allowed each play.  The Nittany Lions rank first in the Big Ten against the rush (79.6) and in pass efficiency defense (94.3 rating), and 15th and 13th in the country, respectively.  PSU is 11th nationally in scoring defense (12.8) and sacks (3.0 spg), which could hurt a Purdue ballclub that has allowed six sacks through four games. Aaron Maybin has 6.0 sacks on the year, while Navorro Bowman leads the team with 9.0 tackles per game.

(3-2, 0-1 Big Ten)

Iowa at Michigan State
East Lansing, Mich. • Spartan Stadium (75,005)
Noon EDT - ESPN2 - XMRadio 196

Inside the Series:
Iowa leads 20-17-2 | Last Time Out: Oct. 27, 2007 - Iowa, 34-27 (2OT)

(4-1, 1-0 Big Ten)

Off to a 4-1 start, Michigan State returns home after a 42-29 win over Indiana in the conference opener last week.  Iowa, which lost 22-17 to undefeated Northwestern, travels to East Lansing for the first of its two road games.  The all-time series has been a tightly contested one, with the Hawkeyes holding a slim 20-17-2 advantage through 39 meetings. Iowa has won seven of the last 10 contests, but the three losses have come in East Lansing and the home team has won the last eight meetings in the series. 

Iowa enters Saturday's contest looking to rebound after allowing Northwestern back in the game following a 17-3 lead by the Hawkeyes.  Last year, however, Michigan State jumped out on Iowa with a 17-3 lead and the Hawkeyes stormed back from 14 down to eventually win 34-27 in double overtime at Kinnick Stadium. Saturday will feature two of the nation's top running backs in the Spartans' Javon Ringer and the Hawkeyes' Shonn Greene.  Ringer leads the nation with an average of 179.4 rushing yards per game, while Greene ranks sixth at 133.0.  As a team, Iowa puts up 28.4 points per game, which is eighth-best in the conference, while Michigan State ranks fifth in allowing 16.8 points each time out.  Iowa continues to get it done offensively on the ground.  Greene racked up a career-high 159 yards on 21 attempts last week against NU before leaving the game early in the fourth quarter due to injury.  Quarterback Ricky Stanzi continues to distance himself from challenger and 2007 starter Jake Christensen. In his third career start last week, Stanzi completed 21-of-30 passes for a career-high 238 yards and a touchdown.  He is eighth in the Big Ten with 132.8 passing yards per game and is third in passing efficiency with a rating of 144.8.  Christensen still remains among the conference's top 10 as well with a sixth-place rating of 122.9.  Wideout Andy Brodell caught eight passes for a season-high 126 yards and a score in last week's loss and sophomore Derrell Johnson-Koulianos continues to lead the Hawkeye receivers overall with 19 catches for 268 yards. He is averaging 14.1 yards per reception and ranks ninth in the Big Ten in receiving yards per contest (53.6).  Defensively, MSU senior Otis Wiley has a conference-high four interceptions in five games and has helped the Spartans to a plus-five turnover margin which is second in the league.  That stat could be a key factor as the Hawkeyes turned the ball over five times last week, four of which were fumbles.  Despite beating Indiana by 13 points last week, the Hoosiers put up 473 yards on the Spartans, who enter this week ranked eighth in the conference in allowing 353.0 total yards on defense.  MSU will have to hold off an Iowa offense that has been quick out of the gate this year.  The Hawkeyes have outscored their opponents 44-7 in the first quarter, while Michigan State has only allowed 14 points in the first 15 minutes over the first five games.

Michigan State continues to impress on offense and enters Saturday's contest with a four-game winning streak.  Last week against Indiana, MSU totaled 497 yards of offense, 242 of which came from its standout tailback Ringer, who also recorded a career-high 44 carries.  He currently leads the nation with 187 rushing attempts through five games and is first nationally in all-purpose yards (235.6).  Quarterback Brian Hoyer proved that the Spartans could be a two-dimensional team by throwing for 261 yards on 14-of-26 passing for three touchdowns.  The tandem of Hoyer and Ringer helped put points on the board during five of Michigan State's first seven possessions.  In addition, kicker Brett Swenson netted a career-high four field goals (45, 48, 45, 32), including a career-long from 48 yards.  The Spartans increased their scoring offense average to 31.0 points per game, but Iowa enters Saturday with a conference-best average of allowing only 10.2 points each outing, which also ranks fourth in the nation.  Both teams have been productive in red zone defense, as Iowa ranks sixth nationally (.545), while Michigan State follows in eighth (.571).  Iowa defensive tackle Mitch King is expected to join fellow lineman Matt Kroul as a member of the 200-career-tackle club this weekend.  Kroul earned his membership last Saturday, while King is just seven stops shy of the mark.  As a unit, Iowa has 11 takeaways on the year, including six in the last four games.  Three sophomores -- Jeremiha Hunter (36), Adrian Clayborn (30) and Amari Speivey (29) - are currently leading the Hawkeyes in tackles.  The stats say Saturday's game should be close as Michigan State's lone loss was by seven points, while Iowa's two defeats have come by a combined six points.

(2-2, 0-1 Big Ten)

Indiana at Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minn. • H.H.H. Metrodome (64,172)
11 a.m. CDT - Big Ten Network - XMRadio 197

Inside the Series:
Minnesota leads 36-25-3 |
Last Time Out: Oct. 3, 2007 - Indiana, 40-20

(4-1, 0-1 Big Ten)

Indiana and Minnesota both lost their conference openers last week against Michigan State and Ohio State, respectively.  And while Tim Brewster is still looking for his first Big Ten win at Minnesota, there is still no question that the Golden Gophers are playing better football than a year ago.  The Gophers have already quadrupled their win total from 2007 and are looking for their fifth win of the season Saturday when they welcome the Hoosiers.  Indiana hits the road for the first time this year and is heading to the HHH Metrodome, where it hasn't won since 1993.

IU is not only looking to end a two-game skid on Saturday, but it is also looking to find the right scheme offensively.  The Hoosiers have been led by both Kellen Lewis and Ben Chappell at quarterback this season, and just last week, they unveiled a new offensive attack with both QBs on the field at the same time.  Chappell was played in shotgun formation, while Lewis was lined up in the slot and the backfield.  Lewis, who ranks third in the Big Ten in total offense (251.8), injured his foot on a play where he was a receiver, so it remains to be seen what offense and personnel package the Hoosiers will bring to Minneapolis.  Their offense puts up 31.2 points, 249.0 rushing yards and 204.5 passing yards per game.  Overall, IU ranks second in the league with 453.5 yards of total offense each time out.  Andrew Means (54.2 rypg) sat out the second half last week with a knee injury as did freshman wideout Tandon Doss.  Both are questionable for Saturday's game.  By comparison, Minnesota is allowing 20.8 points per contest and 143.6 and 223.0 yards rushing and passing, respectively.  The Gophers are still third in the nation with a plus-9 turnover margin and plus-1.80 average, despite carding a minus-2 mark last week in the loss at Ohio State. Junior transfer cornerback Traye Simmons has 27 tackles and has defended 11 passes (9 PBU, 2 INT) this season, while fellow junior transfer safety Tramaine Brock is the team's top tackler with 34 stops. Senior defensive end Willie VanDeSteeg has 6.0 tackles for loss.  Minnesota does rank 10th in the conference in red zone defense, as the Gophers have allowed eight scores in nine attempts (.889).  Indiana is ranked 11th, giving up points 11-of-12 times (.917).  That is good news for the Minnesota offense though, as the Gophers rank 10th in the country in red zone efficiency (.950, 19-of-20).

Most of that success has been due to the improved consistency of Gopher quarterback Adam Weber.  The sophomore is completing nearly 70 percent of his passes and has his team ranked 24th in the NCAA in pass efficiency (151.64).  Weber is averaging 230.8 passing yards per game and has tossed eight TDs this year, both of which rank second in the conference.  Minnesota is third in the league in passing offense and is putting up 33.2 points per game, which is second-best in the Big Ten.  Indiana, which allows 210.0 yards in the air and has managed only one interception on the season, is allowing 7.6 yards per pass play - the highest average in the conference.  That could mean big things for Weber and wideout Eric Decker, who leads the conference in receptions (7.4) and receiving yards (101.2) per game.  Defensively, Indiana is hurting in the secondary.  Starting safeties Nick Polk (knee) and Austin Thomas (leg) have been limited in practice this week and backup safety Jerimy Finch was in a boot at the end if the Michigan State game last week.  Will Patterson leads the Hoosiers with 23 total tackles, followed by Jammie Kirlew (21) and Matt Mayberry (20). Kirlew paces IU with 5.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks, while Nick Polk has recorded the team's lone interception.  Look for a game-changing moment on kickoffs.  Minnesota true freshman cornerback Troy Stoudermire is averaging 28.8 yards per return, which ranks 16th in the nation and second in the Big Ten, followed by Indiana's Marcus Thigpen with an average of 20.9.

(2-2, 0-1 Big Ten)

Illinois at Michigan
Ann Arbor, Mich. • Michigan Stadium (106,201)
3:30 p.m. EDT - ABC (regional); ESPN (outer-market) - XMRadio 196

Inside the Series:
Michigan leads 66-21-2 |
Last Time Out: Oct. 20, 2007 - Michigan, 27-17

(2-2, 1-0 Big Ten)

After a disappointing loss on the road at Penn State, Illinois remains away from home this week, traveling to a place to which no active member of the Illini football team has been.  The last time Illinois played at Michigan was in 2003, when the Wolverines won that matchup 56-14.  In fact, Illinois has not defeated Michigan since it won in Ann Arbor, 35-29, in 1999.  Since that time, U-M has won six straight over the Orange and Blue and is coming off an impressive come-from-behind upset over Wisconsin last week.  Overall, Michigan leads the series by a 66-21-2 advantage and holds a 31-10-1 edge in Ann Arbor. 

The good news for the Illini is that their offense is still putting a lot of points on the board.  Illinois ranks second in the Big Ten in scoring offense (33.2), third in total offense (444.5) and fourth in both rushing (215.8) and passing offense (228.8).  Quarterback Juice Williams and his 297 yards per game has led the conference in total offense since the first week of the season, while the rushing combo of Williams (70.7) and tailback Daniel Dufrene (99.0) rank in the top 10 in Big Ten rushing yards per game. Illini receiver Arrelious Benn, last year's Big Ten Freshman of the Year, is averaging 4.5 catches per game in his sophomore season, which is the most for an Illini receiver since Brandon Lloyd averaged 5.4 catches per contest in 2002.  Penn State has the second-best pass defense in the conference, but had a tough time defending Benn last week as he hauled in four passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns. Michigan does have the fifth-best defense in the conference, allowing 309.2 yards per game, but 220.8 of those yards come through the air.  The Wolverines pass defense ranks eighth in the league, which means Saturday could be a big day for Williams, Benn, and the rest of the Illini passing attack.  Senior Will Judson is 10th in the league with 52.2 receiving yards per game.  Michigan senior Morgan Trent has two interceptions on the season, but the Wolverines enter Saturday with a turnover margin of minus-4, which is last in the conference.  Illinois ranks right ahead of Michigan at minus-2, having committed 10 turnovers this season.  The Illini have also been sacked seven times this year, which is good news for Michigan's Brandon Graham, the current Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week.  The junior DE already has five solo sacks, which ranks third in the country, and leads the nation with 9.5 tackles for loss.  Obi Ezeh is the Wolverines' leading tackler at 8.5 stops per game. 

Last week many felt the game of the week was going to be the top-25 matchup between Illinois and Penn State, but Michigan's 19-point comeback win over No. 9 Wisconsin ended up with top billing.  Just as the halftime score (19-0) indicated, the game was certainly that of two different halves.  The Michigan offense recorded five turnovers in the first half, but managed to regroup at intermission and storm back to take the 27-25 win over the Badgers, marking the largest comeback victory in stadium history.  In the second half, U-M earned 247 yards of total offense (103 passing, 144 rushing), 13 first downs and 27 points after posting only 21 yards of total offense (-7 passing, 28 rushing), one first down and no points in the first 30 minutes of play.  Quarterback Steven Threet completed 12-of-31 passes for 96 yards, a touchdown and an interception, but that was somewhat of an typical game for Threet.  He ranks 10th in the conference at 100.8 passing yards per outing and has managed to complete only 48.8 percent of his passes - a conference low for starting quarterbacks.  Fellow freshman Martavious Odoms is averaging 7.8 yards per catch and 4.0 receptions per contest, which is ninth-best in the league.  On the ground, many feel Sam McGuffie could have a breakout game against the Illini, but Threet actually led the Wolverines in rushing last week with a career-best 89 yards on nine attempts.  While Michigan has been tough against the run this season, Illinois has struggled, ranking 10th in the conference at 182.5 rushing yards allowed each game.  The Illini also rank 10th in total defense (384.0) and 11th in scoring defense (32.0), and have given up league-highs in both rushing (6) and total (13) touchdowns.  However, linebackers Brit Miller (11.0) and Martez Wilson (8.0) are first and eighth, respectively, in the Big Ten in total tackles.  Miller also rates third in league play with 7.5 tackles for loss, and both he and freshman Corey Liuget have forced two fumbles apiece this season.

(4-1, 1-0 Big Ten)

No. 14/12/14 Ohio State at No. 18/17/16 Wisconsin
Madison, Wis. • Camp Randall Stadium (80,321)
7 p.m. CDT- ABC - XMRadio 197

Inside the Series:
Ohio State leads 51-17-5 | Last Time Out: Nov. 3, 2007 - Ohio State, 38-17

(3-1, 0-1 Big Ten)

The Big Ten's primetime ABC matchup this week is one that has been circled on many schedules for months now.  Both Ohio State and Wisconsin enter the battle nationally ranked, which marks the third time in the last four series meetings that has happened.  Wisconsin has walked away victorious in the other two games and that is what the Badgers will be looking to do once again on Saturday.  They certainly have two things going for them as well.  They are playing at home, where they have won 16 straight, and they are playing at night, where they have won 21 of their last 22 games, including the last 11 under the lights.  In the overall series, OSU has been dominant with a 51-17-5 advantage, including a 23-10-2 mark in Madison.  The last 12 meetings dating back to 1980, however, only gives a slight 6-5-1 lead for the Buckeyes.  Just is the case with Illinois traveling to Michigan, no player on Ohio State's roster has played inside the intimidating Camp Randall Stadium.  The Buckeyes have not been to Madison since 2003 and have hopefully forgotten the 17-10 night-game loss when OSU entered the contest ranked third in the nation and left with its 19-game winning streak snapped.

Saturday will undoubtedly be billed as another heavyweight fight in the backfield as Ohio State's Chris "Beanie" Wells and Wisconsin's P.J. Hill are two of the dominant running backs in the country.  Ironically, Hill, who has been plagued by injuries over his career, has stayed relatively healthy this season, while Wells returned to the field last week after missing three games.  The Buckeye senior appeared to back in form as he went for 106 yards on 14 carries in the win against Minnesota.  OSU fans are hoping Wells returns to form against the Badgers in particular, as he ran 21 times for 169 yards and three second-half scores last year in the Buckeyes' 38-17 win over the Badgers.  Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who will make his third career start and first on the road Saturday, has been impressive the past two weeks.  He threw for four touchdowns in his first start and scored twice on the ground while totaling 97 yards rushing last week.  The Buckeyes only rank ninth in the Big Ten with 26.8 points per game and are 10th in passing (152.8) and total offense (339.4).  Wisconsin is allowing 17.0 points each time out and ranks fourth in the conference in total defense (305.5).  Could this game be determined by success in the red zone?  Ohio State (.800) and Wisconsin (.875) rank eighth and ninth, respectively, in red zone defense, but the Buckeyes have a much more productive red zone offense.  OSU ranks fourth (.867) in that area, while Wisconsin only ranks 10th (.762).  Junior Jaevery McFadden is tied for fourth in the conference with 9.0 stops per game, while DeAndre Levy is 10th with 5.0 tackles for loss on the season.  Sophomore Niles Brinkley and junior Shane Carter each have two interceptions on the year as well.

Wisconsin's offense will be paced Saturday by its star tailback Hill.  The junior is third in the conference with 112.2 rushing yards per game and has helped the Badgers to a third-place ranking in team rushing with 218.5 yards gained each contest.  However, last week against the conference's second-best rush defense in Michigan, UW managed only 158 yards on the ground, while Hill was held to 70 yards on 22 carries.  Historically, Ohio State has long been tough against the rush and this year is no different.  The Buckeyes are third in the Big Ten in rushing defense, allowing just 95.2 yards on the ground each game.  OSU has also given up only two touchdowns on the ground this season, which is the lowest total among conference teams.  The Buckeyes pace the Big Ten and are 12th in the country in total defense (251.8), and also rank 20th in the nation with a plus-5 turnover margin.  That means UW quarterback Allan Evridge will have to control the ball and his nerves Saturday.  Last week Evridge lost two fumbles and was picked off twice in the loss at Michigan.  He's currently sixth in conference passing with 188.0 yards per game, and found wideout David Gilreath last week for a team-high five receptions for 65 yards and a score.  OSU junior Kurt Coleman has two interceptions on the season and linebacker James Laurinaitis is third in the league with 9.4 tackles per game.