Oct. 5, 2007
No. 5/5/5 WISCONSIN (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten) at ILLINOIS (4-1, 2-0)
Memorial Stadium, Champaign, Ill.
11 a.m. CDT- ESPN
LAST TIME OUT
Will Wisconsin extend its winning streak to 15 games, the longest active streak in the country and second-longest in school history, with a victory over Illinois Saturday? Will Illinois ruin that streak with its second-straight top-25 upset in conference play? Those questions will be answered Saturday when the Badgers travel to Champaign to face the Fighting Illini.
Wisconsin has won five of the last six at Memorial Stadium and four straight against Illinois overall. The Badgers, coming off their school record ninth-straight conference win, will meet an Illinois team that has already matched the number of Big Ten victories the team has had in the past three years combined. The Illini are coming off their first win against a ranked team since 2001, having upset then-No. 21 Penn State, 27-20. That same year against the Badgers, Illinois racked up 570 total yards in a win over UW. This past Saturday in a 37-34 shootout win over Michigan State, the Badgers gave up 564 yards to the Spartans - the highest total since the loss to the Illini in 2001.
The interest will certainly be on the run game Saturday as the contest will feature two of the nation's top rushers. Wisconsin sophomore P.J. Hill is sixth in the nation, averaging 133.4 yards per game, while Illiinois junior tailback Rashard Mendenhall is 11th at 122.4. Hill earned Big Ten co-Offensive Player of the Week honors after rushing for 155 yards and two touchdowns on 34 attempts last week. Hill leads the Big Ten in scoring with 12.0 points per game, followed in second by Mendenhall at 10.8 points per outing. The Illini are allowing just 95.4 rushing yards per game, which is fourth-best in the conference, while Wisconsin ranks seventh, giving up 125.6 yards per contest.
With the dominant rushing attack intact, both teams have not relied much on the passing game. Both teams' passing games rank in the bottom half of the conference. Illinois throws for 157.4 yards per contest (11th) and gives up 242.8 (9th) in the air. Wisconsin is eighth-best in passing offense (207.4 ypg) and seventh in the conference in pass defense (235.0 ypg). When Wisconsin's Tyler Donovan does throws, he does so with accuracy, as he ranks third in the Big Ten with a 151.1 passer rating. Donovan could be disrupted Saturday by Will Davis, third in the conference with 6.0 sacks, and the nation's seventh-best tackler in J Leman, who is leading the Big Ten with 11.8 stops per game.
With the advent of overtime, one team will walk away the victor, but ironically, these two teams played the last tie game in NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) history - a 3-3 deadlock in the final game of the 1995 season.
MINNESOTA (1-4, 0-2) at INDIANA (4-1, 1-1)
Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, Ind.
Noon EDT- Big Ten Network
LAST TIME OUT
Minnesota comes to Bloomington in search of its identity, while Indiana is in the mix of trying to reestablish its own. Indiana is off to a 4-1 start and coming off its biggest win at Iowa (38-20) since 1945, while Minnesota has struggled with a 1-4 start and two straight conference losses to a pair of unbeaten squads in Ohio State and Purdue. The Hoosiers are seeking revenge this season after being shocked in the Metrodome last year, 63-26. Before Indiana knew it, the team was down 35-0 at halftime and would go on to suffer its second-straight loss to the Gophers. In that game, Minnesota racked up 500 yards of total offense, including 165 on the ground, and scored its most points ever in the series.
Scoring has been no problem for the Hoosiers in 2007. Indiana ranks second in the conference with 37.0 points per game, while Minnesota is 11th, allowing 36.8 points per outing. Minnesota's scoring offense ranks eighth (29.8 ppg) in the Big Ten, just as the Hoosiers' defense does allowing 21.0 points per contest. In Saturday's matchup, the Hoosiers appear to be the more consistent team of the two on paper, as Minnesota boasts a potent offensive attack, yet a struggling defense. The Gophers are third in the Big Ten with 445.4 yards of total offense, just a hair better than Indiana's 445.0 ypg average, while the Maroon and Gold are last in the conference in total defense, allowing 526.4 yards per game. Indiana's defense rates sixth in the conference at 348.8 yards per outing.
Offensively, Indiana has continued to be a force in the conference with its quarterback-receiver connection in Kellen Lewis and James Hardy. Last week, Lewis had a career-high 323 yards passing and three touchdowns, while Hardy had four catches for 113 yards and a touchdown. Lewis is first in the Big Ten with an average of 320.0 yards of total offense and Hardy ranks sixth with 80.0 receiving yards per game.
Perhaps the most intriguing statistics between the two teams are in the categories of sacks and interceptions. Indiana leads the nation with 27 sacks, however Minnesota's offensive line has given up only three sacks on the year, which rates first in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers' pass rush is led by Greg Middleton and his 7.5 sacks are second in the nation. Last week, Jamie Kerlew had a career-high 3.5 sacks and helped IU to a school record-tying nine stops on the quarterback against Iowa. Turnovers have plagued the Gophers this season, as they have committed 18 in five games, including 10 interceptions by quarterback Adam Weber. Minnesota is last in the conference with a minus-13 turnover margin, while Indiana is tied for first at plus-5. Indiana's Tracy Porter leads the Big Ten with three picks, followed by teammate Mitchell Evans with two.
Eastern Michigan (2-3, 1-1) at MICHIGAN (3-2, 2-0)
Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Noon EDT- Big Ten Network
LAST TIME OUT
Michigan enters Saturday's game on a three-game win streak and is a perfect 22-0 against teams from the Mid-American Conference. Wolverine senior tailback Mike Hart is just 33 yards shy of breaking the all-time school record for career rushing yards. Hart, who currently sits at 4,440 career yards, leads the Big Ten and is fourth nationally with a rushing average of 152.2 yards per game.
Although freshman quarterback Ryan Mallett started last week against Northwestern and threw for 67 yards on 5-of-11 passing, the Wolverines' primary quarterback Chad Henne returned from injury and boasted a solid game. Henne was 18-of-27 for 193 yards and three touchdowns in the win and will get the start Saturday.
Eastern Michigan ranks 12th in the MAC in total offense with 257.4 yards per game. Quarterback Andy Schmitt averages 155.0 yards through the air each game and is sixth in the MAC in passing efficiency with a rating of 124.9. He has thrown five interceptions on the season, which should please the Wolverines, who are tied for the Big Ten lead with 15 forced turnovers. The Eagles have allowed a MAC-best four sacks on the year, but Michigan's Shawn Crable leads the Big Ten and is second nationally in tackles for loss (14).
The Eagles are second in the MAC in total defense, allowing 380.6 yards per contest. Daniel Holtzclaw is tied for third in the nation with 12.8 total tackles per game, while Ryan Downard has a conference-best three interceptions. Michigan has shut out the Eagles in six of the seven games they have played and so far this season, the Wolverine defense has allowed just one touchdown in the last 13 quarters.
NORTHWESTERN (2-3, 0-2) at No. -/-/25 MICHIGAN STATE (4-1, 0-1)
Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, Mich.
Noon EDT- Big Ten Network
LAST TIME OUT
Saturday's contest is a rematch of a game which one team hopes it has already forgotten about, while the other will remember it for a long time. Last season in Evanston, Michigan State overcame a 38-3 second-half deficit to win 41-38 in the largest comeback in NCAA history. The Wildcats are looking for their first conference win, while the Spartans fell from the ranks of the unbeaten last week in a thriller at Wisconsin.
Michigan State is averaging 33.0 points per game, the fourth-highest average in the conference, and the Wildcats are yielding a 10th-best 27.4 points per outing. Saturday's matchup features two offenses that are ranked third in the conference. Northwestern gets in done in the air with 251.6 passing yards per game and Michigan State averages 208.8 yards on the ground each outing. On the defensive side of the ball, the Spartans (185.4 ypg) are fourth in the Big Ten against the pass and Northwestern (135.0 ypg) is ninth against the run. Michigan State presents more of a balanced offensive attack, netting 446.0 yards of total offense each game, second-highest in the conference, while Northwestern ranks 10th at 378.2 yards per contest. Just last week against Wisconsin, which last year had one of the top defenses in the nation, racked up 564 yards of offense in a narrow loss to the Badgers.
The Wildcats rank last in the conference in pass efficiency with a rating of 157.6 and must find consistency along with accuracy on Saturday. Junior quarterback C.J. Bacher is third in Big Ten with 249.4 passing yards per game, but has thrown seven interceptions on the year - the second-highest total in the conference. His counterpart, Michigan State's Brian Hoyer, has completed the third-fewest amount of completions (78) in the conference this season, but ranks fifth in pass efficiency. The Spartans have gotten it down on the ground this season with two backs among the top 10 in conference play. Junior Javon Ringer is fourth at 108.8 yards per game and teammate Jehuu Caulcrick is ninth, averaging 74.6 yards per outing. The duo has accounted for nearly 88 percent of the Spartans' rushing attack.
Defensively, both teams have a standout that ranks high in conference categories. Northwestern's Adam Kadela is fourth in the Big Ten with an average of 9.6 tackles per game, while MSU's Jonal Saint-Dic leads the league with six forced fumbles and is second with 7.0 sacks and 9.0 tackles for loss. Cornerback Kendall Davis-Clark and safety Travis Key are MSU's leading tacklers with 32 and 28 hits, respectively.
IOWA (2-3, 0-2) at PENN STATE (3-2, 0-2)
Beaver Stadium, University Park, Pa.
3:30 p.m. EDT- ABC/ESPN
LAST TIME OUT
Both Iowa and Penn State are desperately looking for a win to help boost their confidence as the conference season enters its third week. One team will earn its first Big Ten win of the season, while the other will remain winless in conference play. History sides with the Hawkeyes in the most recent play between the two teams, as Iowa has won the past four contests played in Beaver Stadium.
Iowa looks to rebound after a 38-20 Homecoming loss to Indiana last week. The Hawkeyes entered the game allowing just 8.8 points per game, but yielded 38 to the visiting Hoosiers and has since seen that average balloon to 14.6. Still, that scoring defense ranks second in the Big Ten, along with its rushing defense (85.4 ypg), and Iowa remains tied with Indiana and Michigan for the lead in turnover margin at plus-5. The Hawkeye defense will need another strong performance to help out the team's offense, which is averaging 19.4 points per game, a total rated 11th in the Big Ten. Despite allowing 27 points in a loss at Illinois last week, the Nittany Lions are third overall in the conference, giving up just 15.0 points per contest. Perhaps the underlying theme of Saturday's game will be what team, which played so uncharacteristically on defense last week, will rebound and tighten up the screws.
And while Penn State (265.0 ypg) and Iowa (267.4 ypg) are second and third, respectively, in Big Ten total defense, their total offenses are toward the bottom of the conference. The Nittany Lions (386.8 ypg) are ninth and Iowa (336.0) is 11th. Both quarterbacks have struggled a bit this season to find their rhythm, as PSU senior Anthony Morelli is fifth in the conference with 219.0 passing yards per game and sixth in pass efficiency with a 131.2 rating. Iowa's Jake Christensen follows in seventh with a rating of 121.6 and is eighth in overall passing with 201.2 yards per game. The rushing attacks are somewhat similar with the two teams, as both have a pair of running backs sharing the carries. Penn State's Rodney Kinlaw, who ranks seventh in the conference with 75.8 yards per game, has carried the ball 68 times this season, while Austin Scott has recorded one more attempt for an average of 60.4 yards per game. With the Hawkeyes, Albert Young rushes for an average of 71.2 yards per game on 73 total carries this year, followed by Damian Sims and his 54 attempts for 56.4 yards per outing.
On the defensive side of the ball, Iowa's Charles Godfrey is tied for the conference lead with three interceptions, followed by teammate Mike Humpal with two picks. The Nittany Lions boast two of the conference's three top tacklers in Sean Lee (10.4 tpg) and Dan Connor (9.8 tpg). Connor also has 3.0 sacks on the year and sophomore Maurice Evans is tied for second in the Big Ten with 9.0 tackles for loss. Iowa must have better pass protection this week after allowing nine sacks against Indiana last week.
No. 4/4/4 OHIO STATE at No. 23/20/20 PURDUE
Ross Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, Ind.
8 p.m. EDT- ABC
LAST TIME OUT
Two of the Big Ten's three 5-0 teams will battle one another in prime time Saturday, as Ohio State travels to Purdue. The Buckeyes will be out to prove they deserve the No. 4 ranking in the country, after they leapt four spots in the polls last week. Purdue on the other hand is looking for its first 6-0 start for the first time since finishing the 1943 season 9-0. One thing that is for sure is the winner will exit as a bowl-eligible team.
On paper, the Boilermakers average much higher than the Buckeyes in the majority of offensive categories. Purdue (502.0 ypg) ranks 12th in the nation in total yards compared to Ohio State's 429.4 ypg average, which is 44th. The Boilers are 14th in the country with 316.0 passing yards per game, while the Buckeyes are 82nd at 221.4. Purdue is also the conference's best and the nation's eighth-best team with an average of 45.4 points scored per game. Ohio State ranks 25th in the country at 35.8 points per game.
The Buckeyes are second in the conference with 209.4 rushing yards per game, while Purdue opts to pattern its offense around the aerial attack, which is tops in the Big Ten. No matter how potent the Boilermakers' attack is, it will go up against one of the nation's top defenses this weekend. OSU is allowing just 7.2 points per game (remember Purdue's offensive average of 45.4 ppg) and boasts the Big Ten's best pass defense, giving up just 142.6 yards through the air each game. As strong as the Boilermakers are on offense, the Buckeyes might just be as strong or stronger on defense. Purdue's total offense amounts to a Big Ten-best 495.8 yards per game, while the Buckeyes own a conference-high in total defense of 197.6 yards allowed each outing.
Four standouts in Saturday's game currently rank atop the Big Ten stats in their respective categories. Purdue quarterback Curtis Painter is first in passing yards per game with an average of 308.4, while OSU signal caller Todd Boeckman is the conference's most efficient passer with a rating of 165.3. Purdue wideout Dorien Bryant leads all receivers in the Big Ten with 8.0 receptions per contest as well as in all-purpose yards with 193.6 yards per game, while his counterpart, Ohio State's Brian Robiskie, leads all conference wideouts with 106.0 receiving yards per game.