Big Ten Football Preview: Week 6

Oct. 8, 2009


(2-3, 1-1 Big Ten)

Michigan State at Illinois
Saturday, Oct. 10, 2009 • 11 a.m. CT • Champaign, Ill. • Memorial Stadium (62,870)
Big Ten Network • Announcers: Wayne Larrivee, Chris Martin
Series: Michigan State leads 23-17-2 • Last Meeting: Sept. 30, 2006: Illinois 23, Michigan State 20

(1-3, 0-2 Big Ten)

Fresh off a big win against in-state rival Michigan, the Spartans of Michigan State head to Champaign this weekend to face an Illinois team on its Homecoming weekend.  MSU holds a 23-17-2 series advantage and is 11-9-1 when playing in Champaign, but the last time the two teams met in 2006, the Illini snapped a nine-game losing streak against Michigan State with a last second field goal for a 23-20 win – its first over MSU since 1992.

The Spartans’ offense posted 417 total yards last week against the Wolverines, marking the fourth time this season it accomplished the feat.  Michigan State, which leads the conference in that category (434.2 ypg), also sustained long drives to keep the Wolverines’ offense off the field.  The Spartans won the time of possession battle, holding the ball for 39:46, and out-rushed Michigan 197 yards to 28.  Quarterback Kirk Cousins, who threw for 152 yards on 15-of-21 passing, rushed for a career- and team-high 75 yards and compiled a total of 227 yards on the day. Larry Caper tied his season high with two rushing TDs, including a 23-yard TD run in overtime on third-and-8 to win the game for MSU.  Illinois’ defense, which ranks last in the Big Ten by allowing 417.8 yards per game, has shown spurts throughout the season.  Last week it held Penn State to just seven points in the first half – a season-low for the Nittany Lions – and a few weeks back it shutout Ohio State in passing yards before halftime.  Penn State, however, went on to rack up 513 total yards of offense in a rout against the Illini last Saturday. Donsay Hardeman posted a career-high 10 tackles to lead the Illini, while Garrett Edwards tied his career high with eight tackles.  Linebacker Ian Thomas leads the team for the season with 8.0 stops per game.

The Illinois offense was shaken up earlier this week as it was announced quarterback Juice Williams would be replaced in the starting role by Eddie McGee. Just last week Williams, who was 20-for-36 for 263 yards and threw his first touchdown pass of the season, became the school’s career leader for total yards with 9,126, but head coach Ron Zook felt a change needed to be made.  The Illini rank fourth in the league in rushing (176.5), 10th in passing (182.5) and total offense (359.0) and last in scoring (17.8).  As noted above, Michigan State held the Wolverines to just 28 rushing yards last week and ranks third in the conference with 96.4 yards allowed each game.  MSU has only recorded five takeaways this year – a conference low – and enters with a minus-4 turnover margin.  The Spartans give up 340.4 yards per game and are led in tackles by Greg Jones and his 12.0 tackles per game.  Freshman Jerel Worthy has 3.5 sacks on the season.


(1-4, 0-1 Big Ten)

Purdue at Minnesota
Saturday, Oct. 10, 2009 • 11 a.m. CT • Minneapolis, Minn. • TCF Bank Stadium (50,720)
ESPN2 • Announcers: Pam Ward, Ray Bentley
Series: Minnesota leads 32-30-3 • Last Meeting: Oct. 25, 2008: Minnesota 16, Purdue 6

(3-2, 1-1 Big Ten)

Minnesota will look to turn things around during its first Homecoming game at TCF Bank Stadium Saturday, as the Golden Gophers hope to extend its all-time series lead to 33-30-3 over Purdue.  The Gophers have only won two of the last 11 meetings, but managed a 17-6 victory over the Boilermakers last season.  Purdue is also looking to right the ship, having scored its lone win of the season in the season opener against Toledo.

Despite its struggles, which actually have included near wins against Oregon, Notre Dame and Northwestern, Purdue has continued to post big numbers on offense.  The Boilermakers are scoring 30.2 points per game and recording 411.8 yards of total offense, which ranks third in the Big Ten.  Their 258.2 passing yards per contest also rank third-best, while their 11 passing touchdowns are the second most in the league this year.  QB Joey Elliott paces the conference with 255.2 passing yards per game and a league-high 10 TDs.  Keith Smith is third in the Big Ten with 91.8 receiving yards, while Aaron Valentin is 10th at 55.2, but has notched four scores already this year.  On the ground, Ralph Bolden rates second in the conference with 108.2 yards per game.  Minnesota has tightened up its pass defense this year, allowing just 202.4 yards in the air, which rates fourth in the league.  Defending the rush has not gone that well, ranking 10th in the conference at 174.6 ypg.  Could this be another breakout game for Bolden?  In a near miss last week against Wisconsin, linebacker Nate Triplett, who is second in the Big Ten with 11.0 tackles per game, returned an interception 25 yards to set up a score and also recovered a fumble. Senior defensive tackle Garrett Brown made three stops and forced a fumble.  Lee Campbell is third-best in the league with 10.6 stops per contest.

Minnesota is last in the league with 327.4 yards of total offense, primarily because of the reliance of the passing game as it amounts for 231.4 of that total yardage.  Adam Weber has been under pressure from the opposition this year, having been sacked numerous times behind the line.  Weber has minus-53 yards on the ground for the season and is averaging 219.4 passing yards per game.  Eric Decker is Minnesota’s Mr. Everything.  So far this season Decker has become the school’s career leader in receiving yards, receptions, and consecutive 100-yard receiving games.  Currently he paces the league with 127.8 ypg, 8.60 rpg, 14.9 ypc and five touchdowns.  Purdue is ninth in the conference in rush defense (159.4) and 10th in pass defense (240.0) and total defense (399.4).  The defensive unit is also spending a league-high 33:50 on the field.  In last week’s heartbreaker to Northwestern, Joe Holland and Kawann Short recorded career highs in tackles with 12 and 9, respectively.  Ryan Kerrigan finished with eight tackles, including two for loss, a forced fumble and a pass break up.



(0-5, 0-2 MAC East)

Miami (Ohio) at Northwestern
Saturday, Oct. 10, 2009 • 11 a.m. CT • Evanston, Ill. • Ryan Field (47,130)
Big Ten Network • Announcers: Ari Wolfe, Glen Mason, Anthony Herron
Series: Miami (Ohio) leads 6-2 • Last Meeting: Aug. 31, 2006: Northwestern 21, Miami (Ohio) 3

(3-2, 1-1 Big Ten)

Northwestern returns to Evanston this weekend after a hard fought road win against Purdue.  Now the Wildcats face Miami (Ohio), a team simply looking for a win.  The RedHawks are 0-5 on the campaign, but have faced stiff competition already, including Boise State and Cincinnati – both of whom are ranked nationally in the top 10.  Miami actually owns a decisive 6-2 advantage over the Wildcats in the all-time series, with all six wins coming in Evanston.  NU did get the better half of Miami in the last outing, capturing a 21-3 victory back in 2006.  Of its six games this season, this will be the fifth road contest for the RedHawks this year.

On the offensive side of the ball, Miami has compiled 1,289 total yards on 248 plays (5.2 ypp, 429.7 ypg) in it last three games.  That total yardage average is up dramatically from the first two games when it was posting just 191 yards per game.  In his two starts, redshirt freshman quarterback Zac Dysert is averaging 311.5 yards passing per game. He threw for 337 yards against Kent State and followed up that performance with a 286-yard effort against 10th-ranked Cincinnati.  The RedHawks are a throw-first team, compiling 253.4 of its 334.2 yards of total offense through the air.  Armand Robinson leads the team with 72.8 receiving yards per game, followed by Eugene Harris at 51.4. Defensively, Northwestern shined last week by stopping Purdue on the ground.  In fact, NU held Purdue to 62 rushing yards -- a single-game season best -- to lower its season defensive rushing figure to 118.0 ypg.  In the air, Northwestern is giving up 226.6 passing yards each time out.  Quentin Davie (39 tackles), Brendan Smith (31) and Brad Phillips (30) lead the way for the Wildcats.

Northwestern is averaging nearly 32 points and 396 offensive yards per game, while Miami is allowing 40.8 points and 396.6 yards, respectively.  Quarterback Mike Kafka has continued to impress this season, completing 70 percent of his passes for 1,273 yards and five touchdowns. The quartet of Zeke Markshausen (29 recs. for 280 yards), Drake Dunsmore (21-232, 1 TD), Demetrius Field (17-148, 1 TD) and Andrew Brewer (15-280, 3 TD) has caught most of Kafka's passes. Arby Fields (3.9 ypa) and Stephen Simmons (4.8) are NU's top runners.  Miami has been outscored 204-58 this season, including 47-3 in the first quarter and 111-17 in the first half.  NU owns a 105-69 scoring advantage in the first 30 minutes of play.  Sophomore linebacker Jerrell Wedge has a team-high 48 total tackles on the year, including 5.5 for loss.


(4-1, 2-1 Ohio Valley)

Eastern Illinois at No. 14/12/13 Penn State
Saturday, Oct. 10, 2009 • Noon ET • University Park, Pa. • Beaver Stadium (107,282)
ESPN Classic • Announcers: Dave Lamont, JC Pearson

Series: First Meeting

(4-1 1-1 Big Ten)

Eastern Illinois travels to Penn State for the first meeting between the two teams.  The Nittany Lions have been dominant on the scoreboard against non-conference foes this season, going 3-0 while out-scoring its opponents 90-20. The Nittany Lions have won 19 straight non-conference home games.

The Eastern Illinois offense has posted 29.2 points and 371.6 yards per game this season.  The Panthers are throwing for 219.4 yards per outing, led by a former Big Ten quarterback.  Jake Christensen played three years at Iowa before transferring to EIU last year.  As a starter for the Hawkeyes in 2007, he threw for 2,269 yards with 17 touchdowns and six interceptions.  In his initial visit to Beaver Stadium, Christensen was 16-of-29 passing for 146 yards and a score.  Currently he has completed over 65 percent of his passes and tossed 11 touchdowns to just three interceptions.  Two of those interceptions, including six sacks, occurred last week in a 36-31 home loss to Eastern Kentucky.  Mon Williams is averaging 88.2 yards per game in the backfield, while seven different receivers have combined for the Panthers’ 11 touchdowns this year.  Penn State’s defense is seventh in the country with 11.6 points allowed each time out and 15th in total defense at 265.6 yards per contest.  Senior Josh Hull leads the way with 10.4 tackles every Saturday.

Penn State may have struggled with the ground game early on, but if last Saturday’s performance was any indication, the Panthers could be in for a long day.  The Nittany Lions posted 338 rushing yards – their most since 2005 – in last week’s rout over Illinois.  Granted EIU is allowing just 2.7 yards per carry and 94.0 yards each time out, but PSU is averaging 4.9 and 169.4, respectively.  Evan Royster is third in the conference with 82.0 yards per game, while Daryll Clark is completing 61 percent of his passes for 226.6 yards.  Eastern Illinois is allowing 171.4 yards in the air and is led by CJ James with two interceptions on the season.  Cory Leman has a team-high 47 tackles on the season, followed by Nick Nasti and Gordy Kickels with 24 stops apiece.


(5-0, 2-0 Big Ten)

No. -/25/25 Wisconsin at No. 9/8/8 Ohio State
Saturday, Oct. 10, 2009 • 3:30 p.m. ET • Columbus, Ohio • Ohio Stadium (102,329)
ABC • Announcers: Sean McDonough, Matt Millen, Holly Rowe

Series: Ohio State leads 52-17-5 • Last Meeting: Oct. 4, 2008: Ohio State 20, Wisconsin 17

(4-1, 2-0 Big Ten)

An undefeated Wisconsin ballclub marches into Columbus Saturday in the attempt to derail the Buckeyes’ early hopes for another Big Ten title.  The Badgers do not have history on their side, as OSU has won the last two meetings and owns a 52-17-5 advantage in the all-time series.

The Badgers have been tested this season, with four of their five wins combing by a combined 22 points, while the other was a 44-14 blowout over Wofford.  Currently UW ranks first in the Big Ten in scoring (35.0 ppg), rushing (217 ypg), pass efficiency (153.0), 3rd-down conversions (56.2), red zone efficiency (20-for-20) and is second in total offense (433.2 ypg).  The Badgers offer a deadly combo with the Big Ten’s leading rusher – John Clay (116.4 ypg) – and most efficient quarterback – Scott Tolzien (154.6 rating). Garrett Graham (23 rec, 268 yards, 4 TD) and Nick Toon (22 rec, 269 yards, 2 TD) are the team’s leading receivers.  UW might have to put the ball in the air Saturday as OSU’s defense has allowed 13, 82 and 18 yards rushing over the last three games, an average of 37.6 yards per outing. It has been 15 games since the Buckeye defense allowed a 100-yard individual rushing performance.  Among NCAA leaders, Ohio State ranks among the top 15 in four categories in 2009: scoring defense (11.8, 8th), total defense (252.6, 9th), rushing defense (83.4, 10th) and pass efficiency defense (97.6, 15th).  Brian Rolle earns 7.4 tackles per game, while senior safety Kurt Coleman, who will be back after missing last week’s game at Indiana, boasts an average of 7.2.

On offense the Buckeyes should have the services of running back Boom Herron back in the lineup.  Herron, who has scored at least once in his last eight games, missed the Indiana game with an ankle injury. In his last six games he has rushed for 343 yards with eight touchdowns on 77 carries.  Taking Herron’s place last week was Brandon Saine, who rushed for a career-high 113 yards in the win.  Also making headlines last Saturday was QB Terrelle Pryor, who netted 222 yards of total offense to eclipse 3,000 for his career.  The Buckeyes, however, still rank last in the league in passing offense with 180.6 yards per game, but seventh in total offense (369.2).  Wisconsin is giving up 363.0 yards each game, including 235.0 in the air.  The Badgers lead the Big Ten with a plus-5 turnover margin, with eight interceptions and seven fumble recoveries on the year.  Chris Maragos has three of those picks and O’Brien Schofield – the reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week – has forced two fumbles on the season and is coming off a week in which he filled the stat sheet to help UW defeat Minnesota.


(3-2, 0-2 Big Ten)

Indiana at Virginia
Saturday, Oct. 10, 2009 • 3:30 p.m. ET • Charlottesville, Va. • Scott Stadium (61,500) • Announcers: Frank Giardina, Sonny Randle

Series: First Meeting

(1-3, 1-0 ACC)

After back-to-back losses against Michigan and Ohio State, Indiana was scheduled to play red-hot South Florida this week, but a change was made back in the spring at the request of the Bulls to play at a later date.  So the Hoosiers went and found ACC opponent Virginia, whom they have never played. The Cavaliers opened the year with losses to William & Mary, TCU and at Southern Miss, but kicked off ACC play last week with its first victory of the season, a 16-3 triumph at North Carolina.  UVa is 15-3 all-time in its Homecoming games.

Indiana enters the non-conference game with 364.2 total yards of offense each time out, including 233.2 yards in the air.  In last week’s loss to OSU, the Hoosiers became the first team to throw for 200 yards (210) against the Buckeyes this season.  Ben Chappell has completed more than 63 percent of his passes and boasts an average of 230.8 passing yards per game.  Several of those yards have gone to Tandon Doss.  In the last two games he collected 193 all-purpose yards at Michigan and caught six passes for 96 yards with one touchdown against the Buckeyes.  Currently he hauls in 94.0 yards per game and a 14.7 average per catch.  Freshman Darius Willis leads the ground game with 61.0 yards per game and three TDs on the year. The UVa defense ranks eighth nationally allowing 156.5 passing yards each time out. It has surrendered 24.0 points, 145.2 rushing yards and 301.8 total yards per game. UVa            has also allowed no more than 184 yards passing in any game this year.  The Cavaliers have forced eight turnovers (four INTs, four fumbles) and own seven sacks.  Redshirt freshman inside linebacker Steve Greer leads the team with 31 tackles, 17 solo, 3.5 tackles for loss and has one sack. Senior defensive end Nate Collins heads the defense with two sacks, while senior cornerback Chris Cook sits atop the club with two interceptions.

On offense, UVa averages 19.5 points, 93.0 rushing yards, 179.2 passing yards and 272.2 total yards per game. Senior quarterback Jameel Sewell averages 162.0 yards and has completed 51.4 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and five interceptions. He also ranks second on the team with 88 rushing yards and three TDs on the ground. Senior Mikell Simpson rushed for 100 yards against the Tar Heels and leads the team with 164 rushing yards and a 5.0 average to go along with one score. Sophomore Kris Burd paces the wide receivers with 14 catches for 163 yards and one TD.  Defensively, the Hoosiers still managed to penetrate the Buckeyes’ line last week, something that hadn’t been done all year.  IU collected three sacks in the ballgame, while Ohio State came into the contest allowing three sacks in its first four contests.  IU is giving up 24.4 points, 218.2 passing yards, 119.2 rushing yards and 337.4 total yards per game.  Matt Mayberry leads the team with 7.2 stops per game, while Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton have combined for 43 career sacks.


(4-1, 1-1 Big Ten)

Michigan at No. 12/14/11 Iowa
Saturday, Oct. 10, 2009 • 7 p.m. CT • Iowa City, Iowa • Kinnick Stadium (70,585)
ABC • Announcers: Brent Musburger, Kirk Herbstreit, Lisa Salters

Series: Michigan leads 40-10-4 • Last Meeting: Oct. 21, 2006: Michigan 20, Iowa 6

(5-0, 1-0 Big Ten)

Michigan looks to rebound after last week’s upset to in-state rival Michigan State, while host Iowa will just try to defend the home turf a little better than it did last Saturday.  The Hawkeyes escaped a near upset last week against Arkansas State and is now out to extend the nation’s second-best win streak to 10 games.  Michigan, however, owns a 40-10-4 advantage in the series, including a 16-4-1 record in Iowa City, where it has won six of the last seven meetings.  History tells us this one will be close though, as five of the last eight games in the series have been decided by six points or less.

Michigan struggled to run the ball against the Spartans, recording just 28 yards on the ground, far from its average of 197.8, which ranks second in the conference.  The Wolverines put up 388.0 total yards each time out, led by quarterback Tate Forcier, who completed 17-of-32 passes for 223 yards in last week’s loss.  Forcier’s average of 178.8 ranks just ninth in the conference and no U-M receivers rate in the conference’s top 10.  The running game has been key though, with Carlos Brown leading the way with 67.2 yards per outing.  And this week the Wolverines face a Hawkeye defense that allows 122.2 rushing yards per game, which is sixth-best in the conference, but has not given up a rushing touchdown in 33 consecutive quarters.  Michigan must improve its red zone offense this week, ranking last in the league with just 14 scoring successes on 19 opportunities inside the 20.  Iowa, which owns a plus-5 turnover margin, was paced last Saturday by Pat Angerer and his 11 tackles, while Tyler Sash finished with eight stops, including 1.5 for loss, and an interception and forced fumble.

Iowa failed to score a touchdown for the only time during the 2006 season when the two teams last met in a 20-6 loss at Michigan Stadium.  Last Saturday though, Iowa scored four touchdowns, including three TD passes from Ricky Stanzi.  The Hawkeye QB completed 18-of-26 passes for 296 yards in the win, surpassing 3,000 career yards while raising his career touchdown total to 22.  Wideout Marvin McNutt led Iowa receivers with four catches for 121 yards and Trey Stross added 64 yards on four catches. Iowa's running back tandem of Adam Robinson and Brandon Wegher gives the team a balanced attack with Robinson’s 71.8 and Wegher’s 53.8 yards per game.  The Hawkeyes’ 362.2 yards of total offense is ninth in the league, while Michigan is also ninth in total defense at 392.0.  Michigan’s Obi Ezeh is fifth in the Big Ten with 9.6 tackles per game and improved on that mark last week with 14 stops and a fumble recovery against MSU. Jordan Kovacs led the Michigan defense with 17 tackles and a forced fumble in the loss, while Stevie Brown and Donovan Warren had pass interceptions.