Big Ten Football Preview: Week 7

Oct. 13, 2011


(6-0, 2-0 Big Ten)

#11/10/10 MICHIGAN at #23/19/22 MICHIGAN STATE
Legends Division Game
Saturday, Oct. 15, 2011 • Noon ET • East Lansing, Mich. • Spartan Stadium (75,005)
ESPN • Announcers: Dave Pasch, Urban Meyer, Chris Spielman, Quint Kessenich
Series: Michigan leads, 67-31-5 • Last Meeting: Oct. 9, 2010: Michigan State 34, Michigan 17

(4-1, 1-0 Big Ten)

Saturday’s game marks the 104th meeting between Michigan State and Michigan, but the first with a win in the Legends Division on the line. The Wolverines lead the all-time series 67-31-5, including a 19-11-2 record in games played at Spartan Stadium.  MSU, however, has dominated the series in recent history, having won the last three contests.  Now the Spartans will aim for their fourth-straight win over the Maize and Blue for the first time since 1959-62.  The last six games played in East Lansing have been decided by a total of 25 points, with all those games decided by a touchdown or less including two in overtime.  Michigan’s last win in Spartan Stadium came on Nov. 3, 2007, 28-24.  Since 1953, the winner of the Michigan State-Michigan game has been presented the Paul Bunyan Trophy -- a rivalry trophy that the Wolverines have claimed in 34 of those 58 prior matchups.

Prior to the season, several Big Ten fans had their sights set on the Nebraska/Wisconsin contest, since it was a top-10 meeting that marked the Huskers first-ever Big Ten contest.  But since the season progressed, the Michigan/Michigan State battle quickly became one circled on the calendar as one of the nation’s top offenses was to square off against one the nation’s top defenses.  The Michigan offense is posting 38.0 points, 257.0 rushing yards and 457.5 total yards per contest, while the Spartans pace the country in total defense (173.4), rate second in pass defense (109.4), pass efficiency defense (83.4 rating), and are listed third in rushing (64.0) and scoring (10.2).  History tells us that the team with the most productive ground attack will win, just as it has done 38 times in the last 41 games.  During its current three-game winning streak, the Spartans have outrushed the Wolverines by a count of 613-274 yards.  But Michigan’s offense is currently rolling, having eclipsed 500 total yards in each of the past two weeks.  In last week’s victorious rally at Northwestern, quarterback Denard Robinson was 17-of-26 passing for 337 yards and two touchdowns with another 117 yards and two scores on the ground.  Robinson is currently averaging 120.0 rushing yards each time out.  He did however toss three interceptions in the first half, which led to 10 Northwestern points.  Junior Hemingway made five catches for 124 yards, his sixth career 100-yard receiving game, while Roy Roundtree set season highs for catches (3) and yards (83).  Michigan has scored on 26 of its 28 red-zone trips this season, but now face a Spartan defense that has allowed only five drives in the red zone this season, tying Boise State for the fewest trips permitted in the country. Michigan State’s starting linebackers – Max Bullough (33), Chris Norman (25) and Denicos Allen (25) – have combined for 83 tackles, including 13.0 for losses and 6.0 sacks. Allen leads the team and ranks fourth in the Big Ten with 7.5 tackles for loss (32 yards).

The Spartans’ best offensive category in the conference puts them second overall in passing (269.2). They also rank sixth in total offense (398.0) and seventh in scoring offense (28.0).  Kirk Cousins, who is looking to become the first Spartan starting quarterback to win three straight games over Michigan, is third in the conference with 239.4 passing yards per game.  Other offensive leaders include Le’Veon Bell (52 carries for 267 yards, 5.1 avg., 6 TDs) on the ground and B.J. Cunningham (38 catches for 582 yards, 15.3 avg., 2 TDs) in the air.  With 12.5 points allowed per game, Michigan is fourth in the conference in scoring defense and also ranks fifth in pass defense (202.5) and sixth in total yards allowed (336.5).  Remarkably, the Wolverines have given up just 21 points in the second half this season.  Michigan has been swarming to the ball as well, forcing 17 turnovers, including five interceptions and 12 fumbles, three of which have been recovered by Thomas Gordon.  The Wolverines set a season high with four sacks in the win at NU last week. Kenny Demens and Will Campbell each recorded the first sack of their careers, while Jordan Kovacs had one and Ryan Van Bergen and Craig Roh combined for the other. Kovacs is third in the Big Ten with 3.0 sacks on the season and Demens is 11th in the conference with 7.5 tackles each time out.


(1-5, 0-2 Big Ten)

Leaders Division Game
Saturday, Oct. 15, 2011 • 11 a.m. CT • Madison, Wis.• Camp Randall Stadium (80,321)
ESPN2 • Announcers: Beth Mowins, Mike Bellotti
Series: Wisconsin leads, 37-18-2 • Last Meeting: Nov. 13, 2010: Wisconsin 83, Indiana 20

(5-0, 1-0 Big Ten)

For the third consecutive week, Indiana will be battling a Leaders Division opponent, and this week’s contest is a rematch of a lopsided 83-20 victory last year at the hands of Wisconsin.  So it’s with opens arms – or claws – that the Badgers welcome the Hoosiers to Madison for the second-straight season.  UW had its bye week this past Saturday, but coasted into the break following a very impressive 48-17 victory over then-No. 8 Nebraska.  The Badgers have won eight consecutive Big Ten games and 12 straight regular season contests.  Indiana was on the short end of a 41-20 outcome last week in Bloomington against a surging Illinois ballclub.  In the overall series, Wisconsin owns a 37-18-2 advantage, including a 21-8-1 record at Camp Randall.  The Badgers have claimed the last six meetings by an average margin of victory of 30.5 points and the last five games at Camp Randall have been decided by an average of 40.0 points.  UW is averaging 45.8 points against the Hoosiers over a 10-game span dating back to 1999.

Indiana, which did not muster a great deal of offense in last year’s loss to Wisconsin, enter Saturday’s game with three options at quarterback.  Edward Wright-Baker and Dusty Kiel have both started this season, but foot injuries have sidelined them and paved the way for freshman Tre Roberson, who went 11-of-17 for 148 yards last week against Illinois.  The Hoosiers’ best offensive category in the conference is a fourth-place mark in passing yards (250.0). The Cream and Crimson also sit at 10th in scoring (23.3) and total offense (368.8), and 12th in rushing (210.0).  IU has seen some positives in the running game as of late with Stephen Houston leading the team with 219 yards and 54 carries to go along with a 4.1 average and one touchdown.  Houston also has nine receptions for 92 yards on the year.  Teammate Damarlo Belcher, who is seventh in the Big Ten with 4.6 receptions per game, needs just five catches to become Indiana's all-time leader.  Wideout Shane Wynn made headlines last week by returning the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown, which helped him earn Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors on Monday.  Wisconsin has put up impressive numbers on defense, ranking first amongst conference foes in fewest points allowed (10.2), third overall in total defense (264.2) and passing defense (161.0), and fourth against the rush (103.2).  The Badgers are also third in the conference with a plus-3 turnover margin.  Linebacker Mike Taylor is fourth in the league with 8.8 stops per game, followed closely by Chris Borland at 8.6.  David Gilbert, who is out with a broken foot, is fourth in the Big Ten with 0.75 tackles for loss each time out, while Beau Allen is sixth at 0.60. 

UW is equally talented on the offensive end, as it leads the conference in scoring (48.4), total yards (523.0), and passing (280.4), while also ranking third in rushing (242.6).  Last year’s win over the Hoosiers was all about the run game as 338 of the 598 yards came on the ground. Montee Ball and James White combined for 311 yards and five touchdowns in the win and Ball has 282 yards and five scores to his credit against IU over the past two seasons. This year, the duo has combined to run for 840 yards on 149 carries and 16 TDs, while recording 14 passes for 228 yards and a score in the air. Ball and White rank third and fourth, respectively, in the Big Ten in all-purpose yardage.  Wisconsin is currently averaging 7.7 yards per play, which ranks third-best in the country.  QB Russell Wilson has been credited with much of the offense’s success this year.  Wilson paces the league with 278.2 passing yards and a 216.9 passer rating per game.  IU has the conference’s ninth-best scoring defense (27.2) and also ranks eighth in pass defense (211.5), and 11th in total defense (421.5).  The Hoosiers are third in takeaways, rank second in fumble recoveries and tied for fifth with a plus-3 turnover margin.  The Hoosiers have forced at least two turnovers in a game four times this season.  Defensive tackle Adam Replogle recorded two sacks and forced a fumble last week, while linebacker Jeff Thomas collected nine stops, eight solo, with one TFL.  On the season, Thomas is third in the Big Ten with 8.0 tackles for loss and ninth with 8.0 tackles per game.


(3-2, 1-0 Big Ten)

PURDUE at #rv/25/rv PENN STATE
Leaders Division Game
Saturday, Oct. 15, 2011 • Noon ET • University Park, Pa. • Beaver Stadium (106,572)
BTN • Announcers: Tom Hart, Derek Rackley, Lisa Byington
Series: Penn State leads 10-3-1 • Last Meeting: Oct. 4, 2008: Penn State 20, Purdue 6

(5-1, 2-0 Big Ten)

Penn State hosts Purdue for the 15th meeting between the schools and the first as members of the Big Ten Leaders Division. The teams are meeting for the first time since 2008, with the Nittany Lions owning a 10-3-1 advantage in the series.  Having sat out during the conference’s opening week, the Boilermakers will look to open 2-0 in league play for a second straight season as they make their first trip to Beaver Stadium since 2007.  Purdue earned its first Big Ten victory last week with decisive 45-17 victory over Minnesota.  Penn State is off to a 2-0 start after silencing Iowa last week in Happy Valley, 13-3.

Purdue garners the fifth spot in several statistical conference categories, including scoring (32.6), rushing (215.4) and total offense (412.2). It ranks ninth in pass offense (196.8) behind a quarterback tandem made up of Caleb TerBush and Robert Marve. TerBush has completed 64.2 percent of his 117 passes for 787 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions, while Marve is 20-of-36 for 197 yards, with two TDs and no picks in three games. Senior wideout Justin Siller leads the Boilermakers with 20 receptions while junior Antavian Edison has a team-high 280 receiving yards, two touchdowns, and 16.5 yards per catch average.  O.J. Ross has 18 catches for 187 yards and one score.  In the backfield, junior Ralph Bolden is the team’s top ground gainer with 273 yards on 57 carries and three scores. Junior Akeem Shavers (44-242-4 TDs) and freshman Akeem Hunt (18-152-2 TDs) are also big contributors for the Boilers.  Purdue is 3-0 this season when rushing for 200 or more yards.  Last year against Penn State, the Boilers were held to 83 rushing yards on 33 attempts and just 241 yards total.  The Nitany Lions are fourth in the nation in total defense (250.8), fifth in scoring (10.5), fifth in pass defense (157.7), and fourth in pass efficiency defense (89.77).  PSU is 17th nationally against the run at 93.17, having limited five opponents to less than 100 yards on the ground.  Last week against Iowa, the defense forced three turnovers in the fourth quarter and held the Hawkeyes, who were averaging 37.8 points per game entering the contest, to just a field goal. Penn State has forced multiple turnovers in five of its initial six games and is tied for first in the Big Ten and 15th nationally with 14 turnovers.  Gerald Hodges paces the team with 6.0 tackles per outing, while Hodges, Devon Still and Sean Stanley have each recorded a pair of sacks on the season.

When looking at the conference ranks, Penn State’s best position on the offensive side of the field is in passing where the Nittany Lions are sixth-best at 212.2 passing yards per game.  Like Purdue, Penn State has been playing two QBs all season with Matt McGloin and Rob Bolden taking snaps.  McGloin is currently eighth in the conference with 126.3 passing yards per game.  PSU will be without standout wide receiver Derek Moye, who will miss at least the next two games with a broken left foot.  Moye leads the team with 28 receptions for 485 yards and three touchdowns. He ranks in the top five in Penn State history in career catches (132), receiving yards (2,226) and receiving touchdowns (18).  Look for the effort to be on the ground Saturday, as the Nittany Lions produced their best rushing performance of the season in the win over Iowa, gaining 231 yards on 46 carries (5.0).  Silas Redd, who is fifth in the Big Ten at 95.7 rushing yards per game, ran for a career-best 142 yards on 28 carries.  As a team, Penn State is just eighth in the conference in rushing (162.0), as well as ninth in total offense (374.2) and 11th in scoring (21.5).  For the most part, the Boilermakers are right in the middle of the pack on defense. They rank sixth in passing (203.0) and seventh in scoring (20.6) and total yards allowed (345.8).  Last week the defense forced three turnovers and held Minnesota’s offense to just 213 total yards and no touchdowns. Purdue is giving up an average of 275.3 yards of total offense to the opposition in its three wins and 451.5 in its two losses.  Senior linebacker Joe Holland leads the Boilermaker defense in both solo (25) and total stops (36).  Junior defensive tackle Kawann Short, who has a team-high six tackles for loss, is vital to the Purdue run defense. In the secondary, senior safety Albert Evans ranks second on the team with 31 tackles while sophomore cornerback Ricardo Allen has two of Purdue’s three interceptions.


(3-3, 0-2 Big Ten)

Leaders Division Game
Saturday, Oct. 15, 2011 • 2:30 p.m. CT • Champaign, Ill. • Memorial Stadium (60,670)
ABC (regional), ESPN (outer market) • Announcers: Bob Wischusen, Bob Davie, Heather Cox
Series: Ohio State leads, 62-30-4 • Last Meeting: Oct. 2, 2010: Ohio State 24, Illinois 13

(6-0, 2-0 Big Ten)

Ohio State looks to rebound after a pair of disappointing losses to open Big Ten play, marking just the second time the Buckeyes are 0-2 in the conference play since 1993. OSU’s heartbreaking 34-27 defeat at Nebraska gave the Buckeyes back-to-back losses for the first time in 88 games (2004), snapping the nation's longest streak without consecutive defeats.  But it’s a rivalry week and those stats and stories are tossed out of the window.  The two teams are meeting for the 97th time with OSU holding an impressive 62-30-4 record, including a 33-12 mark in Champaign. Ohio State has won five of the last six meetings, but Illinois was a 28-21 winner in 2007 in Columbus. At 6-0, Illinois is off to its best start since the 1951 team opened the season 7-0 en route to a 9-0-1 record and a share of the national championship.  The Illini will look to capture the Illibuck rivalry trophy Saturday in its first Leaders Division matchup against the Buckeyes.

The Buckeyes are seventh in the conference in rushing offense (169.0), ninth in points per game (24.3) and 11th and 12th place in total yards (315.3) and passing (146.3), respectively.  Freshman QB Braxton Miller racked up 186 yards of total offense in his third career start at Nebraska in less than three quarters of action, while wideout Corey Brown caught three balls for 61 yards in his first game back from injury.  The Buckeyes have not been successful with the passing game against Illinois in recent times.  In fact, the Illini have held OSU to less than 100 yards passing in each of the last three meetings.  So the focus shifts to the ground game where the tailback tandem of Jordan Hall and Carlos Hyde is combining for 132.9 yards per game. Hyde just barely has the edge with 66.7 yards per game while Hall, who had 49 yards against the Cornhuskers, averages 66.2 yards per game.  Dan "Boom" Herron will be active this week after missing the first six games of the season. The reigning first-team All-Big Ten running back rushed for 1,155 yards and 16 touchdowns a year ago. On the defensive side of the field, Illinois leads the conference and is sixth nationally in sacks (22) and fourth in total defense (296.7). Other conference rankings for the Illini include fifth in points allowed per contest (17.8) and ninth in pass defense (217.0). The Illini defense has forced at least one turnover in 21 consecutive games, the longest current streak in the nation. Tavon Wilson was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week after Saturday's win over Indiana. Wilson returned a fumble 66 yards for a touchdown to give the Illini a lead they would not relinquish in the 21-point win. Wilson also recorded a team-high 11 tackles, including nine solos, a career-high 3.5 tackles for loss, one sack and one pass break-up in the game.  Junior DE Whitney Mercilus leads the nation in sacks (8.5) and is second nationally in sacks per game (1.42) after racking up a career-high three sacks against Indiana. He also has forced four fumbles to rank fourth nationally (0.67 per game).

Offensively, Illinois is third in total yards (447.7), fourth in points per game (34.7) and rushing (226.2), and fifth in passing (221.5).  The Illini also rank seventh in the nation in third-down efficiency, converting 47-of-86 (.547) third downs.  Ron Zook must put forth quite the motivation before the team takes the field as Illinois has outscored its opponents 66-20 in the first quarter and 51-14 in the third quarter this year.  The Orange and Blue are led by quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, who is fifth nationally and second in the Big Ten in passer efficiency (175.83).  And how about the effort by wideout A.J. Jenkins this season?  He has 18 catches for 450 yards and five touchdowns in his last two games, the most receiving yards in a two-game span in Big Ten history. Jenkins leads the nation in receiving yards (815) and is fifth in yards per contest (135.83). Troy Pollard is averaging 9.8 yards per carry, third-most in the nation for anyone with at least 30 carries.  As a team, OSU is fourth overall in defending the pass (191.5) and fifth in points allowed per game (17.8), total defense (308.2) and scoring (17.8) – the latter of which is 17th-best in the country.  Senior linebacker Andrew Sweat leads the Buckeyes with 43 tackles. He ranks 14th in the Big Ten with his average of 7.2 tackles per game. Christian Bryant's 28 stops is next. Johnathan Hankins leads all down linemen with 27 hits, including six against the Huskers. Sophomore safety C.J. Barnett, who ranks second in the Big Ten with six passes defended, has four pass break-ups and two interceptions on the year.


(2-3, 0-2 Big Ten)

Legends Division Game
Saturday, Oct. 15, 2011 • 6 p.m. CT • Iowa City, Iowa • Kinnick Stadium (70,585)
BTN • Announcers: Eric Collins, Chris Martin, Dionne Miller
Series: Iowa leads 46-23-3 • Last Meeting: Nov. 13, 2010: Northwestern 21, Iowa 17

(3-2, 0-1 Big Ten)

In yet another divisional matchup, Northwestern travels to Iowa looking to snap a three-game skid and continue its success over a Hawkeye ballcub that has dropped five of the last six to the Wildcats.  NU posted a solid first half against Michigan last week, but the Wolverines rallied to score 28 points in the second half to earn a 42-24 victory.  Iowa was held to a single field goal in last week’s 13-3 loss at Penn State.  Overall, the Hawkeyes hold a 46-23-3 advantage in the series that began with a 12-6 Iowa victory in 1897. Northwestern has won the last three games overall, including a 21-17 decision a year ago in Evanston, and the last three contests played at Kinnick Stadium. Northwestern won 17-10 in 2009 on its last visit to Iowa City, handing the Hawkeyes their first loss in the 10th game of the season and ending Iowa's 13-game winning streak.  Saturday’s Legends Division battle will determine whether Iowa improves to 24-9 against NU in Iowa City or if the Wildcats claim the fifth win in the last six meetings for the visiting team.

Northwestern’s offense enters the weekend sixth in the conference in rushing (187.6) and eighth in passing (199.8), scoring (27.8), and total yards (387.4).  All eyes will be on quarterback Dan Persa Saturday.  Not only has Persa posted impressive numbers in his last two games, but the Iowa contest also marks the Wildcats’ painful memory of Persa tearing his Achilles tendon against the Hawkeyes last year.  Persa has fought back hard from that injury and recently posted a career-best 331 passing yards against Michigan and tied his personal single-game standard of 32 completions. That effort came after he set a career high with four TD passes in his 2011 debut at Illinois. He has followed up on his Big Ten-record 73.5 completion percentage a year ago by hitting on 72.4 percent of his attempts through two games this season.  Wideout Jeremy Ebert, who ranks fourth in the Big Ten in receptions (5.2) and eighth in receiving yards (64.8) per game, led the Wildcats with 11 receptions for 86 yards last week, while the ground game was limited to just 107 yards.  The Hawkeye squad ranks eighth in scoring defense (21.6) and takes up the ninth spot in total defense (387.6) and passing defense (132.5). Despite allowing 395 yards total offense in the loss at Penn State, Iowa did not allow a touchdown until early in the fourth period. The Hawkeyes held Penn State to two field goals through the first three periods before PSU scored its only touchdown following an Iowa turnover. Individually, DB Micah Hyde is tied for ninth in the country with three interceptions, while linebackers James Morris (10.6) and Christian Kirksey (9.8) are 14th and 23rd, respectively, in tackles per game.  Last week Morris led the Iowa defense with 13 tackles and Kirksey recorded 10 stops and a forced fumble.

Offensively, Iowa has scored an average of 30.8 points per game, good for sixth in the conference.  It also ranks third in passing yards (258.8), seventh in total offense (388.0) and 10th in rushing (129.2).  The Hakweyes mustered only 114 yards of total offense in the second half of last week’s loss, and was relatively quiet in the passing game. James Vandenberg completed 17-of-34 passes for 169 yards, but did not have a touchdown pass for the first time in five games.  Marvin McNutt, Jr. led the Iowa receivers with four catches for 73 yards and currently ranks 28th in the nation with 97.2 receiving yards per outing.  Marcus Coker, who is sixth in the league with 90.8 rushing yards each time out, led the ground game last week with 18 attempts for 74 yards.  The Wildcats defense has struggled to find momentum this season.  NU has given up 27.8 points per game, which ranks 11th in the league, and is 12th in both total defense (439.4) and defending the pass (263.8).  Northwestern allowed 28 unanswered points in the second half to Michigan last week, but shined in the first half by picking off three passes from Denard Robinson.  Jordan Mabin led the NU defense with 12 tackles, while David Nwabuisi added 11 and Bryce McNaul had 10. Ibraheim Campbell had two interceptions and nine tackles.  On the year, McNaul and Nwabuisi are tied for seventh in the conference with 8.2 stops per outing, while Campbell followed in 10th with 7.6 hits each time out.