Big Ten Football Preview: Week 8

Oct. 22, 2010


(4-2, 0-2 Big Ten)

Indiana at Illinois
Saturday, Oct. 23, 2010 • 11 a.m. CT • Champaign, Ill. • Memorial Stadium (62,870)
Big Ten Network • Announcers: Tom Hart, Anthony Herron, Lisa Byington 
Series: Illinois leads 43-21-3 • Last Meeting: Oct. 17, 2009: Indiana 27, Illinois 14

(3-3, 1-2 Big Ten)

While Indiana outlasted Arkansas State 36-34 in its 98th Homecoming game last week, Illinois will look to take down the Hoosiers in their 100th annual Homecoming contest on Saturday.  The Fighting Illini are hoping to bounce back from a 26-6 loss at No. 13/11 Michigan State last week and even their Big Ten record at 2-2.  IU fell to both Michigan and Ohio State in its conference openers and hopes the first league win of the season will come against its rival neighbor. Indiana has won three of the last five meetings between the two teams, including a 27-14 victory in Bloomington last season. Illinois leads the overall series, 43-22-2, including a 28-8-1 home mark. The last time the two teams met in Champaign, the Illini earned a 55-13 victory in 2008.
How well with the Illinois pass defense deal with Indiana standout Ben Chappell and the Hoosiers’ potent offense?  That is the question to answer Saturday as IU ranks fifth nationally in passing offense (319.3), 27th in scoring offense (34.1), and 28th in passing efficiency (149.9).  Chappell is fourth in passing yards (309.7), fifth in completions (26.3), sixth in touchdown-interception ratio (16 TDs, 3 INT), eighth in total passing yards (1,858), 12th in total offense (305.0), and 19th in passing efficiency (156.9).  His primary targets are Tandon Doss, Damarlo Belcher and Terrance Turner.  Doss ranks first nationally in all-purpose yards (202.0), shares 18th in receptions (6.4) and ranks 22nd in receiving yards (87.6).  Belcher is tied for 13th in catches (6.8) and 27th in receiving yards (85.0), and Turner shares 43rd in receptions (5.3). Trea Burgess is coming off his first career 100-yard game on the ground with 102 yards on 19 carries.  Defensively, Illinois is allowing 18.5 points (24th nationally), 113.0 rushing yards (23rd), 190.0 passing yards (35th) and 303.0 total yards per game (20th). The Illini have recorded three interceptions and recovered three fumbles to go along with 13 sacks.  They have held their opposition to under 100 yards rushing four times in six games this season and allowed just eight touchdowns on 23 opponent trips inside the 20 (34.8 percent), a clip which is fifth-best in the country.  Junior linebacker Martez Wilson sits atop the team with 52 tackles, which ranks fourth in the Big Ten, in addition to two sacks, 5.5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble. Junior Trulon Henry has a pair of interceptions with 34 tackles, while junior defensive tackle Corey Liuget has 29 stops, two sacks and team highs in TFLs (6.0) and QB hurries (4).

On offense, Illinois is averaging 21.3 points, 200.3 rushing yards, 136.3 passing yards and 336.7 total yards per game. Mikel Leshoure, who ranks 14th in the country with 113.3 rushing yards per contest, leads an Illini rushing attack that ranks 29th nationally. The junior is averaging 5.4 yards per carry and has three touchdowns while topping the 100-yard mark four times this season.  Nathan Scheelhaase has thrown for 781 yards and rushed for 288. The dual-threat redshirt freshman QB has completed 58.4 percent with four TDs and seven interceptions to go along with 4.4 yards per carry and two rushing scores.  Senior Jarred Fayson leads the team with 25 receptions and is second with 206 yards, while junior A.J. Jenkins has 24 catches and team highs with 346 yards, 14.4 yards per catch and three touchdowns.  Indiana is 10th in the conference in scoring defense (28.7), as well as defending both the run (169.8) and the pass (230.8).  The Hoosiers rate ninth overall with 400.7 total yards allowed each time out.  Mitchell Evans has three interceptions in six games and is the team’s fourth-leading tackler at 5.0 stops per outing.  Leading the IU defenders are Tyler Replogle (8.2), Leon Beckum (6.0) and Jeff Thomas (5.5).



(7-0, 3-0 Big Ten)

No. 7 Michigan State at Northwestern
Saturday, Oct. 23, 2010 • 11 a.m. CT • Evanston, Ill. • Ryan Field (47,130)
ESPN • Announcers: Dave Pasch, Bob Griese, Chris Spielman, Quent Kessenich
Series: MSU leads, 34-16 • Last Meeting: Oct. 17, 2009: MSU 24, NU 14

(5-1, 1-1 Big Ten)

With a 7-0 record for the first time since 1966, Michigan State travels to Northwestern with hopes off its third straight win over the Wildcats.  The Spartans lead the overall series 34-16 and are 16-10 in games played in Evanston.  Until last season, the visiting team had dominated this series with the visitor winning four straight games from 2005-08.  MSU ended the visitor domination by winning 24-14 at Spartan Stadium in 2009, marking the first time the home team had won since 2002.  Prior to its 20-17 loss to Purdue on Oct. 9, Northwestern had won eight consecutive regular-season games, its longest regular-season winning streak since 1995.  NU has shown impressive work on the road this season, but how will the Wildcats respond following the loss at home and last week’s bye?

The Wildcats will have to start by first containing a Spartan offense that is looking to regain its momentum after being held to under 30 points for the first time this season and limited to season lows in total yards (294) and rushing yards (93) last week against Illinois.  Quarterback Kirk Cousins just managed to eclipse 200 passing yards in the game, marking the fifth straight week he accomplished the feat.  Cousins was 13-of-24 passing for 201 yards and completed throws to seven different receivers.  MSU presents a fairly balanced offensive attack, ranking fourth in the conference in rushing (206.1) and fifth in passing (241.4).  Edwin Baker (100.9) and Le'Veon Bell (80.3) rank fifth and sixth, respectively, among Big Ten rushers, while Mark Dell is ninth overall in the passing game with 58.7 receiving yards per outing.  Northwestern ranks just eighth in total defense (356.8) in the conference and has been fairly balanced as well, rating seventh in the league in defending the run (140.5) and eighth against the pass (216.3).  NU boasts an impressive plus-5 turnover margin and has picked off 10 passes this season, which is second in the Big Ten.  Safety David Arnold, who was playing in just his second game after sitting out the first four contests with a foot injury, notched the Wildcats’ 10th interception last week, while Quentin Davie paces the league with three picks on the year.  Brian Peters is the Wildcats’ top tackler with 7.3 stops per game – a figure that ranks ninth in the conference.  Vince Browne is second in the Big Ten with 5.0 sacks and tied for third with 8.0 tackles for loss on the campaign.

With Northwestern on offense, Saturday’s matchup will feature one of the country’s most consistent and accurate quarterbacks against a Spartan unit that has already eclipsed its turnover total from last year.  Midway through the season, NU junior Dan Persa continues to lead all Division I quarterbacks with a 78.0 completion percentage and is fourth nationally and second among Big Ten signal callers with a 173.3 pass efficiency rating.  However, the MSU defense is coming off a four-takeaway game and has 18 on the year – four more than its 2009 total of 14.  Twelve of those 18 takeaways have come via interceptions and the Spartans have notched three picks in each of their last two games.  The secondary will likely be focused on NU wideout Jeremy Ebert, who is coming off career highs for both receptions (11) and receiving yards (124). He leads Northwestern in receptions (35), receiving yards (560), yards per reception average (16.0) and TD receptions (5), while leading all Big Ten players in receiving yards per game (93.3).  Drake Dunsmore (22), Sidney Stewart (20) and Demetrius Fields (16) are Northwestern’s other wideouts with 15 or more catches this season.  As a team, NU posts 27.7 points, 282.3 passing, 143.3 rushing and 425.7 total yards per game.  By comparison, Michigan State allows 16.6 points, 213.3 passing, 111.7 rushing and 325.0 total yards each time out.  Last week strong safety Marcus Hyde and cornerback Johnny Adams came up with interceptions for the second-straight game, while Greg Jones notched a season-high 14 stops against the Illini.  Jones is fifth in the conference with 8.6 tackles per contest, while Hyde (6.7), Marcus Rucker (6.7), Eric Gordon (6.6) and Trenton Robinson (6.6) all rate among the league’s top-20 tacklers.


(3-3, 0-2 Big Ten)

Penn State at Minnesota
Saturday, Oct. 23, 2010 • 11 a.m. CT • Minneapolis, Minn. • TCF Bank Stadium (50,805)
ESPNU • Announcers: Rob Stone, David Pollack 
Series: Penn State leads, 7-4 • Last meeting: Oct. 17, 2009: Penn State 20, Minnesota 0

(1-6, 0-3 Big Ten)

When Penn State and Minnesota square off on the gridiron Saturday, both teams will be looking for their first Big Ten victory.  For the Nittany Lions, the past two games have resulted in both a struggling offense and defense in losses at Iowa (24-3) and home against Illinois (33-13).  For the Golden Gophers, the entire season had become a struggle, which prompted athletics director Joel Maturi to make a change in leadership last week by dismissing head coach Tim Brewster following a 28-17 loss at Purdue.  So when Joe Paterno visits his 65th different football stadium Saturday just three wins shy of No. 400, he’ll do so across the field from Minnesota’s interim head coach Jeff Horton.  The Nittany Lions lead the battle for the Governors' Victory Bell, 7-4, in a series that has been dominated by one team in spurts. Minnesota lost the first four games of the series, before winning the next four. The Nittany Lions have won the last three, including last year’s 20-0 shutout in State College.

Penn State’s offense ranks eighth in the conference in passing (209.2), 10th in rushing (126.0), and 11th in scoring (18.2) and total yards (335.2).  The Nittany Lions have scored just nine touchdowns on the season, which is nearly one-fourth of the total league-leader Michigan has scored.  Tailback Evan Royster is averaging 64.7 rushing yards this year and has found the end zone just once on the ground.  Look for Penn State to get Royster involved in the running game early against a Minnesota rush defense that has given up 18 scores on the year and 201.1 rushing yards each time out.  One of the more intriguing aspects to this game will be in the red zone.  Penn State has scored 14 times in 20 trips inside the 20, including just six touchdowns.  Minnesota’s red zone defense ranks 10th in the league, having allowed scores on 23-of-25 trips this year, including 19 touchdowns.  The Gophers have recorded just three sacks on the year and Penn State has given up just five.  Still expect Minnesota to chase freshman QB Rob Bolden, who averages 196.2 passing yards per game, but has also thrown seven picks to just four TDs this season.  The Gophers are led defensively by Gary Tinsley.  He has now reached double digits in tackles four times in seven games this season, including 10 stops at Purdue last week.  Tinsley ranks eighth in the conference with 8.0 tackles per contest while teammate Jewhan Edwards has 8.0 TFLs on the campaign.

Throughout his career in Minneapolis, quarterback Adam Weber has rewritten the Golden Gophers records book.  With 100 yards passing on Saturday, Weber will find his way into some impressive company among the Big Ten’s all-time signal callers.  Eclipsing the century mark would mean Weber has become the fifth Big Ten passer to throw for 10,000 career yards, joining the likes of Iowa’s Chuck Long (10,461), Northwestern’s Brett Basanez (10,580), Purdue’s Curtis Painter (11,163) and Purdue’s Drew Brees (11.792).  Penn State ranks second in the conference in pass defense (169.3) and is the only league squad to allow fewer than 100 completions on the year.  Overall, the Nittany Lions give up 314.8 yards per game and are led by Chris Colasanti, who paces the conference with 9.8 tackles per game. Michael Mauti has 6.0 stops per contest and Drew Astorino is at 5.5.  PSU has been bitten by the injury bug as of late.  Nick Sukay, who had picked off three passes and made 29 tackles on the year, suffered a torn pectoral muscle against Illinois and is out for the remainder of the season. At least 13 players who would be first- or second-stringers on the depth chart have missed time due to injuries this year.


(4-2, 2-0 Big Ten)

Purdue at No. 10 Ohio State
Saturday, Oct. 23, 2010 • Noon ET • Columbus, Ohio • Ohio Stadium (102,329)
Big Ten Network • Announcers: Eric Collins, Chris Martin, Charissa Thompson 
Series: Ohio State leads, 37-13-2 • Last meeting: Oct. 17, 2009: Purdue 26, Ohio State 18

(6-1, 2-1 Big Ten)

Dating to last year, Purdue has won three straight Big Ten road games and is eyeing a fourth when it travels to Ohio State on Saturday.  Last year the 1-5 Boilers shocked the collegiate football world with a 26-18 upset of the seventh-ranked Buckeyes at Ross-Ade Stadium. Purdue, which had lost five straight games, defeated a ranked opponent for the first time since 2003 and snapped Ohio State's Big Ten road win streak at 16 straight, one shy of the conference record.  Now the Boilermakers are looking for a repeat performance, which will give them three consecutive Big Ten wins for the first time since 2006 and their first 3-0 in the league for the first time since 2003.  OSU, which leads the all-time series 37-13-2, including a 24-5-2 mark in Columbus, will look for its 65th Homecoming victory in 89 annual contests.  Purdue has not won in Columbus since 1988. 

In response to all the crippling injuries Purdue has sustained this season, the Boilermakers continue to surge forward under the direction of redshirt freshman quarterback Rob Henry.  In last week’s win over Minnesota, Henry became the first Boilermaker to rush for at least three touchdowns in a game this season, carrying the ball 17 times for 57 yards and three scores.  He completed 13-of-20 passes for 163 yards and a touchdown, which went to Antavian Edison who ended the game with career bests in receptions (5) and yards (64).  Senior Dan Dierking finished with 12 carries for a career-high 126 yards, good for his second 100-yard game of the season.  On the season, the Boilermakers are fifth in the conference in rushing (202.3), ninth in scoring (22.5) and total offense (361.5), and 10th in passing (159.2).  Henry and Dierking head into Columbus with hopes of guiding the Boilermakers to their sixth straight contest of at least 200 rushing yards.  They will likely have solid protection to do just that, as the offensive line has proven strong in the trenches of late, going back-to-back games without allowing a sack to the opposition.  Ohio State has “only” recorded eight sacks on the year – good for eighth in the Big Ten – but continues to boast one of the nation’s top defenses, allowing just 251.1 yards per game.  OSU should be ready for Boilermaker running game as the Buckeyes give up 93.7 yards per game, which ranks second in the conference. Prior to last week’s loss at Wisconsin, when the Buckeyes allowed John Clay to run for 104 yards, OSU had gone 29 games without allowing a 100-yard rusher.  Ohio State, who is led by Ross Homan with 5.9 tackles per game, is sixth nationally in turnover margin (+1.43) with 18 forced turnovers in 2010.

In last week’s upset over the top-ranked Buckeyes, Wisconsin held quarterback Terrelle Pryor in check, as he passed for 14-of-28 for 156 yards, while rushing for just 56 yards.  Those 212 yards were well under Pryor’s total offense average of 273.6, which rates fourth-best in the Big Ten.  He was sacked three times in the loss, something that has the attention of the Boilers, who pace the conference with 18 sacks.  Ohio State ranks 10th in the league with 16 sacks allowed on the year.  The Buckeyes were led last week by the usual suspects in Dan “Boom” Herron on the ground and Dane Sanzenbacher in the air.  Herron, who finished with 92 yards on 20 attempts, has scored a touchdown in six straight games, while Sanzenbacher ended the game with 94 yards on six receptions.  On the season, Herron ranks ninth in the Big Ten in rushing (63.7) and Sanzenbacher is fourth in receiving (72.1).  In last year’s win over OSU, the Boilers limited the Buckeyes to 287 yards of total offense and only 12 first downs.  Ryan Kerrigan, who once again is dominating opponents off the line, stole the show in 2009 with nine total tackles, including four for losses with three sacks, two fumbles forced and one recovered.  Kerrigan enters Saturday first among conference defenders in sacks (5.5), tackles for loss (14.0), and fumbles forced (3), as well as 12th with 6.8 stops per game. Sophomore defensive tackle Kawann Short was impressive in the win over Minnesota last week, breaking up a pass for the fifth straight game, while finishing with four tackles and pushing his sack count to 3.5 for 13 yards.  This year Purdue, which gave up just 65 yards on the ground to the Golden Gophers last week, is allowing 20.3 points, 123.5 rushing, 220.8 passing, and 344.3 total yards each time out.


(6-1, 2-1 Big Ten)

No. 13 Wisconsin at No. 15 Iowa
Saturday, Oct. 23, 2010 • 2:30 p.m. CT • Iowa City, Iowa • Kinnick Stadium (70,585)
ABC • Announcers: Sean McDonough, Matt Millen, Heather Cox
Series: Iowa leads, 42-41-2 • Last Meeting: Oct. 17, 2009: Iowa 20, Wisconsin 10

(5-1, 2-0 Big Ten)

Saturday will be the 86th meeting between Iowa and Wisconsin and the seventh contest for the Heartland Trophy.  The Hawkeyes have the advantage in both series, owning a slight 42-41-2 lead all-time and a 4-2 mark since the Heartland Trophy was introduced prior to the 2004 meeting. Iowa has won the last two meetings and six of the last eight, while posting a 24-15-1 record against Wisconsin in Iowa City, including a 38-16 victory in 2008.  The teams have split the last two games in Iowa City, however, with Wisconsin's last win being a 24-21 decision in 2006.

Wisconsin’s running game is ready for another stiff test against one of the nation’s top rushing defenses.  The Badgers stepped up last week in the upset win over No. 1 Ohio State, penetrating the Buckeyes’ tough rush defense fro 184 yards on the ground.  Now the Badgers’ rushing attack that ranks 12th in the country at 232.7 yards per game faces an Iowa defense that is giving up 83.8 yards on the ground each time out.  Additionally, UW rates 16h in the nation in scoring offense (36.3), while the Hawkeyes are sixth in scoring defense (13.2).  John Clay (113.7) and James White (80.0) have combined for 20 touchdowns on the year and rank second and seventh among Big Ten rushers in yards per game, respectively.  And while the Wisconsin ground game has been consistent this year, so too has the passing attack under the direction of QB Scott Tolzien, who ranks 15th nationally in pass efficiency (159.29).   In last week’s big win over the Buckeyes, Tolzien completed 13-of-16 passing for 152 yards.  He boasts the second-highest completion rate (70.9) in the conference and ranks eighth with 193.3 passing yards per game.  Iowa is allowing 205.0 passing yards each time out and has racked up nine interceptions on the season. Shaun Prater and Micah Hyde each have a pair of picks on the season, while Jeremiha Hunter paces the Hawkeyes with 7.0 tackles per game.  Mike Daniels has 3.0 sacks and 8.0 tackles per game, both of which rank fifth in the Big Ten.

Like Wisconsin, Iowa is led by an efficient passing attack and a talented quarterback.  Ricky Stanzi is the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week after completing 17-of-24 passes for 248 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions in last week’s win at Michigan. Stanzi directed an Iowa offense that had no turnovers, improving his pass efficiency rating to 180.49, which leads the Big Ten and ranks third best in the nation.  In last year’s 20-10 win at Wisconsin, Stanzi completed 17-of-23 passes for 218 yards and a touchdown, while performing nearly flawlessly with 11-of-13 attempts in the second half.  In that same game, Adam Robinson gained 91 rushing yards on 20 attempts and Derrell Johnson-Koulianos led all receivers with eight catches for 113 yards.  This season Robinson ranks 20th nationally with 103.8 rushing yards per game, while Johnson-Koulianos is fifth in the conference at 67.3 receiving yards each time out and has scored a league-high seven TDs on the year.  As a team, Iowa posts 34.3 points, 166.0 rushing, 253.2 passing and 419.2 total yards per outing.  UW allows 308.7 total yards every Saturday – an average that rates fourth in the conference.  J.J. Watt has 4.9 tackles per game and has recorded 11.5 TFLs and 4.0 sacks this year.  In last week’s win over OSU, Blake Sorensen led the Badgers with 10 tackles and an interception.