Big Ten Football Preview: Week 8

Oct. 22, 2009


(1-5, 0-4 Big Ten)

Illinois at Purdue
Saturday, Oct. 24, 2009 • Noon ET • West Lafayette, Ind. • Ross-Ade Stadium (62,500)
ESPN2 • Announcers: Pam Ward, Ray Bentley

Series: Illinois leads 41-37-6 • Last Meeting: Nov. 11, 2006: Purdue 42, Illinois 31

(2-5, 1-2 Big Ten)

For the first time since 2006, Illinois and Purdue will meet for the battle of the Cannon.  The Illini lead the all-time series 41-37-6, but the Boilermakers own a 29-25-2 advantage since the two teams started playing for the Cannon in 1943.  In West Lafayette, the series is deadlocked at 19-19.  The Boilers have won the last four meetings, including a 42-31 win in 2006 in Champaign and a 37-3 win in 2005, the last time the Illini traveled to West Lafayette.

Illinois is averaging 16.5 points, 170.5 rushing yards and 188.0 passing yards per game this season.  Quarterback Juice Williams is expected to see the majority of the snaps on Saturday, which could bring back memories of when he rushed for 145 yards against the Boilers as a true freshman, breaking both the single-season and career records for rushing yards by an Illini quarterback.  This year Williams ranks just ninth in total offense (187.5) and 10th in league passing (147.7).  The offensive line has struggled in the trenches this season, allowing a conference-high 19 sacks.  In last year’s win, the Boilers allowed just 95 yards passing to Williams, as he completed only 8 of 29 attempts.  But they must stop the run this year as the Illini average 170.5 yards per game.  Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week Ryan Kerrigan recorded three sacks in the win over Ohio State last week and moved his conference-high total to seven.  As a team Purdue has posted 18 sacks on the season but boasts a minus-7 turnover margin.  The Boilermakers rank eighth in the conference in total defense (366.4) and last in scoring defense (28.7).

Purdue’s offense is fourth in the Big Ten in total yards (403.1), second in passing (267.3) and seventh in rushing (135.9).  QB Joey Elliott completed 31-of-55 last week, both of which were career highs, and posted 281 yards and two scores.  Keith Smith tied the school record for consecutive games with 100 or more yards receiving by finishing with a career-high-tying 12 receptions for 125 yards.  The Illini defense is allowing averages of 28.3 points, 179.5 rushing yards and 241.3 passing yards per game this year.  And while Purdue ranks last in the conference in turnover margin, Illinois is 10th with a minus-4 mark.  Linebacker Ian Thomas and Tavon Wilson are the team's leading tacklers with 43 total stops – an average of 7.2 per game.


(4-3, 2-2 Big Ten)

Minnesota at No. 19 Ohio State
Saturday, Oct. 24, 2009 • Noon ET • Columbus, Ohio • Ohio Stadium (102,329)
ESPN • Announcers: Dave Pasch, Bob Griese, Chris Spielman

Series: Ohio State leads 41-7 • Last Meeting: Sept. 27, 2008: Ohio State 34, Minnesota 21

(5-2, 3-1 Big Ten)

Ohio State returns home after a disappointing road loss at Purdue and now faces a Minnesota ballclub that trails 41-7 in the all-time series between the two teams.  OSU is 21-3 against the Golden Gophers in Columbus and has won the last six games in the series, including a 34-21 victory last season.  During the Jim Tressel era, Ohio State has responded to a loss by winning its next contest on 18 of 20 occasions.

Minnesota, which is coming off a 20-0 loss to Penn State last week, has struggled to find a consistent offense this season, although it boasts one of the most talented wide receivers in the country. Senior wide receiver and Biletnikoff candidate Eric Decker leads the Big Ten and ranks 10th nationally with 104.4 yards receiving per game. He has 47 catches for 731 yards and five touchdowns on the season and averages a league-best 15.6 yards per catch. Junior quarterback Adam Weber averages 189.3 yards through the air.  But in last week’s loss in State College, Minnesota mustered only 138 total yards – its lowest offensive output of the season – and had five drives that resulted in less than 10 yards. Weber finished 10-of-22 for 101 yards, with Decker catching one pass for 42 yards.  The Gophers’ leading rusher was Kevin Whaley, who totaled just 11 yards on six carries.  On defense, Ohio State is second in the league in scoring (14.0), rushing (87.9) and total yards (284.6) and third in passing (196.7).  Brian Rolle is sixth in the league with 8.7 tackles per game while teammate Kurt Coleman is 10th at 8.0 stops per outing.

Last week Purdue limited the Buckeyes to just 12 first downs in the game as the OSU offense continued to struggle.  Ohio State is 10th in the conference with 331.0 yards of total offense and QB Terrelle Pryor has been a focus in Buckeye land throughout the week.  But the talented sophomore seems poised as ever entering the weekend, looking to improve on last week’s performance where he was 17-of-31 passing for 221 yards.  He threw two interceptions that added to five total OSU turnovers on the day.  Pryor needs just two yards to eclipse 1,000 for his career and Brandon Saine, who has yet to find the end zone this season, is averaging 54.4 yards on the ground. DeVier Posey hauled in a career-high nine catches for 87 yards and one touchdown in last week’s loss and currently rates eighth in the league with 4.29 catches per game.  Minnesota is 10th overall in Big Ten defense, allowing 393.0 yards per game, including 164.7 on the ground, which also ranks 10th.  However, seniors Lee Campbell (77) and Nate Triplett (70) rank first and second in the Big Ten in tackles, respectively.  In last week’s loss to Penn State, Campbell recorded a game-high 13 tackles and picked up a team-best 1.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage.  In addition, Triplett has posted two interceptions on the year as well.


(4-3, 1-2 Big Ten)

Indiana at Northwestern
Saturday, Oct. 24, 2009 • 11 a.m. CT • Evanston, Ill. • Ryan Field (47,130)
Big Ten Network • Announcers: Ari Wolfe, Mark Campbell, Mike Hall

Series: Northwestern leads 42-34-1 • Last Meeting: Oct. 25, 2008: Indiana 21, Northwestern 19

(4-3, 1-2 Big Ten)

The last five games between Indiana and Northwestern have been decided by six points or less with two extending into overtime.  The Wildcats have a 42-34-1 advantage over the Hoosiers, but the Cream and Crimson surprised No. 22 Northwestern in Bloomington last season, 21-19.  NU earned a 31-28 win the last time the teams faced off in Evanston in 2007 and has held the Hoosiers winless on Ryan Field since 1993.

Indiana comes to Chicagoland this weekend with a renewed offense – one that is coming off an impressive 27-14 victory over Illinois after posting just seven points in a road loss at Virginia the week before.  The Hoosiers are paced by quarterback Ben Chappell, this week's Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Week, and wideouts Tandon Doss (6.9 rpg, 96.6 ypg) and Damario Belcher (4.6 rpg, 54.1 ypg). Chappell threw for a career-high 333 yards and three TD's in the win over the Illini and sits third in the Big Ten with 237.7 yards per game and fourth in completion percentage (63.4) and total offense (230.4).  Last Saturday Doss hauled in a career-high 130 yards and a score and Damarlo Belcher added 91 yards and a TD.  On the year the receiving pair has combined for 80 catches, 1,055 yards and four TD's. Quentin Davie leads a Northwestern defense that has allowed 23.0 points, 115.7 rushing yards, 227.1 passing yards and 342.9 total yards per game. The junior linebacker sits atop the team with 53 tackles, 29 solos, four sacks, seven tackles for loss and three forced fumbles to go along with one fumble recovery. Senior cornerback Sherrick McManis has collected a team-best three interceptions and junior middle linebacker Nate Williams is second on the team with 49 tackles. He also has 3.5 tackles for loss and one interception.  The Wildcats, who gave up 24 unanswered points to Michigan State last week, are second in the Big Ten in turnover margin (+4), tied for second in fumble recoveries (8), third in INTs (10) and share third in sacks (19).

On offense, Northwestern is averaging 27.0 points, 381.0 total yards, 116.6 rushing yards and 264.4 passing yards per contest, which ranks third in Big Ten.  Senior quarterback Mike Kafka rates second in the league with 250.7 yards per game and paces all Big Ten signal callers with a 67.8 completion percentage. He has thrown seven touchdowns and just four interceptions to go along with four scores on the ground.  In last week’s loss to the Spartans, Kafka completed 34-of-47 passes for 291 yards and two TD's, while Zeke Markshausen is coming off a 16-catch, 111-yard performance.  The senior leads the team and is second in the conference with 50 receptions for 459 yards and one touchdown. Defensively, Jammie Kirlew leads IU with 12.5 TFL's (5.5 sacks) and five forced fumbles, two of which came in last week’s win and were coupled with nine tackles.  Lienbacker Matt Mayberry added a career-high 14 tackles, 12 solos, while Austin Thomas and Tyler Replogle each added 10 stops.  Overall, IU boasts a plus-3 edge in turnover margin, which is third in the Big Ten, and is 3-1 this season when winning the turnover battle.


(6-1, 2-1 Big Ten)

No. 13 Penn State at Michigan
Saturday, Oct. 24, 2009 • 3:30 p.m. ET • Ann Arbor, Mich. • Michigan Stadium (106,201)
ABC • Announcers: Sean McDonough, Matt Millen, Holly Rowe

Series: Michigan leads 10-4 • Last Meeting: Oct. 18, 2008: Penn State 46, Michigan 17

(5-2, 1-2 Big Ten)

Penn State and Michigan will meet for the 15th time on Saturday with the Wolverines holding an impressive 10-4 advantage overall.  The Nittany Lions captured last year’s meeting in a 46-17 rout, but the final score was a bit deceiving.  Michigan owned a 17-14 lead at halftime.  The four clashes prior to 2008 were decided by a combined 17 points and all by seven points or less.  PSU has not won at the Big House since 1996.

Since dropping its lone loss of the season to Iowa back on Sept. 26, the Nittany Lions have responded with three straight wins by a combined score of 107-20, including a 20-0 shutout over Minnesota last week.  In that game, Penn State posted 464 yards of total offense, which is remarkably below the impressive 510.0 yards-per-game average the Nittany Lions have posted in the past three weeks.  Overall, Penn State rates first in the Big Ten in total offense (432.7), second in rushing (187.0) and scoring (29.6) and fourth in passing (245.7).  QB Daryll Clark throws for 236.3 yards per game and has tossed the second-most TDs (13) in the conference this season.  Tailback Evan Royster, who rushed 18 times for 174 yards and a score against Michigan last year, is totaling 91.6 yards on the ground each game – third-best in the league.  Wideout Derek Moye is fifth with 67.4 receiving yards per game, but first with an impressive 17.5 yards-per-catch average.  Last week against the Gophers he caught six passes for 120 yards and a touchdown.  The Wolverines are allowing 363.3 total yards per game, with 232.9 of those coming in the air.  U-M has accumulated just 11 takeaways this season, which is the league’s third-lowest total, and enters the weekend with a minus-3 turnover margin.  Obi Ezeh leads the team with 7.9 tackles per game, while Brandon Graham has 5.0 sacks and 12.0 TFLs on the year.

Michigan had no problem getting by Delaware State last week, posting a school-record 727 yards of offense - 461 on the ground – in a 63-6 victory.  The Wolverines improved their scoring offense to ninth in the country at 37.3 points per game, while the rushing offense improved its clip to 235.0 yards per outing, which ranks eighth nationally.  While Michigan is undefeated in five games at the Big House this year, the wins against Indiana (36-33) and Notre Dame (38-34) needed last-minute heroics.  Might the Wolverines need some more on Saturday or have they found their stride on offense after last week’s dominant performance?  As expected, Denard Robinson played most of the Delaware State game at QB while Tate Forcier and tailbacks Carlos Brown and Brandon Minor tried to get healthy.  All three are expected back in the lineup to battle the Nittany Lions.  Forcier might have to be back to full strength because Robinson’s ground game might not be suitable against a Penn State rush defense that is sixth in the country with 75.4 yards allowed each game.  On the scoreboard, PSU is only giving up 8.7 points per outing, which is tied with Florida for the nation’s best mark.  Should the Michigan offense get into the red zone Saturday, it must improve on its 22-of-28 scoring ability because the Nitany Lions have allowed only eight scores on 13 attempts and only four of those successes were touchdowns.  Josh Hull is fourth in the conference with 9.7 tackles per game and Jack Crawford owns 4.5 sacks and 9.0 tackles for loss on the campaign.


(7-0, 3-0 Big Ten)

No. 6 Iowa at Michigan State
Saturday, Oct. 24, 2009 • 7 p.m. ET • East Lansing, Mich. • Spartan Stadium (75,005)
Big Ten Network • Announcers: Wayne Larrivee, Chris Martin, Lisa Byington

Series: Iowa leads 20-18-2 • Last Meeting: Oct. 4, 2008: Michigan State 16, Iowa 13

(4-3, 3-1 Big Ten)

Saturday will be the 41st meeting between Iowa and Michigan State with the Hawkeyes holding a slim 20-18-2 advantage.  Iowa has captured seven of the last 11 meetings, with the four losses coming at East Lansing. The Spartans hold a 10-8-1 advantage in games played at East Lansing and the home team has won the last nine meetings in the series. Iowa has opened the season with seven straight wins for the first time since 1985 and is 3-0 in conference play for the first time since 2002.

The Iowa offense struggled to fire early on last week at Wisconsin, but managed to respond with the game’s final 20 points to earn the 20-10 win over the Badgers.  QB Rickey Stanzi was outstanding in the second half, completing 11-of-13 in the final 30 minutes to finish 17-of-23 on the day for 218 yards and a TD. Derrell Johnson-Koulianos led all receivers with a career-high eight catches for 113 yards, while tight end Tony Moeaki added 55 yards on three receptions.  On the ground, Adam Robinson gained 91 yards on 20 attempts.  Iowa is only ninth in the Big Ten in total offense (351.6) and ninth in rushing (120.9) as well.  In Michigan State’s 24-14 comeback win over Northwestern, MSU allowed nearly 300 yards in the air, but kept Northwestern in check on the ground as the Wildcats mustered only 79 rushing yards.  Eric Gordon led the Spartan defense with 15 tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss, while Greg Jones added 14 stops to bring the nation’s second-best tackle average to 12.1.  Currently, Michigan State ranks fourth in the conference in scoring defense (21.6) and third against the rush (99.0), but only rates ninth when defending the pass (235.9).

Kirk Cousins continues to impress the Spartan faithful under center, throwing for 286 yards last week on 21-of-31 passing.  MSU paces the Big Ten with 280.4 passing yards per game and owns a league-best 8.5 yards-per-catch average as well as a conference-low seven interceptions.  The Spartans are third in scoring offense (29.3) and own the Big Ten’s best pass efficiency rating of 146.3.  Iowa, however, ranks first in the conference in pass defense efficiency with an 88.7 rating.  The Hawkeye secondary has kept opposing quarterbacks under 50 percent passing on the season and boasts the nation’s best interception total of 15.  Iowa has collected 22 turnovers in seven games and has lapped the league a few times with a pus-11 turnover margin.  Northwestern rates second at plus-4.  Last week in Madison, the Hawkeyes came up with three picks and allowed Wisconsin just 58 yards total offense in the second half, including negative two rushing yards.  On the day, Wisconsin converted just three of 12 third downs.  Linebacker Pat Angerer led the team with nine tackles and DE Adrian Clayborn had two of Iowa's seven tackles for loss.  Tyler Sash (5) and Brett Greenwood (3) pace the conference in interceptions, while Angerer is fifth in the Big Ten with 9.7 tackles per game.