Big Ten Football Preview: Week 9

Oct. 28, 2010


(4-3, 2-1 Big Ten)

Purdue at Illinois
Saturday, Oct. 30, 2010 • 11 a.m. CT • Champaign, Ill. • Memorial Stadium (62,870)
ESPN2 • Announcers: Dave Pasch, Bob Griese, Chris Spielman 
Series: Illinois leads 41-38-6 • Last Meeting: Oct. 24, 2009: Purdue 24, Illinois 14

(4-3, 2-2 Big Ten)

Despite taking the last five meetings against Illinois, Purdue heads into Champaign on Saturday playing catch up in the all-time series.  The Fighting Illini own a 41-38-6 advantage all-time, including a 22-18-2 record at home.  However, Saturday also marks the battle of the “Cannon” trophy, which Purdue has owned since 2003.  The Boilermakers hold a 30-25-2 record against the Illini in the trophy series that dates back to 1905.  Remarkably, Illinois head coach Ron Zook has captured wins over every other Big Ten team except for Purdue in his six seasons in Champaign.  Last year the Boilers earned a 24-14 victory over the Illini in West Lafayette.

Purdue saw its school-record-tying streak of consecutive games with 200 or more yards rushing snapped at five straight last week at Ohio State, and the chance to get back on track took another hit this week.  Although redshirt freshman quarterback Rob Henry led Purdue in rushing for the fourth time last Saturday, he was unable to finish the game after suffering a laceration to the index finger on his right hand.  Henry might still play against the Illini, but should he not be able to take a snap, that will mark three quarterbacks that have been sidelined this year for Purdue.  Look for true freshman Sean Robinson to see action as he replaced Henry last week and finished the final two quarters 6-of-10 passing for 30 yards.  Purdue will look for leadership in the backfield with Dan Dierking, who rates 10th in league rushing at 58.8 yards per game.  The Boilers are averaging 177.7 of their 326.7 total yards on the ground.  Last year against the Illini, Purdue teamed up to account for 211 rushing yards on a combined 36 carries (5.9 ypc).  Illinois, however, has been impressive defending the run this year, holding its opposition to under 100 yards rushing four times in seven games. Illinois currently ranks 15th nationally in points allowed (17.7), 19th in rushing yards allowed (112.4) and 23rd in total defense (315.1). Junior linebacker Martez Wilson ranks in second in the Big Ten in tackles per game (9.1) and also ranks second on the team in tackles for loss (5.5) and sacks (2.0). Wilson has led the Illini in hits in four of the last five games, posting 11 stops against Northern Illinois, nine against Ohio State and 12 each in the wins at Penn State and versus Indiana.  In the win over the Hoosiers last week, Illinois intercepted three passes and return two for scores.

The Illini enter the weekend ranked fourth in the conference in rushing (195.4), eighth in scoring (24.4), 10th in total yards (329.9) and 11th in passing (134.4).  Zook is looking for a better performance out of his offense this week as both the rushing and passing game struggled in what was otherwise a dominant victory last week.  Illinois was out-gained 388-289 and held to just 14 first downs. Redshirt-freshman QB Nathan Scheelhaase was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week for the third time this season for his efforts in the win.  Scheelhaase was 13-of-21 for 123 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions and also rushed six times for 45 yards (7.5 ypc).  Mikel Leshoure was held to just 77 yards on the ground after posting six additional 100-yard rushing games since setting what was then a career-high of 122 yards last year at Purdue.  The Boilermakers will need to contain the Illini rushing attack and improve on its middle-of-the-pack average of 132.1 rushing yards allowed in the conference this year.  Ryan Kerrigan continues to be the stud on this Boiler defense, as he improved his career sack total 27.5 and his tackle for loss total to 47.5 last week at Ohio State.  For the season Kerrigan has 6.5 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss and has helped the squad to league-leading totals of 20 sacks and 53 TFLs in 2010.  In the loss to the Buckeyes, Logan Link tied his career high with seven tackles in the first quarter alone and then finished along with Dwayne Beckford with a season-high 13 total tackles.  Purdue hopes for another effective pass rush this time out as the Boilers sacked Illinois three times and posted nine tackles for loss last year.


(5-2, 1-2 Big Ten)

Northwestern at Indiana
Saturday, Oct. 30, 2010 • Noon ET • Bloomington, Ind. • Memorial Stadium (52,929)
Big Ten Network • Announcers: Eric Collins, Chris Martin, Charissa Thompson
Series: Northwestern leads, 43-34-1 • Last Meeting: Oct. 24, 2009: Northwestern 29, Indiana 28

(4-3, 0-3 Big Ten)

Even with a noon kickoff time, Big Ten fans should expect plenty of fireworks when Northwestern takes on Indiana.  Recent history has shown that when the Wildcats and Hoosiers tangle, every game seems to come down to the wire. The last six games between the two teams have been decided by seven points or less, with two contests extending to overtime.  Northwestern leads the all-time series, 43-34-1, but Indiana holds an 18-17 edge at Memorial Stadium. IU upset the No. 22 Wildcats in the last meeting in Bloomington, 21-19, on Oct. 25, 2008.  However, it was the last meeting in the series that emotionally upset the Hoosiers as Northwestern rebounded from a 28-3 deficit to score 26 unanswered points and seal a school-record comeback at Ryan Field last year.  After having won eight regular-season contests in succession, Northwestern has lost back-to-back games for just the second time in the past three years.  The promising news for NU is that it returns to the road where it has won five straight away from Evanston and a Big Ten-best 10 road games since 2008. With one more victory, Northwestern will become bowl-eligible for a fourth consecutive season.

The Wildcats are averaging 27.6 points, 147.1 rushing yards and 272.2 passing yards per game – second only to Big Ten leader Indiana. Quarterback Dan Persa is responsible for the majority of Northwestern’s 419.9 total yards per game, as he is tossing for 264.3 yards per outing and averaging 313.0 total yards per contest, which ranks fifth in the country.  He also leads the team with 341 rushing yards and six scores on the ground. Persa has been impressive with his accuracy this season, enough to where completing 62 percent of his 29 passes and throwing an interception in last week’s loss to Michigan State was an “off game.” On the season Persa is completing 75.7 percent of his passes to go along with 10 touchdowns and just three interceptions. He is eighth nationally with a 164.3 passing efficiency rating.  Jeremy Ebert leads all Wildcat receivers with 37 receptions, 580 yards and five touchdowns.  The junior paces the Big Ten in yards per game (82.9) and is tied for third in catches per game (5.3). Fifth-year senior Sidney Stewart has 26 grabs for 320 yards, while junior Drake Dunsmore has 22 receptions for 231 yards and three touchdowns.  Defensively, Indiana ranks eighth in the conference defending the pass (215.4), ninth in total yards allowed (384.7) and 10th in scoring (30.7) and against the run (169.3). Hoosier linebackers rank 1-2-3 on the team in tackles. Tyler Replogle leads the way with 50 stops (25 solos), followed by Jeff Thomas with 47 tackles (21 solos) and Leon Beckum with 39 hits (25 solos).  Beckum also leads the team and shares sixth in the league overall with three sacks to go along with a team-best five tackles for loss. Thomas, who had a career-high 13 tackles last week against Illinois, has an interception and 2.5 TFLs to his credit this year.

In that 2006 upset over Northwestern, Indiana’s Ben Chappell notched his first victory as a Hoosier quarterback.  He threw for 219 yards with one passing and one rushing touchdown, while wide receiver Tandon Doss collected his first career 100-yard game with 107 yards on eight receptions, including a score.  My how far they have come.  Chappell and Doss are now the leaders of a potent Hoosier offense that boasts the conference’s top passing attack.  Chappell paces the league with 305.3 passing yards per outing, while Doss is second with 6.00 receptions and third with 78.2 receiving yards per game.  In addition, Demarlo Belcher rates first (6.71) and second (81.3) in the conference in those respective categories, followed by Terrance Turner in third (5.29) and 11th (54.4). On the season, Ted Bolser has 16 catches for 271 yards, both IU freshman tight end records, to go along with his team-best five TDs and 16.9 yards per catch.  IU leads the league with 313.6 passing yards each time out and ranks sixth in scoring (31.1) and total yards (416.1), but last in rushing (102.6).  On the defensive side of the ball, Northwestern is surrendering 20.7 points, 135.4 rushing, 235.7 passing, and 371.1 total yards per game. The Wildcats have 10 interceptions, five fumble recoveries and 12 sacks on the season.  Disruptive senior defensive tackle Corbin Bryant has one sack, 4.5 tackles for loss, four quarterback hurries, one interception, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Fifth-year senior outside linebacker Quentin Davie has 31 tackles and three interceptions, while junior safety Brian Peters leads the team with 49 tackles followed by fifth-year senior middle linebacker Nate Williams with 44, including 5.5 tackles for loss. Junior defensive end Vince Browne paces the Wildcats with six sacks and nine TFLs.


(8-0, 4-0 Big Ten)

No. 5 Michigan State at No. 18 Iowa
Saturday, Oct. 30, 2010 • 2:30 p.m. CT • Iowa City, Iowa • Kinnick Stadium (70,585)
ABC • Announcers: Sean McDonough, Matt Millen, Heather Cox
Series: Iowa leads, 21-18-2 • Last Meeting: Oct. 24, 2009: Iowa 15, Michigan State 13

(5-2, 2-1 Big Ten)

Fifth-ranked Michigan State heads to No. 18 Iowa for a game that could end up having major Big Ten Championship implications.  A win Saturday for the Spartans would help them remain atop the conference standings, while a Hawkeye victory would jumble everything up and make for quite an exciting November in Big Ten Country. Iowa holds a 21-18-2 advantage in the series that began with a 21-7 Michigan State win in 1953. The Hawkeyes have won eight of the last 12 meetings, with none of those four losses coming in Iowa City.  Iowa also holds a 12-8-1 advantage in games played at home and has won the last six games in Kinnick Stadium.  MSU's last win in Kinnick Stadium came by a 17-14 margin in 1989, but the Spartans nearly won in a 34-27 double-overtime thriller the last time they visited Iowa.  And speaking of thrillers, last year Iowa captured a victory in East Lansing on the final play for a 15-13 victory that kept the Hawkeyes undefeated.

Michigan State’s offense enters the week with the Big Ten’s Offensive, co-Defensive, and Special Teams Players of the Week, marking the first time the Spartans have had players earn at least a share of all three weekly honors since the conference began honoring Players of the Week for offense, defense and special teams in 1994.  That’s just how solid the Spartans’ effort was last week after rallying from 17 points down to defeat Northwestern, 35-27.  Offensive honoree Kirk Cousins completed 29-of-43 throws for 331 yards and three touchdowns – all of which were career highs.  Cousins is fifth in the conference with 243.5 passing yards per game and has thrown 14 touchdowns to just four interceptions this season.  Mark Dell rates eighth in the Big Ten with 65.0 receiving yards per outing, while B.J. Cunningham is 10th with 4.12 receptions each time out.  Both receivers caught TD passes in last week’s win.  On the ground, Edwin Baker (97.4) and Le’Veon Bell (71.8) rank fifth and sixth in the league in rushing yards per game. As a team, MSU is third in the conference in passing (255.2) and total yards (448.8), fourth in scoring (34.5) and fifth in rushing (193.5).  The Hawkeyes, however, field one of the best defensive units in the country.  Iowa rates fifth nationally in turnover margin (+1.29), eighth against the rush (92.1), 11th in scoring defense (15.7) and 13th in total yards allowed (297.1).  Remarkably, over the past three seasons Iowa has only allowed three 100-yard rushers.  In last week’s loss to Wisconsin, junior DB Tyler Sash led the Hawkeye defense with a career-best 13 tackles and LB Tyler Nielsen added 10 stops, also a career best. Jeremiha Hunter leads Iowa on the year with 7.3 tackles per game, followed by Sash at 6.3.  Mike Daniels has 3.0 sacks and 8.0 TFLs through seven games this season.

On offense this season, Iowa has remained middle-of-the-pack among Big Ten teams.  The Hawkeyes rank fourth in passing (253.9), fifth in scoring (33.7) and seventh in rushing (159.1) and total yards (413.0).  Iowa has been consistent and deadly in the passing game though, rating third nationally in passing efficiency (172.93) and first in the Big Ten with 9.3 yards per completion.  Quarterback Ricky Stanzi continues to lead this ballclub and still put up impressive numbers despite the loss to Wisconsin.  Stanzi was 25-of-37 passing for 258 yards and three touchdowns.  In last year’s win over the Spartans, Stanzi completed just 11-of-27 passes for 138 yards and a score.  In that same game, Adam Robinson rushed 27 times for 109 yards, both of which were career bests at the time.  Now the 100-yard mark seems like a common occurrence for Robinson, who rushed for 114 yards on 23 attempts last week against the Badgers. Derrell Johnson-Koulianos is fifth in the league in receiving yards (71.0) and eighth in receptions (4.29), while teammate Marvin McNutt, who went for a game-high seven catches for 70 yards last week, rates 10th-best with 60.4 receiving yards per outing.  Defensively, Michigan State has also been holding its own this season, ranking ninth in the country in turnover margin (+1.13) and 18th in both scoring defense (17.9) and pass efficiency defense (108.28).  Sophomore defensive end Tyler Hoover garnered co-Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors after matching his career high with nine tackles, including a personal-best two sacks and a forced fumble at Northwestern.  Greg Jones joined Hoover with a team-high nine tackles and helped the Spartan defense rack up eight QB sacks and 10 tackles for loss against the Wildcats.  Jones is fifth in the conference with 8.6 stops per game, while Johnny Adams and Trenton Robinson each have three interceptions on the year.  As a team, Michigan State ranks fifth defending the rush (119.0), seventh against the pass (213.5), and sixth in total defense (332.5).


(5-2, 1-2 Big Ten)

Michigan at Penn State
Saturday, Oct. 30, 2010 • 8 p.m. ET • University Park, Pa. • Beaver Stadium (107,282)
ESPN • Announcers: Brad Nessler, Todd Blackledge, Holly Rowe 
Series: Michigan leads, 10-5 • Last Meeting: Oct. 24, 2009: Penn State 35, Michigan 10

(4-3, 1-2 Big Ten)

All signs point to Michigan this week even though the Wolverines head to Penn State for their latest Big Ten matchup.  U-M owns a 10-5 advantage in the series including an impressive 5-2 mark at Beaver Stadium. Penn State’s lone notable in the series is that it has won the last two meetings after Michigan claimed the previous nine contests. The Nittany Lions won 35-10 last year in Ann Arbor and 46-17 in Beaver Stadium in 2008. The squads will be in different Big Ten divisions starting in 2011 and are not scheduled to meet the next two years.

Michigan ranks second in the country with 532.0 yards of total offense each time out and has posted 500 yards or more in five of its seven games this season.  The Wolverines rank first in the conference in rushing (281.6), second in scoring (36.0), and fifth in passing (250.4).  Needless to say the bye last week was needed for a Wolverine squad that was dropped 34-17 to No. 17 Michigan State and 38-28 to No. 15 Iowa in recent weeks.  In the loss to the Hawkeyes, sophomore quarterback Denard Robinson completed 13-of-18 passes for 96 yards and rushed for 105 yards on 18 carries.  It was by no means one of Robinson’s top games of the year, but it was historic.  The Michigan QB surpassed 1,000 rushing yards for the season, becoming just the second Big Ten quarterback to accomplish the feat in conference history. Indiana's Antwaan Randle El established the Big Ten record for rushing yards by a quarterback (1,270) in 2000 and Robinson is just 174 yards shy of matching the mark.  Michigan’s other sophomore quarterback, Tate Forcier, completed 17-of-26 passes for 239 yards and a touchdown in the loss and rushed for a touchdown as well.  Roy Roundtree leads the team with 33 catches for 395 yards and two TDs, while Junior Hemingway has come on as of late with 100-yard receiving games in two of the three Big Ten outings.  Penn State’s defense has struggled this season despite returning seven starters from a strong 2009 unit.  Yes, injuries have played a role this season, but it is uncommon to see a Nittany Lion unit ranked fifth in the conference in total defense (331.7) and eighth against the rush (143.9).  Despite coming off a 33-21 win at Minnesota, Penn State gave up 433 yards of offense, including 299 yards in the air.  D’Anton Lynn made a career-high 10 tackles (six solo) and a huge interception to lead the Penn State defense in the win.  Redshirt freshman safety Malcolm Willis made a season-best nine hits and sophomore linebacker Michael Mauti returned the field and made a career-high eight tackles.  Linebacker Chris Colasanti, who leads the conference with 9.3 stops per game, made six tackles in the win, while Nate Stupar and Jordan Hill had six stops each.  Hill became the 15th different Nittany Lion to earn his first career start this season.

While a dominant rushing performance would be historic for Michigan’s Robinson, so too would a 31-yard outing for Penn State's Evan Royster, who would break the school career rushing mark of 3,398 held by Curt Warner for nearly three decades.  The concern for Penn State is the passing game as it is “probable to doubtful” that freshman quarterback Rob Bolden will play on Saturday.  After completing his first nine passes for 115 yards and a score, and then getting to 11 of 13 passing for 130 yards on the day, Bolden suffered a hit that sidelined him with concussion-like symptoms the rest of the game and potentially this week’s big contest.  Bolden became the 15th Nittany Lion to miss time this season due to injury.  Backup Matt McGloin finished 6-of-13 for 76 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Kevin Newsome may also see time under center on Saturday.  If it is any consolation to Penn State’s quarterback situation, Michigan’s defense has struggled mightily this season.  The Wolverines rank ninth in the conference in scoring defense (28.4) and defending the run (144.7) and 11th against the pass (296.3) and total yards allowed (441.0).  U-M did have some success last time out holding Iowa under 400 yards, marking just the third time this season Michigan accomplished that feat.  J.T. Floyd leads the Big Ten in tackles with 37 in conference play (12.3 avg.) and has posted three straight double-digit tackle games, while Jonas Mouton (9.0) and Jordan Kovacs (8.7) rank third and fourth overall in the conference in stops per game.


(7-1, 3-1 Big Ten)

No. 11 Ohio State at Minnesota
Saturday, Oct. 30, 2010 • 7 p.m. CT • Minneapolis, Minn. • TCF Bank Stadium (50,805)
ABC • Announcers: Mike Patrick, Craig James, Ray Bentley 
Series: Ohio State leads, 42-7 • Last Meeting: Oct. 24, 2009: Ohio State 38, Minnesota 7

(1-7, 0-4 Big Ten)

Ohio State and Minnesota meet for the 50th time on Saturday, and while the Golden Gophers own home field advantage, the Buckeyes clearly own the all-time series.  In fact, Ohio State is the Big Ten team Minnesota has had the least success against in its history.  The Buckeyes lead the overall series by a 42-7 count and have captured the last seven meetings and 23 of the last 24 in the series.  Minnesota’s last victory over Ohio State came back in 2000.  OSU’s margin of victory in its current seven-game winning streak over the Gophers is nearly 23 points.  Saturday does mark just the third time this season the Buckeyes have hit the road and the last game away from Columbus resulted in a 31-18 upset while OSU was No. 1 in the country.  Ohio State is looking for its 20th win its last 22 conference road games.

The Buckeyes’ offensive unit leads the Big Ten and ranks sixth in the NCAA with 40.8 points per game, and is second in the conference in total offense (449.38).  OSU nearly met that mark in the first half against Purdue last week, totaling 415 yards of total offense, which marked the most in a half since the 1998 season.  The Buckeyes posted 49 points against the Boilermakers – the most scored in a shutout since 1996.  Under center is Terrelle Pryor, who is just two yards shy of becoming the third Buckeye to eclipse 7,000 yards of total offense.  Dan Herron, who ranks eighth in the league with 65.0 rushing yards per contest, has scored at least one touchdown in seven consecutive games and multiple touchdowns in each of his last three outings.  In the air, DeVier Posey has caught at least one pass in 22 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the Big Ten.  Posey rates ninth-best in both receptions (4.25) and receiving yards (60.8) per game.  Dane Sanzenbacher is the other aerial threat, ranking fourth in yardage (73.9) and sixth in catches (4.62). Ohio State owns the conference lead in time of possession at 32:56, followed closely by Minnesota at 32:24.  Defensively, the Golden Gophers rank sixth against the pass (212.2), 10th in total yards (406.4) and 11th defending the run (194.1) and points allowed (31.9). Junior linebacker Gary Tinsley has now reached double digits in tackles four times in eight games this season, while defensive back Kyle Theret is second on the team in total tackles (47) and solo stops (33).  Tinsley (7.9) and Theret (7.8) rank eighth and ninth, respectively, in Big Ten tackles per game.

In the loss to Penn State last week, Minnesota quarterback Adam Weber became the fifth Big Ten quarterback to reach 10,000 career yards and now trails only Purdue’s Drew Brees (11,792) and Curtis Painter (11,163), Northwestern’s Brett Basanez (10,580), and Iowa’s Chuck Long (10,461) for all-time passing yardage. Weber, who also holds the Minnesota record with 69 career touchdown passes, tossed three TDs against the Nittany Lions en route to 299 yards on 26-of-49 passing. He is fourth in the conference with 245.1 yards passing per game while Da’Jon McKnight, who rushed 26 times for 111 yards last week, is sixth in the Big Ten with 67.8 yards per outing.  Minnesota is only allowing 1.13 sacks per game, ranking No. 26 in the nation, and has racked up 172 fresh sets of downs, ranking third in the league.  Ohio State is averaging an FBS-best 5.87 three-and-outs per game and boasts one of the nation’s top overall defenses.  OSU leads the Big Ten and ranks third in the NCAA in both turnover margin (+1.38) and total defense (234.5), while pacing the conference in scoring defense (14.00), rushing defense (85.75), pass defense (148.75) and pass efficiency defense (94.23).  Ross Homan leads the league and is tied for 29th with 5.9 tackles per game, followed by Brian Rolle at 5.1.