Nov. 2, 2007
Ball State (5-4, 3-2 MAC) at INDIANA (5-4, 2-4)
Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, Ind.
Noon EDT - Big Ten Network
LAST TIME OUT
Both Indiana and Ball State enter Saturday's contest in need of a win to become bowl eligible. In what could be slated as a statewide shootout, the Cardinals enter this weekend ranked second in the Mid-American Conference in scoring offense (32.3), while Indiana is fourth in the Big Ten (31.8). Another storyline Saturday will be which Indiana team shows up on its home turf - the team that led the conference in turnover margin throughout the season, or the team that has lost nine of 11 fumbles over the last three games. Ball State currently boasts a MAC-best plus-12 turnover margin, as BSU has forced 20 turnovers and only lost eight on the season.
Throughout Indiana's three-game losing streak, the Hoosier faithful have been waiting for dual-threat quarterback Kellen Lewis to be just that. A highlight-reel rusher, Lewis has been reluctant to take off against the stout defensive lines of Michigan State, Penn State and Wisconsin. This weekend might be the perfect time for Lewis to tuck the ball and run as Ball State is 11th in the MAC in rushing defense. The Cardinals allow 227.0 yards on the ground and last week gave up 324 on the ground to Illinois, including 189 by Rashard Mendenhall. Despite the recent lapses, Lewis remains second in the Big Ten in total offense with 288.9 yards per game, including 229.4 through the air. Ball State, which is allowing 204.7 yards passing, has three solid secondary standouts in B.J. Hill (5 INTs), Alex Knipp (3) and Trey Lewis (3).
Ball State has a talented quarterback of its own, who has led the Cardinals with the nation's 22nd-best passing offense and total offense, and one that is ranked 23rd in passing efficiency. BSU is second in the MAC in passing offense with 275.2 yards per game, behind quarterback Nate Davis. On the year he has thrown for 21 touchdowns and only four interceptions. Davis has two primary targets in wideouts Dante Love (6.6 rpg, 87.7 ypg) and Darius Hill (4.9 rpg, 72.8 ypg). Both have been significant big-play threats this year, scoring on a combined 14 touchdowns and each averaging over 13 yards per catch.
Davis has been well protected in the pocket this season. The team has allowed 14 sacks, which is tied for third in the MAC. Indiana, however, has recorded 36 sacks this season, which ranks as the most in the nation. Indiana's Greg Middleton is second in the country with 11.5 sacks this year. Another key to the game will be Indiana's punt return game. Tracy Porter has struggled receiving punts this season and now faces the nation's top punter in Chris Miller and his 46.8-yard average. Last week Miller punted five times at Illinois and placed three of those inside the Illini 20-yard line.
IOWA (4-5, 2-4) at NORTHWESTERN (5-4, 2-3)
Ryan Field, Evanston, Ill.
11 a.m. CDT - ESPN2
LAST TIME OUT
A win Saturday would mark a significant feat for each team, as Iowa is looking to even its record at 5-5 and keep its bowl hopes alive, while Northwestern is looking to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2005. The Wildcats have been no strangers to comeback wins this season and they will face a Hawkeye squad that is fresh off one of its own. Last week Iowa stormed from 14 points behind at halftime to top Michigan State in double overtime - its largest comeback since 1996.
There will be a unique focus on the passing game Saturday, despite Northwestern ranking first in the league in pass offense (313.0 ypg), while Iowa is 10th (175.1). NU quarterback C.J. Bacher ranks seventh in the country in total offense (316.1), but has thrown 11 interceptions this season, the second-most in the conference. That is good news for the Hawkeyes, who boast a plus-9 turnover margin, which is tops in the league and 11th in the country. Northwestern's margin of minus-6 ranks 10th. On the other sideline, Iowa's Jake Christensen ranks ninth in the league with 173.8 passing yards per game, but has thrown a conference-low three picks on the year. In fact, Iowa's entire offense has protected the ball extremely well this year and is on pace to break the school record for fewest turnovers in a season. The Hawkeyes have currently turned the ball over only eight times (four interceptions and four fumbles). The school record is 15 (nine interceptions and six fumbles), established in 1963.
On the ground, Iowa's primary running back Albert Young turned in his best career performance in the Hawkeyes' last visit to Northwestern in 2005. Young rushed 38 times for 202 yards, a total that ties Jim Jensen for ninth best in a single game at Iowa. Last week Northwestern saw its star running back Tyrell Sutton make his first complete-game appearance since suffering an ankle injury against Nevada on Sept. 8. Sutton used 12 carries to rush for a team-high 72 yards.
Defensively, two of the conference's top tacklers will take to the field in Iowa linebacker Mike Humpal and Northwestern linebacker Adam Kadela. Humpal is tied for the Big Ten lead with Illinois' J Leman at 11.1 tackles per game, which also ranks 11th nationally. Kadela is tied for fourth at 10.2 stops per contests and is 28th nationally.
No. -/19/21 WISCONSIN (7-2, 3-2) at No. 1/1/1 OHIO STATE (9-0, 5-0)
Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
Noon EDT - Big Ten Network
LAST TIME OUT
A victory over Wisconsin on Saturday would give Ohio State its 20th consecutive conference win, which would break the Big Ten record, set by Michigan from 1990-92. A win over Ohio State on Saturday would give the Badgers their third-straight victory over the Buckeyes. So what gives? The two teams have not seen one another since 2004, when Wisconsin won in Columbus, 24-13. In fact, Ohio State has not beaten the Badgers since winning on the road in Madison, 19-14, in 2002.
Ohio State enters the weekend led by quarterback Todd Boeckman, who ranks third in the country in passing efficiency with a 164.3 rating. Despite throwing an interception, Boeckman was 19-of-26 for 253 yards and three touchdowns last week in an impressive win at Penn State. Running back Chris Wells is just four yards shy of 1,000 on the season after racking up 133 markers on 25 carries last week. Boeckman is eighth in the conference in passing (199.1 ypg) and Wells is fifth in rushing (110.7), but both have helped the Buckeyes to the No. 1 ranking in the country.
Also helping the cause is Ohio State's defense. The Buckeyes lead the nation in scoring defense (8.8), total defense (214.5) and pass defense (143.67). OSU is also second in pass efficiency defense (87.37) and fourth in rush defense (70.8). The Ohio State defense has allowed only five touchdowns this season and could be tested Saturday as Wisconsin has outscored its opponents 77-6 in the last two weeks. P.J. Hill is expected to take to the field Saturday, but he did not even complete the first quarter last week against Indiana after bruising his lower leg. Hill is currently fourth in the Big Ten with 118.4 rushing yards per game and is second among conference running backs with 14 touchdowns.
Wisconsin will be looking for its fourth-straight win in Ohio Stadium Saturday, something the Buckeyes have not allowed since Illinois captured four consecutive victories at OSU from 1988-94. The Badgers will also be looking to prevent their third-straight road loss - a feat that hasn't happened since the 1996 season.
PURDUE (7-2, 3-2) at PENN STATE (6-3, 3-3)
Beaver Stadium, University Park, Pa.
Noon EDT - ESPN
LAST TIME OUT
In what was billed to be an aerial attack last week with Northwestern and Purdue, the outcome turned out to be the result of an impressive running game by the Boilermakers and Jaycen Taylor. Purdue amounted 220 yards rushing, led by Taylor's career high of 158 and two touchdowns. Quarterback Curtis Painter was 24-of-38 and well below his average with just 182 yards passing. Whether the Boilermakers have renewed faith in their running attack or Painter is back to his old self on Saturday, Purdue will need to be set for one of the nation's top defenses.
The Boilermakers enter the contest ranked 15th nationally in passing with 285.2 yards per game, while Penn State is 12th in the country in total defense (298.8), 12th against the run (93.1) and 14th in scoring defense (17.4). Purdue is averaging more than double of what the Nittany Lions have allowed their opponents on the scoreboard this season, posting a conference-best scoring average of 35.7 points per game. Painter is second in the Big Ten with 268.9 yards passing each outing, while running back Kory Sheets is eighth in the league with 73.7 average yards on the ground.
Penn State has found recent success on the ground with Rodney Kinlaw, who enters Saturday sixth in the conference at 89.9 yards per game. Purdue ranks seventh in the league against the run, allowing 130.3 yards per outing and have given up 12 total touchdowns via the run this year. Looking more at the team numbers, the matchup Saturday will be an intriguing one on each side of the ball. Purdue is third in the Big Ten in total offense (431.2 ypg), while Penn State is second in total defense. By contrast, the Nittany Lions are ninth in offense (390.0) while the Boilermakers are eighth overall in defense (368.0).
Last week against No. 1 Ohio State, PSU quarterback Anthony Morelli was just 12-of-21 for 111 yards, one interception and no touchdowns, while being sacked twice. The Nittany Lion defense allowed a team to score 30 or more points for the second time this season, but it was also the second-straight week, which could benefit a potent Boilermaker offense. Individually, Dan Connor and Sean Lee again turned in impressive performances against the Buckeyes, as Connor posted a career-high 18 tackles and his first interception, while Lee added 13 stops.
No. 15/14/15 MICHIGAN (7-2, 5-0) at MICHIGAN STATE (5-4, 1-4)
Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, Mich.
3:30 p.m. EDT- ABC
LAST TIME OUT
The battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy takes place in East Lansing this year, marking the 100th game between the two teams. Winners of five straight, Michigan will be looking for its eighth-straight victory over its in-state rival. The Wolverines are expected to have back quarterback Chad Henne and running back Mike Hart. Both standouts have been out recently with injuries, but it did not deter a Michigan squad from winning at Illinois and home against Minnesota to keep its Big Ten Championship hopes alive.
Both Hart and Henne have had a great deal of success against the Spartans over their careers. Hart has rushed for 564 yards and two touchdowns, while Henne has thrown for 61-of-87 (.701) and 10 touchdowns with just one interception in the previous three meetings. Should Henne not play in his last game against the in-state rival, freshman quarterback Ryan Mallett will once again be under center for the Wolverines. Last week Mallett threw for a career-high 233 yards on 11-of-20 passing in Michigan's win over Minnesota. Expect Carlos Brown in the backfield if Hart is unable to go on Saturday. Brown has rushed for 358 yards and two scores in the two games during Hart's absence.
Michigan will defend against one of the conference's top rushers Saturday in Michigan State's Javon Ringer. The Spartan senior tailback is third in the Big Ten in rushing at 120.4 yards per game and is coming off a 103-yard, 23-carry performance last weekend at Iowa. Another scoring threat in the MSU backfield is Jehuu Caulcrick, who scored three touchdowns in the loss against the Hawkeyes. Quarterback Brian Hoyer, ranked fifth in the league at 212.2 yards per game, has only thrown four interceptions this season, but will face a talented Michigan defense on Saturday. Shawn Crable leads the Big Ten with 22.0 tackles for loss and is second with three forced fumbles. MSU has allowed 25 sacks this season - ninth in the conference - but has also recorded 32 sacks, which is sixth in the nation. Jonal Saint-Dic is also tied for sixth with nine sacks on the year.
ILLINOIS (6-3, 3-2) at MINNESOTA (1-8, 0-5)
HHH Metrodome, Minneapolis, Minn.
7 p.m. CDT - Big Ten Network
LAST TIME OUT
The Big Ten Network primetime game pits the Fighting Illini against a Golden Gopher team looking for its seventh-straight Homecoming win. With its 28-17 win over Ball State last weekend, Illinois is bowl eligible for the first time since the 2001 season, when the Orange and Blue took home the Big Ten Championship. In 1983, Tim Brewster, now the first-year head coach at Minnesota, was a tight end and captain for the Illini and helped them to a conference title and two bowl games, including the 1984 Rose Bowl.
Illinois enters Saturday's contests with the Big Ten lead in rushing at 240.6 yards per game, which also ranks eighth in the NCAA. Rashard Mendenhall is second in the conference at 123.7 yards per outing and is just 218 shy of breaking the Illinois single-season rushing record, held by Antoineo Harris when he rushed for 1,330 in 2002. That would be an impressive performance, but Mendenhall is going up against the 11th-ranked rush defense in the league. Minnesota is allowing 204.4 yards on the ground and 536.7 yards overall. Dual-threat quarterback Juice Williams should be active both in the air and on the turf Saturday against the Golden Gophers.
His counterpart, Minnesota's Adam Weber, has had no problem putting up yards this season. He is third in the conference with 286.1 total yards of offense, including 238.3 through the air. But Weber has been inconsistent with his throws this season, having been intercepted 15 times. He could be pressured into throws Saturday as the Illinois defense is improving each week. The Illini have recorded 30 sacks this season, which ranks 10th in the nation. With 11 more quarterback sacks in the final three games, the squad could break the school record of 40, which was posted by the 2001 squad. At 100 tackles through nine games, J Leman is ranked 11th in the nation in tackles per game. The Big Ten co-leader, Leman is averaging 11.1 stops per game.
The focus might however be on the Minnesota offensive line, which has only allowed a Big Ten-best nine sacks this season. Should Weber have time to throw, look for his favorite target in Eric Decker, who is averaging 6.22 catches and 76.8 yards per game. Decker will most likely be defended by Kevin Mitchell or Vontae Davis, who together have combined for a total of seven interceptions on the season.