Big Ten Football Preview: Week 10

Nov. 4, 2010


(5-3, 3-2 Big Ten)

Illinois at Michigan
Saturday, Nov. 6, 2010 • Noon ET • Ann Arbor, Mich. • Michigan Stadium (109,901)
ESPN • Announcers: Bob Wischusen, Brian Griese 
Series: Michigan leads, 66-23-2 • Last Meeting: Oct. 31, 2009: Illinois 38, Michigan 13

(5-3, 1-3 Big Ten)

While Michigan has a dominant advantage in the all-time series against Illinois, the Fighting Illini have absolutely owned the Wolverines in recent history.  Despite holding a 66-23-2 lead in the series, including 31-11-1 in games played in Ann Arbor, Michigan has been handled by the Illini in its last two contests. Illinois defeated the Wolverines 38-13 last season in Champaign and also won the most recent meeting in Ann Arbor, 45-20 in 2008. In the last two meetings, Illinois has outscored Michigan 83-33 and has piled up 1,001 total yards.  A win on Saturday would mark the first time the Illini have captured three straight wins over the Maize and Blue since winning four in a row from 1950-53. Last year's win over the Wolverines gave the Illini back-to-back wins over Michigan for the first time since 1957 and 1958.  

Illinois’ offensive output against the Wolverines last year was just that:  offensive.  In the 38-13 win over Michigan, the Illini racked up 500 total yards and 377 rushing yards, 312 of which came in the second half. Mikel Leshoure rushed for 150 yards and Jason Ford ran for 128 yards in last year's meeting, marking the first time two Illini ran for 100+ yards in a game in two seasons. Leshoure currently ranks fourth in the Big Ten and 25th in the nation in rushing (97.5) and has scored seven total touchdowns. The talented tailback adds to the strength of an Illinois rushing attack that ranks fourth in the conference with 194.4 yards on the ground each time out.  That total is the majority of the 337.5 yards of offense Illinois racks up every Saturday.  The passing game, which is led by redshirt freshman Nathan Scheelhaase, is only putting up 143.1 yards per contest, just 10th-best in the conference.  However, in Illinois' five wins this season, Scheelhaase has completed 66-of-94 passes (70.2 percent) for 768 yards, 9 TDs and no interceptions for an efficiency rating of 170.44.  He is coming off a win over Purdue in which he earned both Big Ten Offensive Player and Freshman of the Week honors.  He completed 16-of-20 passes for 195 yards, 4 TDs and 0 INT for a QB rating of 227.9, the sixth-highest in school history, while also rushing for a career-high 118 rushing yards.  Illinois is seventh in the league with 26.9 points per game, but is coming off back-to-back 40-point outputs for the first time since 1999.  The Illini have also put together consecutive 30-point margin of victory games for the first time since 1944. Illinois is tied for second in the nation in red zone scoring percentage, picking up points on 29 of its 30 trips inside the 20 this season (97 percent).  Michigan is allowing its opponents to score inside the 20-yard line 87.9 percent of the time, which rates eighth in the conference.  The Wolverines are also eighth against the run (149.8), 10th in scoring defense (30.0), and 11th in defending the pass (290.5) and total yards (440.2).  Jonas Mouton (9.4) and Jordan Kovacs (9.0) are ranked 1-2 in the conference in tackles per game, while teammate J.T. Floyd is sixth at 8.2.

All season long the Michigan offense has been holding up its end of the bargain by posting impressive point and yardage totals each week.  Despite the 41-31 loss at Penn State last Saturday, the Wolverines notched 423 total yards, including 233 on the ground.  Sophomore quarterback Denard Robinson set the Big Ten season record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 191 yards on the day to give him 1,287 on the year. That mark surpassed the previous record of 1,270 yards set by Indiana's Antwaan Randle El in 2000.  Robinson also racked up 381 yards of total offense, completing 11-of-23 passes for 190 yards and one touchdown, while rushing for another three scores as well.  He has cracked the 100-yard rushing barrier in seven of the eight games this season and has a 50-yard advantage over second-place John Clay of Wisconsin with 160.9 rushing yards per game.  Wideout Roy Roundtree is sixth in the league with 4.50 receptions.  The Illini rank 12th nationally in points allowed (16.8), 15th in total defense (301.4), 19th in pass defense (183.9) and 26th in rushing yards allowed (117.5).  Last week the Illini held Purdue to 205 yards total offense, including just 52 yards in the air.  Junior linebacker Martez Wilson leads the team and is fifth in the Big Ten in tackles per game (8.5) and is also second on the team in TFLs (6.5) and sacks (2.0). He has led the Illini in tackles in four of the last six games. A pair of defenders set career highs in tackles while leading the Illini past Purdue, with freshmen Akeem Spence and Jonathan Brown registering eight apiece.



(6-2, 3-1 Big Ten)

No. 16 Iowa at Indiana
Saturday, Nov. 6, 2010 • Noon ET • Bloomington, Ind. • Memorial Stadium (52,929)
Big Ten Network • Announcers: Tom Werme, Derek Rackley, Stacey Paetz
Series: Iowa leads, 40-27-4 • Last Meeting: Oct. 31, 2009: Iowa 42, Indiana 24

(4-4, 0-4 Big Ten)

Coming off its biggest win of the season, No. 16 Iowa travels to Indiana for the first of two straight road contests.  The last time a nationally-ranked Hawkeye ballclub rolled into Bloomington, they left with a bitter loss.  In 2006, the Hoosiers scored 24 of the game's final 31 points to edge the No. 13 Hawkeyes 31-28. The triumph marked IU's first win over a top-15 team since beating No. 9 Ohio State in 1987.  Following the victory, Indiana was selected as the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl National Team of the Week.  Now the Hawkeyes enter the week as the reigning Tostitos Fiesta Bowl National Team of the Week after the impressive 37-6 win over No. 5 Michigan State last Saturday.  Despite splitting the last 10 matchups with the Hoosiers, Iowa leads the all-time series 40-27-4 and has won the last two contests.  UI won 45-9 in Bloomington in 2008 and 42-24 last year in Kinnick Stadium.  It’s likely that game left the Hoosiers a little bitter, as IU was leading by 14 in the third quarter and just two yards away from the Hawkeyes' end zone, before letting the game slip away.

Iowa is posting 34.1 points, 160.1 rushing, 245.9 passing and 406.0 total yards per game, and ranks second in the nation in pass efficiency (177.37) The Hawkeyes have scored 30 or more points in three consecutive Big Ten games for the first time since 2005 and has been guilty of just five turnovers this season.  That was not the case against the Hoosiers last year when Iowa was recorded six turnovers in the first three periods alone, causing the Hawkeyes to rally for the win. Ricky Stanzi, who was 11-of-15 passing for 190 yards and had three touchdown passes for the fifth time in eight games last week, is second in the country in pass efficiency (180.3).  The senior is completing 68.5 percent of his passes with 1,922 yards, 19 touchdowns and two interceptions.  Adam Robinson is third in the Big Ten averaging 100.8 rushing yards per game. The sophomore has 806 yards, 10 touchdowns and is averaging 4.7 yards per carry. Robinson also has 254 receiving yards with one score and sits third in the Big Ten with 132.5 all-purpose yards per game.  Three Hawkeye receivers – Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, Marvin McNutt, and Allen Reisner – each have 25-plus receptions and 300-plus yards on the year.  Indiana is allowing 29.4 points, 167.5 rushing, 216.6 passing, and 384.1 total yards per game – all of which rate around ninth in the conference.  Last week against Northwestern, IU recorded a season-high nine tackles for loss, seven pass breakups and six quarterback hurries in addition to two sacks, but struggled all day in containing mobile QB Dan Persa.  With just 12 rushing yards to his credit this season, the Hoosiers likely won’t have to worry about Stanzi fleeing on the ground.  Tyler Replogle is seventh in the league with 8.0 tackles per outing, followed by fellow linebacker Jeff Thomas in 13th at 7.1.  Darius Johnson leads all of IU's defensive linemen and is fourth on the team with 38 tackles (20 solos).  He is coming off a team-high 11 tackles last week.

Joining Stanzi on the list of 16 semifinalists for the Davey O”Brien Award is Indiana quarterback Ben Chappell.  Coming off a loss in which he was 30-of-54 passing for 308 yards with a score and an interception, Chappell remains atop the Big Ten and is sixth nationally in total offense (307.3).  He continues to lead a Hoosier offense that is posting 29.4 points and 312.9 passing yards per game.  IU has struggled throughout the season with its running game, averaging a league-low 97.9 yards per game.  Last week against Northwestern the Hoosiers were held to just 65 yards on the ground.  So the fact that Iowa’s rushing defense ranks fifth in the country at 84.5 yards per game shouldn’t bother the Hoosiers too much.  What should bother them are the Hawkeyes’ 13 sacks and 13 interceptions on the season, which has helped Iowa to a plus-12 turnover margin that rates second in the country.  Chappell has thrown all of his seven picks in the last three games, so the talented QB will have to make smart passes on Saturday.  Expect a lot of those passes to go to Demarlo Belcher, who paced all receivers last week with a career-high 11 catches and currently leads the conference with 7.25 receptions per game.  Belcher ranks second in the league with 82.0 receiving yards per game, followed by Tandon Doss in fourth at 71.9, while his 5.71 catches per game are second-best in the Big Ten behind his teammate. Iowa is eighth nationally in points allowed (14.5) and 12th in total yards (292.2).  The Hawkeyes are fifth in the conference in defending the pass (207.8), so expect Chappell to air it out all day and test that defense hungry for turnovers. Junior DB Shaun Prater was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week for his play last week, recording a game and career-high 10 tackles, including seven solo.  Prater, who had eight tackles in the win over the Hoosiers last year, notched his third INT of the season this past week to join safety Brett Greenwood for the team high. Junior safety Tyler Sash is second on the team with 48 tackles and has two interceptions, while Adrian Clayborn has 2.5 sacks, six tackles for loss, three quarterback hurries, one forced fumble and 36 tackles on the year.


(7-1, 3-1 Big Ten)

No. 9 Wisconsin at Purdue
Saturday, Nov. 6, 2010 • Noon ET • West Lafayette, Ind. • Ross-Ade Stadium (62,500)
Big Ten Network • Announcers: Eric Collins, Chris Martin, Charissa Thompson 
Series: Wisconsin leads 41-29-8 • Last Meeting: Oct. 31, 2009: Wisconsin 37, Purdue 0

(4-4, 2-2 Big Ten)

Ninth-ranked Wisconsin heads to West Lafayette looking for its fifth-straight victory over Purdue.  The Badgers lead the all-time series 39-29-8, but the overall record of games played at Purdue stands tied at 17-17-3.  The last two contests have been all Badgers.  UW topped the Boilermakers at Ross Ade Stadium 24-3 in 2006 and blanked them last year in Madison, 37-0.  The Badgers now own their highest ranking since being No. 5 in 2007.  That year, they lost their next two games and dropped out of the top 25.  UW got to this point by defeating AP top-15 squads in consecutive weeks (No. 1 Ohio State and No. 13 Iowa) for just the second time in school history.

In that two-week span, Wisconsin’s offense posted some impressive efforts.  The Badgers scored 31 points against both Ohio State and Iowa – two teams ranked among the top 10 in the country in scoring defense, yielding fewer than 15.0 points per game. UW became the first Big Ten team to score 30 or more points against OSU and Iowa in the same season since Wisconsin did so in 1999, which ironically was the last time the Badgers won the conference title.  Wisconsin now ranks 18th in the country in scoring offense (35.6) and is 1.3 points ahead of its single-season school-record of 34.3 points set in 2005.  UW is second in the conference and 13th in the country in rushing offense (221.4) and are coming off dominant ground performances against the stout run defenses of the Buckeyes (184 yards) and Hawkeyes (142).  The Badgers have also secured the football this season with just six turnovers, which ranks third-fewest in the country.  Scott Tolzien is the second-most accurate quarterback in the conference with a 71.8 completion percentage.  He is averaging 194.8 passing yards per game and has thrown eight TDs to four picks on the year.  John Clay, who rushed for 123 yards and three touchdowns in last year's 37-0 victory over Purdue, ranks second in the league with 110.9 rushing yards per game, while teammate James White is seventh at 71.2.  The Boilermakers are allowing 26.9 points, 139.0 rushing, 229.2 passing, and 368.2 total yards on the year. In last week’s loss to Illinois, Purdue tied its season high with 10 tackles for loss and finished with 3.0 sacks on the day.  The Boilers have posted five or more tackles for loss and at least one sack in all eight games this season. Purdue's biggest weapon on defense is senior defensive end Ryan Kerrigan, who leads the FBS with 18.5 TFLs and paces the Big Ten with 7.5 sacks. Tackle Kawann Short has posted 12.5 TFLs and 6.0 sacks this season and is tied for the team lead with six pass breakups. Purdue's leading-tackler this season is Dwayne Beckford, who has 63 tackles through eight contests, while adding 3.5 TFLs and 0.5 sacks.

The Boilermakers are still trying to find solutions to their injury-plagued offense this season.  Purdue is 11th in the conference in scoring (18.1), passing (136.9), and total offense (311.5), but have shown signs of success with the running game, rating sixth-best in the league (174.6).  True freshman Sean Robinson is still getting comfortable under center, passing for just 52 yards and a score on 7-of-20 passing last week. In his three games, Robinson has completed 13 of 30 passes (43.3 percent) for 82 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Cortez Smith has elevated his game to become the team's top wideout. He is tied for the team lead with Kyle Adams in receptions with 22, while leading the team with 255 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Seven different Purdue players have at least 11 catches on the year, with six going over 100 yards receiving. In addition, six different players have at least one touchdown reception. Dan Dierking has been the primary force on the ground.  He had 10 carries for 50 yards last week and is averaging 57.6 rushing yards per game. The Badgers are allowing 115.3 rushing yards per outing, which ranks 22nd in the country.  Dating back to last season, they have held 13 of their last 18 opponents under 100 yards on the ground and have only allowed four rushing scores this year.  In addition, UW is giving up 20.2 points, 201.9 passing and 317.1 total yards per contest – the latter of which ranks 25th in the nation.  Senior LB Blake Sorensen leads the Badgers with 48 tackles on the season, including 32 in Big Ten action.  DL J.J. Watt ranks second in the conference with 13.5 tackles for loss and fourth with 5.0 sacks.  Safety Aaron Henry has been responsible for both of UW’s fumble recoveries this season.


(1-8, 0-5 Big Ten)

Minnesota at No. 14 Michigan State
Saturday, Nov. 6, 2010 • Noon ET • East Lansing, Mich. • Spartan Stadium (75,005)
Big Ten Network • Announcers: Tom Hart, Anthony Herron, Lisa Byington
Series: Michigan State leads, 25-17 • Last Meeting: Oct. 31, 2009: Minnesota 42, MSU 34

(8-1, 4-1 Big Ten)

No. 14 Michigan State looks to rebound from its first loss of the season last week as it plays host to a struggling Minnesota ballclub that has lost eight straight.  Saturday’s game marks the 43rd meeting between the Spartans and Golden Gophers and the first in Spartan Stadium since 2006. MSU leads the all-time series, 25-17, and is 14-6 playing in East Lansing. The Golden Gophers have won six of the last eight contests in the series, including a 42-34 result last year in Minneapolis. Michigan State has won 19 of the last 25 meetings and leads the series with the Gophers by a 25-17 count.

Minnesota’s offense is still looking for an answer as the career of talented senior quarterback Adam Weber begins to wind down.  The Golden Gophers are seventh in conference passing (236.8), eighth in total yards (369.6), and 10th in scoring (22.8) and rushing (132.8).  But Weber remembers last year’s victory over the Spartans and hopes to have a repeat performance on Saturday.  Last year Weber lit up the Spartans on Halloween, throwing for 416 yards and five touchdowns.  Perhaps most impressive about that outing is that Weber was without the services of standout receiver Eric Decker, who is now in the NFL.  So now Weber, who is averaging 235.9 passing yards per game and has thrown 17 touchdowns to eight interceptions, will look to wideout Da’Jon McKnight as his primary aerial target on Saturday. McKnight ranks ninth in the league in both receptions (4.11) and receiving yards (64.2) and has hauled in nine touchdown passes in nine games this season.  He is just two away from tying the Gophers’ single-season record.  On the ground, DeLeon Eskridge is 10th in the conference with 58.1 yards per game.  Defensively, Michigan State ranks 29th nationally in scoring defense (20.0), 31st against the rush (123.8), and 32nd in total defense (334.7).  The Spartans are also tied for 11th with 20 takeaways, which are six more than the team totaled all of last year.  Senior linebackers Greg Jones and Eric Gordon have combined for 737 tackles over their careers and currently rank fourth (8.7) and 17th (6.8) in the conference, respectively, in stops per game.  Johnathan Strayhorn has 3.5 sacks on the season and Colin Neely owns 7.0 tackles for loss.

Michigan State’s offense is third in the conference in passing (252.1) and total yards (427.6), and fifth in scoring (31.3) and rushing (175.4).  All season long the Spartans have been hailed for a dominant rushing attack that has been led by sophomore Edwin Baker and freshman Le’Veon Bell.  Baker (88.9) and Bell (65.1) rank fifth and ninth, respectively, in the Big Ten and have combined to rush for 1,386 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2010 while averaging 6.3 yards per carry.  However, Michigan State never established the run in last week’s loss at Iowa, gaining 31 yards on 20 carries.  That inability to run put more stress on junior quarterback Kirk Cousins, who threw three interceptions in the loss.  Cousins did tie the school record for most consecutive games (16) with a touchdown pass as he connected for a 6-yard strike to B.J. Cunningham in the fourth quarter.  Cunningham (126 for 1,656) is one of two 1,000-yard receivers at MSU with the other being senior Mark dell (121 for 1,966).  Minnesota has had some success this year defending the pass, ranking seventh in the conference with 215.8 yards allowed per game.  The Gophers, however, are allowing a conference-high 9.1 yards per pass, and rank 10th in the league in total defense (417.6).  Minnesota is last in scoring defense (34.1) and defending the run (201.8).  A total of 19 Gophers have made their first collegiate starts this season, with 14 of those coming on the defensive side of the ball. Sophomore linebacker Keanon Cooper matched a career-best and recorded a season-high with 10 total tackles against Ohio State last week and has 51 stops on the season. Senior defensive back Ryan Collado had a game-high 11 tackles against the Buckeyes, which matched a career best, and added his second interception on the year.  Mike Rallis and Michael Carter also boast two picks on the season. 


(6-2, 2-2 Big Ten)

Northwestern at Penn State
Saturday, Nov. 6, 2010 • 3:30 p.m. ET • University Park, Pa. • Beaver Stadium (107,282)
ABC • Announcers: Sean McDonough, Matt Millen, Heather Cox 
Series: Penn State leads, 10-3 • Last meeting: Oct. 31, 2009: Penn State 34, Northwestern 13

(5-3, 2-2 Big Ten)

Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald leads the Wildcats into Happy Valley looking for his 34th career win.  Unfortunately for Fitzgerald, his 34th win won’t make the national headlines that Penn State’s Joe Paterno’s 400th career victory will make Saturday.  The nation’s winningest football coach takes to the sideline for another milestone win – one that he says is just another number, but is clearly more to the college football industry.  Consider this, Paterno actually had 84 wins already under his belt prior to Fitzgerald being born in 1974.  Paterno’s Nittany Lions hold a 10-3 advantage over Northwestern and are 5-1 in State College. NU’s last series win came at Penn State in 2004, a 14-7 Wildcat win that was powered by Noah Herron’s 175 rushing yards.  It was the second-straight win over PSU at the time, but Northwestern as since dropped three consecutive contests to the Nittany Lions. This is NU's first visit to Beaver Stadium since Sept. 30, 2006 – a day that marked Fitzgerald’s Big Ten coaching debut. The Wildcats’ six-game road winning streak is NU's longest since 1931.  

Northwestern’s offense enters the weekend with averages of 26.6 points, 266.8 passing, 148.1 rushing, and 371.4 total yards per game.  The Wildcats, who have scored in double figures in 42 consecutive games, are led by Dan Persa.  The junior quarterback ranks second among FBS quarterbacks in completion percentage with a mark of 74.4 and is ninth nationally with a 162.7 pass efficiency rating.  Last week in the win against Indiana, Persa completed 18-of-28 passes for 212 yards, but he took a back seat to an impressive rushing effort.  Running back Mike Trumpy finished with a career-high 164 all-purpose yards, setting career highs with 110 rushing yards and 54 receiving yards.  In the process, he became the first Wildcat to rush for more than 100 yards in a game in 21 contests.  Jeremy Ebert, who leads the Big Ten with 84.8 receiving yardage per game, finished the contest with five catches for 98 yards.  In Penn State’s win over Michigan, the Nittany Lions held the Wolverines to 423 yards.  Now that is typically nothing to boast about, especially with Penn State’s historically stingy defense, but the total was 109 yards below Michigan’s offensive average of 532 yards per game.  PSU is allowing 20.0 points each time out, as well as 155.0 yards on the ground and 343.1 yards overall.  UM’s Denard Robinson still put up 191 rushing yards last week – the 12th-most allowed by a Joe Paterno squad – but the Nittany Lions still found a way to win.  LB Michael Mauti had a career-high 10 tackles, which marked his career high for the second straight game as he had eight last week at Minnesota.  DT Devon Still also notched a career best with six tackles.  Chris Colasanti continues to pace the Nittany Lions with 9.0 tackles per game, good for second place in the league, while Mauti is 16th in the conference with 6.9 stops each time out.

In his first career start last week, Matt McGloin guided Penn State to a home victory over the Wolverines in impressive fashion.  He was 17-of-28 on the day for 250 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. McGloin's first six completions went to six different receivers and eight different Lions made catches overall.  He earned the start after true freshman Rob Bolden, who started the first seven games, was sidelined after suffering an apparent concussion against Minnesota.  Regardless of who takes the snaps Saturday, Penn State just needs the offense to be steady and not turn the ball over.  Last week PSU held the ball for a season-high 37:29 and did not commit a turnover for the first time in 2010.  Most of that time ticked off when the Nittany Lions were finally able to enjoy a successful day on the ground. Senior TB Evan Royster set the Penn State career rushing yardage mark with a 20-yard burst in the first quarter and finished the game with 150 yards, giving him 3,518 for his career.  As a team, the Nittany Lions are eighth in the Big Ten in passing (213.9) and ninth in scoring (22.9), rushing (135.8) and total yards (349.6).  Defensively, Northwestern proved last week it can tame a Big Ten ground game as Indiana was the fourth team this year the Wildcats held under 100 yards rushing.  The Hoosiers mustered only 65 yards on the ground, but did post 308 yards through the air.  NU is 10th in the league with 244.8 passing yards allowed per game and eighth in total yards at 371.4.  Junior linebacker Bryce McNaul, who had a career high 13 stops last week, is 15th in the conference with 7.0 stops per contest.  Brian Peters (6.5) and Nate Williams (6.4) rank 19th and 20th, respectively.  Defensive backs Jordan Mabin (12) and Justan Vaughn (nine) also finished last week with career highs in tackles.