Saturday’s opener features two teams thankful not to be playing Indiana. Northwestern had to hustle from 25 points down two weeks ago to steal a fourth-quarter victory over the Hoosiers, while Iowa responded from 10 points down in the fourth last week to stage yet another comeback win over IU. The Hawkeyes hold a 46-21-3 advantage in the series with the Wildcats, including a 23-8 lead in Iowa City. Northwestern has taken the last two at Kinnick Stadium and three of the last six. The Wildcats are the only visiting team to win two games in Kinnick Stadium since 2002.
The passing game will be the focus on Saturday as Northwestern ranks 24th in the nation in passing offense (390.2), while Iowa leads the nation in interceptions (18), ranks 19th in pass efficiency defense (94.3) and 26th in pass defense (180.1). Dan Persa and Mike Kafka each shared time under center in Northwestern’s loss to Penn State last week. Kafka was 14-of-18 for 128 yards before being sidelined with an injury. As his replacement, Persa finished 14-of-23 for 115 yards. Zeke Markshausen led the Wildcat receivers with nine receptions for 60 yards, while Andrew Brewer had 65 yards on six catches. Kafka is tops among Big Ten passers with 243.9 yards per game, while Markshausen is first with 7.44 receptions per outing. Iowa's secondary collected three second-half interceptions last week, including two in the fourth period. SS Tyler Sash, who owns six interceptions on the season, returned a pick 86 yards for a score in the third quarter, while DB Shaun Prater and linebacker A.J. Edds collected thefts in the fourth. Linebacker Pat Angerer is third in the conference with 9.9 stops per outing.
Iowa’s offense, which boasts the same 25.7 points-per-game scoring average as the Wildcats, ranks just ninth in the league in total offense (357.4). The Hawkeyes are fifth in passing (232.2) and have thrown 14 touchdowns and 13 interceptions on the year. Last week Iowa had just 88 rushing and 177 passing yards for 265 yards total offense. Ricky Stanzi finished the game with a career-high 337 passing yards, completing 13-of-26 passes. Marvin McNutt had four receptions for 155 yards and Derrell Johnson-Koulianos had 117 yards on just three catches. Johnson-Koulianos’s 19.6 yards-per-catch average is tops in the league. Brandon Wegher, in his first career start at tailback, ended the Indiana game with 25 carries for 118 yards and three touchdowns, all of which were career bests. Nate Williams (7.6 tpg) paces a Northwestern defense that allows 122.9 rushing, 226.2 passing and 349.1 total yards per game. Brad Phillips and Quentin Davie each have three forced fumbles on the year. In last week’s loss to Penn State, Williams and Davie led the Wildcat defense with seven tackles each.
(2-6, 1-5 Big Ten)
Illinois at Minnesota Saturday, Nov. 7, 2009 • 11 a.m. CT • Minneapolis, Minn. • TCF Bank Stadium (50,720) Big Ten Network • Announcers: Matt Rosen, Ron Johnson
Saturday’s game will be the 63rd gridiron meeting between Illinois and Minnesota. The Golden Gophers lead the all-time series 32-27-3 and hold a 19-10-2 advantage in games played in Minneapolis. Minnesota, which has won seven of the last nine against the Fighting Illini, owns a 34.7-11.1 average margin of victory over the Orange and Blue during that span. Illinois fell to the Gophers 27-20 last year in Champaign.
A week after finding the Big Ten win column for the first time this season, Illinois is hungry for another and will face a Minnesota ballclub coming off a big win of its own. The Illini offense has struggled throughout the year, mustering only 18.9 points per game and 174.1 passing yards per outing, which ranks 104th in the country. But Illinois has proved to have an impressive rushing attack at times, witnessed by its national rank of 20th for rushing yards (197.5) and its dominant performance last week against Michigan, where the Illini racked up 377 yards on the ground. Mikel LeShoure rushed for 150 yards and Jason Ford scampered for another 128 in the win. QB Juice Williams ranks 10th in the conference with an average of 182.5 all-purpose yards. Minnesota has not fared well against the rush. The Gophers also rank 10th in the conference with 171.9 yards allowed each time out, while giving up 402.2 total yards every game. Minnesota must control the penalties better than it did last week as it amassed a conference-record 17 penalties for a school-record 157 yards. Lee Campbell remains second in the conference with 10.7 stops per contest, followed by teammates Nate Triplett (9.0) and Simoni Lawrence (7.0). Up front, Garrett Brown had a career-best seven stops, including 3 TFL last week, on the way to Big Ten co-Defensive Player of the Week honors.
The Gophers continue to amaze critics in the conference as they have managed to rally to victory after being down in the fourth quarter in four of their five wins. QB Adam Weber, who has struggled to find his rhythm this season, clearly found it last week against Michigan State, throwing for 416 yards and five TDs en route to Big Ten Player of the Week honors. The Gophers’ signal caller has set nearly every passing record in school history, but has seen some of his snaps go to freshman MarQueis Gray because of inconsistent play. Weber’s completion percentage of 55.3 ranks among the lowest in the Big Ten and he has thrown the second-most interceptions (12) among conference passers this season. Minnesota is last in the league in rushing (104.0) and total offense (316.3). Perhaps most impressive about the Gophers’ win last week was the fact that is was their first without standout receiver Eric Decker, who was lost for the season due to injury. So instead of finding his primary target, Weber completed passes to six different receivers, with five of those wideouts catching a pass of over 30 yards. That could mean good news for Minnesota as the Illinois defense ranks last against the pass (174.1) and rush (176.2) and eighth in scoring defense (25.9). Although the Illini did put a stop to the conference’s highest-scoring team last week as Michigan’s 13 points fell well below the 32 points it had been averaging. Walt Aikens led the team with a career-high 10 tackles in the win, while on the season, Ian Thomas ranks eighth in the league with 7.8 stops each Saturday.
(6-2, 3-2 Big Ten)
No. 21 Wisconsin at Indiana Saturday, Nov. 7, 2009 • Noon ET • Bloomington, Ind. • Memorial Stadium (52,692) Big Ten Network • Announcers: Craig Coshun, Glen Mason, Mike Hall
Wisconsin travels to Bloomington on Saturday looking to complete the shutout sweep of Indiana teams. Last week the Badgers handed Purdue a 37-0 loss for UW’s first shutout in conference play since 1999. Indiana must rebound again after a disappointing road loss and near-upset at Iowa. Wisconsin holds a 35-18-2 advantage in the all-time series against Indiana with the Badgers owning a 15-9-1 edge in Bloomington, including a 55-20 win last season. UW has won the last four meetings after the Hoosiers earned back-to-back victories in 2001 and 2002.
UW is posting 29.4 points and 393.1 yards of total offense per game, including 194.6 on the ground. John Clay leads the Big Ten and is 20th nationally with 116.6 yards per contest. The sophomore averages 4.5 yards per carry and owns seven TDs on the year. Junior Scott Tolzien captains the Badger offensive attack, and averages 176.4 yards per game while completing 59.3 percent of his passes. Sophomore Nick Toon leads the team with 32 catches for 412 yards followed by senior tight end Garrett Graham's 30 grabs for 342 yards and junior Isaac Anderson's 22 receptions for 347 yards. IU has defended the pass well at times this season, ranking third in the Big Ten and sharing sixth in the country with 14 interceptions. Of the 402.2 total yards allowed each time out, which ranks 10th in the conference, Indiana gives up a league-high 256.7 yards in the air. The Hoosiers boast a plus-9 turnover margin and helped their mark with five interceptions at Iowa last week. Austin Thomas has four picks on the campaign, while Matt Mayberry leads the team and is sixth in the conference with 8.9 tackles per outing. Jammie Kirlew has forced five fumbles and posted 5.5. sacks this season.
Indiana’s offense will look to storm out of the gates once again, but also make sure it is on top when the final buzzer sounds this week. Whether it was at Michigan, Northwestern or Iowa last week, Indiana has been dominant in the first three quarters, but has failed to put it away late in the game. IU is 10th in the conference in total yards (354.0) and 232 of those yards come through the air. QB Ben Chappell has one of the highest completion percentages (62.0) in the league and ranks fourth in passing yards (228.2). His top receiver is Tandon Doss, who hauls in 6.56 receptions and 83.4 yards per game. If he is healthy, expect freshman Darius Willis to lead the running game as he is averaging 65.6 yards per game over his seven contests this season. Defensively, the Badgers have allowed 21.8 points, 195.1 passing yards, 107.8 rushing yards and 302.8 total yards each time out. Wisconsin is second in the Big Ten with 60 tackles for loss, fourth with 22 sacks and has picked off 10 passes and recovered 10 fumbles. Senior defensive end O'Brien Schofield is tied for first nationally with 16.5 tackles for loss, is third in the Big Ten with 6.5 sacks and is fourth on the team with 41 tackles. Senior linebacker Jaevery McFadden sits atop UW with 51 tackles, while freshman linebacker Chris Borland leads the Big Ten in fumbles recovered (three) and is tied for third in forced fumbles (three).
(3-6, 2-3 Big Ten)
Purdue at Michigan Saturday, Nov. 7, 2009 • Noon ET • Ann Arbor, Mich. • Michigan Stadium (106,201) Big Ten Network • Announcers: Wayne Larrivee, Chris Martin, Charissa Thompson
Saturday’s matchup between Michigan and Purdue will be the 54th meeting in the all-time series with the Wolverines holding a commanding 41-12 advantage. The Maize and Blue have won eight of the last 10 contests against the Boilermakers and are 23-4 against Purdue in Ann Arbor. In fact, Michigan has won the last 16 games played against Purdue at Michigan Stadium, with the last loss coming 22-21 in 1966.
Both teams will be looking to reignite their respective offenses after disappointing performances last week. Purdue recorded its fewest yards (141) in a game last week to Wisconsin since dropping a 5-0 decision to Michigan on Nov. 11, 1995 (113). The 37-0 shutout was the Boilermakers’ worst in Big Ten action since losing 42-0 to the Wolverines in 1991. Joey Elliott heads into Saturday's game ranked second in the Big Ten in total offense (257.6) and third in passing average (231.2). Tailback Ralph Bolden is third in the league and 40th nationally in rushing average (84.1), while wideout Keith Smith is second in the conference and tied for 17th nationally in receptions per game (6.7). His 86.6 receiving yards per game average is also second in league play and 25th among all FBS players. Michigan is allowing 25.1 points and 382.1 total yards this year, but gave up 38 points and 500 yards in a loss last week to Illinois. The Wolverines gave up 377 yards on the ground as well, more than half of its average of 161.8, which ranks eighth in the league. Linebacker Obi Ezeh is Michigan’s leading tackler with 63 total stops, including 4.5 for loss. Brandon Graham leads the Big Ten with 17.0 tackles for loss, including 6.5 sacks, while Donovan Warren has three picks on the season.
Offensively Michigan is averaging 31.6 points, 207.6 rushing yards and 193.9 passing yards per game. The Wolverines’ rushing attack is 14th-best in the nation and is led by Carlos Brown with 465 yards on 77 carries this year. Last week at Illinois, Brown managed 94 of the team’s 113 rushing yards. Quarterback Tate Forcier has thrown for 1,424 yards and nine scores, while completing 55 percent of his passes. Several of those attempts have gone to receiver Martavious Odoms, who leads the team with 22 receptions for 272 yards and one touchdown. Purdue is allowing 28.0 points and 363.1 yards per game. Linebacker Jason Werner has racked up 14.5 tackles for loss this season, which ranks him third in the conference and tied for 10th nationally. Ryan Kerrigan leads the Big Ten and is 17th among FBS players in sacks per game with 1.0 per game. His 1.6 TFLs per game average is tied for 10th nationally and is tied four fourth among conference defenders.
(4-5, 3-3 MAC West)
Western Michigan at Michigan State Saturday, Nov. 7, 2009 • Noon ET • East Lansing, Mich. • Spartan Stadium (75,005) Big Ten Network • Announcers: Ari Wolfe, Anthony Herron, Lisa Byington
Series: MSU leads 9-2 • Last Meeting: Aug. 30, 2003: MSU 26, WMU 21
(4-5, 3-3 Big Ten)
Saturday’s game marks the 11th meeting between Michigan State and Western Michigan, with all games played in East Lansing. Michigan State leads the all-time series 8-2, including a 5-0 mark in games played in Spartan Stadium. MSU has won the last six meetings, while Western Michigan’s last win in the series came in 1919. Michigan State has outscored the Broncos, 239-107, in the 10 previous meetings, but ﬁve games have been decided by nine points or less.
Western Michigan enters Saturday’s game with an offense that records 25.6 points, 284.4 passing yards, 109.0 rushing yards and 393.4 total yards of offense each game. Tim Hiller is second in the MAC with 278.8 passing yards each time out and has thrown 17 TDs to 8 interceptions. Robert Arnheim is the primary target with 5.22 catches and 58.4 receiving yards per game. Tailback Brandon West is currently second in the MAC with 91.6 rushing yards each time out. MSU is allowing 23.1 points, 245.0 passing yards, 129.3 rushing yards and 347.2 total yards per game. Michigan State ranks second in the Big Ten and 13th in the NCAA with 26 sacks. In league games only, the Spartans are tied for first with Ohio State with 18 sacks. Junior linebacker Greg Jones leads the nation with 109 tackles and ranks first in the Big Ten and third in the NCAA, averaging 12.1 stops per game. He reached double-ﬁgure tackles for the seventh time this season, recording 12 tackles, including seven solo hits, at Minnesota.
The Spartans lead the Big Ten in passing offense (269.3) and rank third in total offense (398.7). Sophomore quarterback Kirk Cousins rates second among the Big Ten leaders in passing efficiency (140.0 rating), seventh in passing yards (193.8) and eighth in total offense (197.6). Last week at Minnesota, Cousins recorded his fifth 200-yard passing game of the season with 236 yards at Minnesota. His 12 passing touchdowns rank fifth in the conference. Fifth-year senior Blair White leads the Spartans in receptions (52), receiving yards (766) and touchdown catches (7), while ranking third in the Big Ten in receiving yards (85.1). Defensively, WMU gives up 27.2 points, 249.6 passing yards – a league-worst – and 176.4 yards on the ground each Saturday. Austin Pritchard leads all Bronco defenders with 7.9 tackles per game. Justin Braska has 8.0 TFLs, while Doug Wiggins had forced four fumbles on the campaign.
(7-2, 4-1 Big Ten)
No. 16 Ohio State at No. 11 Penn State Saturday, Nov. 7, 2009 • 3:30 p.m. ET • University Park, Pa. • Beaver Stadium (107,282) ABC • Announcers: Sean McDonough, Matt Millen, Holly Rowe
Series: Tied 12-12 • Last Meeting: Oct. 25, 2008: Penn State 13, Ohio State 6
(8-1, 4-1 Big Ten)
In a matchup between the defending Big Ten co-Champions, Ohio State and Penn State enter the weekend an even 12-12 in the all-time series. The Nittany Lions hold a slight 5-4 lead in Happy Valley. The home team has won 12 of the 16 meetings since PSU began Big Ten play in 1993, but the visiting team has won the last two contests. Saturday’s winner looks to stay within Iowa’s grasp of the 2009 conference title, while the losing team may face ramifications in the Bowl Championship Series standings.
Ohio State is coming off an impressive shutout over New Mexico State where it accumulated 559 yards and had seven players amass more individual yards than the Aggies did as a team over 45 plays. This week won’t quite be the same and every Buckeye player knows it. Terrelle Pryor, a Pennsylvania native, played just two quarters in last week’s blowout and rushed for 83 yards and passed for another 135. Pryor ranks seventh in Big Ten rushing (61.6) and ninth in passing (171.4). DeVier Posey is seventh in the conference with 4.78 receptions and 66.1 yards per outing. Like Ohio State, Penn State features one of the better defenses in the country. They lead the NCAA in scoring defense, giving up just 9.3 points per game, while ranking fourth in sacks (3.56), fifth in rushing defense (84.11) and total defense (254.78) and sixth in pass efficiency defense (95.65). Josh Hull is fourth in the league with 9.1 tackles per contest, followed by Navorro Bowman in 10th at 7.6. Jared Odrick (6.0) and Jack Crawford (5.5) are also among the Big Ten’s sack leaders on the year.
On offense, Penn State averages 30.7 points, 182.0 rushing yards and 247.1 passing yards per game. The Nittany Lions rank first in the league with 429.1 total yards and currently has the conference’s top yards-per-catch average at 6.5. Senior quarterback Daryll Clark, a native Ohioan, leads the Big Ten with a 149.3 passer efficiency rating. Junior running back Evan Royster is second in the conference in rushing at 95.4 yards per contest to go along with five touchdowns. Derek Moye is the team’s leading receiver with 39 catches for 648 yards and five scores. And while Penn State is allowing just 9.3 points every Saturday, Ohio State is not too far behind at 11.7. The Buckeyes are giving up 86.4 yards on the ground and 173.6 in the air. Brian Rolle paces all OSU players with 7.6 stops per outing, followed by Ross Homan at 7.3.