Big Ten Football Enters Penultimate Weekend




Nov. 9, 2007

No. -/25/- PENN STATE (7-3, 4-3 Big Ten) at Temple (3-6)
Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, Pa.
Noon EST - ESPNU

LAST TIME OUT

  • PENN STATE def. Purdue, 26-19; Ohio def. Temple, 23-7

    THE SERIES

  • Overall: Penn State, 32-3-1
  • Last Time Out: 2006 - Penn State, 47-0
  • Noteworthy: The Owls won three of the initial four meetings from 1931-41, but since then, the Lions are 31-0-1 against their intrastate rivals, winning the last 24 meetings since a 7-7 tie in 1950.

    STAT SPEAK

    After a convincing shutout win at home over Temple last season, Penn State now travels to Philadelphia to face an Owls squad that has claimed all three of its wins in the last four games. The Nittany Lions head into the contest off a 26-19 win over Purdue - a game in which all-American linebacker Dan Connor became the school's all-time tackles leader.

    Defense is what the two teams have most in common entering Saturday's game. Penn State leads the nation in sacks with an average of 4.0 per game and is ninth against the rush, allowing just 90.6 yards per outing. Temple, a member of the Mid-American Conference in football, leads the league in pass defense (197.0) and total defense (370.9). Those marks are impressive seeing that Temple has played 25 freshmen this season, including the nation's most true freshmen (20). In two of their last three games, the Owls have also started a season-high seven freshmen.

    Nittany Lion quarterback Anthony Morelli is seventh in the Big Ten with 206.0 yards per game, while running back Rodney Kinlaw is sixth with 89.3 yards on the ground each time out. In addition to Connor, who is second in the league with 10.5 tackles per game, junior Sean Lee ranks third with 10.4 stops per contest. Maurice Evans is one of the nation's top sacks leader, ranking third with 12.5 sacks on the year.

    Temple boasts the MAC's seventh-best quarterback in Adam Dimichele, who averages 199.4 yards per game. His primary target is Bruce Francis and his 74.7 receiving yards per outing. Defensively, Dominque Harris is the team's leading tackler at 6.7 stops per contest, but ranks only 36th-best in the conference. Junior Galette leads the Owls with 5.5 sacks on the season, which is the fifth-highest total in the MAC.

     

     


    No. 13/13/15 MICHIGAN (8-2, 6-0) at WISCONSIN (7-3, 3-3)
    Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, Wis.
    11 a.m. CST - ESPN

    LAST TIME OUT

  • No. 15/14/15 MICHIGAN def. Michigan State, 28-24; No. 1/1/1 Ohio State def. No. -/19/21 WISCONSIN, 38-17

    THE SERIES

  • Overall: Michigan, 48-11-1
  • Last Time Out: 2006 - Michigan, 27-13
  • Noteworthy: Michigan has claimed victories in 16 of the last 19 games and 30 of the last 34 matchups.

    STAT SPEAK

    Michigan heads to Camp Randall Stadium Saturday looking to remain undefeated in conference play and possibly earn a chance to compete for the Big Ten Championship next week against Ohio State. Quarterback Chad Henne, who has been fighting through a number of injuries this season, is the current Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week after throwing for 18-of-33 for 211 yards and four touchdowns in a win last week against Michigan State. His teammate, running back Mike Hart, has also been plagued by an ankle injury this season and missed nearly three full games before returning last week to rush for 110 yards on 15 carries.

    Injuries have also plagued the Badgers, as sophomore running back P.J. Hill did not play last week against Ohio State after suffering a deep bruise on his leg against Indiana the week prior. Without Hill's 118.4 yards on the ground per game, Wisconsin was forced to the air last week, where quarterback Tyler Donovan was 17-of-29 for 238 yards and two touchdowns. Having Hill out of the lineup proved costly for the Badgers, as they were held to a season-low 12 yards rushing on 37 attempts.

    Should Hart be healthy on Saturday, which is expected, Wisconsin will need to focus on stopping the run. The Badgers are eighth in the conference by allowing 148.1 yards on the ground each game. Michigan is currently fourth in the Big Ten with 193.1 rushing yards per outing. Overall, the teams boast offensive and defensive averages that are almost the same. In total offense, Michigan (407.1 ypg) is seventh in the conference, followed by Wisconsin (404.7) in eighth, while defensively, the Wolverines (320.9) are third and the Badgers (338.4) are fifth. Individually, Michigan's Mario Manningham (6.6 rpg, 105.4 ypg) and Wisconsin's Travis Beckum (6.2 rpg, 76.5 ypg) are two of the conference's top receivers, while on the defensive side of the ball, Shawn Crable leads Michigan and the Big Ten with 22.5 tackles for loss. The Badgers are led Jonathan Casillas and his 7.2 stops per game.

    Michigan beat Wisconsin last year in Ann Arbor, 27-13, for its seventh win over the Badgers in the last eight games. However, history bodes well for UW when playing at home, as Wisconsin has won 13 straight at home and 24 of their last 25 at Camp Randall Stadium.


    INDIANA (6-4, 2-4) at NORTHWESTERN (5-5, 2-4)
    Ryan Field, Evanston, Ill.
    11 a.m. CST- ESPN Classic

    LAST TIME OUT

  • INDIANA def. Ball State, 38-20; Iowa def. NORTHWESTERN, 28-17

    THE SERIES

  • Overall: Northwestern, 41-33-1
  • Last Time Out: 2004 - Northwestern, 31-24 (2OT)
  • Noteworthy: NU has won the last three games in this series, including the last two in overtime fashion.

    STAT SPEAK

    Indiana and Northwestern have not met since a double-overtime thriller at Ryan Field in 2004, and Saturday's rematch against the two could not have come at a more important time. Northwestern needs to earn its sixth win of the season to become bowl eligible, while Indiana could use the victory to all but secure a definite bowl trip, after picking up its sixth win last week over Ball State.

    Without question the spotlight will be on the two quarterbacks - Northwestern's C.J. Bacher and Indiana's Kellen Lewis - who rank first and second, respectively, in Big Ten total offense. Bacher averages 308.8 yards per game, but only 18 of his 3,088 total yards on the season have come on the ground. Lewis is more apt to use both the rush and the pass to confuse opponents. He is averaging 300.6 yards, while his 3,006 yards on the season are broken up into 2,419 through the air and 587 on the ground.

    A high-scoring game is expected on Saturday as Indiana (26.6) and Northwestern (30.3) rank ninth and 10th, respectively, in conference scoring defense. The Hoosiers have the fourth-best scoring offense at 32.4 points per game, while the Wildcats are 10th at an average of 25.7. Both teams choose the spread offense attack, which has made them two of the top three passing teams in the league. Defending the pass has been a struggle this year. Indiana is seventh at 229.4 passing yards allowed each outing and Northwestern is 10th at 249.7. Pressure on the quarterback could be an advantage for the Hoosiers Saturday. The Wildcats have allowed 30 sacks this season - the second-most in the Big Ten - while Indiana has recorded 38, which is also ranks second. Indiana's Greg Middleton is tied for the nation's top average with 11.5 sacks this year.

    Northwestern's Adam Kadela, who ranks fifth in the conference with 10.1 tackles per game, might be able help the Wildcat defense to a few Hoosier turnovers. Once the conference leader in turnover margin, Indiana has lost 11 of 14 fumbles over the last four games. The Hoosiers, who own the conference's 10th-best rushing defense at 162.2 yards per game, must contain NU running back Tyrell Sutton, who had his first 100-yard rushing day since returning from a near season-long injury.


    MINNESOTA (1-9, 0-6) at IOWA (5-5, 3-4)
    Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, Iowa
    11 a.m. CST - Big Ten Network

    LAST TIME OUT

  • Illinois def. MINNESOTA, 44-17; IOWA def. Northwestern, 28-17

    THE SERIES

  • Overall: Minnesota, 59-39-2
  • Last Time Out: 2006 - Minnesota, 34-24
  • Noteworthy: Iowa has won five of the last six in the series and 10 of the last 14.

    STAT SPEAK

    Iowa might be one of the hottest teams in the Big Ten right now as after starting the season 2-4, the Hawkeyes are now one win shy of six victories and bowl eligibility. The Hawkeyes have two home games remaining, one of which takes place Saturday against Minnesota. In the previous eight meetings between the two teams, who battle for the Floyd of Rosedale, each squad has scored at least 21 points per outing. That could be good news for an Iowa team that has struggled offensively throughout the season.

    Although the Hawkeyes are averaging 41.8 points in the last nine victories over the Gophers, Iowa ranks 11th in the conference this season with a scoring offense that puts out only 18.2 points per game. Minnesota on the other hand, ranks 112th out of 119 teams in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 37.8 points an outing. The Golden Gophers are 119th in total defense, giving up 548.5 yards per contest.

    The Hawkeye defense, which is third in the conference in scoring (18.1), fourth in rushing (121.7) and sixth in passing (219.3) and total defense (341.0), will face a Golden Gopher offense that can put up the yards. Minnesota ranks sixth in total offense with 407.4 yards per game and is fourth in the conference with 240.7 passing yards per outing. Freshman quarterback Adam Weber has played a big role for the offense this year, throwing 20 touchdowns on the season, but also a conference-high 16 interceptions. That is good news for Iowa, as it boasts a plus-11 turnover margin, 10th-best in the country, compared to Minnesota's minus-13, which is 112th. The Hawkeyes have protected the ball this season, turning it over only nine times, which is on pace to break the school record of 15 set in 1963. While Iowa's Jake Christensen boasts an average of only 186.3 passing yards per game, which is 10th in the conference, he has thrown a league-low three interceptions.

    Defensively, Iowa is led by linebacker Mike Humpal, who ranks first in the conference and ninth nationally with 11.1 tackles per game. Bryan Mattison has nine sacks on the season, but might struggle Saturday against a Minnesota offensive line that has allowed only 13 sacks on the season - an average of 1.3 per game which ranks 20th in the country.


    MICHIGAN STATE (5-5, 1-5) at PURDUE (7-3, 3-3)
    Ross Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, Ind.
    Noon EST - Big Ten Network

    LAST TIME OUT

  • No. 15/14/15 Michigan def. MICHIGAN STATE, 28-24; Penn State def. PURDUE, 26-19

    THE SERIES

  • Overall: Tied, 28-28-3
  • Last Time Out: 2006 - Purdue, 17-15
  • Noteworthy: The Boilermakers are 7-1 vs. MSU under head coach Joe Tiller, including five wins by seven points or less.

    STAT SPEAK

    Purdue will be looking for its fifth consecutive win over Michigan State on Saturday as the Boilermakers host a contest that will boast the conference's second-best rusher against the second-best passer. Quarterback Curtis Painter has guided the Boilermakers throughout the season with a 267.5 passing average that has not ranked below second in the conference. He has thrown 24 touchdowns - the most of any Big Ten signal caller -- and only six interceptions, which ranks as the third fewest. On the other end of the field is Michigan State's Javon Ringer, who rushes for 121.2 yards per game, despite having only scored six touchdowns on the year. His 6.4 yards-per-carry average is second-best in the conference.

    Those two leaders have helped Purdue (34.0) and Michigan State (32.6) to the top-two scoring averages in the Big Ten. Defensively, both teams rank in the middle of the pack with the Boilermakers (22.2) sixth and the Spartans (26.0) eighth. When looking at which team defends the other's strength the best, look for the favor to be in Michigan State's corner. Purdue is second in the league with 282.2 passing yards per game, but the Spartans rank fourth in defending the pass, allowing just 207.5 yards per game. When running the ball, the Spartans' average of 210.9 is second in the conference, while the Boilermakers rank seventh, giving up 142.4 yards on the ground each game. The averages do balance out to give Michigan State (427.4) a slight advantage over Purdue (420.4) for the second-best total offense output in the conference.

    In addition to Painter and Ringer, look for MSU quarterback Brian Hoyer and defensive lineman Jonal Saint-Dic to contribute for the Spartans. Hoyer has just five interceptions on the season and will face a Boilermaker defense that has earned 13 picks, led by Terrell Vinson's five. Purdue is fourth in the conference with just 16 sacks allowed, but Saint-Dic is among the nation's top pass rushers with 10.0 sacks of his own this year.


    ILLINOIS (7-3, 4-2) at No. 1/1/1 OHIO STATE (10-0, 6-0)
    Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
    3:30 p.m. EST - ABC

    LAST TIME OUT

  • ILLINOIS def. Minnesota, 44-17; No. 1/1/1 OHIO STATE def. No. -/19/21 Wisconsin, 38-17

    THE SERIES

  • Overall: Ohio State, 60-29-4
  • Last Time Out: 2006 - Ohio State, 17-10
  • Noteworthy: Ohio State has won the last three meetings, but Illinois has prevailed in two of the last three matchups at Ohio Stadium.

    STAT SPEAK

    Ohio State will be poised to remain focused on Illinois this week if the Buckeyes believe in past results. In 2001, the last time Illinois was bowl eligible, the Fighting Illini stormed into Ohio Stadium and beat OSU, 34-22, in the week prior to the Michigan game. Last year, just two weeks shy of the Michigan contest, which featured the nation's No. 1 and 2 teams, Illinois scared the Buckeyes in Champaign before falling 17-10. This season, Illinois is already bowl eligible and far better than the 2-10 team OSU faced last year.

    With a win Saturday, Ohio State would earn its 29th consecutive regular-season win and extend its conference-record streak to 21 games. Perhaps most important would be the fact that a victory would give the Buckeyes at least a share of the Big Ten Championship and would inch them one win closer to the BCS National Championship game.

    The Buckeyes lead the nation in scoring defense (9.7) and total defense (221.2), are second in pass defense (156.2), and third in pass efficiency defense (94.0) and rush defense (65.0). Those totals could pose a problem for Illinois running back Rashard Mendenhall, the Big Ten's leading rusher with 1,314, who is also coming off a 201-yard two-touchdown performance last Saturday at Minnesota. Mendenhall has rushed for 390 yards and four scores in the past two games and needs just 17 yards to break Antonieo Harris' 2002 single-season rushing record.

    As a team, Illinois is sixth in the nation in rushing at 261.7 yards per contest and is allowing only 19.1 points per game, roughly a touchdown better than its average last season. Ohio State will counter with a run game of its own as Chris Wells rushed for 169 yards on 21 carries last week and is averaging 174.3 yards per game in his last three outings. Under center, OSU's Todd Boeckman remains one of the nation's most efficient passers with a 160.8 rating, while the Buckeyes will be forced to deal with the Illini's dual-threat quarterback in Juice Williams.

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