Big Ten Football Preview: Week 11

Nov. 10, 2011


(7-2, 4-1 Big Ten)

Legends Division Game
Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011 • 11 a.m. CT • Iowa City, Iowa • Kinnick Stadium (70,585)
ESPN2 • Announcers: Beth Mowins and Mike Bellotti
Series: Iowa leads 22-18-2 • Last Meeting: Oct. 30, 2010: Iowa 37, Michigan State 6

(6-3, 3-2 Big Ten)

Iowa welcomes Michigan State to Kinnick Stadium Saturday for the Hawkeyes’ home finale of the 2011 season.  The Hawkeyes boasts a 22-18-2 advantage over the Spartans and have won the last two meetings, four of the last five, and nine of the last 13, with all four losses coming at East Lansing.  In the all-time series, the home team has won 11 of the last 12 games, including 10 straight before Iowa won in East Lansing in 2009.  MSU’s last win in Kinnick Stadium came by a 17-14 margin in 1989. The two teams did not meet in 2005 and 2006. The Spartans are visiting Iowa City for the second straight season, with Iowa winning 37-6 a year ago.  MSU rallied last week for a 31-24 win over Minnesota, while the Hawkeyes surprised No. 13 Michigan, 24-16.

In last year’s loss to the Hawkeyes, the Spartans’ offense mustered only 258 total yards, including 31 yards on the ground.  Last weekend against Minnesota, MSU gained just 106 rushing yards, but netted 415 yards overall.  Now the Spartans enter Saturday’s contest with a rushing offense that ranks 12th in the Big Ten at 130.3 yards per game.  So, naturally, look for Michigan State to throw the pigskin behind the consistent and accurate arm of Kirk Cousins.  The talented senior, who is third in the conference with 221.0 passing yards each time out, leads an aerial attack against an Iowa pass defense that is just 10th-best in the league, allowing 233.9 passing yards per game.  B.J. Cunningham (5.7) and Keshawn Martin (4.3) rank third and sixth, respectively, among conference receivers in catches per contest.  Last year against the Spartans, Iowa linebacker James Morris earned his first career start as a true freshman and added nine tackles.  Morris is currently third overall in the conference with 10.5 stops per game.  Expect junior Micah Hyde, who returned an interception 66 yards for a score against MSU last year, to once again disrupt the Spartans’ passing game.  He paces the conference with nine passes defended on the season. Tyler Nielsen had a career-high 13 tackles, including seven solo stops, last week against Michigan.

Iowa’s offense boasts the same type of balance the Spartans have.  The Hawkeyes dominate in the passing game, ranking fourth at 235.4 yards per game, but have struggled on the ground with just 156.0 yards each time out, which ranks 10th in the league.  Marcus Coker, however, has paced Iowa’s ground attack over the past four games.  In the win at Michigan, he recorded 132 yards on 29 carries with two scores.  Marvin McNutt, who is second in the Big Ten in receptions (6.3) and receiving yards per game (106.6), led Iowa receivers with a career-best nine catches for 101 yards.  James Vandenberg is second in the league with 231.1 passing yards per contest and has completed 62.6 percent of his 246 passes this season.  Michigan State is second in the nation in passing defense (145.9) and total defense (249.4), 14th in sacks (2.9) and 17th against the rush (103.6).  MSU is also ninth in the nation with 13 interceptions, recording a pick in eight of its nine games this season. Junior safety Isaiah Lewis and senior Trenton Robinson both lead the Big Ten and rank tied for 12th in the country with four INTs on the season.  Last week against Minnesota, Robinson hauled in two picks, Lewis posted 12 tackles, and William Gholston netted 14 tackles and a forced fumble.


(7-2, 3-2 Big Ten)

Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011 • Noon ET • University Park, Pa.• Beaver Stadium (106,572)
ESPN • Announcers: Dave Pasch, Urban Meyer, Chris Spielman, Tom Rinaldi
Series: Penn State leads 7-6 • Last Meeting: Sept. 13, 2003: Nebraska 18, Penn State 10

(6-1, 5-0 Big Ten)

A top-20 matchup is on the docket Saturday in State College, with No. 19 Nebraska traveling to State College for the first time since 2002 to face a 12th-ranked Penn State ballclub which is the lone team unbeaten in conference action.  The game will be the first between the two schools as members of the Big Ten and the 14th all-time matchup. Penn State holds a 7-6 advantage, including a 5-1 advantage on its home field. The schools most recently met in 2002 and 2003 when they split a home-and-home series.  Nebraska dropped to 3-2 in the Big Ten and 7-2 overall with a 28-25 loss to Northwestern last Saturday in Lincoln, while Penn State was observing its bye week.

All season long the Huskers have been one of the nation’s top running teams, but they were held to just 122 yards on the ground last week at home against Northwestern.  This week they face a Penn State defense that is third in the conference in defending the rush, allowing 111.9 yards each time out. Nebraska is averaging 237.7 rushing yards per game, which is second in the league and 13th in the country.  Junior Rex Burkhead leads the team and ranks fourth in the Big Ten in rushing, compiling 951 yards on 187 carries and 13 touchdowns, good for 105.7 yards per contest. Sophomore Taylor Martinez stands under center for a Nebraska offense that averages 34.7 points and 412.2 yards per game, good for fourth in the Big Ten. Martinez has thrown for 1,545 yards, completing 118 of 201 passes, with 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He also ranks second on the team in rushing, totaling 712 yards with nine touchdowns. Overall, Penn State possesses one of the nation’s best defenses. The Nittany Lions rank third nationally in scoring defense (12.4), third in pass efficiency defense (96.4), seventh in pass defense (170.4), eighth in total defense (282.3) and 24th in rushing defense (111.9).  Penn State also brings pressure, as the Nittany Lions rank 12th nationally with an average of 7.7 tackles-for-loss per game and are tied for 24th nationally with an average of 2.6 sacks per game. Devon Still ranks fourth nationally with 15.5 TFLs this season.

On offense, Penn State also boasts an impressive run game led by Silas Redd.  The Nittany Lions rush for 162.4 yards per contest, while adding 194.2 yards through the air.  Redd has posted five straight 100-yard rushing games and ranks third in the Big Ten and 18th nationally with an average of 111.8 yards per game. Matt McGloin, who made his first start two weeks ago, is the Nittany Lions’ top passer, throwing for 1,193 yards and seven touchdowns.  Wideout Derek Moye is fifth in the league with 73.4 receiving yards and seventh with 4.3 receptions per game.  PSU is also getting it done in the trenches.  Like Nebraska, Penn State is tied for the Big Ten lead in fewest sacks allowed with an average of 1.22 per game. The Nittany Lions’ veteran offensive line has given up only 11 sacks in nine games to pace the conference and rank 24th in the nation in fewest sacks allowed.  Nebraska’s defense ranks fifth in defending the pass (188.7), seventh in total yards allowed (349.4) and eighth against the rush (160.8).  Junior linebacker Lavonte David tops the Huskers in tackles (88) and tackles for loss (7), and is tied for the team lead in interceptions (2).  The safety tandem of Daimion Stafford (58 tackles, 7 pass break-ups) and Austin Cassidy (47 tackles, 2 interceptions) anchor the secondary.


(5-3, 2-2 Big Ten)

Leaders Division Game
Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011 • Noon ET • West Lafayette, Ind. • Ross-Ade Stadium (62,500)
BTN • Announcers: Tom Hart, Derek Rackley, Lisa Byington
Series: Ohio State leads, 37-13-2 • Last Meeting: Oct. 17, 2009: Purdue 26, Ohio State 18

(4-4, 2-2 Big Ten)

Coming off a 34-20 victory over Indiana last week, Ohio State hits the road to the Hoosier state to battle IU rival Purdue, which fell 62-17 at Wisconsin a week ago.  The Buckeyes and Boilermakers have met 52 times in the all-time series, with Ohio State holding a 37-13-2 advantage, including a 12-7 edge in West Lafayette.  The Boilermakers, however, have defeated the Buckeyes in three of the last five meetings at Ross-Ade Stadium.  Purdue hosts the Buckeyes for the first time since upsetting seventh-ranked Ohio State 26-18 in 2009.  It’s November now, though, and that has proven to be a successful month for OSU over the last six years.  Since 2005, Ohio State boasts a 15-1 record in the year’s 11th month, including an 8-0 mark on the road during that span.

The Buckeyes enter the weekend on the heels of its best rushing performance in 15 years, having posted 346 yards on the ground last week against Indiana.  Three Ohio State standouts eclipsed the 100-yard rushing plateau, marking the first time since 1989 a Buckeye trio accomplish the feat.  Dan “Boom” Herron, who has carried 70 times for 415 yards (138.3 ypg) and 2 TDs in three games this season, led the Scarlet and Gray with 141 yards, followed by quarterback Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde, who each set career highs with 105 yards rushing in the win.  Purdue has struggled against the run this season, tying for 10th in the conference with 191.1 yards each time out.  Last week at Wisconsin, the Boilermakers allowed 605 total yards, including 364 on the ground and a career-high 223 yards to Montee Ball.  Dwayne Beckford, who recorded a career-high 14 tackles, including two losses with a sack against the Badgers, is ninth in the conference with 7.8 tackles per game, followed by Joe Holland with 7.4 hits each time out.

On the offensive side of the ball, Purdue is seventh in the conference in rushing (174.9) and ninth in passing (192.2) and total yards (367.1).  Quarterback Caleb TerBush is ninth in the league with 154.0 passing yards each time out, while Antavian Edison looks to extend his consecutive games with a catch streak to 18 straight.  Despite having just the seventh-best pass defense in the league, OSU boasts some of the conference’s best defenders in the secondary. Three defensive backs - Bradley Roby, C.J. Barnett and Travis Howard - are among the top 11 players statistically in the Big Ten in passes defended. Roby and Barnett are each tied for second with seven passes defended, while Howard is tied for 11th with five. Roby is also tied for third (3) and Howard eighth (2) in interceptions. Senior linebacker Andrew Sweat, who ranks 13th in the Big Ten with 7.3 tackles per game, continues to lead the Buckeyes’ defense. He had nine more stops against the Hoosiers to increase his team leading total to 66 (33 solo and 33 assists).  John Simon leads the Buckeyes with 12.5 TFLs this season and six quarterback sacks, numbers that rank tied for fourth and tied for second, respectively, in the Big Ten.


(7-2, 3-2 Big Ten)

Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011 • 2:30 p.m. CT • Champaign, Ill. • Memorial Stadium (62,670)
ABC (regional), ESPN (outer market) • Announcers: Mike Patrick, Craig James
Series: Michigan leads 67-23-2 • Last Meeting: Nov. 6, 2010: Michigan 67, Illinois 65 (3OT)

(6-3, 2-3 Big Ten)

Michigan hits the road to Illinois this week for a rematch of an instant classic last year – a 67-65 triple-overtime victory for the Wolverines in Ann Arbor.  It was Michigan’s 67th overall win against Illinois, having suffered only 23 losses and a pair of ties in 92 all-time meetings.  The Wolverines also boast a 33-12-1 advantage in Champaign, however the Fighting Illini have taken two of the last three meetings.  The last time the two teams squared off in Memorial Stadium, the Illini claimed a 38-13 victory in 2009, marking the Orange and Blue’s first against the Wolverines in Champaign since 1983. Illinois has not beaten Michigan in consecutive trips to Champaign since the 1955 and 1957 campaigns.  History shows Illinois has struggled coming off a bye week, recording just an 11-16 mark in 27 contests following an idle week.  Michigan suffered a 24-16 setback to Iowa last Saturday.

Michigan’s offense ranks third in the conference in scoring (32.7), rushing (232.2), and total yards (428.1), while boasting the seventh-best passing attack (195.9).  Quarterback Denard Robinson has the chance to reach career milestones in rushing and passing on Saturday, as he is just 67 rushing yards shy of 3,000 for his career, and 125 passing yards away from 4,500.  Currently Robinson is averaging 97.8 yards on the ground, which is fifth-best in the league, and 179.7 yards in the air, good for sixth place.  Junior Hemingway, who had 64 yards on five catches last week, enters Saturday just 47 yards shy of 1,500 receiving yards for his career.  Hemingway is 10th overall in the conference with 57.1 receiving yards each time out.  Illinois’ defense has been impressive this year, ranking among the nation’s best in several categories.  The Fighting Illini’s per-game averages rate third in sacks (3.43), sixth in tackles for loss (8.0), sixth in total yards allowed (280.1), eighth in passing defense (177.2), 13th in scoring defense (17.2), 15th in rushing defense (102.9), and 19th in pass efficiency defense (114.08).  Defensive end Whitney Mercilus leads the country in sacks (11.5) and sacks per game (1.28), is tied for first in forced fumbles (6) and is third in tackles for loss (1.83 per game).  Linebacker Jonathan Brown also ranks 15th nationally and fourth in the Big Ten in tackles for loss per game (1.44).

The Illinois offense has averaged nearly 50 points and over 520 yards per game in the last three meetings against Michigan. The Illini have scored 45, 38 and 65 the last three times they've face the Wolverines, and have gone over 300 rushing yards in the last two meetings (377 in 2009 and 315 in 2010).  In last year’s contest, Illinois posted 65 points against the Maize and Blue, which marked the most points any team has ever scored against Michigan.  The Illini have continued to produce on the ground, with 198.4 yards rushing each time out. Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase leads the team in rushing with 501 yards, while senior RB Jason Ford is the top Illini running back with 492 yards and a team-high six touchdowns. Senior RB Troy Pollard has 390 yards on only 48 carries. His 8.13 yards per carry average is the fifth-highest in the nation. Scheelhaase also ranks 25th nationally and third in the Big Ten in passing efficiency (147.4), while his primary target, A.J. Jenkins, paces the conference and ranks eighth nationally in receiving yards (114.4) and 10th in receptions (7.6) per game.  Michigan is second in the conference in scoring defense (15.7) and sixth against the rush (137.4), the pass (192.0), and in total yards allowed (329.4).  In last week’s loss to Iowa, the Wolverines gave up 131 yards on the ground and 171 yards in the air.  The Wolverines held the Hawkeyes to just 4-of-12 on third-down conversions, better than the 36.9 percent clip they are averaging for the season.  Kenny Demens, who is tied for 13th in the conference with 7.3 tackles per game, made 11 stops last week.  Jordan Kovacs is 29th at 6.0 hits each time out, while Craig Roh is seventh in the conference with 4.0 sacks on the year.


(7-2, 3-2 Big Ten)

Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011 • 2:30 p.m. CT • Minneapolis, Minn. • TCF Bank Stadium (50,805)
BTN • Announcers: Eric Collins, Chris Martin, Dionne Miller
Series: Minnesota leads 59-53-8 • Last Meeting: Oct. 9, 2010: Wisconsin 41, Minnesota 23

(2-7, 1-4 Big Ten)

The Minnesota Golden Gophers are back home Saturday for a rivalry matchup with No. 18 Wisconsin.  The Badger-Gopher battle is the most-played rivalry in all of college football, with Saturday's game being the 121st meeting. It will also be for Paul Bunyan's Axe, one of four trophy games Minnesota plays for each season.  The Golden Gophers lead the all-time series, 58-54-8, while the Badgers lead the Axe's series, 36-24-3.  UW has claimed the last seven contests over Minnesota, leaving the Gophers Axe-less since 2003. The last four meetings in Minneapolis have all been decided by a touchdown or less, including Wisconsin's 31-28 win over the Gophers in 2009. Last year UW defeated the Gophers, 41-23, at Camp Randall Stadium.  Minnesota is coming off a hard-fought 31-24 loss to Michigan State in its last outing. The Gophers are now 2-7 overall and 1-4 in Big Ten play. Wisconsin enters Saturday's contest with a 7-2 record and a 3-2 Big Ten mark. The Badgers tallied a season-high point total in a 62-17 win over Purdue Saturday.

Wisconsin travels to Minneapolis on the heels of a dominant offensive output against Purdue, one where the Badgers accumulated 62 points, 364 rushing yards and 605 total yards.  Those figures helped inflate UW’s seasonal averages to 47.0 points, 246.4 rushing yards and 503.2 total yards each time out.  While the Badgers boast several offensive weapons, the primary factors this year have been quarterback Russell Wilson and running back Monte Ball. Wilson is currently first in the nation in pass efficiency (196.66), while Ball is 12th in rushing with 119.6 yards per game.  Last week Ball went over the 100-yard mark for the fifth time this season and 11th time in his career with 20 carries for a career-high 223 yards, giving him 1,076 yards on the season.  Sophomore wideout Jared Abbrederis has five TD receptions in his last six games and ranks eighth in the conference with 68.2 receiving yards per game.  Teammate Nick Toon is sixth with 72.4 yards per outing.  Minnesota’s defense is 10th in the conference in rushing (191.1) and total yards (427.6), and 11th in passing (236.4) and scoring (33.7).  The Gophers allowed Michigan State just 106 yards on the ground, but gave up nearly 300 yards in the air.  Mike Rallis led the team with nine tackles, while Gary Tinsley posted a sack to give him a team-high two on the season.  Tinsley is also second on the team this year with 60 total stops. Minnesota now has 10 sacks on the season, one more than the Gophers recorded in all of 2010.

Minnesota received quite the spark from junior quarterback MarQueis Gray and senior wideout Da’Jon McKnight in last week’s loss to the Spartans. Gray recorded career-high marks for completions (19), attempts (32), yards (295) and touchdowns (3), while McKnight grabbed nine receptions to tie his career-best mark, recorded 173 yards for a career-best, and matched his career high with three touchdowns.  On the season, Gray is only averaging 154.4 yards in the air and McKnight owns an average of 69.8 receiving yards each time out.  Despite ranking last in the conference in total offense with 315.8 yards per game, the Gophers are well balanced on the ground and in the air.  That balance, though, also pertains to the Wisconsin defense, which allows 137.3 rushing and 156.9 passing yards per contest.  In the win over Purdue, Chris Borland finished with a team-high 11 tackles, 3.5 TFLs, two forced fumbles, an interception and a pass breakup.  Junior Mike Taylor picked off his second pass of the season as well.  Both Taylor and Borland pace the conference with 10.6 tackles per game each, while Borland is third with 14.0 tackles for loss on the year.


(3-6, 2-4 C-USA)

Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011 • 11 a.m. CT • Evanston, Ill. • Ryan Field (47,130)
BTN • Announcers: Matt Devlin, Glen Mason, Jon Jansen
Series: Rice leads 4-2 • Last Meeting: Sept. 18, 2010: Northwestern 30, Rice 13

(4-5, 2-4 Big Ten)

Northwestern takes a week off from conference play to host Rice in the Wildcats’ final non-conference game of the season.  Rice heads back to Evanston having won its previous two games played at Ryan Field and holds a 4-2 lead in its series with NU.  The Owls posted a 36-7 victory in Evanston on Sept. 14, 1997 and a 40-34 victory on Sept. 27, 1997.  The Wildcats have won the last two games in the series, both played at Rice Stadium. NU posted a 23-14 victory over the Owls on Sept. 19, 1998 and last year claimed a 30-14 victory in Houston.  Earlier in the season, Rice defeated Purdue to snap a six-game losing streak to Big Ten schools. 

The Owls enter Saturday with quite the momentum on offense, having amassed 1,116 total yards in the past two weeks. Their 671 yards of total offense in last week’s win over UTEP ranks third all-time in program history.  Two weeks ago, Rice rushed for 359 yards and total 475 total yards in a loss to Houston. In his first start of the season last week, senior quarterback Nick Fanuzzi completed 30-of-43 passes for 405 yards and three touchdowns in the Owls’ win over UTEP.  In five games of action, Fanuzzi has completed 61-of-106 passes for 787 yards and five touchdowns, without throwing an interception.  The ground game is led by Tyler Smith, who went for a career-best 170 yards on 13 carries against Houston two games back. Smith is averaging 6.7 yards per carry while leading the Owls with a career-best 510 yards rushing on 97 carries this year.  Northwestern looks to tune its defensive squad this week, as the Wildcats rank 11th in the league in yards allowed (429.3) and are last in defending the pass (243.7).  NU, however, was lauded for its efforts in defending the run two weeks back, giving up just 122 rushing yards to Nebraska.  Safety Ibraheim Campbell led the Wildcats with 13 tackles and added a fumble recovery as well.  On the year, Northwestern is led by junior David Nwabuisi, who is 10th in the conference with 7.7 tackles per game, while Campbell is 15th at 7.2 hits each time out.

Northwestern posted 468 yards of total offense when it topped the Huskers and both Kain Colter and Jeremy Ebert were honored for their efforts.  Colter was tabbed Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week after accumulating 57 yards both rushing and receiving while also throwing for 115 yards, 81 of which came on a fourth-quarter scoring strike to Ebert, who earned Walter Camp National Offensive Player of the Week honors. Ebert posted a career day with a personal-best 147 receiving yards on six catches, which also vaulted him over 2,000 receiving yards for his career.  Quarterback Dan Persa was 9-of-14 passing for 79 yards, but he ranks fourth in the conference with 190.0 passing yards each time out.  Freshman Bryce Callahan is set to be ready for the Wildcats. Callahan intercepted his fourth and fifth passes of the season against UTEP last time out, a total that marks the most picks in a year for an Owl since 2007. He is the only freshman in the country to have five or more interceptions this season. True sophomore Cameron Nwosu continues to lead the Owls with 88 stops in nine games, equating to 9.78 tackles per game, which is currently tied for 24th nationally.