Big Ten Weekend Preview
Michigan State (4-3, 3-1) at No. 12 Michigan (7-1, 5-0)
3:30 p.m. EDT – ABC
Daily Line: Michigan minus 11
Michigan State player to watch: Quarterback Drew Stanton has emerged as the leader on the offense, passing for more than 300 yards and rushing for more than 100 against Minnesota in the Spartans’ last game. He will be in the crosshairs against a stingy Michigan defense that is only allowing 276 yards a game.
Michigan player to watch: Running back Michael Hart is coming off of his second 200-plus yard performance of the season. He will face a Michigan State defense that held Minnesota’s Marion Barber III and Laurence Maroney to a combined 90 yards.
The inside scoop: The two teams will battle for the Paul Bunyan trophy, a four-foot wooden statue that was donated by the state Governor when MSU joined the conference in 1953... Michigan receiver Braylon Edwards leads the conference in receptions per game and receiving yards per game. He is the only receiver in the Big Ten to average than 100 yards a game… Michigan State punter Brandon Fields leads the nation in punting, averaging more than 49 yards a punt... The MSU offensive line is tops in the conference, allowing a league-low five sacks.
Michigan State will win if: it can shut down Hart. In the past two games, he has had 73 carries, and as long as the Michigan offense is on the field, Stanton and the MSU offense will be kept on the bench.
Michigan will win if : it knows where Stanton is at all times. He is capable of throwing it, running it, or even going out and catching it. The Michigan defense will have to be able to account for him and limit his impact.
The pick: Michigan 27, Michigan State 16
No. 17 Purdue (5-2, 2-2) at Northwestern (3-4, 2-2)
11:00 a.m. CDT – ESPN
Daily Line: Purdue minus 9.5
Purdue player to watch: Wide receiver Taylor Stubblefield has been nearly invisible for the Boilers in the past two games. He has been held to a combined four catches and 50 yards during the two-game losing streak.
Northwestern player to watch: Quarterback Brett Basanez is coming off of his worst performance of the season, completing less than 50 percent of his passes. He was only 5 of 18 in the first half against Wisconsin and will need to bounce back against an angry Purdue defense.
The inside scoop: The Boilermakers have seen two fourth-quarter leads evaporate in the last two weeks, both resulting in losses… Purdue has not lost to the Wildcats since 1996, dropping a 27-24 contest in Evanston… Purdue running back Jerod Void has not broken the 100-yard barrier yet in any game this season, and was held to less than 2.5 yards a carry against Michigan… Northwestern linebacker Tim McGarigle is second in the conference with 80 tackles and is averaging more than 11 a game… The Wildcats are converting 75 percent of the time they reach their opponent’s red zone (18 for 24, 15 touchdowns).
Purdue will win if: it can return to early-season form, when it easily rolled over opponents on the arm of Orton and a surprising young defense. Purdue should have too many weapons on offense for a banged up Northwestern pass defense, and if quarterback Kyle Orton can get on track, the Boilermakers will flex their offensive muscle in Evanston.
Northwestern will win if : it can win the time-of-possession battle. Running back Noah Herron has rushed for more than 100 yards in three straight games, and if he is unable to do that against the Boilermakers, the Purdue defense will try to clamp down on receiver Mark Philmore and force Basanez to pass elsewhere.
The pick: Purdue 31, Northwestern 20
No. 23 Iowa (5-2, 3-1) at Illinois (2-6, 0-5)
11:00 a.m. CDT – ESPN Plus
Daily Line: Iowa minus 11
Iowa player to watch: Quarterback Drew Tate is looking for a strong comeback after a terrible performance last week against Penn State. He passed for only 126 yards in Iowa’s epic 6-4 win over the Nittany Lions.
Illinois player to watch: Quarterback Jon Beutjer has spent time as the starter and on the fourth team for the Illini. The former Iowa transfer worked out this week with the second team and was told to be ready to play.
The inside scoop: These two teams combined for six points last weekend. Each team enters the weekend scoring 16.2 points a game in Big Ten play… The similarities end when you look at scoring defense during league play, where the Illini are giving up 35 points a game. The Hawkeyes are only allowing 14.2. Illinois will have a tough time moving the ball on the ground against Iowa, with the Hawkeye run defense allowing only 72 yards a game… Illinois has not been getting it done up front on defense, recording a league-low seven sacks in eight games.
Iowa will win if: it continues to play dominating defense. Iowa's first-string defense has not given up a touchdown for three straight games. The "Bullies of the Big Ten" appear to be back.
Illinois will win if : it finds some way to run the ball against Iowa to loosen up its pass defense. On defense, the Hawkeyes are down to their fourth-string running back, so the Illini have to stuff the run, and force Tate to beat them by throwing.
The pick: Iowa 24, Illinois 7
Penn State (2-5, 0-4) at Ohio State (4-3, 1-3)
12:00 p.m. EDT – ESPN Plus
Daily Line: Ohio State minus 6
Penn State player(s) to watch: The entire offensive line is on the hot-seat this week. The Nittany Lions rushed for only 51 yards last week and completed less than 40 percent of their passes.
Ohio State player to watch: Quarterback Troy Smith was impressive enough in his first career start, but now the honeymoon is over. He will be facing a Penn State pass defense that is allowing 172 yards a game.
The inside scoop: Penn State quarterback Zack Mills is listed as questionable for the game after suffering a concussion against Iowa... Running back Tony Hunt has been held to less than 50 yards in his past three games, but will need to have a big game to take the pressure off of an unstable quarterback position... Ohio State running back Antonio Pittman made the most out of his first career start last week rushing for 144 yards on 20 carries... Linebacker A.J. Hawk leads the conference in tackles averaging more than 12.5 tackles a game. He is semifinalist for the Butkus and Lombardi awards.
Penn State will win if: Ohio State is flat. The Buckeyes are only one game removed from a three-game losing streak. If Penn State can open up an early lead and force Ohio State to abandon the run, the Nittany Lions can win in Columbus for the first time since joining the Big Ten.
Ohio State will win if : it can establish the run. Pittman will find out that the Penn State rushing defense is considerably better than the Indiana defense. If he is able to successfully get to the outside, it will take pressure off of Smith. Defensively, the Buckeyes need to know where Michael Robinson is at all times.
The pick: Ohio State 20, Penn State 10
No. 24 Minnesota (6-2, 3-2) at Indiana (2-5, 0-4)
11:00 a.m. CDT – ESPN
Daily Line: Minnesota minus 18.5
Minnesota player to watch: Wide receiver Ernie Wheelwright has shown flashes of his big-play ability so far this season. He has the chance for a big game against the Hoosiers, who will look to shut down the run and leave man coverage on the 6-foot-5 freshman receiver.
Indiana player to watch: Safety Herena Daze-Jones has been busy this season leading the Hoosiers in tackles. He is the last line of defense and will be busy trying to keep the Gophers out of the end zone.
The inside scoop: Don’t look for Minnesota to give Indiana any help in this game; the Gophers have only turned the ball over four times this season… Running backs Marion Barber III and Laurence Maroney are both averaging more than 100 yards a game... Indiana receiver Courtney Roby has been one of the lone bright spots on a dismal offense, averaging more than 95 yards a game… The Hoosiers are second in the nation in kickoff returns averaging 31.9 yards a kickoff. If the Minnesota offense comes out clicking, the Hoosiers could return a lot of kickoffs.
Minnesota will win if: it sticks with its offensive game plan of running the ball and then running some more. The Indiana defense has not been able to stop the run, so expect Barber and Maroney to get plenty of carries.
Indiana will win if : it can prevent the big plays on defense and finally start to move the ball on offense. The Hoosiers defense has played well when the offense helps them out by moving the ball and eating some clock, but if not it will wear down in the second half as has been the case all season.
The pick: Minnesota 38, Indiana 10
Bye Week: No. 6 Wisconsin
Last week: 5-0 Overall: 42-15