Big Ten Week 13 Expanded Preview Blog
Posted Nov 20, 2008

The big storylines and overviews for all the Big Ten games.

Big Ten Storylines Blog

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CFN Writers
Big East By J.P. Girouard; Big 10 By Tony Castricone; Big 12 By Sean Martin; Conference USA By Greg Vacek; Independents By Adam Nettina; MAC By Adam Nettina; Mountain West By Jim Riffel; Pac 10 By Dan Greenspan; SEC By Gabe Harris and Barrett Sallee; Sun Belt By John Martello; WAC By Jon Tavares

Indiana (3-8) at Purdue (3-8) 12 pm
--The Hoosiers were blown out at Beaver Stadium a week ago, falling 34-7 despite holding Penn State to 10 first half points. Indiana was outgained by more than 250 total yards, underscoring the latest disappointment in a season which many thought the Hoosiers could have earned a bowl bid. With bowl hopes long since faded, IU can salvage what’s left of the season by beating rival Purdue in the Old Oaken Bucket game.
--It’s been a season of disappointment for Purdue and head coach Joe Tiller, who will coach his final game this weekend after spending the last 12 years in West Lafayette. The Boilermakers find themselves at the bottom of the Big Ten, tied with Indiana, after a 22-17 loss to Michigan State a week ago. The once-explosive Boilers are two plays away from going winless against FBS teams, but they also have been close to pulling off several tight games. A win this week would send Tiller out on a high note and also allow Purdue to recapture upper hand in the rivalry.
Indiana: Head coach Bill Lynch said quarterbacks Kellen Lewis (ankle) and Ben Chappell (concussion) have been cleared to play. However, Lewis remains far less than 100%. Offensive linemen
Roger Saffold and Pete Saxon should also be ready to go, giving the Hoosiers a much needed boost up front.
Purdue: Despite being relegated to a backup role in the previous three games after suffering a separated shoulder last month, quarterback Curtis Painter should get the start. Tiller thought Painter, who completed 24-of-30 passes for 190 yards and two scores, showed improvement in his performance against Michigan State.
Indiana needs to… make Painter get rid of the ball in a hurry. Not only has the Purdue quarterback struggled with his touchdown to interception ratio (8-to-11) this season, he’s still feeling the effects of the shoulder injury suffered four weeks ago. Indiana’s defense ranks second in the Big Ten in sacks per game because rush end Jammie Kirlew (10.5 sacks) has been solid, but overall, the line hasn’t lived up to expectation. If Kirlew and Indiana’s defense can create havoc, look for Purdue’s precision-based attack to falter. As good as Kory Sheets is, Purdue can’t rely on the running game.
Purdue needs to…attack the Hoosier secondary. The passing game has been wildly inconsistent and Sheets has had to carry too much of the load. Indiana has the nation’s second-worst pass defense, giving Painter and receiver Greg Orton the perfect chance to make one final mark in Ross-Ade Stadium.
Keep an eye on… Painter. Despite a disappointing season, he has a chance to close his career on a positive note against an Indiana defense giving up over 240 yards per game. Originally considered a top pro prospect coming into the season, he showed glimpses of his talent last week. He has one final shot to show off what he can do.
The number to know… 9 -- Tiller has 9 wins in 11 career games against the Hoosiers. Purdue is 68-36-6 all-time against Indiana.
And the winner is … Purdue 28 … Indiana 24

Cal Poly (8-1) at Wisconsin (6-5) 3:30 pm
-- Cal Poly should be more than just a pushover. The Mustangs, who beat San Diego State in their only game against an FBS team, has won seven straight since the win over Montana. They have the best offense in the FCS with a passing game averaging 304 yards per game. The defense isn’t all that bad, either, with the second most sacks in the FCS.
--Wisconsin has managed to right the ship with two straight wins to become bowl eligible, but it might not be guaranteed a 13th game if it blows this game. The running game has started to kick it into gear and the defense is starting to come through in the clutch, but on Senior Day, it needs to be prepared for a long day if the defense doesn’t bring the intensity. Cal Poly is too dangerous to not take seriously.
Cal Poly: QB Jonathan Dally has been named the Great West Conference Offensive Player of the Week for the second week in a row with a 173-yard, one touchdown rushing day to go along with two passing scores. Overall, several players have talked about wanting to beat the Badgers for pride and to make a big statement, but the coaching staff is likely to pull the starters sooner than later. There are bigger fish to fry as the No. 3 Mustangs want to be healthy going into the FCS playoffs
Wisconsin: WR Kyle Jefferson was carted off the field against Minnesota after taking a frightening hit. It was a concussion and not a neck or back injury, and while he’ll be fine, he’ll be out. Also out will be starting right tackle Eric Vanden Heuvel, who suffered a foot injury against Indiana and missed last week’s game.
Cal Poly needs to… do what it does well. The Mustangs need to run the ball with its spread and control the clock, while the defense has to get into the backfield on a regular basis. The pass rush needs to use its quickness and athleticism to hurry UW QB Dustin Sherer, while the offense has to keep the pressure on with points to make the Badgers press a bit.
Wisconsin needs to… pound away. Cal Poly might have of the better run defenses in the FCS, but that’s mostly because teams have had to throw to try to keep up. Wisconsin can’t get away from doing what it does best with the running game. Get the big guys lathered up and start running.
Keep an eye on… Cal Poly QB Jonathan Dally. The senior threw an interception in the 42-28 win over South Dakota State. That’s in. The FCS leader in passing efficiency has been nearly perfect this season completing 62% of his throws for 1,680 yards and 20 touchdowns, highlighted by a 22-of-26, 410-yard, six touchdown day against Southern Utah. He can also run with 526 yards and eight touchdowns on the year.
The number to know… 518 – The combined rushing yards the two teams average per game. Cal Poly is third in the FCS averaging 303.5 yards per game, while Wisconsin is 14th in the nation averaging 214.5.
And the winner is … Wisconsin 45 … Cal Poly 23

Michigan State (9-2) at Penn State (10-1) 3:30 pm
-- How quickly has Michigan State become a player under head coach Mark Dantonio? The once flaky program has now become a rock even though the team isn’t doing any one thing particularly well this year other than win. With a win, the Spartans will earn a share of the Big Ten title, but they’ll need a Michigan upset of Ohio State to go to the Rose Bowl. This is also the showcase game for RB Javon Ringer, the nation’s third leading rusher and Heisman candidate. If he has a huge day and leads the Spartans to a win, he’ll be in the mix for the prize.
-- Penn State is still in the national title hunt, but it’ll take a lot of wacky things to happen to get there. Step one would be a blowout win over Michigan State, which, if nothing else, would send the Nittany Lions to the Rose Bowl for the first time since the 1994 season. They bounced back from the heartbreaking loss to Iowa, and an awful first half against Indiana, to roll to a 34-7 win. The defense has been stifling, allowing seven points or fewer in five of the last eight games, while the offense leads the Big Ten in rushing. This has been the league’s best team this year by far, but if it loses to MSU, Ohio State will go to the Rose Bowl with a win over Michigan.
Michigan State: Starting corner Chris Rucker hurt his leg against Wisconsin, missed last week’s game against Purdue, and now after a week off is expected to play again. The team’s leading receiver, Mark Dell, also missed the last two games with a knee injury and is back and ready to go.

Penn State: Starting DE Josh Gaines suffered an ankle injury against Iowa, but he was able to come back to play against Indiana. He had to leave early on as he aggravated the ankle, and now he’ll try to give it a go as long as he can last. Top RB Evan Royster didn’t get a lot of work getting just 12 carries against Indiana, but that was only because of the play calls. Joe Paterno said his star will see more carries this week.
Michigan State needs to… get into the backfield and generate pressure on Daryll Clark. The Spartans don’t have to get sacks on Clark, but they need to hit him on a regular basis. Iowa was able to do that, and it was able to keep the Penn State running attack from controlling the game. MSU doesn’t have a dominant defensive front, and it doesn’t have Iowa’s tackles, but it’s good enough to be productive.
Penn State needs to… let the offensive line do the work. Michigan State has been pounded on by the teams that can run. Cal ripped off 203 yards, Ohio State ran for 216, and Wisconsin ran for 218. Penn State can run the ball, and it should be able to use its variety of weapons, including WR Derrick Williams, to keep the MSU on its toes. The Penn State offensive line, the best in the Big Ten, needs to control the game from the start.
Keep an eye on… Michigan State RB Javon Ringer. The senior star has had a stellar career with 4,309 yards and 32 touchdowns, and he has been a workhorse this season with 1,548 yards and 20 touchdowns, with two scores in each of his last three games, but he has yet to do anything against Penn State. In three tries, remembering that he was injured two years ago, he has rushed for 52 yards on 19 carries. Penn State will try to make MSU QB Brian Hoyer win the game, just like everyone does, but the Spartan offense isn’t going to shy away from the player who got the team to his point.
The number to know… 27 – The combined number of sacks allowed by the two teams. Penn State leads the Big Ten in sacks allowed; MSU is No. 2.
And the winner is … Penn State 38 … Michigan State 10

Michigan (3-8) at Ohio State (9-2) Noon ET
- Never in 129 years of Michigan football history have the Wolverines lost eight games in a season. Never, that is, until the beginning of the Rich Rodriguez era. Michigan dropped its record-setting decision to Northwestern last Saturday in the same way they’ve lost so many games this year: with costly turnovers and an offense which could not capitalize on opportunities. The fledgling Maize and Blue offense finishes the year against the best defense it’s faced, hoping to avoid its first three-win season since 1963 (3-4-2).
- Despite all of the yardage Ohio State allowed against Illinois last week, the Buckeyes remained in firm control, leading 30-13 late en route to a 10-point win. The offense continues to play it safe, throwing the ball just ten times against the Illini, while rushing RB Beanie Wells and QB Terrelle Pryor for triple-digit yardage. A win against Michigan would be an unprecedented fifth in a row for the Buckeyes in this rivalry, and it would give Ohio State a share of its fourth straight conference crown.
Michigan: WR Zion Babb and DT Jason Kates are no longer with the Michigan program, Coach Rich Rodriguez announced earlier this week. Starting QB Steven Threet is doubtful because of a shoulder problem, meaning junior walk-on Nick Sheridan will continue to fill in. Freshman Justin Feagin is listed as the top backup. RT Steve Schilling is also questionable for the game after spraining his knee in practice Tuesday. RB Brandon Minor has a banged up shoulder, but has told the media he wants to play through it this weekend.
Ohio State: Coach Jim Tressel has not said he will definitively re-instate WR Ray Small from his suspension, but Tressel added Small could work his way back into action this weekend with a good week off the field. Despite a tweaked hamstring against Illinois, RB Beanie Wells, who ran for 222 yards against Michigan last year, is ready to go. CB Jermale Hines is doubtful with a leg injury. While OSU is nearly a 20-point favorite, don’t think the Buckeyes are overlooking Michigan. Players and coaches have said this week that their season will be defined by Saturday’s outcome.
Michigan has to ... get the game of the year out of Sheridan. The Buckeyes’ defense is one of the best in the country at forcing turnovers (7th in turnover margin), while Michigan (105th) has continued to hand the ball away on offense and special teams. Michigan can’t win this game without making at least a few big plays on offense, and any turnover would be a costly one in this game.
Ohio State has to ... keep moving the chains. The Wolverines completely stifled Minnesota two weeks ago by allowing the Gophers just 188 yards of offense and only eight first downs. Beanie Wells has been a workhorse, and he should be able to pull several defenders for the old three yards and a cloud of dust routine, but the Buckeyes need to continue cranking out yardage to keep Michigan from hanging around.
Keep an eye on ...
Buckeye CB Malcolm Jenkins. Michigan has been the type of team against which defenses have been able to come up with big plays. All Jenkins has done this year is register one safety, two punt blocks, three interceptions, three forced fumbles, four tackles for loss and a quarterback sack in a defense which rarely rushes the corners.
Number to know: 1929 … the last time (and only time) a first-year head coach at Michigan lost to Ohio State.
And the winner is … Ohio State 24 … Michigan 3

Illinois (5-6) at Northwestern (8-3) 3:30 pm ET
- The Fighting Illini are fighting for a bowl bid after a 30-20 loss to nationally-ranked Ohio State last week. Coach Ron Zook’s offense moved the ball for 455 yards of total offense against one of the nation’s better defenses. But those drives haven’t been resulting in points this year due to 15 interceptions by QB Juice Williams and nine lost fumbles by the offense. A win would make Illinois bowl eligible, but would guarantee nothing. Northwestern and Iowa failed to reach the postseason with a 6-6 mark last year.
- Northwestern’s 21-14 win at Michigan last weekend kept the Wildcats in the top half of the league, but turnovers nearly gave the game away. The Jekyll and Hyde performances this year have almost solely revolved around the turnover column, but the Wildcats’ strong front four was too much for Michigan’s offense and has been pretty good against the run. They’re not only playing for the possibility of a ten-win season, but also for the chance at a New Year’s Day bowl game if the conference can qualify two teams for the BCS.
Illinois: Illini QB Eddie McGee suffered a bout with turf toe from the Ohio State game, but will probably be able to go this weekend against the Wildcats. He’s been used as a slash player in the Illinois offense. FB Rahkeem Smith hoped to return from suspension against the Buckeyes, but never fit into the game. DT Josh Brent sprained an MCL against OSU and Zook says he’s questionable.
Northwestern: Coach Pat Fitzgerald expects QB Mike Kafka to be available Saturday after suffering a concussion last weekend against Michigan. Kafka has been a regular part of the quarterback rotation recently with starter C.J. Bacher’s spotty health.
Illinois has to ... step up big inside the 20s. The Illini have the 16th best passing offense and total offense in the country, but they’ve been making too many mistakes at critical parts of the field to capitalize. A blocked punt in their own end zone and an interception in the Ohio State red zone were huge deflators for Illinois. It doesn’t help that Northwestern is third in the league in red zone defense.
Northwestern has to ... take care of the football. When the Wildcats had major turnover problems, they almost lost to Ohio and were beaten by Indiana and Michigan State. Conversely, when they were all square with a quality turnover team like Minnesota, they were able to spring the road upset. Turnovers are the key for the Wildcats.
Keep an eye on ... Bacher. He’ll once again be called upon to move the football without the injured Tyrell Sutton, and if Mike Kafka can’t add another running dimension to the offense, Bacher will need to step up to get the job done.
Number to know:
18 … The Illini are the only team ranking in the Top 18 nationally in total offense with a losing record heading into this weekend.
And the winner is ...
Illinois 31 … Northwestern 23

Iowa (7-4) at Minnesota (7-4)  7  pm
-- Iowa has gotten hot at just the right time, winning four of its last five games, highlighted by the stunning win over Penn State, to get in the mix for a possible New Year’s Day bowl bid. Thanks to the running of Shonn Greene, the nation’s second leading rusher, the offense has been more and more consistent as the season has gone on, while the defense has done just enough to get by. The run of wins has taken head coach Kirk Ferentz off the hot seat, and closing out with two more wins would make him even more secure.
-- Minnesota has hit the skids at the just the wrong time, losing the last three games in three entirely different ways. There was the last second pick-six loss to Northwestern, the unacceptable home clunker against Michigan, and the meltdown last week at Wisconsin. The Gophers are still going bowling, and this has still been an incredible turnaround season, but a win over the border rival is a must to be in the mix for a New Year’s Day bowl and to not get lost in the post-season shuffle.
Iowa: Backup OG Andy Kuempel is questionable with an unspecified muscle pull. Backup TE Tony Moeaki is an all-star caliber player who hasn’t been able to fight back through injuries over the last two years. He’s still trying to give it a go, but he’s questionable with a leg injury.
Minnesota: Starting WR Eric Decker is probable this week with an ankle injury. Starting WR Ralph Spry is questionable coming off of a disciplinary suspension, but he has supposedly been ready to go for the last few weeks and hasn’t played. Defensive starters S Kyle Theret and LB Lee Campbell are questionable with leg and hamstring injuries, respectively.
Iowa has to …
run Greene until he drops. The Minnesota run defense isn’t all that bad, but it’ll give up the big play to anyone who wants to consistently commit to pounding away. The Gophers are at their best when they can rush the passer and pressure the receivers, and while Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi has improved, the less he has to do, the better.
Minnesota has to … make Stanzi win the game. The Gophers will take their chances against the Iowa receiving corps, but they can’t let Greene run wild. They have to force turnovers to win the game, and those have come from the pass rush and the popping in the secondary. It would be worth getting torched once, or even twice, to sell out to stop Greene. Stanzi has been solid, and he came through against Iowa, but he’s not the type of quarterback who can win games on his own.
Keep an eye on … Minnesota QB Adam Weber. He hasn’t been running as much as he did last year, mostly because he’s trying to get the ball in the hands of his receivers as quickly as possible. However, this might be the game to start taking off more. He has double-digit carries in each of the last four games as he has tried to do more and more for the offense. However, the team has lost three of those four and sputtered against Purdue. It would be nice to get more from the running backs, but this week, with at least a month before the next game, Minnesota will dump everything on Weber’s shoulders.
The number to know: 11 – That’s how many games in a row Greene has rushed for 100 yards or more. He has at least one touchdown in every game except the loss at Michigan State.
And the winner is … Minnesota 24 … Iowa 20