Big Ten Preview: Wk 11
Penn State visits the Shoe while Iowa heads to Northwestern.
By: Braden Gall | 11/11/10, 10:56 AM EST
Persa and the Wildcats host the Hawkeyes.
Iowa (7-2, 4-1) at Northwestern (6-3, 2-3), Saturday, 11 a.m. CT
The Big Ten’s biggest contest of the week pits two clubs trying to hang on to the momentum that carried them through the first half of the year. Northwestern’s season took a turn for the worse in the second half of last week’s loss to Penn State. The defense must do a better job of holding Iowa’s running game in check this week, and it must do a better job of protecting its quarterback (conference-worst 31 sacks) against an aggressive Hawkeye front four. As for Iowa’s offense, Adam Robinson is expected to return to the backfield, which is welcome news for Ricky Stanzi. The Hawkeyes gained just 65 yards on the ground in last year’s 17–10 loss to the Wildcats. Having a healthy Robinson in tow should tip the scales back in Iowa’s favor. Stanzi was knocked out of that contest, so he has added motivation for this week’s contest.
Minnesota (1-9, 0-6) at Illinois (5-4, 3-3), Saturday, 11 a.m. CT
Illinois had everyone convinced that it owned one of the conference’s best defenses until Michigan bent that unit every which way possible. Now the Illini can work out their aggression on a Minnesota offense that has scored just 18 points in its last two contests combined. Senior quarterback Adam Weber has been subpar, but then again he hasn’t had much help around him. The Gophers average just 3.5 yards on the ground and have registered the fourth-most penalties (57) in the conference. All Illinois must do to take control of this game is avoid turnovers and keep plugging away with their two-headed backfield of Nathan Scheelhasse and Mikel Leshoure. The duo should tear up a Gopher defense allowing 200.5 rushing yards per game.
Michigan (6-3, 2-3) at Purdue (4-5, 2-3), Saturday, 11 a.m. CT
Purdue’s bowl hopes are riding on this contest; Danny Hope’s team must win two of its last three to become bowl-eligible. With a trip to East Lansing and a home date against Indiana still on tap, most would agree Purdue’s best chance is to win its two home games. Denard Robinson is expected to start for Michigan after passing a wave of concussion tests. The real question is: Will he finish? The Wolverines were led by Tate Forcier in the clutch again last week, and one can only wonder how the coaching staff will satisfy both players — both now and next season. One encouraging thing Michigan saw in its win last week was improved play from its receiving corps. Roy Roundtree and Junior Hemingway both gained more than 100 yards, and both may see plenty of action again this week against a Boilermaker pass defense allowing 218.2 yards per game. Purdue is expected to feature Sean Robinson under center again this week. The freshman performed much better last week than his statline suggests, and he has the ability to give Michigan’s subpar defense fits, both with his feet and arm.
Indiana (4-5, 0-6) at Wisconsin (8-1, 4-1), Saturday, 11 a.m. CT
Another week, another winnable game for Wisconsin. That’s the scary part. The Badgers have a long history of playing to the level of their opponent, something Bret Bielema must shake so his squad can get through these final three games unscathed. If they do, Wisconsin will walk into a prime BCS berth. Wisconsin may be without John Clay, who has never really been healthy since the start of the year. The team does expect to see freshman James White back in the lineup and can also rely on Montee Ball, who gained more than 100 yards last week with White and Clay on the sideline. Regardless of who runs the ball, Wisconsin should have a field day against a Hoosiers defense allowing 5.2 yards per carry. On the opposite sideline, Indiana hopes to play with fewer mental mistakes this week. They let the Iowa contest slip away and have three weeks to win two games for bowl eligibility. The Hoosiers have gotten a lot of mileage out of their opponents’ mistakes this year (they lead the Big Ten in the category) but may not see the same benefits this week against a well-disciplined Badger group that gives up just 31.4 yards of penalty per contest.
Penn State (6-3, 3-2) at Ohio State (8-1, 4-1), Saturday, 2:30 p.m. CT
In terms of career wins, this game tops every other bill in the country — 637 between Joe Paterno and Jim Tressel. The road team has won this game in each of the last three years, including a 24–7 Ohio State win last year in which the Buckeyes outgained the Nittany Lions on the ground, 228 to 76. Ohio State runs a more balanced offense these days, but it can also be said that Penn State’s offense has made considerable progress in these past few weeks. Led by Matt McGloin, the Nittany Lions stomped on Michigan and Northwestern. Now McGloin faces his stiffest test to date. He has held up fine under pressure, but fans can expect the Buckeyes to test his poise early by stacking a few extra bodies near the line of scrimmage. And as a bonus, the Buckeyes return Ross Homan — one of the Big Ten’s top linebackers. Ohio State’s quarterback, Terrelle Pryor, is 24-of-42 with 351 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in two starts against Penn State. Last year Pryor did the most damage with his feet (five carries for 50 yards, including a first quarter score).
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