Big Ten preview: Michigan hopes to stop Ohio St.

Some teams are hoping for a last shot to build a bowl résumé.

by Josh Katzenstein

This was not what Michigan expected when they hired Rich Rodriguez as head coach last season. A year after leading the Wolverines to the most losses in school history âÄî a 3-9 season with just two Big Ten wins âÄî Rodriguez will likely find himself on the hot seat after the Wolverines (5-6 overall, 1-6 Big Ten) host No. 9 Ohio State at 11 a.m. Saturday. Michigan enters âÄúThe GameâÄù without the chance to play spoiler because the BuckeyesâÄô 27-24 overtime victory over Iowa last week already cleared their rose-laden path to Pasadena, Calif. SaturdayâÄôs heated rivalry will offer Michigan âÄî who has lost four games in a row and six of its last seven âÄî a final chance at bowl eligibility. On paper, this game has blowout written all over it. Ohio State (9-2, 6-1) leads the Big Ten in total defense, allowing just 258.3 yards per contest. Michigan, on the other hand has the third worst defense in the conference, giving up about 400 yards per game. Turnovers also tell the tale of two teams heading different directions. The BuckeyesâÄô plus-12 turnover margin tops the Big Ten while MichiganâÄôs minus-8 margin leaves the Wolverines in 10th. The Buckeyes have beaten Michigan the past five meetings, with the last Wolverines victory coming in Ann Arbor in 2003. Ohio StateâÄôs 42-7 victory in 2008 aside, this is the one game Big Ten fans can count on to be close each year, and if Michigan comes to play like the team that started the season 4-0, it could be a thriller at the Big House. No. 17 Wisconsin at Northwestern Few people picked Wisconsin to have a shot at sharing the Big Ten crown, but the Badgers will enter Saturday afternoonâÄôs game knowing the outcome of the Ohio State game and thus whether a win in Evanston could earn them part of the title. But the Wildcats and senior quarterback Mike Kafka are unlikely to go quietly. Northwestern (7-4, 4-3) has won two straight road games, including a 17-10 upset over then-No. 4 Iowa. The Wildcats ruined the HawkeyesâÄô shot at a national title; spoiling the BadgersâÄô Big Ten title chances would add significantly to NorthwesternâÄôs bowl résumé. No. 13 Penn State at Michigan State In another battle of bowl-eligible squads, the Nittany Lions join Wisconsin and Iowa as teams that could claim a share of the Big Ten title with a win and an Ohio State loss. But in Penn StateâÄôs way are the Spartans, who have won two straight after falling to the Gophers. The Nittany Lions havenâÄôt yet been ruled out of a BCS bowl, and a statement victory over a solid Michigan State team would do wonders for their postseason hopes. Purdue at Indiana The Old Oaken Bucket and state bragging rights in the Big Ten are all these two teams are playing for Saturday. Under first-year head coach Danny Hope, the Boilermakers (4-7, 3-4) began to show promise after winning three of four games to reach the 4-6 mark. However, a Michigan State field goal with 1:51 remaining in last SaturdayâÄôs game crushed PurdueâÄôs bowl chances. The Hoosiers (4-7, 1-6) started the season hot, winning their first three games and nearly taking down then-No. 23 Michigan. But after dropping seven of eight, IndianaâÄôs hopes of returning to the postseason disappeared.