Big Ten Preview

michigan vs. Northwestern

When: 11:00 a.m.
Where: Ryan Field, Ill.
Line: Wolverines by 16.5

Story of the Game

A quarterback controversy might be brewing for the Wolverines between senior Chad Henne and freshman Ryan Mallett.

Henne has been one of the team’s offensive leaders since earning the starting nod as a freshman, but the team dropped its first two games this season under Henne before the senior went down with an injury.

Henne was cleared to play earlier this week, but Mallet has the once troubled Wolverines getting back on track to compete for the Big Ten title.

“It’s Chad’s team,” says coach Lloyd Carr, but will another loss under Henne seal the season for Michigan?

Players to Watch

Michigan: Mike Hart

Hart just needs 139 yards this weekend to break the school record for career rushing yards. He’s averaging 163.8 yards a game and will likely do the same against the conference’s third worst run defense.

Northwestern: C.J. Bacher

Bacher will need to improve his touchdown-to-interception ratio (4-4 going into this weekend) if the Wildcats hope to get out of the Big Ten cellar. He will likely break 1,000 passing yards for the season this weekend, but will face another tough defense after last week’s 58-7 loss to Ohio State.

Penn State vs. Illinois

When: 11:00 a.m.
Where: Memorial Stadium, Ill.
Line: Nittany Lions by 3

Story of the Game

The conference’s No. 1 rushing offense meets up with the No. 1 rushing defense this week in Champagne, Ill.

The Illini have gained 1,062 yards on the ground while piling up 11 touchdown carries in four games.

Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions have surrendered just 219 rushing yards in the same span – the fewest yards allowed in the conference.

Those numbers would be even more impressive if not for the loss to Michigan last weekend, where Penn State gave up 166 yards on the ground.

Players to Watch

Penn State: Dan Connor

Connor’s 38 tackles, 26 solo and 12 assisted, are tied for third most in the conference. The senior will need to continue to contribute if Penn State wants to climb back up the rankings after last week’s loss to Michigan.

Illinois: Rashard Mendenhall

Mendenhall ranks second in the Big Ten in rushing yards behind Michigan’s Hart. The junior has gained 536 yards on the ground and his seven touchdowns are tied for most in the conference.

Indiana vs. Iowa

When: 11:05 a.m.
Where: Kinnick Stadium, Iowa
Line: Hawkeyes by 12

Story of the Game

Two equally matched teams will go into Iowa City this weekend looking for their first conference win of the young Big Ten season.

A high-scoring Hoosiers’ offense will face off against the stingy Hawkeyes’ defense.

Indiana’s 147 points are the third most among Big Ten teams this season, however, Iowa has given up just 35 points – the second fewest in the conference.

The Hoosiers defense isn’t anything to brag about, but can Iowa’s offense, who has scored a conference worst 77 points this season and has only broken 20 points once this season, match Indiana touchdown for touchdown?

Players to Watch

Indiana: Kellen Lewis

Lewis’ duality is still paying off for the Hoosiers. He has thrown for 906 yards so far this season and his 11 touchdown passes are tied for second most in the Big Ten. He also leads Indiana with 352 rushing yards this season.

Iowa: Tony Moeaki

Moeaki is averaging 12.1 yards per catch while his three touchdown grabs are tops on the team. A big game from Moeaki could be enough to tip Iowa above .500 after dropping two straight games.

Michigan State vs. Wisconsin

When: 2:30 p.m.
Where: Camp Randall, Wis.
Line: Badgers by 7

Story of the Game

Two of the conference’s four undefeated teams will fight to remain unbeaten in Madison this weekend.

The battle up front will be something to watch. The Spartans lead the nation with 21 sacks and this week will give them a good test against the Badgers’ big offensive line.

If Wisconsin can open up holes for senior running back P.J. Hill and protect senior quarterback Tyler Donovan, they will likely move up in the polls.

But lose and Michigan State might be the one creeping into the AP Top 25.

The game will also be the first Big Ten action for new Spartans coach Mark Dantonio.

Players to Watch

Michigan State: Brian Hoyer

Hoyer threw four touchdowns last weekend against struggling Notre Dame, one more than he had in the team’s first three games combined. But he hasn’t seen a defense of Wisconsin’s caliber yet this year, and State’s success depends on his performance.

Wisconsin: P.J. Hill

Hill is tied for first in the conference with eight total touchdowns this season and his seven rushing scores are tied for fourth in the country. But the Badgers struggled on offense last weekend against Iowa and things won’t be any easier this week.

Purdue vs. NOtre Dame

When: 11:00 a.m.
Where: Ross-Ade Stadium, Ind.
Line: Boilermakers by 21

Story of the Game

Notre Dame’s season is quickly going down the drain as the team’s 0-4 start is the worst in school history.

Meanwhile, Purdue’s offense is on fire – leading the Big Ten in virtually every offensive category.

The Boilermakers’ defense might not be the best in the business, but when your offense is averaging 48.5 points a game – you’re allowed to give up a few points.

Also working in Purdue’s favor is Notre Dame’s record against Big Ten teams this year. The Irish are already 0-3 against the conference.

Are the Irish that bad or is the Big Ten actually pretty good?

Players to Watch

Purdue: Curtis Painter

Painter’s 16 touchdowns are the second most in the nation and most by far in the Big Ten. He leads the conference in every major statistic for his position. Painter finally threw an interception last weekend, but also helped wide-out Dorien Bryant break the school for career all-purpose yards.

Notre Dame: Running By Committee

Notre Dame has six players with more than ten carries this year, but only sophomore running back James Aldridge has broken 100 yards this season with 171. The Irish’s worst ball carrier is freshman quarterback Jimmy Clausen. Clausen has 25 carries but has lost 134 yards.