Big Ten Preview: Conference play begins Saturday

Five teams enter Big Ten season undefeated.

Marco LaNave

Big Ten teams were not entirely successful in convincing skeptics that the conference is among the strongest in college football. Although Big Ten squads were 24-8 in non-conference play the last three weeks, they were just 4-5 against opponents from BCS Conferences . While the Big Ten season kicks off Saturday with what seems like just two teams a cut above the rest of the field âÄî No. 5 Penn State and No. 13 Ohio State âÄî eight different teams have won or shared the Big Ten title in the last 10 seasons . HereâÄôs a look at SaturdayâÄôs Big Ten openers: Indiana at No. 23 Michigan In a matchup of undefeated teams that have equaled their win totals from last season , the Wolverines (3-0) will seek their 16th straight victory over the Hoosiers (3-0). Indiana features senior defensive ends Greg Middleton (a 2007 All-American ) and Jammie Kirlew (a returning All-Big Ten selection ) who have combined for 40 career sacks . Indiana has held the ball for at least 11 minutes in the first quarter of each of its three games and has outscored its opponents 53-31 before halftime . In three games, Michigan leads Big Ten teams in scoring (38 points per game) and rushing offense (270.7 yards per game). Senior running back Carlos Brown was named Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Week after rushing for 187 yards against Eastern Michigan last week . Freshman quarterback Tate Forcier has five touchdown passes and just one interception in his first three starts . Michigan State at Wisconsin Michigan State (1-2), which finished third in the Big Ten last year , was picked by the media to finish third again this season but has lost to Central Michigan and Notre Dame the last two weeks . The Spartans lead the Big Ten in passing offense (295.7 yards per game) and sophomore quarterback Kirk Cousins leads the Big Ten in passing efficiency . The Spartans defense is anchored by Big Ten Preseason Defensive Player of the Year Greg Jones. The junior linebacker leads the conference with 38 tackles . Following a 3-4 start last season, Wisconsin won four of its next five games to reach its seventh straight bowl game . The Badgers (3-0) have been perfect in 12 trips to the red zone through three games, scoring 10 touchdowns and two field goals , but they have also been penalized for an average of 61.7 yards per game . Illinois at No. 13 Ohio State Illinois (1-1), which followed its 2007 Rose Bowl season with a 5-7 campaign in 2008 , has seen its top two offensive players injured in its first two games. Returning All-Big Ten junior wide receiver Arrelious Benn has been hampered by an ankle injury suffered in the opener against Missouri on Sept. 5 . His streak of 26 games with a reception was snapped when he did not catch a pass against Illinois State on Sept. 12 . Illini senior quarterback Juice Williams , who led the Big Ten in passing yards and total offense last season , was sidelined after the first series against Illinois State with a strained quadriceps . Both were listed as starters on the depth chart as of Monday . Ohio State (2-1) was the preseason favorite to win its fifth consecutive Big Ten title . Sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor leads the Buckeyes in rushing and passing yards and tops Big Ten players in total offense (263 yards per game) . The Buckeyes have won four of the last five meetings , but the last time the Illini traveled to Columbus, they upset the No. 1 Buckeyes on their way to a Rose Bowl berth . Iowa at No. 5 Penn State Iowa (3-0) was the only Big Ten team to win its bowl game last season, defeating South Carolina 31-10 in the Outback Bowl . The Hawkeyes have defeated the Nittany Lions in six of the last seven meetings , including a 24-23 win over then-unbeaten Penn State last season . IowaâÄôs sophomore defensive back Tyler Sash leads the Big Ten with four interceptions and six total passes defended . The Hawkeyes defense had not allowed a touchdown for nine straight quarters until ArizonaâÄôs offense scored against Iowa with less than two minutes remaining last week . Penn State (3-0), the defending conference co-champion , has allowed the fewest points (6.7), rushing yards (46.3) and total yards (212.3) per game of any Big Ten team through the first three weeks . Nittany Lions senior quarterback Daryll Clark leads the Big Ten with eight touchdown passes and 253.3 passing yards per game . Senior linebacker Sean Lee , a 2007 All-Big Ten selection , returned after missing all of last season with a torn right ACL . Lee was Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week after last SaturdayâÄôs games and has 32 total tackles (7.5 for loss) in three games . Notre Dame at Purdue Irish junior quarterback Jimmy Clausen has passed for 300 yards in four consecutive games âÄî a Notre Dame record . As a team, the Irish (2-1) lead the nation in passing efficiency . Irish head coach Charlie Weis reported on Sunday that sophomore wide receiver Michael Floyd , a graduate of Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul, will likely miss the rest of the regular season with a broken collarbone . Purdue (1-2), under first-year head coach Danny Hope , leads the conference in total offense (440.3 yards per game) . The BoilermakersâÄô sophomore running back Ralph Bolden leads the Big Ten in rushing (140.3 yards per game, second in the nation), all-purpose yards (182.7 per game) and scoring (five touchdowns) . Senior quarterback Joey Elliott , who made his first career start in the opener against Toledo on Sept. 5 , has thrown four touchdowns and five interceptions .