Big Ten preview: Michigan State will try to bounce back vs. Notre Dame

Also, No. 11 Ohio State could use game against Toledo to climb back into the top 10.

Austin Cumblad

Big Ten play is a week away, and most conference teams will tee up woefully overmatched opponents on Saturday, with two notable exceptions. The first is Minnesota, which hosts No. 8 California at TCF Bank Stadium in what could be a program-defining game for the Gophers. Michigan State, meanwhile, will simply be trying to keep its season afloat after Central Michigan scored 16 fourth quarter points to upset the Spartans 29-27 last Saturday . TheyâÄôll visit Notre Dame, where the Irish need a similar rebound after Michigan derailed âÄî with a 38-34 win âÄî what many believed would be a big season for Charlie WeisâÄô squad. Despite the deflating loss, Notre Dame still boasts perhaps the best quarterback-receiver combinations in the country in senior Jimmy Clausen and sophomore Michael Floyd. Floyd leads the nation in yards per catch, is tied for first in touchdown receptions and is second in receiving yards. Clausen has already tossed seven touchdowns and is averaging 325.5 yards per game. Seemingly, Michigan StateâÄôs duo of inexperienced quarterbacks are at a distinct disadvantage, but Head Coach Mark Dantonio said in his weekly teleconference that he is happy with what both Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol have done under center for the Spartans. The outcome this weekend, Dantonio believes, will hinge on which team best forgets its heart-wrenching late game loss of a week ago. âÄúThat will be one of the keys,âÄù he said. âÄúHow emotional will we be able to play, and whether we put things behind us.âÄù No. 11 Ohio State vs. Toledo Ohio State Head Coach Jim Tressel said Tuesday about his teamâÄôs 18-15 loss to No. 3 USC on Saturday, âÄúI think it was a day of what-ifs. What if we could have accomplished this or what if we could have done that?âÄù There have been plenty of what-ifs on the national stage for the Buckeyes lately. And after each, without fail, Tressel finds questions waiting for him about his conservative style, the Big TenâÄôs reputation and if his team can rebound. To his credit, Tressel handles them with grace while he and his staff turn their attention to SaturdayâÄôs game against Toledo at Cleveland Browns Stadium . âÄúWe start with our design and [ask], âÄòIs there something we should be doing better to put our players in better position?âÄôâÄù Tressel said the coaches will help the team rebound after the tough loss by working âÄúhard on trying to develop consistency.âÄù Toledo boasts one of the most potent passing attacks in the country, led by senior quarterback Aaron Opelt who leads the nation in total offense . Conversely, Buckeyes sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor has struggled to be the playmaker he was a year ago as a true freshman. HeâÄôs thrown for only one touchdown and, perhaps just as concerning, has run for only one as well . Ohio StateâÄôs offense will need to come alive or Toledo may well surprise the Buckeyes. No. 25 Michigan vs. Eastern Michigan In just his second career game, Michigan true freshman quarterback Tate Forcier found himself in a position most veterans wouldnâÄôt envy. But with the ball on his own 43-yard line with 2:13 remaining in the fourth quarter and trailing then-No 18 Notre Dame 34-31, and the eyes of more than 110,000 Wolverines fans fixed upon him, Forcier coolly marched Michigan to the IrishâÄôs 5-yard line and, with 11 seconds remaining, hit Greg Matthews for the game-winning score. Now the Wolverines are in the AP top-25 for the first time in more than two seasons and the uncertainty at quarterback has receded as Michigan awaits Eastern Michigan on Saturday. âÄúWhat you donâÄôt know until you have a ballgame, particularly a tight ballgame, is how theyâÄôll react in pressure situations,âÄù Wolverines head coach Rich Rodriguez said of his freshmen quarterbacks. âÄúWe had a pretty good feeling with both him and [freshman quarterback] Denard [Robinson] that theyâÄôd be able to handle it, and in the moments that theyâÄôve been in the game theyâÄôve both been able to do that.âÄù