September 20, 2008

Big Ten Saturday preview

MADISON, Wis. - As UW takes full advantage of their bye week to rest up for the Big Ten grind, other teams around the conference will finish up their non-conference slate this weekend. While it will be different not having a Badger game to watch and discuss, here is a look at the other Big Ten games this football Saturday.

The following is a look at the Big Ten schedule this upcoming game day:

Iowa at Pittsburgh: 11:00 AM central: ESPN 2

The Hawkeyes have jumped out to a 3-0 start with victories over Maine, Florida International and Iowa State. Offensively, they average 35 points per game and compound that efficiency by allowing less than three points defensively.

Pittsburgh suffered an opening day upset by losing to unranked Bowling Green 27-17. The Panthers bounced back in week two beating Buffalo 27-16. Pittsburgh's LeSean McCoy, averaging 82 ypg, will easily be the most dynamic and difficult back the Hawkeyes have faced so far in 2008.

Prediction: Iowa's constricting defense will slowly wear down the Panther offense. Hawekeye's go on the road and win 27-17.

Ohio at Northwestern: 11:00 AM central: Big Ten Network

Northwestern is out to their first 3-0 start since 2001. With a win against the Bobcats, they would go undefeated in non-conference play for the first time since 1963. The Wildcats defeated lowly BCS conference opponents Syracuse and Duke before dominating Southern Illinois at rain soaked Ryan Field.

Ohio has yet to break through on the left hand column, but their crowning achievement of the season so far was giving Ohio State a run for their money. In that game, the Bobcats held a 14-12 lead in the second half.

Prediction: The game stays close for a while before Northwestern pulls away for the 34-20 win.

Troy at No. 13 Ohio State: 11:00 AM central: Big Ten Network

The Buckeyes were embarrassed under the bright lights of Los Angeles, losing 35-3 to a superior USC squad. OSU will once again be without the services of stud running back Chris Wells who is still nursing a foot injury. However, with Tyrelle Pryor supposedly getting 50 percent of the reps against the Trojans, look for the Buckeyes to bounce back in a big way.

Prediction: OSU gets back on track with a 45-14 blowout win.

Florida Atlantic at Minnesota: 11:00 AM central: Big Ten Network

The Gophers lost a close shootout to FAU last season in Miami 42-39 en route to their 1-11 season under new coach Tim Brewster. So far in 2008, Minnesota has tripled their win total and has yet to lose a game with wins over Northern Illinois, Bowling Green and Montana State. FAU will be their toughest test in the non-conference slate.

The Owls are off to a 1-2 start with losses at both No. 11 Texas and Michigan State. However, quarterback Rusty Smith, in the dome, will showcase his solid quarterbacking skills and make it tough on the Gophers.

Prediction: UPSET SPECIAL: FAU beats the Gophers on a last second field goal 38-35.

Temple at No. 16 Penn State: 11:00 AM central: Big Ten Network

The Nittany Lions have looked like one of the Big Ten's best during their three wins in 2008. Offensively, PSU averages over 55 points with blowout wins over Coastal Carolina, Oregon State and Syracuse. They round out their less than average non-conference slate by hosting Temple.

For the Owls, Penn State's offense, which ranks in the top 25 in both passing and rushing, will be a major hassle. Temple, an up and coming MAC team, could easily be the toughest team PSU has played in 2008, but they still will not be a match for the Nittany Lions.

Prediction: Temple scores first, but PSU wins 52-10.

Central Michigan at Purdue: 11:00 AM central: Big Ten Network

In a rematch of one of last season's better bowl games, Purdue will hope to bounce back from a devastating double overtime loss to No. 16 Oregon. It would not be too far fetched to suggest more than 110 passing attempts in this one with premier quarterbacks Curtis Painter and Dan LeFevour running the show.

So far, Painter has thrown for 493 yards in two games for the Boilermakers. LeFevour has 828 passing yards and five touchdowns in the Chippewa's first three contests. However, in the aerial display sure to ensue in West Lafayette, the Boilermaker's running back Kory Sheets could be the difference maker.

Prediction: This is one of the most intriguing games on the Big Ten schedule this weekend. Painter leads his team on a long game-winning touchdown drive late to win 41-38.

Notre Dame at Michigan State: 2:30 PM central: ABC

The Fighting Irish have jumped out to a quick 2-0 start, but their 100th ranked offense in total yards is a work in progress. Six turnovers a week ago from a soggy and flustered Michigan team gift-wrapped some easy scoring drives for Notre Dame. MSU will pound the ball with Big Ten leading rusher Javon Ringer and quarterback Brian Hoyer will enjoy much better weather than a week ago to throw the ball.

Prediction: MSU pressures Jimmy Clausen and forces him to throw two interceptions. The Spartans beat Notre Dame 35-17.

Ball State at Indiana: 6:00 PM central: Big Ten Network

In the nightcap, these in-state rivals will meet in what has the potential to be a great game. Both the Hoosiers and the Cardinals rank in the top 25 in total offensive yards. The weather will be pristine for passing quarterback Kellen Lewis and Nate Davis. In three games, Davis has 916 passing yards for Ball State and nine touchdowns. If another Big Ten Saturday sweep is in line, Indiana must pressure him and force him into bad decisions.

Prediction: Indiana has had two weeks to prepare for their rival. In what should be a highly emotional game, the Hoosiers will score late for the 31-27 win.

Bye Weeks:

No. 8 Wisconsin, No. 22 Illinois and Michigan

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