October 18, 2006

Big Ten: Week 8 Breakdown

McClellan's Big Ten picks
Rivals.com national columnist Bob McClellan's predictions for Week 8 in the Big Ten.
Saturday's games:
Michigan State 23, Northwestern 18
Wisconsin 34, Purdue 20
Penn State 27, Illinois 12
Ohio State 37, Indiana 17
Minnesota 41, North Dakota State 20
Michigan 33, Iowa 17

Last week: 4-2 Season: 46-12

Best matchup: The Wisconsin pass defense vs. the Purdue pass offense. The Badgers lead the conference and are third in the nation against the pass, yielding just 123 yards per game. Meanwhile, the Boilermakers lead the conference in passing and are fourth in the nation at 327 yards per game behind sophomore quarterback Curtis Painter.

Worst matchup: The Illinois and Penn State offenses vs. the opposing defenses. The Illini are 10th in the Big Ten in scoring. The Nittany Lions are ninth. The record books appear to be safe in this matchup. Hawaii-Fresno State it isn't.

The pressure is on: Minnesota coach Glen Mason. The Golden Gophers should have beaten Penn State a couple of weeks ago. Instead, they find themselves in the midst of a four-game losing streak after getting hammered by Wisconsin. Before you think of North Dakota State as a pushover, the Bison are in the top 10 in the Division I-AA poll and are 6-0 this season.

Upset alert: It would be a stretch to put you on alert for any upsets given this week's schedule. It's hard to call for Iowa to beat Michigan after the Hawkeyes' loss to Indiana last week. Indiana has won two in a row in conference play, but the Hoosiers will not beat Ohio State in Columbus. The best bet for an upset may be in West Lafayette, if Purdue can manage to slow P.J. Hill and score with Wisconsin.

BCS implications: Michigan and Ohio State simply have to avoid monumental upsets to stay on track for their Nov. 18 date in Columbus.

Who's hot: Indiana redshirt freshman QB Kellen Lewis has completed 39-of-64 passes for 495 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions during the Hoosiers' two-game Big Ten winning streak. He also has rushed for a TD in each of the victories. The Michigan rush defense. The Wolverines pushed Penn State into the negative in the rushing column, the first time that has happened to a Joe Paterno team. Wisconsin running back P.J. Hill is averaging 6.6 yards per carry in his past three games.

Who's not: The Iowa defense. Through four games the Hawkeyes were unbeaten and yielding just 265.5 yards per game (22nd nationally). They've now lost two of three, and the main reason is because they have allowed 400 yards or more in each of those three games (and an average of 423.0). Illinois. After upsetting Michigan State in East Lansing to get to 2-3, the Illini were poised to get on the plus side of the ledger in October for the first time since 2001 with home games against Indiana and Ohio. But the Illini lost to the Hoosiers and the Bobcats, and the schedule looks bleak from here. Illinois figures to be an underdog in its remaining five games.

Must-see TV: Iowa at Michigan, 3:30 p.m., ABC. Brad Nessler, Bob Griese and Paul Maguire have the call.

Newcomer who could have an impact: Purdue free safety Brandon Erwin and Purdue cornerback Royce Adams. When you play Wisconsin, your secondary had better get involved in stopping the run. Badgers running back P.J. Hill is fifth in the nation in rushing, has gained 100 yards in six of seven career games, and the Badgers are 6-0 when he tops 100.

Key stat: Michigan is allowing 32.6 yards per game on the ground, including a sublime 1.37 yards per carry.

Take the line: Indiana, which has shown improvement the past couple of weeks, is a 31-point underdog at Ohio State. The Buckeyes' biggest margin of victory this season is 31, and the Hoosiers aren't the worst team they've played. The nation's top-ranked team will win easily, but it's hard to imagine a cover here. Season against the line: 5-2.

They said it: Ohio State coach Jim Tressel on being ranked No. 1 in the first BCS poll: "We appreciate the recognition of our difficult schedule, but are fully aware that the final poll is the only one that counts." Michigan coach Lloyd Carr: "I really don't care to get into a discussion of the polls. They're great for the interest that they generate for our game. But beyond that, as far as putting any stock into them, it doesn't matter. They're going to change next week. I guarantee you, the polls won't be the same next week as they are this week. Somebody's going to fall and somebody's going to rise. You'd better take care of the business at hand."

Injury update: Penn State quarterback Anthony Morelli suffered a minor concussion against Michigan and probably will be a gametime decision. Backup QB Daryll Clark, who also was suffered a minor concussion, also is day to day. Iowa running back Albert Young (knee), who has missed the past two games, is probable against Michigan. Defensive tackle Mitch King (hamstring) is questionable after being a last-minute scratch against Indiana. Freshman wide receiver Dominique Douglas, who leads the Hawkeyes in receiving yardage, also is questionable (knee). Michigan State quarterback Drew Stanton was banged up in Saturday's loss to Ohio State but is probable for the Northwestern game. Michigan wide receiver Mario Manningham is not expected to play this week after arthroscopic knee surgery last week.

Worth noting: Ohio State's current 14-game winning streak is the longest in the nation and the fourth longest in school history. The 2006 Buckeyes are the 20th Ohio State team to jump out to a 7-0 start. Ohio State speedster Ted Ginn Jr.'s 60-yard punt return for a touchdown against Michigan State was the sixth of punt return TD of his career, a new Big Ten record. Ginn had shared the record with Iowa's Tim Dwight. The NCAA career record of eight is shared by Wes Welker of Texas Tech (2000-03) and Antonio Perkins of Oklahoma (2001-04). Indiana wide receiver James Hardy had three TD receptions against Iowa. He was the first Hoosier to accomplish the feat since Duane Gunn against Minnesota on Oct. 8, 1983. Indiana is 0-13 all time against top-ranked teams, including a 0-4 mark against Ohio State when it holds the top spot. IU QB Kellen Lewis has not thrown an interception in his past 93 attempts. Purdue has not lost at home this season (4-0). But it hasn't beaten a ranked opponent since 2003. Wisconsin comes in ranked No. 21. Wisconsin running back P.J. Hill became just the fourth freshman in NCAA history to reach 1,000 yards in his first seven games. The other three guys are fairly decent company: Florida's Emmitt Smith (1987), San Diego State's Marshall Faulk (1991) and Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson (2004). Five of the last seven Iowa-Michigan games have been decided by six points or less, including last year's 23-20 overtime win by the Wolverines that snapped the Hawkeyes' school-record 22-game home winning streak. Saturday will be Iowa's last road game until its final regular season contest at Minnesota (Nov. 18). After Saturday, Iowa and Michigan won't meet again until Oct. 10, 2009, in Iowa City. Both Michigan State and Northwestern are on four-game losing streaks and are 0-3 in the Big Ten as they meet this Saturday in Evanston, Ill. The game marks the Spartans first trip to NU's Ryan Field since 2001. Illinois is tops in the Big Ten in red-zone offense, scoring on 93.3 percent (14 of 15) of its trips inside its opponents' 20. Penn State is last in the Big Ten in red-zone offense, scoring only 75 percent (24 of 32) of the time.

Looking back: Indiana stunned Iowa 31-28 for its first win over a top-15 opponent since 1987. Purdue quarterback Curtis Painter completed 35-of-49 passes for 431 yards and a pair of TDs as the Boilermakers blasted Northwestern 31-10. Michigan defensive end LaMarr Woodley had a pair of sacks and forced a fumble in the Wolverines' 17-10 triumph at Penn State. Ohio State held Michigan State scoreless late into the fourth quarter of its 38-7 rout of the Spartans. Wisconsin crushed Minnesota 48-12 to hang onto Paul Bunyan's Ax. Illinois lost 20-17 at home on a late field goal by Ohio.

Freshman who impressed: Indiana quarterback Kellen Lewis was the Rivals.com National Freshman of the Week for his 255-yard, three-touchdown, no-interception performance in the upset of Iowa. Wisconsin redshirt freshman running back P.J. Hill ran over Minnesota with 164 yards and two TDs on 25 carries.

Week 8 conference previews: ACC | Big East | Big 12 | Pac-10 | SEC



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