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Big Ten report

Editor's note: Our friends at American Sports Analysts are coming off a 4-2-1 week in college football. Click here for ASA's season pack.

Illinois (+15.5) @ Wisconsin


** The Badgers get a big boost on offense this week with the return of RB Anthony Davis.  He has been out since game one due to an eye injury.  Last week Wisconsin was down to their 5th string tailback vs. Penn State after Booker Stanley (3rd string) was bothered by turf toe and Jamil Walker (4th string) had a shoulder injury.  Thus, in the second half UW used fullback Matt Bernstein at tailback and he responded with over 100 yards rushing.


** Wisconsin’s defense currently leads the nation in points allowed (4.8 per game), they are 2nd in overall defense (190 YPG), 3rd in pass defense (117 YPG) and 9th in rush defense (73 YPG).  They also lead the nation in fewest plays per game allowing their opponent an average of just 54 plays per game.  Their opponents have had 50 drives so far this year and 22 of them have been three and outs.  The UW defensive line has been dominant with four senior starters including DT All- American candidate Anttaj Hawthorne and DE All-American candidate Erasmus James who has been the Big Ten defensive player of the week the last two weeks.


** Our word is that Illini head man Ron Turner was very pleased how his team played last week and the effort they gave.  Despite the 38-30 loss to Purdue, he feels his team took a huge step last Saturday. 


** The Badger coaches feel the Illinois will have the best offensive line they’ve faced this season.  Better than Penn State’s.  They are a veteran group that will need to be able to protect QB Jon Beutjer in order for Illinois to give Wisconsin a run for their money.  This will be Illinois’ first road game this season.


** Illinois lost their second leading receiver, Ade Adeyemo, for 6 to 8 weeks with a broken leg early in last week’s game.



Michigan (-19) @ Indiana


** This could be a very tough spot for the Wolverines.  Michigan had two games circled on their schedule coming into this season, Iowa and Ohio State.  The REALLY wanted to get back at the Hawkeyes after losing to them for two consecutive seasons.  After that emotional 30-17 win last week, they now to go Indiana.  A week later, Michigan hosts Minnesota which will also be a huge game.  Thus, this could be a game that the Wolverines just try and get out of with a win, while the Hoosiers will view this as their biggest game of the season.


** Talk about a tale of two halves.  Last Saturday Indiana led MSU 20-7 at halftime only to lose 30-20.  In the first half, IU put together a solid 217 yards of total offense while holding the Spartans to just 103.  After the break, the Hoosiers were held scoreless and had just 41 yards of total offense.  MSU broke out with 310 yards in the second half.


** Michigan QB Matt Guetierrez who was supposed to be the starter coming into the year is now sidelined for the rest of the season.  His shoulder continues to bother him and it has been decided that he will not play this year.  Because of his injury, true freshman Chad Henne moved into the starting role.  Henne has connected on nearly 58% of his passes for 780 yards.  He has thrown 6 TD’s and 5 interceptions.


** Freshman Michael Hart will start at tailback this weekend for the Wolves.  It will mark the first time EVER that Lloyd Carr has had two freshmen starting at QB and RB.  Senior tailback David Underwood was the starter for the first two games before getting taken out of the Notre Dame game with a concussion.  He is fully recovered and will play this weekend despite not starting.



Michigan State (+7.5) @ Iowa


** The Hawkeyes were built back to prominence by head coach Kirk Ferentz based on a solid running game and a very good defense.  Both of those aspects of Iowa’s game have faltered as of late.  Since beating an undermanned Kent State team to start the season, Iowa has rushed for only 130 yards total.  That’s three games worth.  That’s just 43 YPG on the ground.  That needs to greatly improve for Iowa to have any chance of a winning season.  Their offensive line is inexperienced and has not been playing well.  Starting RB Jermelle Lewis was supposed to pick up right where Fred Russell left off, however he is averaging only 2.8 yards per carry.  His backup, Albert Young, is out for the year because of a knee injury. 


** Mistakes killed the Hawks in last week’s 30-17 loss @ Michigan.  Iowa turned the ball over five times.  Not only that, those five turnovers were converted into 27 of Michigan’s 30 points.  They also had nine penalties with many coming at crucial times.  Iowa is simply not good enough on offense to overcome a bevy of mistakes.


** Iowa starting safety Sean Considine injured his foot last week vs. Michigan and will not play this Saturday vs. Michigan State.  Considine has started 17 consecutive games for the Hawkeyes.  His replacement will be sophomore Miguel Merrick who has 6 tackles on the season.


**  MSU’s QB is now set with Drew Stanton.  After starting three different QB’s in their first four games, Stanton, if he stays healthy, is now entrenched as the starter.  Stanton accounted for a whopping 306 yards of total offense in last weekend’s win @ Indiana.  The surprise was his running ability.  He had 134 yards rushing to go along with 172 through the air.  Stanton’s knee is feeling the best it has in some time.  After Saturday’s game, he did not have to have any fluid drained from his rebuilt knee.  That was the first time in four weeks he didn’t have to have that done.



Purdue (-2) @ Notre Dame


** Purdue has not won in South Bend since 1974 (0-13) and they are favored here.  To put that in perspective, during that season QB Joe Montana was a high school senior and came to the Notre Dame campus on a recruiting visit.  He later decided to play football for the Irish and the rest is history.


** We will find out this weekend if Purdue is for real.  They looked average last week in a 38-30 win @ Illinois.  The Illini are expected to finish near the bottom of the Big Ten.  The one problem with gauging Purdue is, they have played a very weak schedule to date.  At home vs. a bad Syracuse team, at home vs. a bad Ball State team and @ Illinois who is not a Big Ten power.  Notre Dame, on the other hand, has played at BYU and Michigan State while hosting Michigan and Washington.  The Irish have definitely played the much more difficult schedule to date which could help them on Saturday.


** The Notre Dame defense has been a “takeaway” machine this year.  They lead the country with 10 recovered fumbles and are 14th nationally with 6 interceptions.  In total takeaways (16), ND is second in the country with Michigan the only team ahead of them with 19.


** Something you may want to keep an eye on for next year’s Purdue – Illinois game.  Illinois had a fourth down situation at their own 1-yard line with 34 seconds left in last week’s game.  The Illini failed on fourth down and turned the ball over to Purdue at the 1-yard line.  Illinois had no time outs left.  Instead of taking a knee and ending the game, PU coach Joe Tiller tried to score a TD by handing the ball off rather than run the clock out.  After the game Illinois head coach Ron Turner was asked about the situation.  “I’d take a knee,” stated an angry Turner, “But it’s not my team.  They can do whatever the hell they want.” 



Ohio State (-11) @ Northwestern


** The Buckeyes have been amazingly successful in tight games.  In fact, based on past results, if the game is close you can pretty much put it in the win column for the Buckeyes.  They are now 13-1 straight up their last 14 games decided by a TD or less.  The Bucks had last week off and are healthy for this one.


** OSU has beaten Northwestern a whopping 24 straight times dating back to 1971.  They have also won 14 straight times in Evanston.  The last time they lost @ Northwestern was back in 1958. 


** We mentioned in last week’s report how the Cats were hurting on defense.  Well you can add another name to the list of injured defensive players.  Safety and kick returner Derell Jenkins was lost for the season with a broken wrist. 


** NU Starting QB Brett Basanez had a “stinger” last week and missed most of the second half because of the shoulder injury.  Reports are that he will play this Saturday but might be limited in what he can do.  We’ll follow this development as the week progresses.



Penn State (NL) @ Minnesota


** As of this writing, there is no line on this game due to the QB quandary at PSU.  In last week’s game vs. Wisconsin, the Lions were down to their 3rd string QB in the first quarter.  Starter Zack Mills injured his shoulder during the first series of the game and didn’t return.  Mills will try to play this weekend, however that may not be enough time for his separated shoulder to recoup.  His backup, Michael Robinson, was knocked out cold in the first half and taken away in an ambulance.  He has a serious concussion and most likely won’t play this Saturday.  In their absence, third teamer Chris Ganter was just 6 for 23 for only 32 yards.  PSU had just 7 first downs and 157 yards of offense in the loss.


**  Minnesota’s head coach Glen Mason’s biggest concern right now is his special teams play.  The Gophs kickoff coverage last week was terrible.  On 6 kickoff returns, they gave up 214 yards including one for a TD.  Minny also had two extra points blocked.  While this isn’t a big deal when you can win 43-17 vs. Northwestern, it could come back to haunt them in a close game.  Mason said changes will be made this week to straighten out the situation.


** The Gophers rushing attack continues to be phenomenal.  With an experienced offensive line and two great RB’s they just continue to pound people.  They are second nationally in rushing offense averaging just under 360 YPG.  Marion Barber is 7th in the country with 428 yards while his “back up” Laurence Maroney is 11th with 381 yards.  Both are averaging right around 7 yards per carry.  PSU’s rush defense has been solid giving up just 98 YPG thus far on the year.  They did, however, allow Wisconsin’s 5th string tailback (and starting fullback), Matt Bernstein to rumble for 123 yards last weekend.



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