PURDUE (+5.5) @ MICHIGAN
** To be honest we think Purdue is the best team in the Big Ten and thought they would be going in. However, we thought their brutal schedule will most likely prevent them from a conference crown. The Boilers played @ Wisconsin last week and won a close one 26-23. This week will be a VERY tough spot for them as they turn around and travel to Michigan after last Saturday's emotional win. While the Wolverines have been unreliable to say the least, they do have the most talent in the Big Ten in our opinion. Again, we're not saying they are the best team, they just have the most talent and when motivated they can be dangerous. That should be the case this weekend. The Michigan players know they MUST win this game to have any chance of a Big Ten title. If they lose, they would already have two defeats, while Purdue would be undefeated and have a win over Michigan for the potential tie breaker. The Wolves play PU and Michigan State the next two weekends and they are the only two undefeated teams in the Big Ten race. Thus with two wins, Michigan will control their own destiny to a conference title. This is a tough spot for PU in back to back very tough road games vs. a motivated Michigan team.
** The Boilers had been known as a "balanced" offensive team going into last weekend, however that changed quickly in their game vs. the Badgers. PU QB Kyle Orton attempted a whopping 55 passes which looked more like the Boilers of old rather than the current version. Head coach Joe Tiller simply felt that they would have trouble running on Wisconsin and came out with the surprising and "unpredictable" game plan. "As a coach, I think it's extremely valuable to be predictable in your unpredictability," Tiller said in why Purdue went away from its balanced offense. "When a team really draws a bead on you and really thinks this is the direction your team is going, if you have the ability to reverse course, you've got a chance to make some hay." It worked as Wisky struggled vs. the short, controlled passing game giving up 411 yards through the air. Who knows what Purdue's game plan will be this weekend vs. Michigan?
** Michigan plugged a key cog back into their defensive line up as cornerback Jeremy LaSueur was back on the field after getting injured a few weeks ago at Iowa. LaSueur is the Wolverines best cover corner so it is very important for them to have him on the field. However, while U of M picked up an addition in the defensive backfield, they also were without one of their best players last week. Safety Marlin Jackson, sat the game out with a leg injury and head coach Lloyd Carr was "mum" on his status for this week. They will need him if Purdue plans to put the ball up in the air as much as they did last week @ Wisconsin.
OHIO STATE (-20.5) @ INDIANA
** Several IU football players have come under investigation this week for allegedly running up nearly $500 worth of long distance charges to one of their coaches. Each Hoosier coach is given a pin code to enter when charging a long distance call to the University. This is done in order to keep track the calls for billing responsibility. Apparently, one of the players saw the access code on the desk of the coach and wrote it down. He then began passing the code out to teammates. One of the players approached the coach about the potential problem. By that time, the players involved had run up almost $500 in long distance charges. The names of the players have not been released as of Tuesday afternoon. We'll have to keep a very close eye on this as it obviously could have an effect on this Saturday's game depending who the players are and what the punishment might be.
** OSU's offense is struggling to say the least. The beat Iowa last week 19-10, however they scored just 3 points on offense. The other 16 points came on a safety, a punt return for a TD and a blocked punt for a TD. The last two games vs. Wisconsin and Iowa, the Buckeye offense has come up with just 13 points. In their 3 Big Ten games thus far, they have scored just 3 TD's. Last week's paltry effort vs. the Hawkeyes (just 185 TOTAL YARDS) dropped the Bucks to 114th in total offense out of 117 teams. The only teams that are more "despicable" on offense than OSU are Eastern Michigan, Buffalo and SMU. Those team have a combined record of 1-23 this year. Of the seven games OSU has played this season, they have been outgained in five of them. If the Bucks can't put some points on the board this weekend vs. Indiana, then we know they are in trouble.
WISCONSIN (-11) @ NORTHWESTERN
** Badger QB Jim Sorgi will not play this week @ Northwestern. Sorgi injured his knee in the second half of last week's loss to Purdue and did not return. Sorgi actually already had minor surgery on his knee Monday. He should be back for Wisconsin's next game @ Minnesota which is two weeks away as the Badgers have a bye after Northwestern. Sorgi was actually going to have surgery on his knee during the bye week anyway to "clean things up". Starting in his place will be junior Matt Schabert. He is 9 of 18 for 199 yards in his limited action this year. Schabert's back up will be redshirt freshman John Stocco who has never taken a snap in a collegiate game. The third team "emergency" QB for the game will be tight end Owen Daniels, who used to be a QB before switching positions late last season.
** NU’s starting kicker, Slade Larscheid, has a hip flexor and may not be able to play this Saturday. The Cats had last week off and Larscheid hurt his hip in practice. He was unable to kick early this week and his status will not be known for sure until Saturday. If he can’t go, redshirt freshman Joel Howells will take over the kicking duties. Howells has yet to attempt a kick in his brief college career. Larscheid struggled early in the season but did make his last two field goal attempts making him 2 of 6 on the season. He is 19 of 19 on extra points.
** Wildcat head coach Randy Walker hopes LB Tim McGarigle is ready to go this Saturday. McGarigle, who is 4th on the team with 53 tackles, suffered a concussion two weeks ago @ Indiana. Walker did say that he expected McGarigle to be cleared to play. Also, starting safety Louis Ayeni, who has missed the last 6 games due to a stinger in his neck, might be ready this weekend.
MINNESOTA (-15) @ ILLINOIS
** Illinois has been terrible since starting the Big Ten season getting outscored 186-58 in just four games. That equates to an average score of 45-14. Their defense has been terrible giving up 38 points or more in all 4 Big Ten games. The offense hasn’t been much better topping 14 points just once during the conference season. No their offense takes another hit this week. Starting tailback EB Halsey probably will not be available this weekend after injuring his knee @ Michigan last Saturday. He has a sprained knee, thus it doesn’t look like a long term injury, however we don’t expect him to be able to go this weekend. Starting in his place will be true freshman Pierre Thomas who had 26 yards on 10 carries last week vs. the Wolverines.
** Now even worse news for the Illini. Starting QB Jon Beutjer, who sat out last week’s game with back problems, will most likely be out again this week. Head coach Ron Turner said he is “90% sure” that Beutjer will not be able to play this weekend. He also said he hasn’t decided on who will start the game under center. Last Saturday’s starter, freshman Chris Pazan, was 11 of 23 but also threw an interception and fumbled once. His competition was senior Dustin Ward who completed all 5 of his passes and directed one of the two TD drives for the Illini. Our guess is Ward will get the nod, however Turner will hold judgement until later in the week.
** The key turning point in last weekend’s Gopher loss to Michigan State came with under one minute to go in the first half. With the Gophs trailing 24-10, RB Marion Barber scored on a 1-yard plunge to make the score MSU 24, Minny 17. That was with just 48 seconds to go in the first half. Thus, Minnesota, after playing a poor first half, was feeling good and ready to go into the locker room and regroup just a TD behind. However that’s when things feel apart for the Gophs. On the ensuing kickoff, the Spartan’s DeAndra Cobb went 100 yards for a TD making the score MSU 31, Minny 17 taking the air out of the dome. That wasn’t all. A few plays later, RB Marion Barber fumbled, MSU recovered and kicked a 50-yard field goal to make the score at the end of the half 34-17. That 48 second stretch basically lost the game for Minny who actually came back to make the final score close at 44-38.
PENN STATE (+11) @ IOWA
** You would think with a week off PSU would have been able to “get healthy” so to speak. That was the case for the most part, however the Lions do have a couple of key players out going into this Saturday’s game @ Iowa. Starting tailback Austin Scott, who leads the team with 365 yards, was did not make the trip to Purdue a few weeks ago because he came down with mononucleosis the day before the game. Scott is highly doubtful for this weekend’s game. Also junior Scott Davis, who started four games at left guard this season, dislocated his left ankle before the Purdue game and will be gone for the season.
** Now the struggling PSU offense could have even more problems this weekend. That is because the Lions leading receiver, senior Tony Johnson, was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol last weekend. Johnson had a blood-alcohol content of 0.136 when a black Mercedes Benz he was driving was pulled over around 3 a.m. Friday, authorities said. Johnson, who has 25 catches for 375 yards this season, was pulled over for crossing the center line and failed the field sobriety test. As of Tuesday, head coach Joe Paterno had not issued any statement as to whether Johnson would be suspended for this weekend’s game vs. Iowa. We’ll keep an eye on this.
** Iowa took a huge blow last weekend in their 19-10 loss @ Ohio State when defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux broke his leg in the first quarter. Babineaux had 23 tackles on the season, including 5 tackles for loss. He was considered one of the key cogs in a defensive unit that is one of the best running stopping teams in the country (8th nationally). Also, starting center Brian Ferentz has been lost for the season to a knee injury. Head coach Kirk Ferentz, Brian’s father, said he was to undergo knee surgery on Tuesday and would not return this year. Finally, starting corner Jovan Johnson sprained his ankle vs. OSU and didn’t return. Johnson has a shot to be on the field this Saturday.
** It wasn’t all bad news for the Hawks who got a potential boost on offense last week. Back up tailback Jermelle Lewis, got back on the field for the first time this year after injuring his knee in spring ball. Lewis, who had 737 yards rushing last year, carried the ball 2 times last Saturday. The Hawks will bring him along slowly, however he will provide some needed relief for starter Fred Russell who has had to carry the load this season. Also, leading receiver Mo Brown, who has been out the last 4 games due to an ankle injury, could return this Saturday.