Big Ten - Week 7


Arkansas State at Indiana, Saturday, 11 a.m. CT
As well as quarterback Ben Chappell had played heading into last week’s contest, no one really expected his arm to light up the Buckeyes. This week, Chappell and his fabulous receiving duo of Tandon Doss and Damarlo Belcher should get back on track against an Arkansas State secondary that is clearly over-matched. Auburn’s Cam Newton completed just nine passes against the Red Wolves — but three of them were 35-plus-yard touchdowns, so Chappell should have a field day. Indiana’s defense will also be asked to stop the pass, as Arkansas State sophomore Ryan Aplin has more than 1,500 yards through five contests. To keep Aplin on his toes, the Hoosiers hope to have a better effort from their front seven, which has generated just seven sacks in five games thus far.

Illinois at Michigan State, Saturday, 11 a.m. CT
In the past two weeks, the Spartans have played the role of underdog against Wisconsin and in Ann Arbor against Michigan. Now they are the clear favorites against an Illinois squad fresh off handing Penn State a loss in University Park. The Illini have one of the conference’s most dangerous players in freshman quarterback Nathan Scheelhasse, who has gained 60 or more rushing yards in three of five contests this season. Last week he was terribly efficient (15 of 19), but must duplicate that feat against a Spartans defense that limited Michigan’s Denard Robinson to just 4.1 yards per carry (long of 16). In terms of Michigan State’s offense, no team in the Big Team is as balanced. Kirk Cousins is having an outstanding year and will serve as another test for an Illini secondary that has held up well so far (just 187.8 passing yards allowed per contest).

Minnesota at Purdue, Saturday, 11 a.m. CT
Things look grim for Tim Brewster’s Gophers. Minnesota is the only Big Ten team with fewer than three wins, and it ranks dead last in points allowed per game (32.3). Purdue, meanwhile, should be the conference’s worst team considering the injuries it has absorbed, but Danny Hope has somehow gotten his younger players to respond. Thanks to its underrated defense, last week the Boilermakers knocked off previously unbeaten Northwestern; Minnesota should be a piece of cake. The difference may be found in Purdue’s rushing attack, which has averaged 5.0 yards per carry. Rob Henry and Dan Dierking should do well against a Gophers defense that has given up a Big Ten-worst 15 rushing scores and almost 200 rushing yards per game. And Minnesota quarterback Adam Weber can expect a long day; Purdue ranks fourth in the country (and first in the Big Ten) with 17 sacks.

Iowa at Michigan, Saturday, 2:30 p.m. CT
A year ago, Michigan began to unravel at this point of the season after its fast start. A loss to visiting Iowa this weekend could send coach Rich Rodriguez’s team on a similar path. To prevent this, Rodriguez’s top-ranked Big Ten rushing unit (297.3 yards per game) must win the tug-of-war with Iowa’s top-ranked Big Ten run defense (63.2). Of course, having Denard Robinson at his best is key, but Michigan needs more than its do-it-all sophomore in this one. It needs for the passing game to stretch the Hawkeye secondary early on in order to create space, and it must see better production from the rest of its backfield, which has not helped enough in recent weeks to take pressure off of Robinson. On the opposite sideline, Iowa is still very much in the race for the Big Ten’s ticket to the BCS. This week’s game begins a rigorous three-week stretch, with upcoming home games against Wisconsin and Michigan State. A win over the maize and blue could give Iowa the boost it needs to finish strong. It will rely on quarterback Ricky Stanzi to rattle a Wolverine secondary that had no answer for Kirk Cousins last Saturday (284 yards on 18 of 25 passing). Last year’s contest between these two clubs ended with a Robinson interception in the final minute, securing a 30–28 win for the Hawkeyes.

Ohio State at Wisconsin, Saturday, 6 p.m. CT
For Wisconsin, it’s do-or-die (i.e. the prospect of finishing up the season in January or December). For Ohio State, it’s an opportunity to prove it belongs in the No. 1 spot. Bret Bielema’s decision to go for two points late in last week’s blowout win over Minnesota was somewhat of a distraction this week, but rest assured that when Bielema’s club takes the field, all it will be thinking about is slowing down Heisman hopeful Terrelle Pryor, who has been outstanding in recent weeks. Led by J.J. Watt, the Badger front four does a pretty good job of containing opposing passers in the pocket; Pryor is at his most dangerous when he is on the move. Wisconsin will split carries between John Clay and James White, feeding whichever ball carrier has better success against an Ohio State defense that is allowing just 2.7 yards per carry. One item of interest: The last time the Badgers knocked off a No. 1 team was in their 1981 season opener against Bo Schembechler’s Michigan Wolverines.


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