Big Ten Weekend Preview

Central Michigan at Northwestern

Saturday, 11 a.m. CT

The Wildcats have given up 37 points over three games — a total that has them ranked among the top 10 in the country in scoring defense. To keep that rating this week, Northwestern must contain the Chippewas’ explosive combo of running back Paris Cotton (6.2 yards per carry) and wide receiver Cody Wilson (21.4 yards per catch). While Northwestern would like to see Arby Fields and the ground game get more involved in the attack, it might not happen this week. Central Michigan’s defense has allowed even fewer points than the Wildcats, and hasn’t given up much ground to opponents thus far.


Northern Colorado at Michigan State

Saturday, 11 a.m. CT

Mark Dantonio’s absence will have little effect on his team’s performance in this contest — not against a Bears defense that surrendered 563 yards of total offense to Weber State just two weeks ago. Michigan State ranks 16th in the country in rushing yards (241.7 per game) and has scored at least 30 points in each of its three wins. In terms of defense, Greg Jones and the Spartans will eliminate the Bears’ ability to run early, putting pressure on the team’s shaky quarterback Dylan Orms (56.3 completion percentage). In its last two contests against Division 1 schools, Northern Colorado has lost by a combined score of 91–13. Ouch!


Bowling Green at Michigan

Saturday, 11 a.m. CT

In three games, Bowling Green’s defense has allowed 586 yards on 110 attempts (5.32 yards per carry). There is no way that defense will be able to slow down the nation’s leading rusher (Denard Robinson) or Michael Shaw. Assuming things go as planned this game might actually present the Wolverines with an opportunity to rest Robinson in the second half — something their three close victories have prevented so far. Bowling Green’s best offense has been its passing game, which features wide receiver Kamar Jorden (NCAA-leading 34 receptions). It should serve as another test for a Wolverine pass defense that has given up far too many yards this year (269.3 per game).


Austin Peay at Wisconsin

Saturday, 11 a.m. CT

There is not enough frosting to spread on this contest — a much needed gift for a Wisconsin squad fresh off a week in which it narrowly escaped defeat and lost its best linebacker (Chris Borland) for the season. This game should help Wisconsin play with its passing game. It was evident last week how much Scott Tolzien missed having Nick Toon and David Gilreath to throw to. Tight end Lance Kendricks is a stud, but the team was already weak at receiver, and no disrespect to Jared Abbrederis (who played well) but the team needs Toon to return from turf toe soon. Opponents have passed successfully against Austin Peay so far, so the Badgers will be fine with or without him this week.


Ball State at Iowa

Saturday, 11 a.m. CT

Ball State will act as a cure-all pill this week to get the Hawkeyes back in the right mindset heading into the conference season (a slate that begins with Penn State, Michigan and Wisconsin). In its loss to Purdue, the Cardinals defense was equally bad against the run (203 yards) and pass (200). Iowa’s rushing game will use this contest to rebuild its confidence after failing to show against Arizona (1.1 yards per carry). With Jewel Hampton out for the rest of the year with a torn ACL, this one is all on Adam Robinson. When Iowa played Ball State last (2005), running back Shonn Greene recorded his first-ever 100-yard effort in the 56–0 victory.


Toledo at Purdue

Saturday, 11 a.m. CT

Purdue fans are probably embarrassed to learn their squad has scored the fewest points (67) of all of the Big Ten teams so far — even fewer than Indiana, which has played only two games. Where’s the problem? Well, for starters, the offense has failed to produce long drives (just eight trips to the red zone). Toledo may be able to help. The Rockets have given up 35 or more points in two of three games, and their pass defense has been stretched by opponents. Boilermaker quarterback Robert Marve is still in need of confidence and weapons; he just might find both on Saturday.


Eastern Michigan at Ohio State

Saturday, 2:30 p.m. CT

About the only weakness Ohio State has right now is Brutus, who was thrown around like a rag doll by Ohio’s mascot last week. The Buckeyes offense ranks second in the conference in total yards, while the defense ranks first in yards allowed. Mostly, it’s been smooth sailing. The same cannot be said of Eastern Michigan, which has allowed 37 points per game — near the bottom of the NCAA. In the Eagles’ last contest they surrendered 27 first downs and 523 total yards to in-state foe Central Michigan. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor remains a top five candidate for the Heisman; this game provides Pryor with one of his final opportunities to pad his numbers.


Temple at Penn State

Saturday, 2:30 p.m. CT

Freshman Robert Bolden has completed 63 percent or better of his passes in two of three games this year, but is also coming off of back-to-back two-interception games. Temple’s entire game plan will rest on its ability to apply pressure to Bolden. Where has Evan Royster been hiding? The senior back hasn’t been able to average better than 3.6 yards in a contest yet; maybe this week can fix that. The Owls rank 94th in college football in total offense with 314.3 yards per game. Penn State, on the other hand, has played a much more demanding schedule and has given up just 300.3 yards per game.


Akron at Indiana

Saturday, 6 p.m. CT

Maybe there is magic flowing in the waters near Bloomington, because this team looks nothing like the unit that finished up the 2009 season.  This week, the Big Ten’s top-scoring unit will be treated to the nation’s 110th ranked scoring defense (38 points allowed per game). Fans can expect a big game from the Hoosier running game, which sputtered a week ago. The Zips allowed Kentucky to gain 290 yards on the ground, with Derrick Locke averaging 9.8 yards per carry. Based on those numbers, Darius Willis should have a nice day and far exceed his production in last year’s win over Akron (15 carries for 66 yards).


Northern Illinois at Minnesota

Saturday, 7:30 p.m. CT

Jimmie Johnson once said, ‘I don’t need friends. I need wins.’ Minnesota coach Tim Brewster can probably relate. Despite a close loss to a ranked USC squad, the Gopher fan base is growing impatient. This week, Brewster and his squad must take advantage of a Northern Illinois team with its own issues. The Huskies allowed more than 400 yards of offense to Iowa State, and more than 300 rushing yards last week to Illinois. Quarterback Adam Weber must be more efficient, and if Duane Bennett is fully recovered from his ankle injury, fans can expect him to help the Gopher ground unit have a monster evening.

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