After starting the season 11-0, the Big Ten continued their strong showing, posting a 8-3 record last week. But the conference’s three highest rated teams – Michigan, Ohio State and Iowa suffered all three losses. Heading into the last weekend before Big Ten conference play begins, this will be the last chance for the Big Ten powerhouse teams to boost their records.
No. 12 Purdue (1-0) at Arizona (1-1) – 10 p.m.
In Arizona’s first two games, both Utah and Northern Arizona had moderate success passing the ball on the Wildcats’ defense. With Joe Tiller’s pass-heavy spread offense, this is the kind of game where Purdue quarterback Brandon Kirsch will look to pad the already impressive stats he posted in an opening victory over Akron. Last season, Purdue also opened the season against two weak teams (Syracuse and Ball State) and totaled 110 points in those games. To match that mark, Purdue will need to score 61 points Saturday. Even though his first name isn’t Bob, Mike Stoops will not allow a rising Arizona program to fall that badly.
Purdue 38, Arizona 14
San Diego State (0-2) at No. 9 Ohio State (1-1) – 3:30 p.m., ABC
After losing to Texas last Saturday in the most hyped game of the early season, things should be easier for the Buckeyes at The Horseshoe this week. It doesn’t matter whether the Buckeyes go with Troy Smith or Justin Zwick at quarterback, they should have no problem scoring on the Aztecs, who surrendered 44 and 41 points in losses to UCLA and Air Force. Ohio State tends to keep weaker teams in the game in the first half, and this game probably won’t be an exception. But behind a strong performance from Ted Ginn Jr., the Buckeyes will pull away in the second half, leaving the hapless Aztecs 0-3.
Ohio State 34, San Diego State 17
Central Michigan (1-1) at Penn State (2-0) – 3:30 p.m.
The consensus this year is that Penn State will cruise to a 5-0 record with their apparently weak early schedule, which features South Florida and Northwestern. But hasn’t every year lately been the year of Nittany Lions’ return to glory? On the opposite sideline, Central Michigan’s coach Brian Kelly will get another chance to upset a Big Ten team. In their opening game, the Chippewas fell just short of upsetting Indiana, falling 20-13. Last week, they beat MAC powerhouse Miami (Ohio). Penn State and fab-freshman receiver Derrick Williams won’t put up enough points to beat a scrappy Central Michigan team.
Central Michigan 16, Penn State 13
Northwestern (2-0) at Arizona State (1-1) – 10 p.m.
Michigan fans know first-hand that Northern Illinois isn’t a pushover. Following in the Wolverines footsteps, Northwestern managed to beat the Huskies last week as well. A 38-37 win over Northern Illinois kept the Wildcats’ record unblemished at 2-0, but expect their first loss to come this weekend when they travel to Tempe and take on the Sun Devils. Arizona State blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead to an emotionally charged LSU team last weekend, but the Sun Devils will be looking to release a week’s worth of anger on someone. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, that will be them.
Arizona State 31, Northwestern 13
Wisconsin (2-0) at North Carolina (0-1, 0-1) – 7 p.m. – ESPN2
Fleeting memories of last year’s Elite Eight showdown during March Madness may still linger for these two programs. But look for Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez to leave the Big Ten with a splash. Still, the Badgers looked horrible on defense in week one, allowing 42 points to Bowling Green. Last week, they pitched a shutout and led 51-0 at half against Temple. Which defense will show up? It might not matter. North Carolina quarterback Matt Baker completed less than 50 percent of his passes, and no Tar Heel rusher managed more than 30 yards against Georgia Tech last week.
Wisconsin 42, North Carolina 20
Michigan State (2-0) at No. 10 Notre Dame (2-0) – 3:30 p.m. – NBC
Every year, this matchup seems to be an interesting one. This time around, Michigan State comes in undefeated, but against questionable competition. Notre Dame, coming off a big win against Michigan, will play at home for the first time in the Charlie Weis era. The Irish looked very average offensively after their first drive against Michigan. But the Spartans’ defense is not quite as solid as Michigan’s, so expect Notre Dame’s offense to look more like it did in week one against Pittsburgh than it did last week in Ann Arbor. Notre Dame’s defense should pounce on Michigan State’s Drew Stanton and contain the Spartan offense.
Notre Dame 31, Michigan State 16