It’s a good thing Michigan is playing Michigan State this
Saturday, because the other Big Ten football matchups will need an
ESPN 3, 4 and 5 in order to get TV coverage. Maybe Comcast Local 8
will generously broadcast a couple downs. The games mainly feature
teams at the bottom of the conference against teams that used to be
near the top. It’s hard to be a fan when your team is sitting
at the bottom of the Big Ten. It’s equally hard to have your
team be so close to the top, only to lose it over a few days. This
is the weekend when some of the teams will find out who their real
fans are.

 

No. 19 Purdue (2-2 Big Ten, 5-2 overall) at Northwestern
(2-2, 3-4), noon

Who would have thought this would be a big matchup?

The team that was once a thundering freight train is now the
“little engine that could.” Just two weeks ago, a
fifth-ranked Purdue team was fighting for the top spot in the Big
Ten when it lost to Wisconsin due to Kyle’s Orton critical
fourth quarter fumble. Last Saturday, Purdue had déjà
vu, fumbling again in the fourth quarter for a second-straight
conference loss. Now, the Boilermakers find themselves positioned
just one step above Northwestern in the conference. The outcome of
this game will prove whether Purdue’s last two losses were
just bad luck or if the team was over-rated all along.

Purdue still has Orton, the No. 1 passing quarterback in the Big
Ten. But the past two games have turned the Heisman hopeful into a
Heisman wishful. Northwestern has the Big Ten’s
second-leading quarterback in passing yards, Brett Basanez. Could
this be a matchup to decide the best passing quarterback in the
conference? Not quite. Basanez lacks in passing efficiency. On
average, Basanez completes about 8 percent fewer passes than Orton
and his overall quarterback rating is much lower.

Another concern for Northwestern is the health of coach Randy
Walker, who went to the hospital earlier this week with heart
inflammation. If he is unable to stand on the sideline this
weekend, a shift in coaching staff could hurt the team’s
performance.

If Purdue keeps the “fourth quarter fumble” from
entering its offensive playbook, it should bounce back with a win
on Saturday.

Purdue 30, Northwestern 17

 

No. 24 Iowa (3-1, 5-2) at Illinois (0-5, 2-6), noon

Iowa’s 6-4 win over Penn State last weekend left fans
asking how the goalies held up. The only time Iowa spent in the
endzone was when it was giving safeties to the other team. Against
Illinois, Iowa hopes the final score will make the contest look
less like a hockey game and more like a football game.

A win should come easily to Iowa when it plays a team that
hasn’t won a single conference game this year, but the margin
of victory might not be so large. Quarterback Drew Tate faces a
challenge when it comes to the running game. The Iowa running backs
are plagued with injuries that keep them off the field. Tate will
have to build on his 1,467 passing yards in order to put points on
the board. Iowa will continue to rely on its strong defense to keep
Illinois at bay.

The Fighting Illini are begging for a conference win. The
team’s 13-game conference losing streak has put coach Ron
Turner’s job in jeopardy. Last week against Minnesota,
Illinois didn’t score a single point. While benched
quarterback Jon Beutjer has a somewhat respectable 58-percent
completion rate, he has only led the offense to two non-conference
wins.

Illinois needs a conference win badly, but it will have to try
next weekend. While Iowa struggles to find its running game, they
should still pull off a win at Illinois.

Iowa 20, Illinois 6

 

No. 23 Minnesota (3-2, 6-2) at Indiana (0-4, 2-5), 2:00
p.m.

Minnesota looks to continue winning this week when it travels to
Indiana, a team that has yet to beat anyone in the Big Ten. What
started as a great season for the Golden Gophers has turned sour
with two straight conference losses, putting them in the same
situation in the conference race as Purdue.

Minnesota should use the Indiana matchup to further develop its
rushing offense. Laurence Maroney is the top running back in the
conference with a total of 941 yards. Marion Barber III is third
best in the Big Ten with 816 total yards. On Monday, Barber III was
named the co-Big Ten offensive player of the week along with
Michigan’s Mike Hart. Quarterback Brian Cupito will continue
to utilize his talents to help win the game on the ground.

The Hoosiers’ offense will fight an uphill battle trying
to catch up to Minnesota.

Minnesota 27, Indiana 10

 

Penn State (0-4, 2-5) at Ohio State (1-3, 4-3) 12:10
p.m.

Ohio State will attempt to gain its second conference win this
weekend. Quarterback Troy Smith looked strong in Ohio State’s
first Big Ten win last Saturday against Indiana. Smith replaced
Justin Zwick after Zwick’s lackluster effort early in the
year and recent shoulder injury. Smith — along with freshman
running back Antonio Pittman — led the Buckeyes to victory in
what may be the combination the struggling team needs to win
games.

Penn State showed a lack of offense against Iowa. While
it’s embarrassing that the Nittany Lions only scored off two
safeties, the team showed that it had a strong defense. Penn
State’s defense did its best to hold the Hawkeyes to 168
total yards, but the offense wasn’t able to reciprocate by
putting points on the board. This pattern has continued throughout
the season, and Penn State has consistently lost in low-scoring
games.

Ohio State 21, Penn State 7

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