When last week”s games saw several upsets and Penn State coach Joe Paterno finally tie the NCAA”s all-time Division I-A win record, only one thing was confirmed in the Big Ten: It”s unpredictable.
Michigan is the only Big Ten team still undefeated in conference play as it heads to Iowa. Illinois, Purdue and Ohio each all own one loss, but by no means do they have easy schedules remaining.
Northwestern (2-2 Big Ten, 4-2 Overall) at No. 20 Purdue (2-1, 4-1), 12:10 p.m. ESPN2: Northwestern opened the season as a contender for the Big Ten title. Now it finds itself in the middle of the pack, hoping to remain in contention for a bowl game. The Wildcats have suffered their share of heartbreak losses this season, including last week”s 38-35 loss to Penn State.
The Wildcats have proved they can put an efficient offense on the field, led by senior quarterback Zak Kustok. Kustok is the Big Ten leader in total offense, compiling 1,430 passing yards, along with 359 yards on the ground. But Northwestern”s defense will be the unit put to the test against Purdue.
Purdue has had time to recover and prepare for Northwestern with a bye week after a 24-10 loss to Michigan two weeks ago. Freshman quarterback Brandon Hance has put up respectable numbers in his first season and should be able to strike against a Northwestern defense that has proved shaky.
Even if Kustok and running back Damien Anderson execute up to the standards they”re capable of, the Boilermakers” defense should perform well enough to keep the Wildcats out of striking distance. Purdue has already pulled in 11 interceptions this year and could turn the game around quickly with a big turnover. This is a matchup that should produce a lot of points with Purdue ending up on top.
Purdue 38, Northwestern 34
Ohio State (2-1, 4-2) at Penn State (1-3, 1-4), 12:10 p.m. ESPN: Paterno should return home to a noisy Happy Valley this week after finally tying Bear Bryant”s all-time Division I-A win record at 323 last week against Northwestern. It took the Nittany Lions five tries to do it, but they now have something to motivate them in an otherwise dismal season.
Quarterback Zack Mills found running back Eric McCoo from four yards out with 22 seconds remaining to finally put the Nittany Lions on the winning side of the scoreboard. Penn State was forced to come from behind five times, a fact that might be exciting for the fans, but can be upsetting for a coach.
The Nittany Lions cannot fall behind and expect to stay competitive against Ohio State, a team still very much in position to emerge as the conference champion.
The Buckeyes” defense has been the driving force behind the team”s success this year, rescuing an offense that has been sputtering. Even the home crowd in Columbus is aware of the offense”s troubles quarterback Steve Bellisari was booed repeatedly in last week”s victory over San Diego State. If the offense does come together for the Buckeyes, Paterno will find himself waiting again at least one more week for win No. 324.
Ohio State 24, Penn State 7
Michigan State (1-2, 3-2) at Wisconsin (2-2, 4-4), 12:10 p.m ESPN- Plus: The Spartans suffered two losses at the hands of Minnesota last week. They lost the game 28-19, and lost quarterback Ryan Van Dyke for at least three weeks after he fractured his jaw.
Now Michigan State faces the hefty task of winning at Camp Randall Stadium with Jeff Smoker taking the snaps. Junior running back T.J. Duckett will have to post productive yards on the ground if Michigan State wants to put any pressure on Wisconsin.
The Badgers boast the conference”s leading rusher in Anthony Davis and leading receiver in Lee Evans. Davis has carried the ball more than any other running back in the conference and has produced 922 yards, but Evan”s 960 receiving yards show that the Badgers can do more than just run the ball. The combination will be too much for a Michigan State team that is allowing 22.8 points per game.
Wisconsin 31, Michigan State 17