It’s official: the world that is the Big Ten has gone mad. Black is white, perennial winners are losers and hot snow is falling up. Teams like Penn State and Indiana remain undefeated while Iowa and shockingly, Michigan have lost not just once, but twice.
It really is a new Big Ten. Michigan State and its darkhorse Heisman candidate, quarterback Drew Stanton, have put up obscene numbers on their way to a top-15 ranking. The only development from Saturday that wasn’t a surprise was the sight of a highly ranked Purdue team suffering a tumble.
No. 13 Notre Dame (3-1) at No. 22 Purdue (2-1 overall, 0-1 Big Ten) – 7:45 p.m. – ESPN
After beating two abysmal teams in Akron and Arizona, Purdue was jolted awake in its Big Ten opener last week. Saturday’s overtime loss to Minnesota put the Boilermakers in a hole in the conference race. Climbing the Big Ten ladder will be a tough task, but this week Purdue’s task will be to remain in the top-25. Purdue’s 116th-ranked pass defense, which has surrendered over 300 yards per game, will have a difficult time stopping the Irish combination of coach Charlie Weis’s brilliant schemes and quarterback Brady Quinn’s arm. Running back Darius Walker should be successful against Purdue’s mediocre run defense as well. The best thing Purdue has going for it is that it doesn’t play Michigan or Ohio State this season. Unfortunately, that won’t help them against Notre Dame this week. The Irish – who lost their previous two matchups to the Boilermakers by a combined 64-26 margin – will redeem themselves.
Notre Dame 31, Purdue 21
Indiana (3-0, 0-0) at No. 17 Wisconsin (4-0, 3-0) – noon – ESPN2
Indiana hasn’t exactly been tested yet, but don’t completely disregard this team. Senior quarterback Blake Powers and the Hoosiers could beat Wisconsin if they get cocky and buy into the budding hype. Wisconsin does have a stud in running back Brian Calhoun, who thrashed Michigan with 155 yards and a touchdown, but quarterback John Stocco throws like a little girl – with a broken arm – in a rainstorm – at night. The Wisconsin defense has gelled since allowing 42 points to Bowling Green in the season opener, but it is still prone to mental lapses such as Saturday’s flea flicker to Michigan’s Mario Manningham.
Indiana has a formidable passing game with Powers, who threw an impressive four touchdowns in just 22 attempts against a respectable Kentucky team. Indiana has 19 returning starters this season, and, while they have built up a few freebie wins against Nicholls State and Central Michigan, they are prepared to shock the world. The Hoosiers have a chance to bring swift justice for all the Wolverine fans who had to endure Saturday’s debacle.
Indiana 30, Wisconsin 27 (OT)
No. 18 Minnesota (4-0, 1-0) at Penn State (3-0, 1-0) – 3:30 p.m. – ABC
Nothing gets the blood pumping like a meeting of paper champions. Yes, both teams are undefeated, but Penn State has played the likes of South Florida and Cincinnati while Minnesota has shown their gusto against the ever-intimidating Florida Atlantic and Tulsa. Granted, Minnesota did defeat then-No. 14 Purdue 42-35 in overtime, but Purdue folds quicker than Superman on laundry day. This year it was just Minnesota’s turn to play spoiler. Minnesota as always, has a patented monster running game. This year they have turned running back Laurence Maroney loose, and he rushed for 217 yards on 46 carries against the Boilermakers.
Penn State freshman wide receiver Derrick Williams was the star of last week’s victory, catching the game-winning touchdown in a last-minute 34-29 win against Northwestern. But Penn State has one of the most erratic quarterbacks in the country in Michael Robinson, who threw for three touchdowns but also three interceptions against the Wildcats. Robinson has lined up at receiver, running back and quarterback in his four years at Penn State and has had a knack for imploding at the wrong moment, and this game will be no different.
Minnesota 42, Penn State 21
Illinois (2-2, 0-1) at Iowa (2-2, 0-1) – 12:10 p.m.
Considering they had games against No. 11 Michigan State and No. 12 California, the Fighting Illini, re-energized under coach Ron Zook, are happy to be .500 after four games. Despite those setbacks, it’s easy to see that this team, which was 3-8 last season, is much improved. On the other hand, Iowa is far from satisfied with its 2-2 record. After 10 wins last year, the Hawkeyes were expected to join Michigan and Ohio State atop the Big Ten. But losses to Iowa State and Ohio State quickly dashed those hopes. These two teams are much closer to each other than expected. Iowa has scored 27.5 point per game this year; Illinois has scored 26.8. The difference, however, lies in the defenses. Iowa, led by linebackers Abdul Hodge and Chad Greenway, has given up 18.8 points a game; Illinois has surrendered 36.3. Iowa will start to build their confidence back on Saturday.
Iowa 45, Illinois 10