Now it's about survival. For Ron Turner and his struggling Illini football team.
Six losses in the first seven games have destroyed whatever hopes there were for a successful season. Back-to-back games against Michigan and Minnesota probably ensure that more embarrassment will result.
How can the Illinois defense hope to slow down Michigan QB John Navarre and RB Chris Perry this week?
For most of the past two seasons, the Illini have not shown the inclination to play solid defense. The problem is that Mike Cassity's system has never been fully assimilated by his players and that many of the defenders don't provide the effort needed to bring the opponents down. That has clearly been the case in three Big Ten losses suffered against Wisconsin, Purdue and Michigan State. All three of those losses have been one-sided routs.
Nevertheless, Turner is apparently safe in his job. He was given a vote of confidence by athletic director Ron Guenther and should be back for his eighth season in 2004.
Turner seemed relieved by the remarks. "I appreciate that," Turner said. "Ron's frustrated like everyone else. We all want to win."
That might not be a reality until the Illini face Indiana and Northwestern in back-to-back weeks to close the season.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: It could be tough for Illinois to move the ball consistently against Michigan, because QB Jon Beutjer has a back problem and will not play. Ron Turner will turn the offense over to freshman QB Chris Pazan or Dustin Ward. Turner needs RBs E.B. Halsey and Pierre Thomas to have productive days, helping Illinois control the clock.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Even if the Illini defense plays its best game, it might be impossible for the Illini to stop Michigan QB John Navarre and RB Chris Perry. Illinois hasn't delivered a lot of big hits on any running back this season, and Perry could really get into a groove in this game.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We've got the right guy running our program." — Illinois athletic director Ron Guenther on the status of coach Ron Turner.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Illinois at Michigan, Oct. 18 — The Wolverines were supposed to be a national championship contender this season, but have already lost two games. However, they saved their season by rallying from a 21-point deficit to beat Minnesota last week, keeping alive Big Ten title hopes. So, Michigan, too talented for the downtrodden Illini, should also be in a good frame of mind.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Chris Pazan — He got into the game in the second half against Michigan State and looked fairly accurate as he completed 7-of-11 passes for 67 yards. Pazan may see quite a bit of action against Michigan because Jon Beutjer has back problems.
DE Derrick Strong — The only thing the Illini can do to slow down the Michigan passing attack is put pressure on John Navarre. Strong has to be at his best for the Illini to have a chance at avoiding humiliation.
INJURY IMPACT: QB Jon Beutjer will not play at Michigan because of a back problem. ... Defensive back Ade Adeyemo (ribs) and linebacker Josh Ticher (ribs) are probable. ... Defensive back Alan Ball (shoulder) is sidelined indefinitely. ... Defensive back Darnell Ray (suspension) and defensive lineman Mike O'Brien (knee) are expected to miss the remainder of the season.
With a week off to get ready for their next game — at home against Ohio State on Oct. 25 — the Hoosiers are taking inventory and trying to figure out what it will take to get their first Big Ten win of the season.
They probably would need about a year off to have a legitimate chance to defeat the Buckeyes.
The goal for Gerry DiNardo's team is to simply get better, baby step by baby step. The Hoosiers still lack quality depth and overall talent. But they have played good defense on occasion — against Michigan — and have shown the ability to move the ball on the ground — against Washington, Michigan State and Northwestern.
Running the ball with BenJarvus Green-Ellis clearly has to be the focus for DiNardo when his team returns to action. He showed signs of becoming a star against Northwestern on Oct. 11, when he ran for 136 yards and was a tiger in the red zone with two short TD runs. He also added a 27-yard score in which he showed a bit of a burst.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: On paper, the Hoosiers have a decent offense. While there is little depth, BenJarvus Green-Ellis is a solid runner who is coming off a 136-yard, three-TD effort against Northwestern. QB Matt LoVecchio completed 11 passes in a row against the Wildcats and he has two excellent targets in WR Glenn Johnson and Courtney Roby.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Head coach Gerry DiNardo was downright angry at his defense for its poor effort against Northwestern. He was particularly annoyed with the job the Indiana defense did on third downs. The Wildcats were successful on a third-and-17 play late in the first half, but when that play was called back on a holding penalty, Northwestern quarterback Brett Basanez completed a 28-yard pass to Kunle Patrick on third-and-23. "We have to find a way to get the job done," DiNardo said.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We just didn't get it done in the first half on defense. We weren't playing hard, we weren't tackling, we weren't getting lined up and we were busting coverages. We were just awful." — Head coach Gerry DiNardo on Indiana's defensive play against Northwestern.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Idle. Next game: Ohio State at Indiana on Oct. 25.
PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Matt LoVecchio — The key to the Indiana offense the rest of the way. LoVecchio has a good arm and is starting to show signs of becoming a good quarterback. He completed 13-of-20 passes against Northwestern, and, at one point, completed 11 in a row. He will have to be at his best if the offense is going to have a chance when the Hoosiers host the defensive-minded Buckeyes on Oct. 25.
INJURY IMPACT: Offensive lineman Brandon Hatcher (leg) and defensive back Will Lumpkin (knee) are expected to miss the remainder of the season.
This week's matchup with Ohio State would have been the game of the year in 2002, when both teams ran through the Big Ten season with an undefeated record.
Iowa-Ohio State doesn't have that kind of luster this year, but it is still a tremendous game that will have ramifications on the Big Ten title picture. Both teams have already lost a conference game, while Michigan State, Wisconsin and Purdue are undefeated. However, it seems quite likely that nobody in the Big Ten will go undefeated this season.
The Hawkeyes are not likely to be intimidated by the visit to Ohio Stadium. Iowa beat Michigan on the road last year and also took care of Penn State before more than 100,000 at Beaver Stadium. A huge crowd will not get to the Hawkeyes.
"We all may take a good look around when we get there, but by the time the game starts we will be focused on the game," said Iowa OT Robert Gallery.
"The older guys — we've experienced big stadiums; we pretty much know what to expect. We've been to Kansas City for a game at Arrowhead Stadium, to the Orange Bowl, the Big House and to Penn State. We've been there, done that."
Being able to move the ball consistently against the Ohio State defense is another story. Iowa expects to have WRs Maurice Brown and Ed Hinkel back in the lineup, but they will both have to show that they can make a serious contribution.
The Hawkeyes need to be a threat on the outside and down the field, or else it will be very tough for RB Fred Russell to do much. Russell is one of the most consistent backs in the Big Ten, but he is not a one-man gang against one of the best defensive teams in the nation.
Iowa appears to have a versatile offense, but in the 20-10 loss to Michigan State on Sept. 27, the Hawkeyes had no answers after falling behind early. Getting a jump on the powerful Buckeyes will be of significant importance.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Hawkeyes are hoping to have their full complement of receivers back for Ohio State. That would make life much easier for QB Nathan Chandler. Unlike Brad Banks a year ago, Chandler is not the kind of quarterback who can take a broken play and gain big yards on the ground. He can buy a little time to avoid the rush, but he must find his open receivers. If he can do that and Fred Russell gets a little push from the offensive line, the Hawkeyes have a chance to put enough points on the board against one of the nation's finest defenses.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Ohio State offense has been ordinary, at best, and the line play has been disappointing. That works into the hands of DE Howard Hodges, DT Jared Clauss and LBs Grant Steen and Chad Greenway. The Hawkeyes have the horses to do what most teams have done to the Buckeyes this season — give up yards and points grudgingly.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We were running all over the place when we took it down there and scored on the first drive. We were having a pretty good party at about that time." — Iowa OLB Grant Steen on Iowa's last visit to Ohio State. The Hawkeyes scored first and had an 8-0 lead, but the Buckeyes came back and recorded a 49-11 triumph in 1999.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Iowa at Ohio State, Oct. 18 — While this won't have the national implications that a meeting between these teams would have had last year, it should still go a long way toward determining the Big Ten title and bowl seedings. It should be a close game decided by a handful of big plays.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: RB Fred Russell — The best player on the Iowa team. Ohio State will do whatever it can to stop Russell after he gained 110 yards against Michigan. If QB Nathan Chandler isn't much of a threat, the Buckeyes front seven could hammer the running back.
WR Maurice Brown — He is clearly the team's best receiver. If he can make it back into the lineup and make a solid contribution, Brown could be a difference maker. Brown has only played three games, but he has three TD receptions.
INJURY IMPACT: Wide receiver Maurice Brown (ankle), backup running back Jermelle Lewis (knee), running back Albert Young (leg), defensive lineman Howard Hodges (leg) and defensive backs Bob Sanders (foot), Jovon Johnson (ankle) and Antwan Allen (leg) are questionable for Saturday's game against Ohio State. Wide receiver Ed Hinkel (groin) and offensive lineman David Walker (knee) are probable.
The Wolverines were staring over the edge of the abyss. Two losses and a 21-point deficit against Minnesota was staring back at them.
But a funny thing happened in the fourth quarter.
The Michigan offense woke up and started making big plays. The defense, which gave up 424 yards on the ground to the Gophers, made an interception return for a touchdown and then came up with a couple of stops.
The Wolverines came all the way back from that three-TD deficit to record a memorable 38-35 win.
While this team still has many problems, it has also tapped back into the emotion that was missing in losses to Oregon and Iowa and was also out of the picture in a win over Indiana.
Now the Wolverines still have a chance at a special season. After what should be an easy win over Illinois this week, the Wolverines have back-to-back games against Purdue and Michigan State. Those two games will determine if the season-finale with Ohio State has Big Ten title ramifications.
"Hopefully we will take it from here," said QB John Navarre. "We need to take care of business every week and good still things can happen."
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: John Navarre is putting big numbers on the board every week. While he was slow to get started at Minnesota, his confidence and accuracy in the fourth quarter was the key to the comeback against the Gophers. Look for Chris Perry to tear apart the poor-tackling Illinois defense.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Wolverines are coming off an embarrassing game against Minnesota. The Gophers built a 21-point lead largely because of their ground game. Minnesota had 424 rushing yards and the Wolverines' front seven was continuously being knocked backward. The unit showed some improvement in the fourth quarter, but this side of the ball needs to get significantly better and more consistent. It's not as if the talent isn't there.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We have to use the Minnesota game as a building block. We have to take that momentum we had in the fourth quarter and use that as a jumping off point." — Michigan offensive coordinator Terry Malone on the momentum the Wolverines had during the fourth quarter of the win over Minnesota.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Illinois at Michigan, Oct. 18 — Michigan had its best moment of the season with that fourth-quarter comeback in a 38-35 win over Minnesota. There is no reason for the Wolverines to play with anything other than full emotion, even against an Illinois team that is reeling with five straight losses.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: WR Braylon Edwards — The Wolverines' best receiver said he is not interested in leaving school early and going to the NFL next spring. He wants to work on his game at Michigan and help the team win a national championship. That won't happen this year, but the Wolverines can make something very good of their season by winning out.
WR-PR Steve Breaston — Just a dynamite playmaker and a little bit of lightning. In addition to catching a TD pass and taking a punt back all the way for a score last week, Breaston threw a 36-yard TD pass to John Navarre in the win over Minnesota.
INJURY IMPACT: Defensive back Jeremy LeSueur (shoulder) is questionable for Saturday's game against Illinois.
At least the Wildcats are going into the bye week on an up note.
By beating Indiana on the road last week, the Wildcats demonstrated that they are not the worst team in the Big Ten. That's not much, but, hey, it's a jumping off point for head coach Randy Walker.
When the Wildcats return to business vs. Wisconsin on Oct. 25, they probably won't be in a position to pull off an upset. However, RB Jason Wright is a very good player who can give the offense a big boost. He did just that against Indiana when he put four TDs on the board, including the tying touchdown in the fourth quarter and the winner in overtime.
QB Brett Basanez has a decent arm and is a good athlete, but he has not shown he can get the job done consistently. One mistake with Basanez usually leads to another and the Wildcats have had a hard time stopping the boulder once it starts rolling downhill.
Defensively, the Wildcats must show they can make a stand. Northwestern played a solid defensive game when it lost to Ohio State 20-0. However, the Wildcats followed with a painful 42-17 loss to Minnesota in which the defense fell apart after a good first quarter.
"This bye week comes at a good time," Walker said. "It gives our players a chance to heal so they will be in a position to do something in the second half of the season."
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: RB Jason Wright is coming off his best game of the year. He ran for 141 yards and four TDs vs. Indiana. He has great quickness into and out of the hole and also does a great job of leading with his forearm when he gets into the secondary. Wright is a consistent producer who should be taking the pressure off of jittery QB Brett Basanez.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Wildcats have had some good moments on the defensive side of the ball, but they rarely play consistently. LB Pat Durr is a fine leader who can rally the troops emotionally, but the Wildcats have a difficult time holding the point of attack against the run.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "The bye comes at a good time, but the best time would be after the first game. You learn so much about your team after the first game and that would probably be the best time because then you could use that knowledge in your game plan." — Northwestern head coach Randy Walker.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Idle. Next game: Wisconsin at Northwestern, Oct. 25.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: S Brian Heinz — He had a big interception vs. Indiana, and head coach Randy Walker needs more big plays from him in the second half of the season.
WR Mark Philmore — He caught five passes for 41 yards against Indiana and had a 60-yard punt return that set up the tying touchdown in the fourth quarter. Look for Philmore to take on an increased role in the game plan in the upcoming weeks.
INJURY IMPACT: LB Tim McGarigle suffered a concussion vs. Indiana and should play when the season resumes vs. Wisconsin. S Louis Ayeni (shoulder) may also be able to play in that game after missing the last six games. Wide receiver Ashton Aikens (knee) is expected to miss the remainder of the season. Offensive lineman Bill Newton (personal) is sidelined indefinitely.
With their 19-game winning streak now a thing of the past, the Buckeyes will try to get back on track at home vs. Iowa. This should be a stellar matchup that could go along way toward determining the Big Ten championship.
But preparing for this game was not the only business at hand for Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel. He suspended LB Robert Reynolds for trying to injure Wisconsin QB Jim Sorgi in the loss at Madison.
Reynolds pressed his fingers to the throat of Sorgi after the QB was brought down following a scramble in the second half. The move choked Sorgi and caused him to lose his voice. As a result, backup QB Matt Schabert was forced into action. Schabert later threw a game-winning TD pass to WR Lee Evans.
Tressel was very angry about the incident and wanted Reynolds to apologize to Sorgi. Reynolds did that and Sorgi was decent enough to accept the linebacker's words of regret. However, after reviewing the incident again, Tressel decided to suspend the linebacker. "There's no place for what Robert did," Tressel said. "I did not think an apology was enough."
Tressel is hoping that the Buckeyes can move on against Iowa. The Hawkeyes are hoping that injured WRs Maurice Brown and Ed Hinkel can return to help the passing game. If they are back, Ohio State will have to find a way to defend against a versatile offense. However, if the Hawkeyes can't get their passing game going, the Buckeyes can overload to slow down Iowa RB Fred Russell.
Tressel is also hoping for more good stuff from QB Craig Krenzel, who came back last week following an elbow injury. Krenzel completed 14-of-26 passes for 202 yards vs. Wisconsin.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Hard to believe the defending national champs are last in the Big Ten in total offense, averaging 293.8 yards per game. There's nothing dynamic happening in the running game — Maurice Clarett, where are you? — and the offensive line has failed to meet expectations as well. The best the offense can do is avoid turnovers and hit a key play late in the game.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: It's still almost impossible to run against these guys, as their Big Ten-best 59.7 yards per game allowed attests. If the Buckeyes stuff RB Fred Russell this week, where will Iowa turn? Somehow, you'd think that Ohio State likes it chances with Hawkeyes QB Nathan Chandler having to throw in obvious passing situations.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He made a mistake. It's a sign of a man when you make a mistake like that and call and apologize for it." — Wisconsin QB Jim Sorgi on the apology he received from Ohio State LB Robert Reynolds following a choking incident in the loss to the Badgers last Saturday.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Iowa at Ohio State, Saturday, Oct. 18 — Not expecting a shootout, are you? Judged by yardage, these are the two worst offenses in the Big Ten, but Iowa is getting healthier on that side of the ball while the Buckeyes still lack spark. If it turns into a battle of kickers, it could be a classic — Ohio State's Mike Nugent and Iowa's Nate Kaeding are two of the finest in the country and have combined to miss only one field goal in 17 attempts this season (by Nugent).
PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Craig Krenzel — He came back from his elbow injury with a solid performance vs. Wisconsin and needs to get even better against Iowa. Krenzel is a leader who regularly shows the ability to come through in the clutch.
RB Lydell Ross — At some point or another, the Buckeyes are going to have to come through with their running game. Ross ran seven times for 28 yards against Wisconsin and will need to do a much better job. Ross has a slight knee problem, but he still needs to do better.
INJURY IMPACT: Linebacker Robert Reynolds (suspension) will miss Saturday's game against Iowa. Running back Lydell Ross (leg) is probable.
With a week off to cure some ills before taking on Iowa, head coach Joe Paterno is considering lineup changes. While he has regularly gone with his seniors, Paterno is considering going with some of his younger players.
Penn State already starts six underclassmen on offense and seven on defense, but there could be more changes. WR Tony Johnson could be sent to the bench. He has been having problems holding on to the ball; he dropped a potential TD pass against Purdue and there appears to be a significant loss of trust. After that drop, freshman Maurice Humphrey and sophomore Kinta Palmer took over most of Johnson's playing time.
On the offensive line, OT Chris McKelvy has been struggling. There is a chance that Andrew Richardson could take over at the position.
The other position that Paterno has to do something about is the QB slot. Michael Robinson has started the past two weeks for Zack Mills, who has been out with a sprained knee. Mills should be ready to go against Iowa, but he has played poorly dating to the middle of last season. As a result, Paterno could decide to stick with the mobile Robinson, who looked good against Wisconsin but was awful against Purdue.
Paterno is clearly upset with his team, and he is particularly unhappy with the offense. He has some big decisions to make before the season resumes Oct. 25 at Iowa.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The offense has struggled all year. Head coach Joe Paterno is considering several position changes. QB Zack Mills should be healthy after the bye week, but athletic Michael Robinson could replace him permanently.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The run defense has been a problem for the Nittany Lions, but they are starting show some improvement against the pass. Penn State held Kyle Orton to 131 passing yards, and the Purdue quarterback is one of the better passers in the Big Ten.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Sometimes you're never as bad as you think you are when you lose. You're never as good as you think you are when you win. You've heard me say it a thousand times. Right now, I probably think we're worse than we look." — Head coach Joe Paterno on the state of the Nittany Lions.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Idle. Next game: at Iowa, Oct. 25.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: WR Tony Johnson — He has to have a solid week of practice if he wants to hold on to his starting job. Drops have plagued him this season and head coach Joe Paterno is considering replacing him.
QB Zack Mills — A knee sprain sidelined him two games ago, but he should be healthy for the Iowa game. However, Mills was performing badly before his injury. So far this season, Mills has completed just 50-of-105 passes for 496 yards with a 1-3 TD-interception ratio.
INJURY IMPACT: RB Austin Scott is suffering from mononucleosis and may not be ready to play at Iowa. Starting quarterback Zack Mills (knee) is day-to-day.
Now the tough part of the schedule begins for the Boilermakers.
After rolling through four opponents with a combined 6-20 record — with all the games at home — the Boilermakers face Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa and Ohio State in four of the next five weeks. The games with the Badgers, Wolverines and Buckeyes are on the road.
Purdue head coach Joe Tiller has been touting his team, and his attitude has been contagious. Just listen to hard-hitting LB Niko Koutivides, who is more than happy to go on the road against good teams.
"Now the fun starts," Koutivides told the Indianapolis Star. "This is what it's all about right here. At home, you've got your fans behind your back. But I don't think there's anything more fun than beating a big-time team at their house."
The game at Wisconsin could set the tone for the remaining road games. Purdue's greatest strength is its defense and the Badgers will be more than happy to test the Boilermakers with the run.
Purdue is 13th in the nation this week, and could move up if there are some upsets this Saturday. That is heady territory, but most of the team's prove-it games are still to come.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The offense has not been going at full speed in recent weeks. Kyle Orton threw for only 131 yards against Penn State. Wisconsin can be vulnerable against the pass, so look for Orton to test that unit early. RB Jerod Void might not play because of an ankle injury suffered last week, which would turn the running duties over to the more-than-capable duo of Brandon Jones and Jerome Brooks. They will test a Wisconsin defense that gave up only 69 rushing yards to Ohio State.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Purdue gave up just 106 rushing yards and 98 passing yards in the 28-14 win over Penn State. While Wisconsin is a powerful running team, the key to Purdue's success is a nasty, physical defense that won't back down under any circumstances. Wisconsin may break a big play or two, but don't expect the Purdue defense to consistently give up yardage.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Everyone knows we're coming up to the meat of our season. I think we'll find out what kind of team we really are." — QB Kyle Orton on Purdue's upcoming games against Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa and Ohio State.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Purdue at Wisconsin, Oct. 18 — Purdue has historically had trouble on the road, but the team is very confident about taking on the Badgers and the other top teams in the league. Look for a tight game that could come down to special teams, an area in which both teams do well.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Kyle Orton — There's no doubt that head coach Joe Tiller believes in his quarterback, but the Boilers aren't cutting loose in the passing game like they when Drew Brees was flinging passes. Orton, however, can get the job done with a controlled, efficient approach.
RB Brandon Jones — Finally had a big impact last week, subbing for the injured Jerod Void, who might be out (or at least limited) this week because of an ankle sprain. Jones was in line for the starting job after a big second half of last season, but was beaten out in fall camp when he suffered a shoulder injury. Jones ran for 149 yards and two touchdowns last week against Penn State.
INJURY IMPACT: Wide receiver John Standeford (knee) and linebacker Gilbert Gardner (hip) are probable for Saturday's game against Wisconsin. Running back Jerod Void (ankle) is questionable.
The Badgers passed the acid test by beating Ohio State. Now they face a team that may be even better — or at least more balanced — in Purdue.
The Boilermakers have been on a roll since losing their opener to Bowling Green. They play a nasty and physical brand of defense and they are more than ready to take on the challenge of a powerful running team. That, of course, is just what the Badgers are. Even if Anthony Davis is sidelined or slowed once again because of his sprained ankle, Dwayne Smith or Booker Stanley are both solid runners.
Jim Sorgi should be back for the Badgers after suffering a throat injury against Ohio State. Buckeye LB Robert Reynolds jammed his fingers in Sorgi's throat at the end of a play in the second half, and Sorgi was forced to come out of the game because he could not speak. Sorgi's voice has returned and he could play a very important role if the Boilermakers shut down the Wisconsin running attack.
Sorgi is an accurate passer when he has time to stand in the pocket and throw. However, he can get a shaky when he gets a little pressure. The Purdue defensive front, led by Shaun Phillips and Craig Terrill, can deliver a lot of pressure.
This battle could go a long way toward determining this year's Big Ten champion.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Badgers want to run the ball and have done it very successfully this season. Look for Wisconsin's huge offensive line to try to establish dominance over the strong Purdue defensive front. If Jim Sorgi gets time to throw the ball, look for WR Lee Evans to make a big play or two ... but Sorgi better know where Purdue's ballhawking safety Stuart Schweigert is at all times.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Wisconsin defense has allowed just 175 rushing yards in the past three games against Illinois, Penn State and Ohio State. Purdue has a solid offense, but its passing game has not been at its best in recent weeks, which plays into the Badgers' hands.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "In big games, in any game, you always see yourself coming in and making a big play." — Matt Schabert on coming in and throwing the game-winning TD pass to Lee Evans against Ohio State. Schabert was in for Jim Sorgi, who should be able to play against Purdue.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Purdue at Wisconsin, Oct. 18 — As big as the win over Ohio State was, this now becomes an even bigger game as it is a battle between two of the three unbeaten teams in the Big Ten. The other one, Michigan State, has to play at Wisconsin on Nov. 15.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: RB Booker Stanley — As a backup for Anthony Davis, Stanley has given head coach Barry Alvarez everything he has. Stanley ran for 125 yards against Ohio State and will play a key role if Davis is still slowed by his ankle problems.
WR Lee Evans — He made the game-winning catch vs. Ohio State late in the fourth quarter. With sprinter's speed, Evans has the ability to separate from the defender and make the big catch at any moment.
INJURY IMPACT: Running back Anthony Davis (ankle) is questionable for Saturday's game against Purdue. Starting quarterback Jim Sorgi (throat) is expected to play in Saturday's game.
Big Ten midweek
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