Big Ten report

Two of the top teams in the conference — Michigan State and Iowa — have different outlooks. One is concern about nagging injuries while the other is feeling good about their year-to-year turnaround. Get the inside look at each of the Big Ten teams.

With a week off to get ready for Ohio State, head coach Gerry DiNardo was hoping his team would heal its bumps and bruises and get ready for its best effort. However, the program hit another bump in the road.

Athletic director Terry Clapacs revealed that several football players are being investigated for running up $480 in unauthorized phone charges. Apparently, several unnamed players got hold of an university long distance code and used it to make personal calls.

"I haven't seen the actual report but we're all cooperating fully with the IU police department and we expect to get to the bottom of it," Clapacs said. "Until more facts have been disclosed, that's all I'm going to say."

That's not the best scenario for a Hoosier team that has struggled this season just as it has in most recent seasons. Indiana has not been to a bowl game since the 1993 season, when the Hoosiers lost to Virginia Tech 45-20 in the Independence Bowl.

While the Buckeyes have had a very difficult time on the offensive side of the ball this season, they will likely get somewhat untracked against the Hoosiers. Indiana ranks 10th in the Big Ten in total defense and is dead last in defending against the pass. Ohio State Craig Krenzel will try to get the Buckeye passing game going against a secondary that has a difficult time in one-on-one coverage and frequently falls victim to pump fakes.

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Hoosier offense has made some progress. The running game is solid with freshman BenJarvus Green-Ellis leading the way. He is coming off a 136-yard effort against Northwestern, but finding cracks in the Ohio State defense appears to be an impossible scenario. QB Matt LoVecchio has struggled when facing a good pass rush this year ... and that's just what he will see against the Buckeyes.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Indiana defense ranks 10th in the Big Ten, but the Ohio State offense ranks last in the conference. The Buckeye running game has been a major disappointment this year without Maurice Clarett. Maurice Hall and Lydell Ross are average backs, at best. If Ohio State can't run the ball against Indiana, look for QB Craig Krenzel to get the job done against the league's most vulnerable pass defense.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We have the privacy of our student-athletes to think about, and we're going to protect the students as much as possible until we've looked into this matter fully. If there's any reason to explore this further, I'm sure we'd have to involve the dean of students as well." — Indiana athletic director Terry Clapacs on the investigation into unauthorized long-distance phone calls that may have been made by several Indiana football players.

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Ohio State at Indiana, Oct. 25 — The Buckeyes have struggled on offense; the Hoosiers have been abysmal on defense. Something has to give, and it likely will be Indiana. The Hoosiers just don't have the athletes to match up with Ohio State and it seems likely that the Buckeye offense will show significant improvement after going up against Iowa and Wisconsin in the past two weeks.

PLAYERS 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 against Ohio State.

LB Kyle Killion — A great sideline-to-sideline tackler who has surprising speed and the aggressiveness to be effective. Along with fellow LB Josh Moore, Killion leads the Hoosiers with 60 tackles.

INJURY IMPACT: Offensive lineman Brandon Hatcher (leg) and defensive back Will Lumpkin (knee) are expected to miss the remainder of the season.

Based on the preseason predictions, the Hawkeyes have overachieved. But the season could still go south if the offense continues to struggle.

The Hawkeyes average 304.6 yards per game, ahead of only Ohio State in the Big Ten.

Getting a winning performance out of the offense isn't likely to be a major problem in the next two games against Penn State and Illinois, it could come back into play when the Iowa travels to Purdue.

The play of QB Nathan Chandler is probably the key toward a more efficient offense, but the Hawkeyes have been troubled by injuries as well. Maurice Brown is Iowa's best receiver, but he has not been 100 percent since the Hawkeyes defeated Arizona State on Sept. 20.

Tight end Erik Jensen, left tackle Robert Gallery, tailback Fred Russell and Chandler are the only four offensive players who have started in the same position in the first seven games.

"It's disruptive to your tempo and rhythm when you have to make changes," coach Kirk Ferentz told the Des Moines Register.

"We have not had the continuity this year that you'd like to have. Last year, I think we missed four or five starts, total, out of our whole group. We've surpassed that this year with just our offensive line. It's not an optimal situation."

But Iowa's defense has once again been sensational. After giving up a field goal to Ohio State on the Buckeyes' first possession last week, the Hawkeye defense did not give up another point. Ohio State's remaining 16 points came on defense and special teams.

With just a bit of a contribution from the offense, the Hawkeyes should have no problems against Penn State or Illinois.

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: QB Nathan Chandler should start against the Nittany Lions, but he sprained a knee and might not be 100 percent. The Hawkeyes would like their running game to set the tone against Penn State after that unit was stopped cold by Ohio State. The Hawkeyes gained just 66 yards on the ground against the Buckeyes, but Fred Russell should do much better against a Penn State run defense that ranks 11th in the Big Ten, giving up 217.0 yards per game.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: After shutting down Ohio State, the Hawkeye defense is feeling great about itself. Ohio State gained just 185 yards for the game, but head coach Kirk Ferentz has asked that unit to do even more. "I wouldn't mind seeing them put in the end zone," Ferentz said after the 19-10 loss to Ohio State.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We gave up a field goal on the first drive, but other than that, we played well. What more can you ask for?" — LB Chad Greenway on the performance of the Iowa defense in last week's loss to Ohio State.

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Penn State at Iowa, Oct. 25 — The Hawkeyes are banged up on offense, but should be able to get their running game going with Fred Russell and Jermelle Lewis because the Nittany Lions are the worst team in the Big Ten against the run. If Iowa can grab an early lead against Penn State, the Hawkeyes should have an easy time of it.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: RB Fred Russell — He only gained 42 yards against Ohio State, but Russell is among the most consistent players in the Big Ten. Russell has gained 768 yards and is averaging 4.9 yards per carry. He only has three rushing TDs thus far, but could equal that against Penn State.

LB Chad Greenway — One of the most versatile defensive players in the Big Ten. He leads the conference (along with teammate Abdul Hodge) with 78 tackles this season. Greenway excels at diagnosing the play and getting to the point of attack quickly.

INJURY IMPACT: Starting quarterback Nathan Chandler (knee) is probable for Saturday's game against Penn State. Wide receiver Mo Brown (ankle) and defensive back Jovon Johnson (ankle) are questionable. Offensive lineman Brian Ferentz (knee) and defensive lineman Jonathan Babineaux (ankle) are expected to miss the remainder of the season.

Two losses put the Wolverines out of the national title picture, but they appear to be playing their best football of the season as the Big Ten heads into the home stretch.

After a come-from-behind win over Minnesota and a destruction of overmatched Illinois, Michigan appears to be as ready as it will ever be for the streaking Purdue Boilermakers. After that, the Wolverines must travel to East Lansing to take on the shockingly good Spartans.

Michigan is thoroughly motivated to finish the season with a 10-2 record and get to a likely BCS berth. But there is so much work to do first.

With Chris Perry rushing for 999 yards and John Navarre putting huge numbers on the board at quarterback (255.8 ypg, 14-7 TD-interception ratio), the Wolverine offense is cooking once again. But it's one thing to light up the scoreboard against Illinois. It's quite another to do it against Purdue.

The Boilermakers are allowing only 14.4 points a game. They have been sensational against the run and it will likely be up to Navarre to have a first-rate game through the air to open up the run.

If not, Michigan can kiss its BCS plans goodbye.

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Wolverines will see the best defense they've gone up against all year. Purdue has been especially good against the run — allowing only 66 yards per game — and it may be hard for Chris Perry to gain big chunks of yards. Michigan just needs to be persistent and then see if it can hit Purdue with a big pass from John Navarre.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Wolverines have been vulnerable against the run, and could see a healthy dose of RBs Jerod Void and Brandon Jones a week after Purdue really took the wraps off its passing game. Michigan may try to stop the pass first and the run second because QB Kyle Orton was so good in Purdue's win over Wisconsin. That is what makes Purdue so dangerous; it has a very balanced attack.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I tell our guys, don't get excited because you had a good game because the deal is, you're marked. You're judged every week. And that's fine. That's fair. But if you want to be considered one of those special teams ... you have to be willing to do it day in, day out, week after week." — Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr on how to prepare for a high-powered team like Purdue.

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Purdue at Michigan, Oct. 25 — The home stretch begins for the Wolverines. There are four games left, three of which are against teams still in contention for the Big Ten title — Purdue, Michigan State and Ohio State.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: WR-PR Steve Breaston — Breaston is an explosive player who has taken punts back for touchdowns in Michigan's last two games — against Illinois and Minnesota. On the flip side, the Boilermakers gave up a 63-yard punt return for a score against Wisconsin's Jim Leonhard ... so here's a matchup that could really work in Michigan's favor.

RB Chris Perry — At some point, Perry will have to assert himself if the Wolverines are going to beat Purdue. The Boilermakers have a very strong run defense, but Perry is the most productive back in the Big Ten — 999 rushing yards and 12 TDs on the ground — and he can't be invisible if Michigan is going to win the game.

INJURY IMPACT: Defensive backs Marlin Jackson (knee) and Jacob Stewart (leg) and placekicker Troy Nienberg (concussion) are questionable for Saturday's game against Purdue.

Coach John L. Smith's first season in East Lansing has been an absolute dream.

He has taken over a program that finished 4-8 last season and disappointed all of its supporters. Head coach Bobby Williams lost control of the program, QB Jeff Smoker was suspended for a substance-abuse problem and the Spartans were considered to be at least two or three years away from respectability.

Thanks in large part to Smith's fresh approach, the Spartans have jumped from awful to contender. Other than an early-season hiccup against Louisiana Tech, the Spartans have had nothing but success this season. Smoker cleaned himself up and rededicated himself to his sport and his team, and Michigan State is winning again.

Many Spartan fans think their team will hand Michigan a beating when the teams play on Nov. 1.

The Spartans have a bye week to get ready for their archrivals, and the expectations on the program have grown dramatically. Consider that Michigan beat the Spartans 49-3 last season.

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: QB Jeff Smoker is the best quarterback in the Big Ten. He has gone four full games without an interception, and has completed 65.9 percent of his passes with a 12-5 TD-interception ratio. Michigan State is also developing a solid running game with Jason Teague and Jaren Hayes showing consistent improvement.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: This is not the most talented defense in the Big Ten, but the Spartans play as a team and hit extremely hard. S Jason Harmon and LB Monquiz Wedlow provide a ton of pop and have the ability to turn a game around.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "This was a great time for a bye week. We're winning, but a lot of people have bumps and bruises." — MSU LB Seth Mitchell.

THIS WEEK'S BYE: The players have time off to rest and recuperate before a Nov. 1 home showdown with Michigan. Funny how expectations change quickly. A win over the Wolverines seemed out of the realm of possibility at the start of the season, but now it might seem a major disappointment if the Spartans can't get the victory.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Jeff Smoker — The Michigan State offense has been incredibly efficient and mistake free. Thanks in large part to Smoker's accuracy and decision-making ability, the Spartans have gone 18 quarters without making a turnover. "It's the most incredible thing I've ever seen in 25 years of coaching," said Spartan offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin. "Jeff has been so accurate. There's a certain magic to this streak."

INJURY IMPACT: Two MSU starters are expected to return against the Wolverines. Senior defensive end Greg Taplin (knee) and sophomore wide receiver Kyle Brown (shoulder) missed Saturday's victory at Minnesota but are expected back this week. DT Brandon McKinney (foot) may also be able to return against Michigan.

Head coach Randy Walker is dipping into the past to motivate his players for his week's game against Wisconsin.

Walker knows this season isn't lost yet. The Wildcats can get back to the .500 mark if they can find a way to defeat the Badgers.

Sure, that is a very difficult task, considering Wisconsin ended Ohio State's 19-game winning streak two weeks ago and has the kind of powerful running game that Northwestern has shown no indication it can stop.

But Walker likes to light a fire. While the Badgers and the Wildcats have not played since 2000 — and the Badgers haven't beaten Northwestern since 1999 — Walker might have found an igniter for his players.

In the 1999 loss at Evanston, former Northwestern QB Zak Kustok got hit hard more than 10 yards out of bounds ... and that has stuck in the minds of many of the fifth-year seniors.

"I know a lot of guys in my class still remember that game," LB Pat Durr told the Chicago Sun-Times. "So we know what kind of team we're going up against. They don't respect us. That's fine. It just gives us more motivation to go out there and play harder. They don't like us, but we don't like them."

With an extra week to prepare, the Wildcats need to be efficient offensively. If the Wildcats don't make each offensive possession pay off, they could fall hopelessly behind against Wisconsin's grinding attack.

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: RB Jason Wright remains the key to the offense. He ran for 141 yards and four TDs in the overtime win vs. Indiana. Wright is not the most talented player, but he clearly gets the most out of his ability. If Brett Basanez can hit key passes throughout the game — and not just in the early going — the Wildcats have a chance to make it interesting this week against Wisconsin.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Wildcats play with excellent effort on this side of the ball and have done a very good job when their opponents have the ball in the red zone. Northwestern has only given up 15 TDs when their opponents have had the ball inside the 20 and have kept them out of the end zone 10 times. That's the best ratio in the Big Ten. Wisconsin is a powerful running team with Anthony Davis, Dwayne Smith and Booker Stanley all capable of running for more than 100 yards. The Wildcats rank 10th in run defense and have given up 185.7 yards per game on the ground.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We are a spread-attack offense. It is designed to spread the defense out and force them to cover the perimeter. If plays are being run and we don't have enough personnel to block it is probably an error. We try to have a good match when we run and typically do not try to run it in outnumbered situations. " — Northwestern head coach Randy Walker on how the Wildcats' spread offense functions.

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Wisconsin at Northwestern, Oct. 25 — With a week off to heal bumps and bruises and to prepare an effective game plan, the Wildcats should be in a position to give Wisconsin a good game. The Badgers might be in an emotional lull after playing Ohio State and Purdue.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Brett Basanez — He has moved into the No. 10 spot on the school's career passing yardage list, with 3,411 yards in 17 games. Also, he is 10th on NU's all-time total offense list (3,615 yards) and eighth in career pass completions (297).

DE Loren Howard — The Wildcats have shown the ability to block kicks this year and Howard is a huge part of it. Howard has already blocked two kicks — one FG attempt and one PAT — and appears to have the knack for making a key play at the right instant.

INJURY IMPACT: LB Tim McGarigle suffered a concussion vs. Indiana and should play against Wisconsin. Wide receiver Ashton Aikens (knee) is expected to miss the remainder of the season. Offensive lineman Bill Newton (personal) is sidelined indefinitely.

Eastern Michigan is 1-7; Buffalo stands at 0-8; Southern Methodist is 0-7. Besides their awful records, what else do they have in common? They are the only teams that have worse offensive productivity than Ohio State.

The Buckeye offense has completely stalled and it might be too late for head coach Jim Tressel to get this unit on track. There are only five games left in the regular season and it seems as if the offense has too far to go in order to be an efficient attack.

Nevertheless, the Buckeyes have only one loss and are right in the mix in the Big Ten race. Coach Jim Tressel said that he thought the offense improved last week against Iowa, even though the Buckeyes gained just 56 rushing yards on 42 attempts.

Ohio State rushed for only 29 yards in the second half, and Tressel explained that the Hawkeyes were looking for the run throughout the last 30 minutes.

"I thought we ran the ball in tough conditions in the second half," he said.

"At times it was obvious when we were going to be running the ball. They knew it. We knew it. We were going to find out what it was all about and churn out some first downs and create some field position."

It should be quite a bit easier to run the ball against Indiana this week, but the Buckeyes have very difficult games coming up against Michigan State, Purdue and Michigan. If Ohio State can't show significant improvement in their running game before playing host to the Spartans on Nov. 8, the season has a chance to finish on a very disappointing note.

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Buckeyes rank 114th in total offense among 117 Division I-A schools. No matter how good the defense is, those numbers will come back to haunt Ohio State before the end of the season if there is not some significant improvement. While the Buckeyes have a veteran offensive line, that unit has not done a good job and that's part of the reason the running game has stalled. Maurice Hall and Lydell Ross are running hard, but both lack the pop and quickness needed to make big plays on a regular basis.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Buckeyes should get LB Robert Reynolds back this week after he was suspended for choking Wisconsin QB Jim Sorgi on Oct. 11. Reynolds is the team's second-leading tackler with 41 stops and also has two sacks. LB A.J. Hawk is the team's leading tackler with 65 stops and three sacks.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Based upon what I saw, I thought we improved." — Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel on the Ohio State offense. The Buckeyes gained 185 yards in the 19-10 win over Iowa.

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Ohio State at Indiana, Oct. 25 — The Buckeyes need to show something — anything — offensively. If they can't get it going against the Hoosiers, then the offense just might be hopeless for the rest of the season.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: LB A.J. Hawk — He is continuously around the ball and he leads Ohio State with 65 tackles. Hawk has great speed and can almost always make the play when asked to go sideline to sideline.

C Alex Stepanovich — The Buckeyes have question marks all over their offense and none is bigger than the one on the offensive line. Head coach Jim Tressel needs someone to step up and provide leadership and that could be Stepanovich.

INJURY IMPACT: Linebacker Robert Reynolds returns from his one-game suspension for choking Wisconsin QB Jim Sorgi.

Off-the-field problems continue to dog the struggling Nittany Lions. Tony Johnson, Penn State's leading receiver, was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol.

Johnson had a blood-alcohol content of 0.136 when a black Mercedes Benz he was driving was pulled over around 3 a.m. Friday, authorities said. The legal limit for driving in Pennsylvania is 0.08.

According to the criminal complaint, Johnson was stopped by a university police officer after he twice crossed the center line of Park Avenue, the Centre Daily Times reported.

Johnson has 25 catches for 375 yards this season, His father, Larry Sr., is the team's defensive line coach. His older brother and former teammate, Larry Jr., was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in the first round of the NFL draft in April.

Before the season, offensive lineman E.Z. Smith and defensive tackle Scott Paxson were involved in off-the-field incidents.

Head coach Joe Paterno was happy with the work his team had done during its bye week, but this incident cannot help the team as it prepares for its tough assignment at Iowa this week. Paterno said he was considering suspending Johnson and he also expressed his unhappiness with the media for its tendency to blow up off-the-field incidents "beyond all proportion."

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The offense has been stuck in the mud throughout the season, but head coach Joe Paterno is hoping the bye week gave the team a chance to find its consistency and get healthy. However, even though Paterno was happy with the off week, he now has to deal with leading WR Tony Johnson's arrest for DUI. RB Austin Scott may not be at 100 percent at Iowa because he is battling mononucleosis.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The run defense needs to become a much more consistent unit. Iowa will try to attack Gino Capone & Co. with Fred Russell and Jeremelle Lewis. Look for Capone to go full-out to stop the Iowa running game, but the rest of the team does not always play with the same kind of effort.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'll let the trustees and other people think about that. I know where I'm going to be next year. I'll be coaching football at Penn State, and we'll see how it goes from there. I'm just trying to win a game. I'm worried about if we can beat Iowa. I want to beat Iowa." — Head coach Joe Paterno on his future with the Nittany Lions.

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Penn State at Iowa, Oct. 25 — Iowa is not the same team that ripped through the Big Ten last year. The Hawkeyes have already lost to Michigan State and Ohio State, but do they have enough weapons on offense and defense to beat the Lions? Sure do.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: WR Gino Capone — He leads the Nittany Lions with 76 tackles. Capone is a very hard hitter and a hustler. If the Nittany Lions can slow down the Iowa running game, look for Capone to be a major reason why.

DB Yaacov Yisrael — He is a smart player in the secondary and a big hitter. Yisrael is second to Capone with 47 tackles and many of them are memorable hits that punish opposing ball carriers.

INJURY IMPACT: RB Austin Scott is suffering from mononucleosis and might not be ready to play at Iowa. Starting quarterback Zack Mills (knee) is day-to-day.

When the Boilermakers are expected to run, they pass. When they are expected to pass, they run. They are nearly impossible to predict ... and that's just the way head coach Joe Tiller likes it.

After playing a more run-oriented game in wins over Notre Dame, Illinois and Penn State, Kyle Orton put the ball in the air 55 times against Wisconsin last week. Now Tiller needs to figure out an appropriate game plan in a huge game this week at Michigan.

The Wolverines have had problems against the run, so it would not be shocking to see them attack with RBs Jerod Void and Brandon Jones.

Not exclusively, of course. Orton, the Big Ten's offensive player of the week, will throw the ball to WRs Taylor Stubblefield and John Standeford all day if the Wolverines give it to him. Both receivers have the kind of size and strength that could give Michigan's defensive backs more than a few problems.

Purdue debuted at No. 8 in the BCS standings this week, but are still five- to six-point underdogs to the Wolverines. That should keep the Boilermakers from getting big heads about their national ranking and 3-0 record in the Big Ten.

What did Tiller tell his players after the BCS news?

"I said, 'Fellas, congratulations. It's great that you're in this position and the program is in this position, but it doesn't get you to the pay window. Don't fall into the trap."

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Head coach Joe Tiller turned the offense up to full throttle against Wisconsin. With Kyle Orton throwing on nearly every down in the early going, he reminded Purdue fans of Drew Brees. Don't expect that kind of attack against Michigan. The Wolverines are vulnerable against the run, so Purdue might test that part of the game first.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: As versatile as the offense is, the defense may be the team's strongest area. Purdue held Wisconsin to 97 rushing yards and that's a testament to the Boilers' speed and aggressiveness. DE Shaun Phillips has great speed and quickness and will have to figure out how to win the battle against Michigan RT Tony Pape.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Other than playing hard, you've got to think about it constantly. Sometimes, it will happen." — LB Gilbert Gardner on the team's tendency to look for fumbles.

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Purdue at Michigan, Oct. 25 — Purdue took a big step up the ladder by winning at Wisconsin last week, but it won't mean as much if the Boilers stumble in Ann Arbor. Purdue has traditionally had a nightmarish time at Michigan. The Boilermakers' last win in Ann Arbor was a 22-21 decision in 1966, and their all-time record at Michigan Stadium is 4-25.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Kyle Orton — He came up with his best game of the season against Wisconsin by completing 38-of-55 passes for 411 yards with one TD. He was sharp, accurate and in charge. Orton will need a similar game if the Boilermakers are going to beat Michigan on the road.

WRs Taylor Stubblefield and John Standeford — When the Boilermakers are looking for a key reception, they look to these two. Stubblefield has caught a Big Ten leading 54 passes for 476 yards and three touchdowns, while Standeford has brought in 42 catches for 632 yards and two scores. Both have size and great skills.

INJURY IMPACT: The Boilermakers are relatively healthy for their showdown with the Wolverines.

The Badgers have to put last week's painful loss to Purdue in the rear-view mirror.

They have to concentrate on the job at hand — which is beating Northwestern. While that appears to be a fairly easy assignment, the Wildcats have great motivation for their neighbors to the north and are well-rested since they are coming off a bye week.

The Badgers will go to Evanston with backup QB Matt Schabert taking over for Jim Sorgi, who injured his knee against Purdue. Sorgi had arthroscopic surgery and will not even dress for the game. Schabert threw the game-winning TD pass to Lee Evans against Ohio State on Oct. 11, but don't expect the Badgers to throw the ball a lot against Northwestern.

The Badgers' main strength is their running game and Anthony Davis, Dwyane Smith and Booker Stanley have more than enough firepower to cause a ton of problems for the defensively soft Wildcats. It would not be surprising to see Wisconsin run the ball 50-60 times against Northwestern.

To get to that figure, however, Schabert might have to make a couple of big throws early. If Northwestern puts eight or nine men in the box, Schabert will have to show he can go over the top and find the open receiver. He's done it in the past and he should be able to do it again.

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Badgers were unable to get their running game going against Purdue, but they should not have an issue running against Northwestern. The Wildcats give up more yards than any team in the Big Ten and are 10th in rushing defense, allowing 185.7 yards per game. Wisconsin's offensive line is simply too big and strong for the Wildcats.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Wisconsin defense has allowed just 241 rushing yards in its last four games. Northwestern RB Jason Wright is tough and resourceful, but if his line can't win the battle, he could be in for a long day.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Knowing you're going to be the guy starting off the game is going to be a major boost to keep me focused all week. I'm ready for it. Saturday can't come soon enough." — Matt Schabert on being named the starter in place of the injured Jim Sorgi this week against Northwestern.

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Wisconsin at Northwestern, Oct. 25 — The Badgers are coming off a painful loss to Purdue and have a bye next week before taking on Minnesota, Michigan State and Iowa. They can't look past Northwestern or they could ruin their season. If Barry Alvarez can keep his team focused, the Badgers should find a way to get their ground game going and win the ball game.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: RB Anthony Davis — He ran for 96 yards against Purdue and looked healthy for the first time in a month. If Davis has his stamina, a 200-yard game against porous Northwestern is a distinct possibility.

LB Alex Lewis — While he has an elbow problem and is listed as questionable, Lewis is an impact player. He had five sacks against Purdue and could make life miserable for Northwestern QB Brett Basanez.

INJURY IMPACT: Starting quarterback Jim Sorgi (knee surgery) is out for Saturday's game against Northwestern. Linebacker Alex Lewis (elbow) is questionable. Defensive lineman Erasmus James (hip) is sidelined indefinitely. Defensive back Brett Bell (shoulder) is expected to miss the remainder of the season.

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