For the first time since 2009, the Nittany Lions will travel to Champaign to take on the Illini. Both teams are coming in riding different emotions, as Penn State knocked off in-state rival Temple while Illinois fell 55-24 to Louisiana Tech.
The defenses will be cast in the spotlight as both units present strong linebacker corps. The Illini are anchored by junior Jonathan Brown, who has 26 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions have a trio of talented linebackers in Michael Mauti, Gerald Hodges and Glenn Carson. The three have combined for 96 tackles and 4.5 tackles per loss.
If their past two meetings are any indication, this one will come down to the final drive. Their previous two contests have been decided by four points with Minnesota coming out victorious in each of them. The Golden Gophers improved to 4-0 after a strong defensive effort that resulted in four turnovers against Syracuse. They will hope to do the same against an Iowa offense that has turned to running back Mark Weisman, who is coming off a 217-yard effort and his second straight game with three touchdowns. A win for Minnesota would give them their first 5-0 start since 2004 when they knocked off Penn State in their conference opener.
The Wildcats are off to a hot start in 2012 thanks in large part to their three-pronged rushing attack. Quarterback Kain Colter and halfbacks Venrick Mark and Mike Trumpy are averaging 221.3 yards per game and 5.0 yards per rush. Their 27th ranked running attack will look to give the Hoosiers defense headaches, especially knowing Indiana has the 10th worst run defense in the Big Ten.
However, the Hoosiers have had two weeks to prepare for the Wildcats. They will try to continue their surprising pass attack, which ranks first in the conference with 326 yards per game despite losing quarterback Tre Roberson for the season in week two.
After stumbling to Notre Dame a few weeks back, the Spartans rebounded against Eastern Michigan behind Le'Veon Bell's 253 rushing yards. As always, Michigan State will look for Bell, who leads the Big Ten in rushing, to get things going early and often against a Buckeye defense that ranks in the middle of the pack against the run.
Meanwhile, the Spartans defense will have their hands filled with quarterback Braxton Miller. The dual-threat option ranks seventh in the country with 11.5 points per game. In addition, he is averaging 110.2 rushing yards per game, which ranks right behind Bell in the Big Ten. But if there is any defense in the conference that can stop Miller, it's the Spartans. Similarly to last season, Michigan State leads the Big Ten in defense, ranking in the top 20 nationally in seven categories, including rushing defense and third-down defense.
This game will be a very challenging, hard-fought contest that will come down to one of the team's star players, Miller or Bell, taking over the game in the fourth quarter.
- Josh Harvey -
Kyle Phillippi covers the Big Ten Conference for BigRedReport.com. His work has also been featured in Big Red Report Magazine and FoxSports.com.
Facebook | Twitter| E-Mail |