Around the Big Ten

The Big 10 Conference is gearing up for another big weekend of games. Come along as IrishEyes.com gives a preview of each conference tilt.

Purdue (4-0) at 12 Notre Dame (3-1)

Twelfth-ranked Notre Dame returns to South Bend to take on intra-state rival Purdue. The Irish were lucky to get out of Michigan State with a win last Saturday night in a game that will be long remembered as another great Irish comeback victory. The Boilermakers come in with an unbeaten record and a rather impressive win against Minnesota last week. Notre Dame fans hope that quarterback Brady Quinn is back on track after passing for 319 yards and five touchdowns against the Spartans. He will be facing a leaky Purdue defense that has yielded a lot of yards to date. The momentum that both of these teams have built up will come to a stop for one of them. The bet here is that it will stop for Purdue.

Prediction: Notre Dame 37 Purdue 20

1 Ohio State (4-0) at 13 Iowa (4-0)

The big game in the Big 10 this week has top-ranked Ohio State getting another stern test; this time traveling to Iowa City to take on the thirteenth-rated Iowa Hawkeyes in a nationally televised night game. The ESPN Game Day crew will be on campus and the Hawkeye fans will have all day to get primed for their biggest game in years. Buckeye quarterback Troy Smith struggled for the first time all year last week against Penn State. Iowa has not dominated the early portion of their schedule the way many thought they would. The big match up to watch is the Ohio State offensive line against the Iowa defensive line. If Iowa, led by tackle Mitch King and end Kenny Iwebema, can consistently pressure Smith, the Hawkeyes can win the game. Keep in mind that Ohio State has already played (and won) a bigger game than this one three weeks ago at Texas. Great teams play big in big games. The suspicion is that Ohio State will play bigger than Iowa in this one.

Prediction: Ohio State 23 Iowa 20

Illinois (1-3) at Michigan State (3-1)

It will be interesting to see if Michigan State coach John L. Smith stops trying to convince people that Charlie Weis lied about being hit by a State player on the sidelines last week long enough to coach the Spartans to a win this week. What the ever-peculiar Smith should be doing is trying everything possible to stop the bleeding from one of the great team meltdowns in recent memory. Or at least since last year when the Spartans blew up and lost six of their last seven games to miss a bowl invite. The good thing for Smith and Sparty is that Illinois pays a visit this Saturday. While Ron Zook's Illini is quite possibly the worst team in the conference, they are coming off one of their better games in a while last week. Illinois played Iowa tough the entire game on Saturday. More importantly they were flagged for only two penalties on the day, down from twelve the week previous. Freshman quarterback Juice Williams was understandably inconsistent, but does seem to provide the offense some spark. Zook once again claims that a priority will be made of getting the ball to running back Rashard Mendenhall more often. The bad thing is that he's been saying that since fall camp started. Don't believe it until you see it actually happen. Fortunately for both of these teams someone actually has to win this game. Look for it to be Michigan State, in spite of their head coach and certainly not because of him.

Prediction: Michigan State 30 Illinois 13

Northwestern (2-2) at Penn State (2-2)

Penn State played Ohio State tougher than many people expected them to last week. What turned out to be a 28-6 loss was a one-touchdown game in the fourth quarter that got away from the Nittany Lions after a couple of late turnovers. Penn State quarterback Anthony Morelli struggled against the speed of Ohio State's defense. Needless to say, Northwestern can't come close to the type of speed and talent that the Buckeyes present. Besides that, Northwestern quarterback Mike Kafka has a bad hamstring and his availability for Saturday is still very much in question. Kafka had his best game of the year last Friday in the Wildcats 31-21 loss at Nevada, rushing for 112 yards on 11 carries. If he can't go, the starter will be either freshman Andrew Brewer or sophomore C.J. Bacher. Bacher is the best passer of the three and Brewer the best runner. Kafka provides the best combination of both. Whichever of the three is the best at handing off to running back Tyrell Sutton is the one who should play the most. Sutton needs to be an even bigger part of the offense for it to succeed consistently. Unfortunately for head coach Pat Fitzgerald no amount of Sutton (or anyone else) is likely to be enough for Northwestern to get it done in Happy Valley.

Prediction: Penn State 34 Northwestern 17

6 Michigan (4-0) at Minnesota (2-2)

The more Michigan quarterback Chad Henne continues to play well the more Michigan looks like they, and not Ohio State, might be the best team in the conference. Henne continued his hot streak with wide receiver Mario Manningham last Saturday in the Wolverines home win against Wisconsin. This week they travel to Minneapolis to take on Minnesota in the Metrodome. For whatever reason it seems as though Michigan doesn't play their best at Minnesota. The Golden Gophers were beaten last week at Purdue and need to find a way to slow down the Henne-Manningham combo along with simultaneously clamping down Michael Hart and the Wolverines ground game. But problems exist on the horizon for a Minnesota team that makes it's living with their running game and will be facing a Michigan defense that held Wisconsin's potent ground attack to zero yards rushing last week. Minnesota quarterback Bryan Cupito likely isn't good enough to win a game on his own against a team as good as Michigan. The Gophers need a huge effort from running back Amir Pinnix to even hope to stay with Michigan. They won't get it.

Prediction: Michigan 29 Minnesota 7

Wisconsin (3-1) at Indiana (2-2)

As Indiana's brave head coach Terry Hoeppner continues to recover from brain tumor surgery, the Hoosiers hope to bounce back from an uninspiring 14-7 home loss to UConn last week. It will help that wide receiver James Hardy returns from his two-game suspension this week. But the Hoosiers defense is likely to have a tough time containing the Wisconsin ground game. Running back P.J. Hill was shut down last week by Michigan. But Michigan's defense is a far cry from Indiana's defense, which usually is enough to make many Hoosier fans want to cry. Wisconsin coach Brett Bielema has plans for quarterback John Stocco to get past the problems he's experienced thus far. Stocco has had a tough time connecting with a young receiving corps that isn't getting open enough. It seems that Indiana may prove to be the cure for many of it's opponents' ailments, including Wisconsin's this week.

Prediction: Wisconsin 27 Indiana 3


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