Big Ten Preview

Another big week in the Big 10 is looming. Many questions have yet to be answered. Will Ohio State and Michigan continue to dominate? Can another team step up to challenge those two teams for supremacy? Will John L. Smith smack himself silly again? IrishEyes.com will try to answer these and other questions.

Bowling Green (3-2) at 1 Ohio State (5-0)

Top ranked Ohio State gets a breather this week after their impressive 38-17 thrashing of Iowa last week. Bowling Green arrives in Columbus on the heels of a 21-9 victory over Ohio. Unfortunately for Bowling Green, residing in the same state is about the only similarity between Ohio University and Ohio State University. This is a game that Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel will use to get some of his younger and less experienced players some badly needed playing time. Look for freshman running back Chris Wells to get extended playing time this week. Wells is a player many observers thought would be starting by this point in the season, but Antonio Pittman has been so good that it has limited Wells' chances. It would be no surprise if Wells logs his first of what should be many one hundred-plus yard games this weekend. Needless to say Ohio State will roll to an easy win.

Prediction: Ohio State 44 Bowling Green 6

Purdue (4-1) at 19 Iowa (4-1)

Nineteenth-ranked Iowa was clearly outclassed by Ohio State last week. Purdue also had a rough weekend, losing at Notre Dame 35-21. However, in that game Boilermakers defensive end Anthony Spencer put on one of the best shows seen in college football this season. Spencer terrorized the Notre Dame offense, totaling 15 tackles and sacking Irish quarterback Brady Quinn 2.5 times. Anyone that watched the game would swear that Spencer had twice that many tackles and sacks, as he seemed to be making every defensive play the entire game. Unfortunately Spencer doesn't get much help from his defensive teammates. Look for Iowa to shake the hangover from the Ohio State game and have quarterback Drew Tate and running back Albert Young victimize the shaky Purdue defense. Boilers quarterback Curtis Painter will find the going quite a bit tougher against Iowa than he did last week when he threw for nearly 400 yards. This game could be close for a while but Iowa will pull away in the second half.

Prediction: Iowa 34 Purdue 24

Northwestern (2-3) at Wisconsin (4-1)

Struggling Northwestern visits Wisconsin this week in another unsavory conference match up. The Badgers hammered Indiana on the road last week 52-17 behind quarterback John Stocco's 304 yards passing and three touchdowns. The Badgers led 35-0 at halftime and never looked back. Northwestern was beaten soundly by Penn State 33-7. Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald is not saying who his starting quarterback will be this week. Redshirt freshman Andrew Brewer started last week and could be given another shot. Fitzgerald is probably best left to keep the Badgers guessing. Either way it's not likely to matter in the end as Wisconsin will win it going away.

Prediction: Wisconsin 30 Northwestern 10

Indiana (2-3) at Illinois (2-3)

How soon the fortunes can change in college football. Illinois headed into Michigan State last week to face a Spartan team that had every right to be angry and fired up. They had blown a big lead the week before against Notre Dame and were facing a young, inexperienced Illinois team on homecoming. The odds seemed to be stacked very highly against the Illini. But someway, somehow they came out of the game with a badly needed victory. Their reward is a trip back home to take on the lowly Hoosiers. Ron Zook's Illini now are staring at a golden opportunity to win three straight games if they can beat Indiana this week and Ohio University next. This happens just as the whispers had started about whether Zook was the right choice to lead the Illini out of the doldrums. As far as Indiana goes, not a whole lot can be said for a team that was drubbed 52-17 at home last week. Illinois is no Wisconsin, but they are good enough to beat Indiana.

Prediction: Illinois 23 Indiana 13

Penn State (3-2) at Minnesota (2-3)

Penn State bounced back from their disappointing loss to Ohio State the week before by crushing Northwestern last week, 33-7. This week they visit Minnesota, who has struggled from the outset this season. Joe Pa has a number of injury issues to deal with, none more important than the ones to kicker Kevin Kelly and defensive end Jim Shaw. Minnesota, meanwhile, played probably their best game of the season last week. However it happened to be against the powerful Michigan Wolverines and led to a 28-14 loss. Quarterback Bryan Cupito threw for 215 yards and two touchdowns and running back Amir Pinnix ran for 91 yards against the vicious Michigan run defense. But coach Glen Mason will have to take away only a moral victory and hope that it built some momentum for this Saturday against the Nittany Lions. This could well be the best match up in the Big 10 this week. Look for it to stay close throughout.

Prediction: Penn State 26 Minnesota 24

Michigan State (3-2) at 6 Michigan (5-0)

Last, but certainly not least, is our old friend John L. Smith and the Michigan State Spartans. Last time we checked in on them they had just been stunned in their homecoming game, losing to lowly Illinois 23-20. Immediately after the game players from both schools scuffled on the field as the State players felt it necessary to keep Illini players from planting an Illinois flag in the field. Where would Illinois have gotten such a stupid idea from, anyway? And if all that isn't good enough, Smith takes it upon himself to slap his own face in his post game press conference. If only he'd slapped some sense into himself. Unfortunately he didn't. Adding injury to insult is the news that running back Javon Ringer is now lost for the season to a knee injury. State fans could only wish that Smith would have injured himself badly enough from his self inflicted face slap that he too would have been lost for the season. Look for Michigan to easily throw the Spartans deeper into their tailspin this week.

Prediction: Michigan 32 Michigan State 10


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