Big Ten Football Preview: Week Six

Kristofer GreenSenior Writer IOctober 2, 2008

The Big Ten season is in full swing and Saturday's line-up is full of great match-ups.
The game of the week in the Big Ten is the first meeting between the Buckeyes and Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium in five years.  Bret Bielima is undefeated at home in his two years as head coach and the Buckeyes will do everything to see that streak come to an end.
Offensive players to watch this week—the struggling quarterbacks:  Purdue's Curtis Painter, Michigan State's Brian Hoyer, Wisconsin's Allen Evridge, Iowa's Ricky Stanzi, and Michigan's Steven Threet. 
Defensive players to watch this week—the defenses:  Ohio State's defensive line, Purdue's run defense, Penn State's secondary, Indiana's defensive line, and Wisconsin's linebackers.

Penn State’s ground game has been dominant, rushing for 1338 yards and 19 touchdowns in the first five games. The offensive line should blast away on a Boilermaker defensive front that’s been decent at getting into the backfield, but hasn't been able to hold up against physical lines.
The Boilermakers have the potential to keep up in a shootout, but haven't shown their full potential yet.  It didn't happen against Notre Dame, the offense sputtered against Central Michigan, and they didn't close the deal against Oregon, but Curtis Painter and the passing game is tops among all Big Ten teams and should be able to hang around 300 yards on the board.

Who to watch
Penn State:  The Secondary.  The Illini's Juice Williams has improved in the passing game, but he is no Curtis Painter.  Painter has both the experience and ability to pass the ball against the Penn State secondary.
Purdue:  Purdue’s run defense decided to take September off. Giving up 306 yards to Oregon is one thing, but allowing 201 yards to Notre Dame’s anemic ground game is downright scary.  They will need to play an almost flawless game in order to stop the lethal Penn State ground attack.

Prediction:  Penn State, 34-24


The Iowa run defense has been excellent. Helped by a tremendous line, the defense has been holding teams to 100 rushing yards per game, while limiting Pitt's LeSean McCoy to 78 yards and Northwestern’s Tyrell Sutton to 77 yards. The secondary has played better than most of the recent Iowa secondaries, while the front seven will load up to give Ringer little room to move.
The Spartan's offensive line continues to play extremely well.  Brian Hoyer might not be playing as well as expected, though he had a nice day against Indiana, but he’s getting plenty of time to work. Iowa’s defensive front is holding up well against the run, but it’s not generating any pressure with just ten sacks so far.  Hoyer will need to take another step forward in order to open up running lanes for Ringer in this game.

What to watch
Iowa:  Shonn Greene.  The Iowa quarterback situation has been confusing and mostly ineffective so far this season.  The one bright spot has been Greene, who is quietly becoming one of the best backs in the country rushing for 100 yards or more in all five games this season.
Michigan State:  Brian Hoyer and the Spartan receivers.  Hoyer and his receivers took a step forward in last week's game, but Iowa will be a tougher test.  Ringer could be held in check by the Hawkeye defense and if that happens, Hoyer and the Spartan receiving corps will be called upon to win the game. 

Prediction:  Michigan State, 28-24


INDIANA at MINNESOTA (12:00 PM ET, Big Ten Network)
Indiana’s defense has gone MIA.  It’s not just any one area that the Hoosiers are having problems with either, Ball State and Michigan State each ran and threw equally well. Minnesota has a diverse enough attack to get one thing going if the other isn't. The Minnesota running game hasn't been special, but it’s good enough to move a bit on a slightly disappointing Indiana defensive front.
Minnesota has been a bit susceptible to allowing the big play and Indiana is a team that can break a big play at any time.  When Marcus Thigpen is in space, and when Kellen Lewis gets on the move, the Hoosiers can strike from anywhere on the field.

What to watch
Indiana:  The defensive line.  Greg Middleton was supposed to be one of the nation’s top pass rushers, after leading the nation in sacks last year, but he only has one sack so far.  While the team has done a decent job of getting into the backfield, the plays haven't changed the course of games. The Hoosiers will need to get pressure on the Gophers Adam Weber who has the ability to hurt the depleted Hoosier secondary.
Minnesota:  The defensive front seven.  They had a tough time containing Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor in last weeks game.  Kellen Lewis could cause them fits as well.  They must contain and pressure Lewis and get back to playing ball hawking defense.

Prediction:  Minnesota, 34-27


Illinois is coming off another hard loss and face a must win in order to stay in the Big Ten title hunt.  Juice Williams and the offense have showed up in the big games, but have turned the ball over too many times.  The Illini have yet to play a complete game and this game needs to be the time they put it all together.
Michigan looked like one of the worst teams in the country during the first half of last weeks game.  Then after halftime something happened.  Did the Michigan offense have an "a-ha" moment?  Or did Wisconsin choke the game away?  This week we find out.

What to watch
Illinois:  The defense.  Michigan has been a turnover machine of late.  The Wolverines had five against the Badgers, six against Notre Dame, including two on kickoffs that all but ended the game in the first quarter, and three against Utah. Michigan will put the ball on the turf, and Illinois has to not only pounce, but score touchdowns. 
Michigan:  The defensive line.  Terrance Taylor, Will Johnson, Brandon Graham and Tim Jamison have been crushing and killing opponents so far this season.  Not only a brick wall against the run, they've done a great job of getting to the quarterback.

Prediction:  Illinois, 27-21


No. 14 OHIO STATE at No. 18 WISCONSIN (8:00 PM ET, ABC)
Beanie Wells is back and relatively healthy, Terrelle Pryor is the full-time quarterback, and Ohio State finally started to play like the world-beater it was expected to be with a strong performance against Minnesota. Don't let the 34-21 final score fool you; Ohio State dominated this game with the Gophers getting 15 points late.
Wisconsin was feeling good at Michigan going into halftime with a comfortable 19-0 lead. Then came the choke. Lack of necessary adjustments on both sides of the ball, a struggling passing game, and mental and physical errors allowed the Wolverines to pull off the greatest home comeback in their long and storied history.
As head coach, Bret Bielema was 19-0 when going into halftime with a lead. Now he’s 19-1 and has to deal with a Buckeye team that’s finally starting to finally come together.

Who to watch
Buckeyes:  Terrelle Pryor and Beanie Wells.  The combo proved solid last weekend collectively rushing for 203 yards.  The duo will again need to carry the load for the Buckeyes, Wells up the middle to set up Pryor on the outside and to open up the play action pass.
Badgers:  Jonathan Casillas, the senior linebacker was hurt for the first two games, he made eight tackles with an interception last week against Michigan, and will need to be in on at least ten stops this week as a spy on Pryor. 

Prediction:  Ohio State, 30-24

Bye:  Northwestern