Week Five: Big Ten Pretenders and Contenders

David ThurmanCorrespondent ISeptember 30, 2009
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Drew Thurman (3:27 pm)

Week five produces some interesting matchups in the Big Ten, and fans will start to get an idea of who the real contenders are. Iowa left their mark a week ago with the win against Penn State, and this week several teams could join the discussion of the Big Ten elite. Let's look at all the games...

Wisconsin (4-0) at Minnesota (3-1):

The Badgers will try to defend Paul Bunyan's Axe after beating the Gophers 35-32 last season. This time around they head into TCF Bank Stadium, and you better believe Minnesota wants revenge.
Both of these teams still need to prove that they have what it takes to be taken seriously in the conference, and Saturday could help. Minnesota has not really looked spectacular against anyone, and lost to a Cal team that got blasted by an average Oregon squad. Eric Decker keeps putting up the numbers though (499 receiving and 4 TD), and if he continues that the Badgers better watch out.
Wisconsin themselves are a tough team to figure out. They looked very mediocre in the opening weeks against Northern Illinois and Fresno State, but landed a solid victory last week against Michigan State (38-30).
I could very easily see Wisconsin going 6-2 or 5-3 the rest of the way, but to prove they can hang with OSU and Iowa, John Clay and company have to show they are a contender on Saturday.
No. 15 Penn State (3-1) at Illinois (1-2)

This matchup is very interesting for multiple reasons. First of all, Illinois has done nothing but disappoint everyone (including their own fans) so far this season. Things seem even more frustrating for the Illini because their so called "high octane" offense was shutout against the Buckeyes last Saturday. With the Nittany Lions coming to town, they could turn their season around with a victory.
This will not be easy though, because JoePa's boys are angry after getting upset by Iowa last week. Honestly, that game was the first true test they had faced so far this season, and this Saturday we get to see if Penn State is actually a contender.
On top of all of that, both Juice Williams and Darryl Clark need to give fans the reason to believe again. Outside of Terrelle Pryor these guys were hyped as the Big Ten's premiere QB's, and both have greatly under performed thus far.

No. 22 Michigan (4-0) at Michigan State (1-3)

Year two under Rich Rodriguez is proving to be much more productive for the Wolverines, thanks in part to Tate Forcier.
Michigan State on the other hand, like Illinois, has shown little signs of living up to the preseason "dark horse" buzz. They have only lost their last three games by a combined 13 points though, and have had no problems putting points on the board.
The Wolverine defense has proven they can get gashed, so expect an offensive outpouring on Saturday. This game should be eerily similar to how both teams played Notre Dame, with both teams scoring in the thirties. The question is, will Forcier put together more late game heroics?

Other Big Ten Games

Northwestern (2-2) at Purdue (1-3)
Arkansas St (1-2) at No.13 Iowa (4-0)
No. 9 Ohio State (3-1) at Indiana (3-1)

Big Ten Standings

Iowa (1-0, 4-0)
Michigan (1-0, 4-0)
Wisconsin (1-0, 4-0)
Minnesota (1-0, 3-1)
Ohio State (1-0, 3-1)
Purdue (0-0, 1-3)
Indiana (0-1, 3-1)
Penn State (0-1, 3-1)
Northwestern (0-1, 2-2)
Illinois (0-1, 1-2)
Michigan State (0-1, 1-3)

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