Around the BigTen: Week Seven

Story posted October 14, 2011 in Sports, CommRadio by Matt Lawrence

In the 104th meeting of these two in-state rivals, Michigan’s Heisman hopeful Denard Robinson leads the Wolverines into East Lansing to take on the Spartans and their high-powered passing game. Sparty has won the last three meetings between the two rivals, and the last five games in East Lansing have been decided by a touchdown or less.

The Wolverines have been dominate this season putting up 38 points per game on offense and only allowing 12 a game. Robinson at this point has to be one of the frontrunners for the Heisman Trophy leading the team in rushing (120 ypg, 8 touchdowns) and passing (188 ypg, 10 touchdowns). He has thrown nine interceptions, which the Spartans will have to take advantage of if they hope to pull out the upset.

For Michigan State, they rank second in the Big Ten in passing with nearly 270 yards per game. Senior quarterback Kirk Cousins will look to target the team’s number one playmaker in wide receiver B.J. Cunningham. Although the Wolverine defense has been stout so far this season, in their matchup with Notre Dame, the only real solid team they have played, the Michigan defense gave up 315 yards through the air. Look for Cousins and Cunningham to hook up numerous times on Saturday.

Indiana (1-5, 0-2 Big Ten) at No. 4 Wisconsin (5-0, 1-0)

Last year’s 83-20 beat down by the Badgers in Bloomington was done without Russell Wilson, arguably one of the best quarterbacks in the country. Indiana may be even worse than they were last year and Wisconsin has vastly improved. With the Hoosiers traveling to Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday, this has all the makings of a good ole-fashioned blow out.

Wisconsin has won the last six meetings between the two schools by an average of 30 points per game, and in the last five meetings in Madison, that margin is up to 40. The Badgers have one of the most balanced offensive attacks in the country averaging 280 yards per game passing and 242 yards per game on the ground. Running backs Montee Ball and James White offer a solid pair in the backfield, and Wilson’s scrambling ability is something new to the Wisconsin offense.

Badgers head coach Bret Bielema has been known to run the score up on teams as evident by last year’s thrashing of Indiana. If Bielema and the offense do not let up again this year, the 83-point total may be well in reach.

Ohio State (3-3, 0-2 Big Ten) at No. 16 Illinois (6-0, 2-0 Big Ten)

Dropping consecutive games for the first time since 2004, the Buckeyes travel to Champaign to take on an Illini squad that is off to its best start since 1951. Ohio State is 0-2 in conference play for the first time since 1993 and a loss this week would mark the first 0-3-conference start in school history.

Ohio State ranks near or at the bottom of the Big Ten in nearly every offensive category, but freshman quarterback Braxton Miller appeared to make strides in last week’s 34-27 loss to Nebraska. The quarterback job is now securely Miller’s after he and senior Joe Bauserman rotated throughout the first three games. The defense, although not their normal dominant selves, still rank in the top five in the Big Ten in all statistical categories.

For the Illini, quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase heads an offense that ranks third in the Big Ten in total offense with 447 yards per game. His primary target, wide receiver A.J. Jenkins, has reeled in 18 catches for 450 yards and five touchdowns in the past two games alone. Jenkins is well on his way to shattering every single season receiving record at Illinois. Because the Buckeye offense does not have enough struggles of their own, head coach Ron Zook along with defensive coordinator Vic Koenning appear to have their number as the Illini have held Ohio State to less than 100 yards passing in each of the last three meetings. Running back Dan Herron returns to the line up for the first time after serving a six game suspension so we will see what kind of impact that will have on the Ohio State game plan.

Northwestern (2-3, 0-2 Big Ten) at Iowa (3-2, 0-1)

In a matchup of two teams in desperate need of a win, Dan Persa leads the Wildcats into Iowa City to take on the same team that ended his season last year with a torn Achilles. The Hawkeyes have struggled mightily against Northwestern dropping five of the last six. The last matchup at Kinnick Stadium resulted in Northwestern ending Iowa’s bid for an undefeated season with a 17-10 victory.

It is no mystery that the Northwestern offense revolves around Persa. In just two games back from the Achilles injury, Persa has already set a new career best for touchdowns in a game with four against Illinois in his debut, and last week he threw for a career high 331 yards on 32 completions against Michigan. After blowing a last minute lead against Illinois, and watching Michigan reel off 28 second half points in a loss last week, the Wildcats are hoping to put together a full four quarter effort this week.

Despite only managing a field goal in last week’s 13-3 at Penn State, the Hawkeyes are still averaging over 30 points per game. Quarterback James Vandenberg ranks third in the conference averaging 270 yards per game passing, but the traditionally dominant Iowa offensive line has really struggled this year and their rushing game is only 10th in the league. The key matchup here will be if the Northwestern defense, one of the worst in the league, can slow down Vandenberg and the Iowa passing attack.

 

Matt Lawrence is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him email mdl5249@psu.edu.