Illinois (2-2, 0-1) at Wisconsin (4-0, 1-0)
1:00 p.m. CDT – No TV
Daily Line: Wisconsin minus 14.5
Illinois player to watch: Wide receiver Franklin Payne will get his first start this week, replacing Ade Adeyemo, who went down last week with a broken fibula. Wisconsin is good at stopping the run, so Illinois will have to go to the air. Payne could get a lot of action.
Wisconsin player to watch: Running back Anthony Davis is returning to the lineup after missing the last three weeks with an eye injury. Wisconsin hopes that the addition of Davis will be able to jump-start an offense that ranks ninth in the conference.
The inside scoop: This game pits the No. 1 scoring defense against a surprisingly productive Illinois offense. The Illini scored 30 points against Purdue last week and stayed in the game most of the way, while Wisconsin shut down Penn State last week, knocking two Nittany Lion quarterbacks out of the game. The Badgers will have to account for Pierre Thomas, who is a dual-threat not only as a talented back-up to E.B. Halsey but also one of the most dangerous kick returners in the nation. Wisconsin leads the conference in sacks, paced by defensive end Erasmus James, who already has five.
Illinois will win if: it can slow down the UW rushing game and make John Stocco beat them with the pass. On offense, they have to pass in order to set up the run. The Badgers will stuff the running game with their great front four, can quarterback Jon Beutjer loosen them up with the pass?
Wisconsin will win if : it can get any production from Stocco. The Badgers rank last in the conference in passing offense, and until Davis can get back into his early-season form, the pressure will be on the Wisconsin passing game to move the ball.
Notes: Illinois leads the overall series 35-30-7.
The pick: Wisconsin 24, Illinois 21
Michigan (3-1, 1-0) at Indiana (2-2, 0-1)
2:30 p.m. CDT – ABC
Daily Line: Michigan minus 18
Michigan player to watch: Running back Mike Hart is still waiting to have a break-out game this season, but going up against a weak Indiana run defense might do the trick.
Indiana player to watch: Wide receiver Courtney Roby will need to have a big day if the Hoosiers are going to have a chance. He is averaging more than 17 yards a reception on the season and has become quarterback Matt LoVecchio’s favorite target.
The inside scoop: This game has the makings of a blowout with Michigan opening at more than a two-touchdown favorite. Indiana comes into the game ranked last in the Big Ten in total defense and second to last in total offense. The Wolverines have a plus-nine turnover margin on the year, but have turned the ball over 10 times. Hoosiers linebacker Kyle Killion leads the conference in tackles with 44.
Michigan will win if: it can establish a running game. Even without a running game, it should be able to win this game, but how long will that trend continue for the Wolverines?
Indiana will win if : it gets a lot of help from Michigan. Despite an early-season upset win at Oregon, Indiana has not shown the consistency necessary to take down one of the conference’s top teams.
Notes: Michigan leads the overall series 47-9.
The pick: Michigan 35, Indiana 13
Michigan State (1-0, 2-2) at Iowa (2-2, 0-1)
11:00 a.m. CDT – ESPN Plus
Daily Line: Iowa minus 7.5
Michigan State player to watch: Quarterback Drew Stanton was a difference maker last week against Indiana with his feet rather than his arm. He has not thrown a touchdown pass yet this season, and will need to find success in the air against the Hawkeyes.
Iowa player to watch: Running back Jermelle Lewis has not been able to get on track this season after starting in coach Kirk Ferentz’s doghouse. He has only rushed for 151 yards this season, and was held to 45 yards against Michigan last week.
The inside scoop: The Hawkeyes are looking to avoid their first three-game losing streak since 2000. Iowa will have to do a better job of protecting quarterback Drew Tate, who has been sacked 16 times. The Spartans red-zone defense is tops in the conference, allowing opponents to score 57 percent of the time. This could mean trouble for an Iowa offense that is converting 67 percent of the time inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.
Michigan State will win if: it can keep the game low scoring. The Spartans offense has not been blowing any teams out, and if the Iowa offense gets it together and can open up a big lead, Michigan State will not be able to come back as it did against the Hoosiers.
Iowa will win if : it can run the ball successfully. The Hawkeyes are averaging 85 yards a game on the ground and have the lowest-rated offense in the Big Ten. Tate needs help from the running game.
Notes: Iowa leads the overall series 18-17-2.
The pick: Iowa 21, Michigan State 17
Penn State (2-2, 0-1) at Minnesota (4-0, 1-0)
7:00 p.m. CDT – ESPN Plus
Daily Line: No Line
Penn State player to watch: Running back Tony Hunt will feel the pressure this week with the quarterback situation being a major concern for Penn State. If the Nittany Lions have to go to a backup again this week, look for them to simplify the playbook and keep the ball almost entirely on the ground.
Minnesota player(s) to watch: Running backs Laurence Maroney and Marion Barber III will both have big games against a Penn State defense that had troubles containing Wisconsin fullback Matt Bernstein. The Nittany Lions will find out quickly that the Gophers running back tandem is more talented.
The inside scoop: Penn State is reeling at the quarterback position. At his Tuesday press conference, coach Joe Paterno announced that Zack Mills will start, with Keith Ganter backing him up, and Anthony Morelli will be third string. Minnesota is boasting the No. 6 scoring offense in the country at more than 44 points a game. The Penn State defense has done a good job shutting down the run so far this season, allowing less than 100 yards a game, but there are few teams in the country with a duo as good as Barber and Maroney, who have led the Gophers to more than 330 rushing yards a game.
Penn State will win if: it can keep the ball away from the Minnesota offense. If they are not on the field, they can’t score. Penn State also has to avoid turnovers, it has given the ball away 14 times in the last four games.
Minnesota will win if : it continues to run the ball successfully. The Minnesota offense is scary when it is clicking. As long as it can keep moving the ball, the Gophers will be hard to beat.
Notes: Penn State leads the overall series 4-3.
The pick: Minnesota 38, Penn State 13
Ohio State (3-0, 0-0) at Northwestern (1-3, 0-1)
8:00 p.m. CDT – ESPN Plus
Daily Line: Ohio State minus 11
Ohio State player to watch: Running back Lydell Ross has not been overly impressive this year, and the critics are growing louder for him to be replaced by true freshman Antonio Pittman.
Northwestern player to watch: Defensive lineman Luis Castillo will be tested against an Ohio State team that is determined to get a running game established. The Northwestern defense misses the presence of Loren Howard up front, and Castillo has been asked to be the leader of the line.
The inside scoop: Northwestern quarterback Brett Basanez is nursing a sprained throwing shoulder, and if he isn’t effective, Chris Malleo is next in line. Whoever is taking snaps for the Wildcats will be in for a long day against an Ohio State pass defense that allows 133 yards a game. Ohio State has an advantage knowing that All-America candidate kicker Mike Nugent kicking is nearly automatic, but coach Jim Tressel would prefer to see Nugent kicking PAT’s instead of field goals. Castillo summarized his opinion of the Ohio State team when he said, "They've always been a great defense and a mediocre offense that finds ways to make plays when they need points." Will that come back to haunt Northwestern?
Ohio State will win if: it can finally find a running game and slow down Wildcats running back Noah Herron. With Basanez’s health a concern, the Cats may look to keep the ball on the ground and play smash-mouth football. Ohio State needs to pressure the Northwestern quarterback after only recording six sacks on the season.
Northwestern will win if : it slows down the Ohio State running game and makes it throw the ball, win the turnover battle and make big plays with special teams. The Cats can’t win the game straight up, so they’ll have to get some help.
Notes: The Buckeyes have won 24 games against Northwestern dating back to 1971, and leads the overall series 55-13-1.
The pick: Ohio State 24, Northwestern 9
Purdue (3-0, 1-0) at Notre Dame (3-1)
1:30 p.m. CDT – NBC
Daily Line: Purdue minus 2.5
Purdue player to watch: Quarterback Kyle Orton continues to put up Heisman-type numbers, but will be in for a tough test traveling to South Bend. The Irish have faced either young or inexperienced quarterbacks so far this season, and will have their hands full with the nation’s No. 2 rated passer.
Notre Dame player to watch: Cornerback Preston Jackson and the rest of the Irish secondary will have their hands full with the Purdue passing game. The 5-foot-9 corner will face the difficult task of stopping 6-foot-1 receiver Taylor Stubblefield.
The inside scoop: The “Shillelagh” is at stake in this game between the Boilers and the Irish. Notre Dame is trying to go 3-0 against the Big Ten on the season for the first time since 2002. The Boilermakers are boasting the nation’s top offense, scoring more than 49 points a game. Stubblefield is No. 2 in the nation in scoring going for 16 points a game. Irish quarterback Brady Quinn has improved every game, capped off with last week’s four-touchdown performance.
Purdue will win if: it can forget about its lack of success in South Bend. The Boilers have not won at Notre Dame since 1974, but this is their best shot in a long time. As long as Purdue can keep moving the ball in the air like they have in their previous three games, the Irish will have a hard time keeping up on a score-for-score basis.
Notre Dame will win if : it can force the Boilers to make mistakes and stall out on drives. The Notre Dame team that takes the field on Saturday is a far cry from the one that lost at BYU, and if it can disrupt the Purdue passing game enough to force a couple turnovers, the Irish have the talent to put this one to bed.
Notes: Notre Dame leads the overall series 49-24-2.
The pick: Purdue 31, Notre Dame 20
Last week: 5-0 Overall: 27-10