Associated Press: Capsule looks at Saturday's Big Ten football games
Here's a look at every Big Ten Conference football game this weekend, starting with the Michigan at Illinois game.
Michigan (5-3, 1-3 Big Ten) at Illinois (1-6, 0-5), 3:30 p.m., (ABC)
Line: Michigan by 7Â½.
Series record: Michigan leads 66-22-2.
Last meeting: 2008. Illinois won 45-20.
What's at stake A year after finishing with three wins, the Wolverines are a victory away from bowl eligibility. With games against Purdue, Wisconsin and Ohio State to follow, this is Michigan's best shot to get there. Illinois just wants to end its five-game losing streak and find something — anything — good to build on.
Key matchup Michigan running attack vs. Illinois run defense. The Wolverines lead the Big Ten with 219.4 yards a game and a conference-best 22 touchdowns. Carlos Brown and Brandon Minor (who is struggling with ankle and foot injuries) have combined for 693 yards, but six Wolverines have at least 25 carries and 180 yards this season. Illinois, with middle linebacker Martez Wilson out for the year, gives up more running yards than any other Big Ten team (185.2 ypg).
Players to watch Michigan: Quarterback Tate Forcier. He needs a return to the form that saw him throw for 437 yards and five TDs in his first two games. In his last two Big Ten games, against Iowa and Penn State, the freshman is 24-of-61 passing with four interceptions and one touchdown. Illinois: Quarterbacks Juice Williams (senior) and Jacob Charest (redshirt freshmen). In his first college game action, Charest led Illinois on a long drive last week while spelling the erratic Williams, and coach Ron Zook says both will play this week.
Facts & figures Illinois quarterback Juice Williams set the Michigan Stadium offensive production record in last year's Illini win with 431 yards. ... Michigan has won eight of the last 10 meetings between the teams. The Wolverines haven't lost in Champaign since 1983. ... Michigan is scoring 33.9 points a game, tops in the Big Ten. ... The Illini are last in the conference in scoring at 16.1 points a game.
No. 12 Penn State (7-1, 3-1 Big Ten) at Northwestern (5-3, 2-2), 3:30 p.m.
Line: Penn State by 15.
Series record: Penn State leads 9-3.
Last meeting: 2006, Penn State 33-7.
What's at stake The Nittany Lions must win to maintain their shot at a Big Ten title. A victory for Northwestern would make the Wildcats bowl eligible and make their season.
Key matchup Nittany Lions QB Daryll Clark vs Northwestern defense. Clark riddled Michigan with four TD passes last week. Northwestern didn't put a lot of pass rush pressure on Indiana and both the Wildcats' starting safeties, Brad Phillips and Brendan Smith, are hurting. Top CB Sherrick McManis was also injured last week.
Players to watch Penn State: Clark leads the Big Ten with a passer efficiency rating of 148.4 and has thrown 25 TD passes in his last 11 games. LB Navorro Bowman had 11 tackles, a sack, a fumble recovery and an interception against Michigan. Northwestern: WR Zeke Markshausen, a former walk-on, has become a prime receiving threat for QB Mike Kafka with 58 catches. Kafka's other big target is former QB Andrew Brewer.
Facts & figures Penn State leads the Big Ten in 10 major statistical categories: total offense, rushing defense, pass efficiency defense, total defense, scoring defense, pass defense, passing efficiency, sacks, tackles for loss and fewest sacks allowed. The Nittany Lions are yielding only 8.9 points per game. ... Northwestern's Kafka is first among Big Ten quarterbacks in passing yardage (258) and total offense (284) per game. The Wildcats staged the biggest comeback in school history last week, rallying from 28-3 down to beat Indiana 29-28.
Indiana (4-4, 1-3 Big Ten) at No. 7 Iowa (8-0, 4-0), Noon (ESPN)
Line: Iowa by 17Â½
Series record: Iowa leads 39-27-4.
Last meeting: 2008, Iowa 45-9.
What's at stake Iowa will likely need to go undefeated for a shot at the BCS title game, so it can't afford to overlook the reeling Hoosiers. Indiana's bowl eligibility hopes are in doubt after losing four of its last five, but a win over a top 10 team on the road could get their season back on track.
Key matchup Indiana QB Ben Chappell vs. Iowa secondary. Chappell is third in the Big Ten with a 63 percent completion rate, but the Hawkeyes lead the nation with 15 interceptions. Chappell will need to be accurate and limit mistakes to give the Hoosiers a chance for the upset.
Players to watch Indiana: PR/KR Ray Fisher. He returned a kickoff for a touchdown against Northwestern last week and set up another TD with a 35-yard punt return. The Hoosiers will need some help to upset Iowa, and Fisher's speed could set up short fields for Indiana's offense to work with. Iowa: RB Brandon Wegher. He'll get the majority of Iowa's carries now that Adam Robinson is out with an ankle injury. Wegher, a freshman, hasn't had more than 17 rushes in a game.
Facts & figures Iowa is off to the first 8-0 start in school history and is ranked 4th in the BCS standings. ... Indiana has pulled off a couple big wins over the Hawkeyes in recent years. They upset Iowa 31-28 in Bloomington in 2006 and blasted the Hawkeyes in Kinnick Stadium, 38-20, the following year. ... Iowa has won four games this season by three points or less.
Purdue (3-5, 2-2 Big Ten) at Wisconsin (5-2, 2-2), noon, ESPN2 Line: Wisconsin by 6Â½.
Series record: Wisconsin leads 39-29-8.
Last meeting: 2006, Wisconsin 24-3.
What's at stake Wisconsin lost four straight last season to derail any hopes of a big bowl game. The Badgers can still get to 10 wins, but after two straight losses and a week off they need a convincing performance that this year is different from last. Purdue knocked off Ohio State and followed it up with a win over Illinois, a welcome change after a five-game losing streak.
Key matchups Purdue DE Ryan Kerrigan vs. Wisconsin RT Josh Oglesby and Wisconsin DE O'Brien Schofield vs. Purdue LT Dennis Kelly. Kerrigan and Schofield are nearly identical in size and play an identical game. Schofield is tied for the NCAA lead in tackles for loss with 16.5. Kerrigan has 7.5 sacks to lead the Big Ten, one ahead of Schofield.
Players to watch Purdue: QB Joey Elliott. Elliott has appeared to turn a corner running Danny Hope's spread offense. He's ranked second in the Big Ten averaging 252.8 yards passing and didn't commit a turnover against Illinois. If Elliott gets time to throw, he could have another big day. Wisconsin: RB John Clay. Clay takes the Badgers as far as he can carry them. He's leading the Big Ten with an average of 102.3 yards rushing per game and has seven TDs. Clay's right ankle has been sore, but after a week off, he'll need to bowl the Boilermakers over.
Facts & figures Purdue is looking for three straight wins for the first time since a five-game winning streak in 2007. ... Four of Wisconsin's five wins have come by eight points or less. ... The Badgers have won 22 straight home games against unranked teams.
Michigan State (4-4, 3-2) at Minnesota (4-4, 2-3), 8 p.m. Line: Michigan State by 4Â½
Series record: Michigan State leads 25-16.
Last meeting: 2006, Minnesota, 31-18.
What's at stake: Both teams face fork-in-the-road games as the final third of the season arrives. The Spartans are coming off a last-second, two-point home loss to No. 7 Iowa. The Gophers were blown out the last two games and lost star WR Eric Decker for the season. They must regain their confidence and might need to win three straight at home if they want to survive crowded competition for the Big Ten's lower bowl slots.
Key matchup Michigan State LB Greg Jones vs. Minnesota QBs Adam Weber and MarQueis Gray. Jones leads the Big Ten and is second among NCAA FBS teams with 12.1 tackles per game to lead a defense that has 29 tackles for loss, including 16 sacks over the last four games. Weber has been struggling and though he remains the starter Gray is expected to play.
Players to watch Michigan State: WR Blair White. With Decker watching on the other sideline, White can cement himself as the Big Ten's most prominent pass catcher. Only Purdue's Keith Smith has more yards than Decker and White, a fifth-year senior who has turned 32 of his 48 receptions into either a first down or a touchdown. Minnesota: WR Troy Stoudermire. A touchdown threat as a kickoff returner, the speedy sophomore will be counted on to give Weber — and Gray — a reliable target downfield with Decker out.
New Mexico State (3-5) at No. 17 Ohio State (6-2), Noon (Big Ten Network) Line: Ohio State by 39Â½.
Series record: First meeting.
What's at stake The Buckeyes are heavily favored to roll over a non-conference opponent before embarking on the toughest three-game stretch on their schedule (at No. 12 Penn State, No. 7 Iowa at home, at rival Michigan) to close the regular season. The big concern is not getting anyone hurt. The Aggies will cash a check for $850,000 for what most believe will be their third straight loss.
Key matchup New Mexico State RB Seth Smith vs. Ohio State LBs. Smith has three games with more than 100 yards rushing. The Aggies' only hope is for him to have a big day and keep the ball away from the Ohio State offense. LBs Ross Homan, Austin Spitler and Co. will get to know Smith well.
Players to watch New Mexico State: QBs Jeff Fleming and Trevor Walls. They split time this season, both completing just over 50 percent of their passes. Ohio State: QB Terrelle Pryor hopes to add to the goodwill he gained with two TD passes, another scoring run and more than 340 total yards in a 38-7 rout of Minnesota last week.
Facts & figures Ohio State is 3-0 all-time against current members of the Western Athletic Conference. ... Smith had a career-best 70-yard run in a 34-3 home loss to Fresno State last Saturday night. ... Under Jim Tressel, the Buckeyes are 24-2 at Ohio Stadium versus non-conference teams. ... Offense has been a problem for the Aggies, who have scored 12 or fewer points in half their games. ... OSU ranks seventh nationally in scoring defense (13.1) and 10th in rushing defense (92.25 ypg).