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November 1, 2006
Best matchup: The Penn State run defense vs. the Wisconsin running game. The Nittany Lions are 19th in the nation against the run, yielding just 95.2 yards per game. The Badgers are 19th in the nation in rushing, churning out 185.4 yards per game. Whichever team wins this matchup should win the game.
Worst matchup: The Michigan run defense vs. the Ball State running game. The Wolverines are No. 1 in the nation against the run, giving up only 28.4 yards per game. The Cardinals are 104th in the nation in rushing, gaining just 86.1 yards per game. Just when you thought it wasn't possible for Michigan to lower its season average.
The pressure is on: Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema. It's not like he's under any job scrutiny - Bielema is doing a terrific job in his first year. But this is his biggest game since the Badgers' only loss this season, at Michigan. It's a chance for his team to prove it's not a fluke at 8-1 and that its No. 17 ranking is deserved.
Upset alert: Depending upon the health of Wisconsin running back P.J. Hill, Penn State has the best shot at an upset. Illinois will not beat Ohio State, and Ball State has no chance against Michigan.
BCS implications: Only an upset of epic proportions would affect the Big Ten's BCS aspirations. Ohio State and Michigan will remain on their collision course.
Who's hot: Indiana quarterback Kellen Lewis. The redshirt freshman had five touchdown passes and a touchdown run in the 46-21 rout of Michigan State. He has eight touchdown passes and just one interception in Big Ten play. ? Hoosiers wide receiver James Hardy. The sophomore is a big reason Lewis has looked so good. In the past three games Hardy has 20 receptions, seven of them for TDs. ? Ohio State running back Antonio Pittman. The junior has posted consecutive 100-yard games. After putting up 105 against Indiana, the junior came back on Saturday with 21 carries for 116 yards and two touchdowns in the 44-0 romp over Minnesota. ? The Ohio State defense has surrendered just 17 points in the past four games.
Who's not: The Michigan State defense. The Spartans have given up 122 points in the past three games, including 46 to Indiana, ranked 52nd in the nation in scoring. John L. Smith's team has been outscored in the first half of the past five games by a combined 105-13. ? Purdue quarterback Curtis Painter. The sophomore has cooled substantially. After passing for at least 200 yards and a touchdown in the first seven games this season, Painter doesn't have a TD pass in his past two games ? and has thrown three interceptions. He also has been held under 200 yards in both games.
Must see TV: The Wisconsin-Penn State game is set for a 12:10 p.m. kickoff on ABC from Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisc. Brad Nessler will call the play-by-play, with analysts Bob Griese and Paul Maguire and sideline reporter Bonnie Bernstein.
Newcomer/Backup that could have an impact: True freshman Lance Smith, the No. 19 running back in the country in the class of 2006 as rated by Rivals.com, will get the bulk of the carries if P.J. Hill is unable to go against Penn State. Smith had a career-high 21 carries for 46 yards in the Badgers' 30-24 victory over Illinois on Saturday.
Key stat: Penn State has given up three 100-yard rushing games this season and is 1-2 in those games. Wisconsin is 7-0 when P.J. Hill tops the 100-yard mark.
Take the line: Wisconsin struggled against Illinois, perhaps because it was looking forward to this week's game with Penn State. The Nittany Lions defense has rounded into form as the season has progressed, but the offense has continued to struggle. Meanwhile, the Badgers defense is underrated. UW is a seven-point favorite, and the Badgers will be eager to please the home crowd and prove they're not overrated by any stretch. Lay the points and take Bucky's boys. Season against the line: 6-3.
They said it: "This team has been easy to be around because of the leadership we've had. They've been motivated since the first day we started. There's a great chemistry. In my experience, the best teams have had the best leaders. The chemistry is always better on the teams playing with great energy, intensity, enthusiasm, intelligence, all those things." ? Michigan coach Lloyd Carr.
"They (Purdue) still have all their weapons, they just haven't been firing on all cylinders (the last two games). For whatever reason their 'A' game isn't there right now, and it's our job to keep it in the closet." ? Michigan State secondary coach Chuck Driesbach.
Injury update: Wisconsin running back P.J. Hill injured nerves in his neck in the victory over Illinois and his status for the Penn State game is questionable. ? Iowa quarterback Drew Tate (thumb) is listed as the starter for the Northwestern game after missing last week's game against NIU. ? Michigan receiver Mario Manningham was slated to return to practice on Tuesday after missing three games after arthroscopic knee surgery. His status for the Ball State game, though, is still uncertain.
Worth noting: Penn State's Joe Paterno, the nation's oldest coach, continues the "Whippersnapper Tour." This week he faces first-year Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema, the nation's second-youngest coach. He already beat the nation's youngest coach this season, Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald. ? The Badgers are 4-0 vs. the Nittany Lions when Penn State is unranked. ? Penn State's shutout of Purdue was the first time Joe Tiller had been blanked in his 10 seasons in West Lafayette (119 games). ? With a 181.9-yard rushing average per game, Illinois is posting its best average since the 1978 season (198.7). ? Seven of Illini freshman quarterback Juice Williams' nine touchdown passes have been 30 yards or longer. ? The Illini's only points in last year's 40-2 loss to Ohio State came when they returned a botched OSU point-after attempt. ? Buckeyes quarterback Troy Smith hasn't thrown an interception in his past 120 attempts. ? Buckeyes running back Antonio Pittman is 106 yards from becoming OSU's first player to post consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons since Eddie George. ? Ohio State receivers Anthony Gonzalez and Ted Ginn Jr. rank 1-2 in the Big Ten in receiving yards per game. They are the only teammates in the country atop that category in any Division I-A conference. ? Indiana has won 10 of 15 against Minnesota, its opponent on Saturday. ? The Hoosiers' 46 points against Michigan State were the most of the Terry Hoeppner era and the most by an IU team since it hung 56 on Northwestern in 2001. ? James Hardy of Indiana set a school record with four touchdown receptions against Michigan State. ? Iowa is 10-2 in November over the past four years. ? Hawkeyes receiver Dominique Douglas leads the nation's freshmen in receptions and is second in receiving yardage among his classmates.
Looking back: It was the arm of John Stocco, not the legs of P.J. Hill, that powered Wisconsin to a comeback victory over Illinois. The senior QB passed for 217 yards and two TDs and completed 11 of 15 in the second half as the Badgers prevailed 30-24. ? Indiana scored early and often and snuffed out any hopes of another miracle comeback by Michigan State in a 46-21 triumph. ? Michigan got 95 yards from Mike Hart and held Northwestern to negative rushing yards in a 17-3 victory. ? Ohio State ripped Minnesota 44-0. ? Penn State running back Tony Hunt had a career-high 31 carries for 142 yards and a touchdown and the Nittany Lions put the claws down on the Purdue offense in a 12-0 win. ? Iowa got the first 100-yard game of the season out of running back Albert Young and eased past Northern Illinois 24-14.
Freshman who impressed: Iowa quarterback Jake Christensen started in place of the injured Drew Tate and led the Hawkeyes to a 24-14 victory over Northern Illinois. The redshirt from Lockport, Ill., completed 19-of-30 passes for 256 yards and two touchdowns with just one interception.
Bowl watch: Ohio State (9-0), Michigan (9-0), Wisconsin (8-1), Penn State (6-3) and Iowa (6-3) are eligible. Indiana (5-4) is one win away. Purdue sits at 5-4 as well, but must win twice because it has a 13th game at Hawaii.