Northwestern 2-5 (0-4) vs. Indiana 1-7 (0-4)
Northwestern is coming off a 34-24 loss to Joe Paternoâ€™s Nittany Lions and are still winless in Big Ten play.Â However, given the season long struggles of Indiana, namely the utterly inconsistent play of their defense, that first W may come this Saturday in Memorial Stadium when the Wildcats travel to Bloomington.
Each week, Northwestern seems to inch itâ€™s way closer to that first conference victory, and coach Fitzgerald notes that itâ€™s not easy losing each week while speaking about the mood of his team.
â€œ[Weâ€™re] working our tails off to improve,â€ said Fitzgerald.
â€œWeâ€™ve just got find a way to make one or two more plays. Thatâ€™s what were talking about.â€Â â€œThatâ€™s all we need right now, itâ€™s not a whole lot more complicated than that, so the mood is very hungry, very driven, very motivated,â€ Fitzgerald went on to say.
The Wildcats will look to rely on quarterback Dan Persa to kick Indiana while theyâ€™re down.Â However, veteran wide receiver Jeremy Ebert may be somebody to watch out for come Saturday.Â The senior has three 100-yard games so far this season and is starting to become a real factor for opposing defenses with six scores.
â€œHeâ€™s just been so darn consistent.Â Heâ€™s blocking, being more physical on the perimeter than heâ€™s ever been,â€ Fitzgerald noted.Â â€œHeâ€™s doing a tremendous job leading, heâ€™s a special football players thereâ€™s no question about that.â€
Fitzgerald isnâ€™t ready to throw in the towel and will continue to fight for that first conference win.
â€œWeâ€™ve got to do the things that winners do,â€ said Fitzgerald.
#17 AP/Coaches Michigan 6-1 (2-1) vs. Purdue 4-3 (1-3)
Michigan is coming off its bye week, while Purdue is coming off a fresh homecoming victory over then ranked #23 Illinois.Â The Boilermakers will look to string together their first two game win streak of the season when they travel to Ann Arbor to take on the Wolverines.
Coach Brady Hoke praised his team and how well they performed during their time off.
â€œI think weâ€™ve had good tempo in practice and good physical-ness in what weâ€™ve tried to get done,â€ said Hoke.
With no real impact or electrifying players for the Boilermakers on offense, Michigan will just look to avoid costly mistakes.Â Hoke noted how good of a job his coaching staff has done this season making defensive adjustments when necessary.
â€œThey do a very good job of teaching,â€ said Hoke.Â However, in addition to this, he also made it a point to mention that although quality coaching helps, it ultimately lies on the players, who have done a great job as well.
â€œYouâ€™ve got to give a lot of credit to the kids, because theyâ€™re listening and learning,â€ said Hoke.
Although taking on Purdue at home seems to be a relatively easy fleet, Hoke is not taking them for granted, as they have beaten Michigan two out of the past three years.
â€œWe just got to go and play our style of Football,â€ said Hoke.Â â€œWeâ€™ll have our hands full.â€
#16 AP/Coaches Nebraska 6-1 (2-1) vs. Michigan State 6-0 (3-0)
Coming off a physical beat down on Minnesota, Nebraska faces a tougher task when they welcome Michigan State to town, who is currently riding a high note after their last second victory over Wisconsin last weekend.
Bo Pelini isnâ€™t backing down, however, and is ready to take them on full charge.
â€œLooking forward to the challenge,â€ said Pellini.
The Cornhuskers will look to slow down MSUâ€™s quarterback-wide receiver tandem in Kirk Cousins and B.J. Cunningham.Â One of the Spartan players looking to get pressure on the senior man under center will be standout linebacker LaVonte David.
David leads his team in tackles with 62 – to go along with one forced fumble, one interception, and two sacks this season.Â Coach Pelini had nothing but good things to say about his veteran guy out of Miami.
â€œI think LaVonte is a heck of a player.Â Heâ€™s smart, heâ€™s very active, he has great instincts and he plays his tail off,â€ said Pelini.Â â€œIâ€™m glad heâ€™s on our team, heâ€™s a great kid to coach.â€
David has recently been selected as one of the semifinalist for the Dick Butkus award, and Pelini couldnâ€™t be happier for him.Â â€œAny award he gets or any recognition he gets is well-deserved,â€ noted Pelini.
The offensive side of the ball will be just as important for Nebraska, as they will look to continue to lean heavily on their star running back, Rex Burkhead, who is fourth in the conference in rushing yards with 752.
â€œI think heâ€™s [Burkhead] gone a little bit under the radar,â€ said Pelini. Â â€œI wouldnâ€™t trade him for anybody.â€
Coach Pelini also noted how at the end of the day, whoever can execute better will come out victorious. â€œBoth teams want to come out and execute their plan.Â The team that does that the best Iâ€™m sure will walk away the winner.â€
Nebraska will look to do this at home on Saturday.
#9 AP/ #10 Coaches Michigan State 6-1 (3-0) at #16 AP/Coaches NebraskaÂ 6-1 (3-1)
If only I could insert the audio clip to that final play last Saturday in East Lansing against Wisconsin, I would, because it was one to remember.Â However, with that said, coach Mark Dantonio is looking to move on past that, and look forward to his next matchup at Memorial Stadium in Nebraska.
The Spartans have an outstanding quarterback in senior Kirk Cousins, who has been a captain on the team before he was even anointed the starting job – quite the honor for a backup – but Dantonio thinks it is very much well deserved.
â€œHeâ€™s a guy thatâ€™s very at ease with his peers, heâ€™s got a great sense of humor, heâ€™s got great leadership skills as well.Â Heâ€™s been a captain for three years,â€ said Dantonio.Â â€œHeâ€™s good for the chemistry in our locker.â€
Cousins is on pace to have his best season as a Spartan so far, throwing for 1607 yards, which is good for fourth in the Big Ten.Â In addition, he has compiled 11 touchdowns to just four interceptions.
Cousins was also named Big Ten co-player of the week after his performance against rival Wisconsin.
However, Nebraska will not back down from the veteran, and will look to force Cousins to make some bad decisions, as coach Bo Pelini is well known for his creative defensive strategies.
â€œHeâ€™s been successful wherever heâ€™s been, defensively.Â He teaches not only great technique, but schematically great schemes that theyâ€™re involved in.Â Theyâ€™re a very well coaches football team. They play a high rate of speed, they recruit talent, players.Â You put all those things together and equation spells success,â€ noted Dantonio.
â€œHeâ€™s always on the cutting edge of things defensively,â€ coach went on to say.
This interesting matchup is set to kickoff at 11:00AM CT.
Iowa 5-2 (2-1) at Minnesota
Last week coach Kirk Ferentz and his team had no problem torching the Indiana defense, both through the air and on the ground.Â The Hawkeyes, who have scored 31 points or more in six out of seven games this season, put up 45 against the Hooisers.
Although the Hoosier defense is far from consistent, a lot of the credit must go to the high-powered Iowa offense.
Led by quarterback James Vandenberg and converted wide receiver Marvin McNutt, who etched his name into the record books after catching three touchdown passes Saturday to bring his total to 24, the most in Iowa history by a receiver.
By doing so, McNutt shatters the former record of 21, surpassing ex-NFL players Tim Dwight and Daman Hughes, who previously shared the record with 21.Â McNutt was honored with Big Ten co-offensive player of the week.
â€œItâ€™s a real tribute to Marvin,â€ noted FerentzÂ â€œ[Heâ€™s] worked extremely hard.â€
Vandenberg on the other hand threw for four touchdowns, while passing for 253 yards.Â These are the types of numbers that are likely to repeat when Minnesota plays host to Iowa on Saturday.
However, despite Minnesotaâ€™s growing pains, coach Ferentz still has the utmost respect for coach Jerry Kill and his team.
â€œTheyâ€™re playing extremely hard, and have been all season long. I think thatâ€™s certainly a reflection of coach the job that Kill and his staff have already done,â€ noted Ferentz.
The game is set for a 2:30 PM CT contest.
Minnesota 1-6 (0-3) vs. Iowa 5-2 (2-1)
Jerry Kill, coming off a fresh contract extension, is anxious to get back on the field this Saturday to take on Big Ten rival, Iowa at home.Â However, Kill knows it will not be any easy task for his team.
â€œThe biggest thing thatâ€™s impressive is that theyâ€™re not going to be themselves, theyâ€™re well disciplined.Â They do a tremendous job of coaching and teaching.Â I think theyâ€™re as fundamentally sound as anybody,â€ said Kill.Â â€œIâ€™ve got a great deal of respect for their program.â€
The biggest key for the Gophers will be to hold quarterback James Vandenberg and electrifying wide receiver Marvin McNutt relatively in check.Â This is easier said than done, however, as both veterans have been playing extremely well as of late, and will look to keep the train rolling when they travel to Minnesota.
â€œOffensively, they do what they do and they do it very well, and theyâ€™re sound in all phases of the game,â€ Kill said of Iowa.
In a rebuilding process, Minnesota just looks to get better every week, and this week presents an opportunity to do so.Â Look for Kill to use some different looks on defense, and to get his younger players involved more often, as he hopes to continue to develop them as the season progresses.