Northwestern 2-4 (0-3) vs. #22 Coaches- Penn State 6-1 (3-0)
Saturday, Pat Fitzgerald and the rest of his team will welcome Joe Paterno and company as they host the 6-1 Panthers, who are undefeated in Big Ten play.
Last week against Iowa, the Wildcats did have statistically a good outing – stopping Iowa on six of seven third downs – but were overshadowed by the Hawkeyes relentless ability to get the â€˜big play.â€™
Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg connected twice on deep balls last Saturday. One to junior wide receiver Keenan Davis in the second quarter, and the other to fellow wide out, Marvin McNutt. Each score went for 47 and 35 yards, respectively.
On his teamâ€™s defense, Fitzgerald wasnâ€™t making any excuses. â€œWe got a lot of work to do, my friend,â€ Fitzgerald noted.
â€œ85% of what were doing is really, really positive,â€ said Fitzgerald. â€œThe 15% is just killing our football team.â€
It did not stop there, however. The former Wildcat linebacker had an interesting analogy for everyone to better understand just exactly what is happening to his defense.
â€œItâ€™s not like were putting a little pin in a balloon and letting a little slow leak out with those 15% mistakes. Weâ€™re taking a machete and just destroying the balloon,â€ Fitzgerald said.
Quite the imagery.Â Who knew coach Fitzgerald was such a poet?
On fixing the problem, Fitzgerald thinks it is quite simple; his team will just have to work harder.
Penn States defense, on the other hand, has a playmaker that has everyone talking.Â Devon Still, the senior defensive tackle from Wilmington, Delaware.
â€œHeâ€™s an all American. Heâ€™s a force, I think heâ€™s got 10 TFLâ€™s (tackles for loss), a couple sacks,â€ Fitzgerald noted.Â â€œHeâ€™s probably impacted about 40-50 plays where his ability to get up the field has caused complete and total chaos in the backfield,â€ Fitzgerald said.
The Collegiate Hall of Fame linebacker had nothing but good things to say of the veteran.
â€œThatâ€™s the hallmark of a great player.”
The Wildcats will look to bring their four game losing streak to a halt, and pull out their first Big Ten victory of the season.
#18 AP / #17 Coaches- Michigan 6-1 (2-1) BYE
Having his first loss as the Michigan head coach come from instate rival Michigan State, doesnâ€™t make things any easier for the enthusiastic Brady Hoke, but heâ€™s not making any excuses.
â€œObviously were very disappointed in the outcome from Saturday,â€ said Hoke.Â â€œWe certainly didnâ€™t play Michigan football.â€
Michigan State held impact quarterback Denard Robinson to just nine completions and a mere 123 yards through the air, while also contributing one touchdown to go along with one interception.Â The real story, however, was the rushing attack of the Spartans, who torched the Wolverines for 213 yards on the ground, wearing down the Michigan D.
Late in the game last week quarterback Denard Robinson was taken out of the game, but Hoke reassured everyone that he will not miss any time, and the rest of his team looks solid.
â€œPhysically, first, I think were really in pretty good shape when you look at it,â€ noted Hoke.
That is good news considering how tough the conference is this year, but donâ€™t count coach Hoke as one of those who are surprised by the matter.
With four teams in the top 20, and five in the top 25, the Big Ten is bringing some fierce competition in 2011.
â€œIt doesnâ€™t surprise me much, but being on the west coast for a couple you lose touch to some degree,â€ said Hoke.Â â€œI just think weâ€™ve got a great deal of quality football players at all the different schools.â€
â€œAnyone can beat anybody,â€ he concluded.
Michigan will practice twice during the bye week, Tuesday and Thursday.Â When asked about whether the team will do more individual drills or more team oriented drills during these two days, Hoke noted that it will be a little of a mixture of both.
For the schoolâ€™s homecoming, Michigan is set to face Big Ten opponent Purdue on October 29th a week from Saturday.
#13 AP / #11 Coaches- Nebraska 5-1 (1-1) at Minnesota 1-5 (0-2)
Coming off a bye week, Bo Pelini and his players are anxious to get back on the field as they travel to Minnesota this Saturday. They took this past week to rest some of their guys and get ready for yet another Big Ten matchup.
â€œWe had a good week last week, got some rest in, got a little bit of work in.Â Hopefully we got better as a football team, looking forward to playing games,â€ Pelini said.
Despite Minnesotaâ€™s unsuccessful record at 1-5, Pilini noted that they are still doing some good things up in there, and does not doubt their ability as a football team.
â€œI think theyâ€™re well coaches, I think they play hard. Obviously theyâ€™ve gone through some difficult times,â€ said Pelini. Â â€œThey play with passion, I know they will be ready to challenge us come Saturday.â€
Pelini also made it a point to mention how excited he is for this young, up and coming Gopher squad in the Big Ten under head coach Jerry Kill.
â€œI think theyâ€™re doing some good things, and you see progress there,â€ said Pelini.Â â€œItâ€™s just going to make the conference stronger as a whole as we move forward.â€
From a talent standpoint, Nebraska should not have any problems facing Minnesota, especially with the dangerous running threat of junior I-back, Rex Burkhead, as well as standout sophomore quarterback, Taylor Martinez, who has proven his legs are a legitimate threat for any opposing defense.
â€œI think both those guys are good players, theyâ€™re dangers,â€ Pelini said.Â â€œI think overall were doing some pretty good things in our running game, and complementing that, really, with our passing game, our play action stuff.â€
The offense will likely have to power Nebraska towards a victory as star defensive tackle, Jared Crick will miss the remainder of the season with a torn pectoral muscle.Â Over the past two seasons Crick has compiled 18.5 sacks, to go along with 140 tackles. A strong presence in the middle, Pelini realizes how irreplaceable the veteran senior is.
â€œObviously you never replace a guy like Crick, heâ€™s a special player,â€ Pelini said.Â However, coach is confident that the right men will fill the void.Â â€œWe have guys that step up,â€ Pelini said.Â â€œWe have a lot of confidence in those guys.â€
Kickoff is set for 2:30PM CT.
#15 AP / #13 Coaches- Michigan State 5-1 (2-0) vs. #4 AP/Coaches Wisconsin- 6-0 (2-0)
With an opening statement, it didnâ€™t take long for Head Coach Mark Dantonio to illustrate his happiness with last weekendâ€™s outcome.
â€œVery excited about our win over Michigan,â€ said Dantonio.
Deservedly so, as Michigan State did an excellent job limiting Denard Robinsonâ€™s affect on the game, while producing a strong rushing attack with 213 yards on the ground, upsetting Brady Hoke and his now #18th ranked Wolverines.
When speaking about his aggressive defense, and how they were so successful against Michigan, Dantonio noted that the team needs to play motivated, and play with an edge in order to win every Saturday.
â€œYou got to get them [the players] going, and they got to get themselves going in terms of emotionally. You want them to be emotional throughout a football game,â€ Dantonio said.
The Spartans will need every ounce of that emotion when they welcome undefeated Big Ten powerhouse, Wisconsin to East Lansing.
Wisconsinâ€™s offensive line is one of the biggest in college football, and imposes a tremendous challenge come Saturday for this wound up Michigan State defense.
â€œThis will probably be our biggest challenge in terms of how we play against a conventional football team, what I would call a conventional power football team,â€ Dantonio said. Â â€œItâ€™s a drastic change from we saw last week. The challenges continue to mount so we need to prove again ourselves defensively.â€
Coach Dantonio is highly impressed with what the Badgers bring offensively, at all positions.
â€œFirst of all theyâ€™ve only had one interception and I believe three fumbles, so they take care of the football very, very well.Â Secondly, they are able to run the football,â€ Dantonio said.Â â€œThey have two great tailbacks. I think their offensive coordinator has been there quite some time,â€Â â€œThey have a system and they know their system and they execute very well.â€
Wisconsin doesnâ€™t have many flaws at this point this season, at least to the general public, so defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi and the rest of his squad are in for quite the game.
However, with that said, it will help that Wisconsin will have to travel to East Lansing, as a home field advantage, particularly for MSU, is huge, to say the least.
â€œWhen you play at home you have a lot of things going for you in terms of the crowd.Â Weâ€™ll play this game at night, which we donâ€™t play many night games here so itâ€™s always a very live atmosphere, so those two things will way in our favor,â€ mentioned Dantonio.
Only time will tell if these conditions play a factor in Saturdayâ€™s game.
Iowa 4-2 (1-1) vs. Indiana 1-6 (0-3)
First year head coach, Kevin Wilson will take his team up to Iowa City Saturday to take on Kirk Ferentzâ€™s Hawkeyes.Â With Indianaâ€™s less than stellar season, it is easy to pretty much hand Iowa the W.
However, there may be reason for hope for Bloomington, as the last few outings have been close ones.
Coach Ferentz isnâ€™t taking the 1-6 team for granted, and knows anything can happen on any given day.
â€œWeâ€™ve had tough time the last two years with them, just recent history wise,â€ said Ferentz
â€œWeâ€™re going to try to match up against them, they present some problems preparation wise certainly, and then weâ€™ve got a lot on our plate here just with trying to get our team to improve a little bit as well.â€ Â .
With all of Indianaâ€™s offensive woes this season, and the uncertainty at the quarterback position, which seems to vary week to week, it will be a tough challenge for IU.
Although Iowaâ€™s offensive has some firepower, coach Ferentz still believes the game resides on the other side of the ball, which has no shortage of playmakers. One of those playmakers include veteran middle linebacker James Morris.
Morris was originally an outside backer, but has since transitioned to the middle, and is not complaining.
â€œHe handled it really well,â€ Ferentz said.Â â€œTyler is already a guy that already graduated with a business degree, outstanding student, tremendous football player.Â Weâ€™re just really fortunate to have him on our football team, heâ€™s been a captain every game this year so far.Â No big surprise.â€
â€œAnother great season leader for us,â€ Ferentz concluded.
However, although this is true, the Hawkeye offense is nothing to shy away from, either.Â With junior quarterback James Vandenberg, who is second in the Big Ten in passing yards with 1,488 yards to go along with 12 touchdowns.
Leading the charge, he has his team in good position to win. It also helps that his top two targets, senior Marvin McNutt and junior Keenan Davis are having great seasons.
McNutt, who was originally a quarterback, tied the most reception touchdowns in Iowa history last week against northwestern with 21.
That puts him right along side former Hawkeyes Danan Hughes and Tim Dwight, who both played in the NFL.Â With Indianaâ€™s weak defense, McNutt will look to etch his name into the record books.
Indiana, on the other hand will look to get its first conference victory. This will heavily depend on the Hoosiers production at the quarterback position, as well as remaining consistent on the defensive side of the ball.
The game is set for an 11:00AM CT kickoff.
Minnesota 1-5 (0-2) vs. #13 AP / #11 Coaches- Nebraska 5-1 (1-1)
Minnesota is coming off a bye week after a horrendous loss to Purdue in a 45-17 contest.Â With such a young program, and the rebuilding process that the Gophers are in, coach Jerry Kill just wants to improve each week.
â€œWe spent the off week trying to do things better, understanding leverage and angles,â€ Kill said.
â€œIt gave us a great opportunity work not only our young players, but also get some of our older players mentally, maybe feeling a little bit better physically. I thought we had a good week of work. Thatâ€™s where were at, were trying to build a program, and work through some things, so I was pleased with that,â€ Kill went on to say.
Facing Nebraska Saturday, Kill noted how well their opponent is put together.
â€œNumber one, their toughness, hard nose tough. I think they simulate their head coach,â€ said Kill.
â€œWeâ€™ll have our hands full,â€ Kill said.
It will be a definite challenge for Minnesota, especially when it comes to stopping Nebraskaâ€™s two-headed rushing attack in I-back Rex Burkhead and speedy quarterback Taylor Martinez, who are fourth and fifth in the Big Ten for rushing, respectively.
The two of them have accounted for over 1,200 yards so far this season.
Senior safety Kim Royston, who is coming off an injury from last season, is currently leading the team in tackles with 51. Coach Kill is glad to have him back on the field and expects him to contribute more and more each week.
â€œHeâ€™s certainly a good football player for us and we need to continue to have him play well and continue to get better,â€ Kill said.
Although the Minnesota football program is currently going through a rough patch, it is nothing new for Coach Kill, whoâ€™s been through the same thing when he was at Southern Illinois, as well as Northern Illinois. While tough, Kill noted that it is just apart of life.
â€œYouâ€™d like to snap your fingers and make everything okay but the world doesnâ€™t work that way.â€
However, it does help that Minnesota does indeed have a good amount of wisdom within the staff.
â€œYou take the 94 years of experience on our staff that weâ€™ve been together.Â Weâ€™ve been through it.Â Itâ€™s not easy, you donâ€™t like it.â€
Kill has high hopes, however, and is grateful for the support the fans continue to have week in and week out, despite such struggles. The first year coach wants to bring a winning mentality to the state of Minnesota.
â€œWeâ€™ve got to get a football program that represents our state, and our state has a lot of passion for football,â€ Kill said.Â â€œWeâ€™re certainly excited about the progress that weâ€™re going to make as this things goes.â€
Although unlikely, a dramatic upset win at home, and their first conference victory would be a mammoth start to achieving such goals.