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What to watch in the Big Ten: Week 6

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Ten things you don't want to miss Saturday in the Big Ten.

1. Iowa defense goes streaking -- The Hawkeyes try to continue one of the more remarkable streaks in college football on Saturday night against Michigan (ABC, 8 p.m. ET). Iowa hasn't allowed a rushing touchdown for 33 consecutive quarters, stretching back to last year's game against Penn State on Nov. 8. Sturdy defensive line play has been the hallmark of this team in 2009, but Iowa will be tested by Michigan's rushing attack, which ranks second in the Big Ten in rushing (197.8 ypg).

2. Clay heads to Columbus -- Wisconsin sophomore running back John Clay looks ready to be a star, and his team needs a huge performance against an Ohio State defense that ranks 10th nationally against the run (83.4 ypg). Despite losing his starting job in preseason camp, Clay leads the Big Ten in rushing average (116.4 ypg) and comes off a career-best performance against Minnesota. Wisconsin's offensive line is starting to get healthy, and the Badgers likely will go right at Ohio State's strength.

3. Desperation time for Zook, Illini -- They're calling for Ron Zook's head in Champaign, and the embattled fifth-year coach can't afford another lopsided loss against Michigan State (Big Ten Network, noon ET). Zook made a quarterback change Monday, benching four-year starter Juice Williams in favor of junior Eddie McGee, who makes his first career start. We'll soon find out if the problem is the quarterback or the scheme. The Illini need to start using all of their offensive weapons -- particularly star wideout Arrelious Benn -- against a Spartans defense that gained a lot of confidence in last week's win against Michigan.

4. Forcier looks for road rebound -- Michigan freshman quarterback Tate Forcier took the blame for last week's loss to Michigan State, even though his gutsy play was the only reason the Wolverines even had a chance. Forcier has been brilliant in the clutch, but he'll face his toughest test of the season against Iowa's defense in a night game at Kinnick Stadium. It could be the perfect stage for another fourth-quarter masterpiece, but Forcier likely will need more help from his running backs against the Hawkeyes. Expect to see a few tricks from Wolverines head coach Rich Rodriguez.

5. Gophers need home cookin' -- The importance of Minnesota's home game against Purdue can't be understated for the Gophers. With upcoming trips to Penn State and Ohio State, Minnesota can't afford to lose to the Boilers and maintain its hopes for a strong postseason push. The Gophers need a more disciplined performance after being flagged nine times against Wisconsin, and Saturday's game provides them a chance to get an inconsistent rushing attack going against a Boilers defense that ranks ninth in the Big Ten against the run (174.6 ypg).

6. Valai vs. Pryor -- Wisconsin safety Jay Valai isn't a very big guy, but he always brings it with big hits. It should be interesting to see how the 5-9, 201-pound Valai approaches Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who checks in at 6-foot-6 and 235 pounds. Pryor has turned in three solid performances since his struggles against USC and seems more open to running the ball. When he takes off, Valai and an opportunistic Badgers defense will be looking to make big plays.

7. Indiana's defense looks to bowl over Cavs -- Indiana has dropped consecutive games and faces a tough upcoming stretch beginning Oct. 24 with a road game against Northwestern. Bill Lynch's team can feel a lot better about its bowl hopes with a victory Saturday at Virginia (ESPN360.com, 3:30 p.m. ET). As I've written for month, Indiana's fate will be determined by a veteran-laden defense, which faces a Cavaliers team that ranks 99th nationally or lower in the four major offensive categories. Virginia ranks dead last nationally in sacks allowed, so Indiana defensive ends Greg Middleton and Jammie Kirlew should be licking their chops.

8. Christensen returns to Happy Valley -- There's not a whole lot of intrigue about the Penn State-Eastern Illinois game, but the Nittany Lions will be facing a player associated with their recent nemesis Iowa. Former Iowa quarterback Jake Christensen will start for EIU and hopes to continue a season for the FCS Panthers. Christensen already has passed for 1,090 yards with 11 touchdowns and only three interceptions. He faces a Penn State defense that shut down Illinois last week. Penn State sacked Christensen five times in a 27-7 win against Iowa in 2007 at Beaver Stadium.

9. Simmons ready to run -- Northwestern's rushing attack hasn't been the same since junior Stephen Simmons went down with an ankle injury in Week 2. Simmons is set to return Saturday against Miami (Ohio) and looks to spark a ground game that ranks 10th in the Big Ten (121.8 ypg). After rotating Arby Fields and Jacob Schmidt for the last two weeks, the Wildcats can go back to their featured back in a game that should build some momentum for the offense before Big Ten play resumes next week against Michigan State.

10. Purdue's ball security -- After a six-turnover disaster on its home field last week, Purdue now ranks 119th out of 120 FBS teams in giveaways with 18. If the Boilers can just manage to hang onto the ball at Minnesota, they could have a chance. Minnesota's defense struggled to contain Clay last week, and Purdue will want Ralph Bolden to get going after several quiet weeks. After putting up 88 points in its first two games, the Boilers have been stuck on 21 in each of their last three contests. Better ball security is a critical step to snapping the trend.