Big Ten internal affairs: Week 10

October, 29, 2008
10/29/08
9:00
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Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

It's time to take a closer look at five Big Ten teams.

1. Wisconsin -- Running back P.J. Hill is fully participating in practice after being limited by a leg injury last week, but he could take a backseat to redshirt freshman John Clay on Saturday at No. 21 Michigan State (ESPN, noon ET). Head coach Bret Bielema said Hill, Clay and Zach Brown will compete for carries throughout the week, with all three players likely being used in some form against the Spartans. But Clay started last week against Illinois and remains No. 1 on the depth chart. The Badgers also should get some help along the offensive line, as tackle Gabe Carimi and guard Kraig Urbik returned from knee injuries. A source told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the starting offensive line might be shuffled, with Urbik moving to right tackle and Eric Vanden Heuvel moving from right tackle to left tackle.

2. Illinois -- Head coach Ron Zook hinted at changes earlier this season, and he did it again after the Illini fell last Saturday at Wisconsin. Zook was still peeved after Monday's practice, telling reporters, "You got any ideas? Everybody seems to have ideas. I'll take them all. Here's the deal. We'll be ready to go. Yeah, I'm a little bit feisty right now. I don't have an answer for you. I wish I had an answer. I'd give it to you." This week's depth chart doesn't reflect many changes, but Illinois is looking for more help at outside linebacker to flank Brit Miller. Expect the rotation to increase at both linebacker and safety on Saturday against Iowa (ABC, 2:30 p.m. ET).

3. Northwestern -- The Wildcats could feature a new starting offensive backfield and a different approach on offense Saturday at No. 17 Minnesota (ESPN2, noon ET). Junior quarterback Mike Kafka, who could start in place of injured starter C.J. Bacher, is more of a rushing threat who ran the option when he started four games as a true freshman. Though Bacher injured his leg on a 10-yard run against Indiana, Northwestern won't hesitate to have its quarterback on the move against the Gophers. "Every spread offense in the country I'm watching runs the quarterback," head coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "It's an element of the offense and it's an inherent risk. That's why you recruit and get your other guys ready in case something ever does happen." Northwestern has been plagued by turnovers this season, so the game plan might be more conservative for Kafka, emphasizing the option and his strengths.

4. Purdue -- Quarterbacks Curtis Painter and Justin Siller have different styles and strengths, but coach Joe Tiller expects to have a similar package on offense no matter who starts Saturday against Michigan. Painter sustained a mild separation of his throwing shoulder last Saturday and could miss the game. He has practiced sparingly this week. Siller has been alternating between running back and quarterback this season, and he would give the Boilers more of a rushing threat. "There are differences in the sense that, you know, Justin is not the prototype drop-back guy, though he can throw the drop-back routes and he has," Tiller said. "This week we'll be closer to having a similar package for the two of them because [Siller will] have another week back into the offense."

5. Michigan State -- As opposing defenses focus on stopping running back Javon Ringer, the Spartans are extending their passing attack and increasing their depth at the wide receiver position. Sophomore Blair White ignited for 143 receiving yards and a touchdown last Saturday against Michigan, and true freshman Keshawn Martin is gradually claiming a greater role. With Deon Curry limited by a back injury, Michigan State has looked to other wideouts to step up. "We have more depth this year than we had last year," head coach Mark Dantonio said. "We really have six, eight guys, that are functional."

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