Big Ten: Mike Williams

Big Ten recruiting rewind to 2007

January, 31, 2011
1/31/11
5:38
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As signing day approaches, it's fun to take a look back at how some of the Big Ten's top recruits from years past fared on the college stage.

ESPN Recruiting took a comprehensive look back at the 2007 recruiting class: how the top players fared, who met expectations, who exceeded them and who turned out to be a bust. It also revised the team recruiting class rankings.

Here's how some of the Big Ten recruits in the ESPNU 150 fared:

Illinois LB Martez Wilson (No. 5 nationally): After recording 73 tackles as a sophomore for the Fighting Illini, Wilson's junior season was cut short due to a herniated disc and he was granted a medical hardship. In 2010, he had 104 tackles, four sacks and two forced fumbles.

Michigan QB Ryan Mallett (No. 12): As a true freshman, he played in 11 games for Michigan before transferring to Arkansas. After sitting out a year due to transfer rules, Mallett started all 13 games in 2009 and threw for more than 3,600 yards and 30 touchdowns. He completed an Arkansas single-season record 242 passes in 2010 and is expected to be drafted in the first round of the 2011 NFL draft.

Illinois WR Arrelious Benn (No. 17): He was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year and followed that up in 2008 by earning first-team All-Big Ten honors, as well as being named team MVP. He was given honorable mention All-Big Ten as a junior and drafted in the second round of the 2010 NFL draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He is currently the team's No. 2 WR.

Michigan WR Junior Hemingway (No. 19): Hemingway played in 10 games as a freshman and redshirted in 2008 due to mononucleosis. Hemingway was the Wolverine's fourth-leading receiver in 2009 and third-leading receiver in 2010. He has started 18 contests at wideout in his career.

Wisconsin T Josh Oglesby (No. 28): After redshirting in Oglesby he played in 13 games as a sophomore and started every game in 2009. However, a knee injury in Week 2 ended his 2010 season.

Ohio State S Eugene Clifford (No. 37): After playing in four games for the Buckeyes in 2007, he was suspended for violating unspecified team rules and then kicked off the team before the 2008 season after being charged with assault. He transferred to Tennessee State where he finished his career with 204 tackles and was named as a first-team FCS All-American in 2010.

Minnesota QB Clint Brewster (No. 45): After redshirting in 2007, Brewster went to the College of Sequoias in 2008. He joined the Tennessee Tech roster in July 2008, but has sat on the bench since.

Illinois DT D'Angelo McCray (No. 64): McCray redshirted at Illinois in 2007, before transferring to Eastern Illinois. After playing in 2008 for Eastern Illinois, he transferred to Coffeyville Community College in 2009 and then transferred to Memphis University in 2010 totaling six tackles.

Michigan CB Donovan Warren (No. 86): In 2007, he played in all 13 games and totaled 35 tackles and one forced fumble. He was on the Freshman All-America Team and was named the Big Ten Defensive Freshman of the Year. In 2008, he started 10 games at corner and one at safety, recording 36 tackles. As a junior, he started all 12 games at corner, totaling 66 tackles, four interceptions and 11 pass breakups.

Michigan S Mike Williams (No. 94): After not seeing any game action in 2007, he played in 11 games in 2008, including nine at safety. In 2009, he started nine games at safety and played in 10, registering 56 tackles. In 2010, he appeared in two games before missing the rest of the season due to a head injury.

Iowa T Bryan Bulaga (No. 96): He played in seven games as a true freshman, starting five. In 2008, he started all 13 games at left tackle, earning second-team All-Big Ten honors. As a junior, he made 10 starts at left tackle and was named Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year. He was drafted No. 23 overall by the Green Bay Packers in 2010 and is the team's starting right tackle.

Ohio State moved up to No. 7 in the revised class rankings, while Michigan fell out of the top 10.

Michigan's Hemingway and Jerimy Finch, a safety who signed with Florida before transferring to Indiana, are listed among the recruiting busts of the 2007 class.
No. 18 Michigan has issued its official injury report for Saturday's home showdown against No. 17 Michigan State.

OUT
  • LB Mike Jones, leg
  • RB Fitzgerald Toussaint, shoulder
  • S Jared Van Slyke, clavicle (out for season)
  • S Mike Williams, head
  • CB Troy Woolfolk, ankle (out for season)
PROBABLE

Good news on Shaw, who missed last week's game at Indiana as Michigan had to go with one running back (Vincent Smith) not counting Denard Robinson. Although the Wolverines would have benefited from getting Toussaint back as well, it looks like Shaw will return against the Spartans. If Michigan can diversify its rushing attack with both Smith and Shaw and allow Robinson to attack a vulnerable Michigan State secondary through the air, the Wolverines will be tough to stop. Michigan certainly could use Williams back in the secondary as soon as possible.

Spring superlatives: Michigan

March, 22, 2010
3/22/10
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The spring superlatives series, which examines the strongest and weakest positions for each Big Ten team, marches on with Michigan.

Arguably no team in the Big Ten needs a strong spring more than the Wolverines, who must answer questions on defense after dropping their final seven Big Ten games last fall. It doesn't help that Michigan loses its top two defenders: Big Ten co-MVP Brandon Graham at defensive end and All-Big Ten selection Donovan Warren at cornerback. The Wolverines lose a few contributors on offense but still should be dangerous on that side this fall.

Strongest position: Offensive line

  • Key returnees: G Stephen Schilling, C David Molk, T Perry Dorrestein, T Mark Huyge, G Patrick Omaneh, G John Ferrara
  • Key losses: LT Mark Ortmann, G/C David Moosman
  • The skinny: The Wolverines look solid at all of the offensive skill positions, but head coach Rich Rodriguez is a bit concerned about his outside receivers, and Michigan loses its top two running backs (Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown) from 2009. The offensive line, meanwhile, returns three starters as well as promising redshirt freshmen (Taylor Lewan, Quinton Washington, Michael Schofield). Molk could contend for All-Big Ten honors if he stays healthy, and Michigan should have much more depth this season. Rodriguez is pleased with the physical gains the linemen made during the offseason, and it should translate well to the field this fall.
Weakest position: Secondary

  • Key returnees: CB/S Troy Woolfolk (46 tackles, 1 pass breakup); S Jordan Kovacs (75 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 2 forced fumbles, 1 INT); S Mike Williams (56 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 pass breakup)
  • Key losses: Warren (66 tackles, 4 INTs, 7 pass breakups)
  • The skinny: Michigan loses more at other positions, and the kicking game is a major concern, but the combination of Warren's departure and so many major breakdowns puts the secondary in the spotlight going forward. Woolfolk looks like a good option at one cornerback spot, but the other will be up for grabs, as J.T. Turner, J.T. Floyd and heralded recruit Demar Dorsey all will compete. The competition at the safety spots should be intriguing, as Kovacs, a walk-on, tries to hold off Vladimir Elimien and others. Michigan has enough bodies in the secondary, but the coaches need to identify a combination that works.

Ohio State-Michigan pregame

November, 21, 2009
11/21/09
11:43
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Just got back from the field after watching warm-ups, and a few things stood out.

  • There are a ton of Ohio State fans here, certainly more than normal. It looks like a good number of Michigan fans sold their tickets to the enemy and made some cash.
  • As expected, Michigan fans were all over Buckeyes guard Justin Boren when he came out for warm-ups. The former Wolverine heard taunts of, "Watch your knees!" and some unprintable comments about his conditioning. Boren, to his credit, seemed extremely fired up and was animated as he talked to the other linemen.
  • Michigan's Troy Woolfolk is working as a safety today after switching to cornerback midway through the season. J.T. Floyd worked with the first-team defense at corner. Mike Williams, the team's normal starting safety, is out.
  • I don't mind Ohio State's throwback jerseys. The helmets take a little while to get used to, but the socks are awesome and the jerseys don't bother me. Several Ohio State offensive linemen are wearing their regular cleats instead of the new ones from Nike. Tackle Jim Cordle voiced some concerns about the new cleats earlier this week. Cordle and J.B. Shugarts worked as the first-team offensive tackles.

It's game day at Michigan Stadium

November, 21, 2009
11/21/09
10:00
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- College football's greatest rivalry resumes today as No. 10 Ohio State and Michigan meet for the 106th time at Michigan Stadium.

What it means: Ohio State already has locked up the Big Ten's automatic BCS bowl berth, but the Buckeyes can win the league title outright for the third time in four seasons with a win today. The Buckeyes also can extend their win streak against Michigan to six games. Michigan needs a win to avoid missing the postseason for the second consecutive season. There's a lot of heat on second-year head coach Rich Rodriguez, so a win today would be huge. You shouldn't need to get excited for this game, but just in case, check this out.

Weather: The forecast calls for mostly cloudy skies, light winds and temperatures in the upper 40s and lower 50s.

Injuries: Michigan's official injury report can be found here. The Wolverines will be without leading rusher Brandon Minor (shoulder) and most likely starting safety Mike Williams (ankle). Minor's absence could really sting against Ohio State's stout defense. The Buckeyes are as healthy as they've been in a while. Jim Cordle and J.B. Shugarts are expected to start at left tackle and right tackle.

THREE KEYS FOR OHIO STATE

1. Block Brandon Graham -- Sounds pretty straightforward, but few teams have been able to successfully keep the Michigan star defensive end out of the backfield. Ohio State must keep Graham away from quarterback Terrelle Pryor and find running room elsewhere. The Buckeyes' offensive line is coming off of its best game.

2. Throw downfield a few times -- This isn't exactly the Iowa secondary, which leads the Big Ten in interceptions. Michigan's back four have really struggled this season, and head coach Jim Tressel should let Pryor take some shots downfield with big-play wideouts DeVier Posey and Dane Sanzenbacher. Ohio State shouldn't and won't get away from its bread-and-butter rushing attack. Michigan can't stop the run, either.

3. Keep Tate Forcier in the pocket -- The Michigan freshman quarterback creates big plays with his feet but can struggle when kept between the tackles. Ohio State's defensive ends and linebackers must keep contain on Foricer and make him complete passes within the pocket.

THREE KEYS FOR MICHIGAN

1. Force Pryor into mistakes -- Pryor has been very careful with the football since his four-turnover disaster against Purdue, but Michigan needs to force errors from the Buckeyes' sophomore. The Wolverines have to win the turnover battle and put pressure on Pryor with Graham and their other linemen.

2. Play 60 minutes -- Michigan's problems have come after halftime in recent weeks, as the Wolverines couldn't hold leads against Purdue, Illinois and Wisconsin. Ohio State has outscored teams 83-31 in the third quarter this season, so Michigan can't stumble out of the locker room after the break.

3. Make Ohio State defense chase -- Forcier has freelanced his way into good situations this fall, and Michigan boasts a decent number of big-play threats. Without power back Brandon Minor, Michigan must force Ohio State to play in space and hope to gash the Buckeyes for big plays.
Michigan players have selected defensive end Brandon Graham, left tackle Mark Ortmann, linebacker Stevie Brown and punter Zoltan Mesko as captains for the 2009 season, head coach Rich Rodriguez announced Thursday. Rodriguez had previously named captains for each game this fall.

No major surprises here, as all four seniors served as game captains on multiple occasions. Graham is a candidate for Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors, while both Mesko and Ortmann are candidates for All-Big Ten honors.

"Stevie, Brandon, Zoltan and Mark have played at a high level all season and received the greatest honor that a player can receive, selection as captain by your peers," Rodriguez said in a statement. "They, and our other seniors, will lead us into Michigan Stadium Saturday to play the greatest rivalry game in college football."

Michigan finishes the regular season Saturday against No. 10 Ohio State (ABC, noon ET).

The team also issued its official injury report for the Ohio State game.

OUT
DOUBTFUL (25 percent chance of playing)
  • S Mike Williams, ankle
PROBABLE (75 percent chance of playing)

Minor's absence will sting, as he might be the Big Ten's most dominant runner when healthy. Injuries have dogged the Wolverines senior all season, limiting his availability. Selfishly, I really wanted to see Minor out there one more time, especially against a great defense like Ohio State's. Carlos Brown likely will be the featured back for Michigan, though freshman Vincent Smith got a lot of playing time last week. Williams' absence reduces the depth in an already suspect secondary. Freshman Brandon Smith likely will get the start if Williams can't go, but Michigan has all sorts of problems in the back four. Odoms' presence gives Michigan another weapon on offense.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg


No. 22 Michigan has issued its injury report for Saturday's game at Michigan State (Big Ten Network, noon ET).

OUT
  • Center David Molk, foot
  • Cornerback Zac Johnson, shoulder
PROBABLE

Michigan's struggling secondary certainly could use Williams against the Spartans, so his progress bodes well. Williams has 16 tackles in three games and can aid in coverage as Michigan contends with a deep group of wide receivers and tight ends. Obviously, quarterback Tate Forcier's absence from the injury report indicates he should be fine for the game after hurting his shoulder last week. Running back Kevin Grady, defensive end Brandon Graham, running back Brandon Minor and left tackle Mark Ortmann will serve as game captains.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg


Rich Rodriguez can breathe a bit easier. Bill Lynch looks like his head might explode.

Michigan survived a major scare from a relentless Indiana team, as Tate Forcier overcame some sloppiness to lead another clutch scoring drive in a 36-33 victory. Forcier looks like he's about 150 pounds, but he's pretty darn tough. His throwing shoulder still looked pretty sore on the final drive, but he made a great pass to Martavious Odoms for the game-winner.

Given how entertaining the game turned out to be, it would have been nice to see controversy stay out of the ending. Lynch seemed to have a legitimate beef about the simultaneous possession that resulted in a Michigan interception rather than an Indiana reception. I was surprised to see the officials rule an interception on the field because tie-ups usually go to the offensive player.

Indiana has nothing to feel bad about despite a heartbreaking loss. The Hoosiers displayed a balanced offense throughout the game, and redshirt freshman running back Darius Willis looks like the real deal (152 rush yards, 2 TDs). Tandon Doss emerged as a big-play threat, and Indiana repeatedly showed resolve in a tough environment. You have to think the Hoosiers will win a few more games than many had projected.

Michigan has some major repair work to do in the secondary, which looked dysfunctional for most of the game. The Wolverines missed safety Mike Williams, and cornerback Boubacar Cissoko struggled against the IU wideouts. Rodriguez has to be encouraged by Forcier's clutch play and another strong game from Carlos Brown, who might be the team's best running back, but the Wolverines clearly have some major issues on defense. David Moosman also had a tough day in replacing David Molk at center.

Michigan exceeds its wins total from 2008 with a 4-0 start, while Indiana fails to notch its first win in Ann Arbor since 1967.

Michigan injury report

September, 24, 2009
9/24/09
7:53
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Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg


Michigan has issued its injury report for Saturday's game against Indiana (ESPN2, noon ET).

OUT
  • Center David Molk, foot
DOUBTFUL
  • Safety Mike Williams, ankle
PROBABLE
  • Center David Moosman, shoulder
  • Guard Tim McAvoy, knee
We knew Molk was out, and head coach Rich Rodriguez announced that Moosman will start at center. Michigan probably can survive without Williams for a game or two, but the Wolverines need him back soon. Freshman Jordan Kovacs could get the start at safety. Rodriguez announced that linebacker Stevie Brown, quarterback David Cone, wide receiver Greg Mathews and punter Zoltan Mesko will serve as captains for the game.

What to watch in the Big Ten: Week 4

September, 24, 2009
9/24/09
8:00
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Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg


Conference play kicks off on Saturday, and here are 10 things you don't want to miss.

1. Health in Happy Valley -- Both Penn State and Iowa could be without key players when they meet Saturday night at Beaver Stadium (ABC, 8 p.m. ET). Nittany Lions star linebacker Sean Lee (knee) is iffy for the game and Navorro Bowman (groin) likely won't be 100 percent, putting a lot of pressure on Josh Hull and Nate Stupar. Iowa could once again be without star left tackle Bryan Bulaga (illness), while pass-catching threats Tony Moeaki (ankle) and Derrell Johnson-Koulianos (hamstring) are questionable.

2. Illinois hopes The Shoe fits -- After a bye week, the Illini make their first trip to Ohio Stadium since shocking the top-ranked Buckeyes back in 2007. With a brutal stretch of Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan State, the Illini need another minor miracle against a tough Buckeyes defense. Illinois' high-powered offense is finally healthy, while the defense plays its first game without starting middle linebacker Martez Wilson (neck, out for season).

3. Spartans face must win -- Like Illinois, Michigan State can't afford a prolonged losing streak to open conference play. The Spartans have dropped back-to-back close games, and they now head to Wisconsin, where the Badgers rarely lose. Head coach Mark Dantonio still likes his team's poise in defeat, and quarterback Kirk Cousins handled the Notre Dame loss extremely well, but the Spartans need to get over the hump and win. Cousins' response against a vulnerable Wisconsin defense will be key, and Michigan State's defense needs to step up against the Badgers' rushing attack.

4. IU turns up the heat in the Big House -- Indiana is off to a surprising 3-0 start, but the Hoosiers are three-touchdown underdogs heading to Michigan. To have any shot at an upset, Indiana needs standout defensive ends Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton to harass Michigan quarterback Tate Forcier all game long. Kirlew and Middleton have combined for 40 career sacks, the most for any tandem in the FBS, and both have to make plays to slow down Michigan's offense.

5. Boilers run game tries to get back on track -- After being shut down by Northern Illinois, sophomore running back Ralph Bolden and the Purdue offense try to rebound against Notre Dame, which ranks 74th nationally against the rush (149.3 ypg). The Irish offense won't be quite as explosive with Michael Floyd out and Jimmy Clausen a bit hobbled, but Purdue will need to put up points like it did in Weeks 1 and 2 to keep pace. Quarterback Joey Elliott wants to revive the downfield passing attack, but he refuses to abandon the run.

6. Clark vs. Stanzi -- The Penn State-Iowa game features a fascinating matchup at quarterback. Iowa's Ricky Stanzi prevailed last year in a game where he began a trend of slow starts and fast finishes. Stanzi really struggled in the first half before leading two fourth-quarter scoring drives. He has followed a similar pattern this year but likely can't afford to make the same early mistakes in Happy Valley. Clark was still battling the effects of a concussion and really struggled at Kinnick Stadium, completing just 9 of 23 passes with an interception. The senior will be determined to bounce back Saturday night.

7. Northwestern's defense vs. Decker -- Wide receiver Eric Decker has done it all for Minnesota's offense to this point, and he'll look for another big day in Evanston. Northwestern had no answer for Syracuse star wideout Mike Williams last week, but the Wildcats should get top cover corner Sherrick McManis back from a leg injury. Decker could be limited by a sprained ankle, and Minnesota needs to spark its rushing attack, which ranks last in the Big Ten (85.7 ypg). Northwestern has struggled with tackling and fundamentals so far, so the unit that gets on track Saturday likely will prevail.

8. Pryor vs. Juice -- Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor and Illinois' Juice Williams both came to college amid lofty expectations. Both were thrust into starting roles as true freshmen and endured their ups and downs. The two talented quarterbacks meet at Ohio Stadium in a key game for both teams. Pryor performed well last year at Illinois (110 rush yards on 13 carries), while Williams had a career day in his last trip to Columbus (4 TD passes). "There’s a lot of similarities," Williams said. "Last year he did a great job of leading his team to the Fiesta Bowl. He did an extraordinary job. This year, he just got better. ... It’s hard to play against another great player."

9. Wisconsin's revolving door at running back -- It seems like the Badgers' situation at running back changes every week. Zach Brown was a surprise starter for the season opener, while John Clay leapfrogged him after the Fresno State game. But Clay's three fumbles (one lost) last week against FCS Wofford put Brown back on the top of the depth chart. Both Brown and Clay will compete for carries this week, and it'll be interesting to see who emerges against the Spartans, who rank 25th nationally against the run (87 ypg).

10. Lions, Buckeyes try to change history -- It's hard to explain why certain teams fare better against others, and Big Ten title contenders Penn State and Ohio State both face tricky tests Saturday. Penn State has dropped six of its last seven meetings to Iowa, including last year's last-second loss at Kinnick Stadium. Ohio State has dropped seven of its last 10 home games against Illinois, including three of the last four. Will history repeat or be rewritten Saturday? Stay tuned.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg


Good news for Northwestern's defense as starting cornerback Sherrick McManis and starting middle linebacker Nate Williams both participated fully in Wednesday's practice, according to a team spokesman.

Reserve running back Jeravin Matthews also practiced without any restrictions Wednesday. Both McManis and Matthews have missed the last two games with injuries, while Williams was a late scratch last Saturday against Syracuse.

McManis' return looms large for the Wildcats as they face Minnesota star wide receiver Eric Decker on Saturday. Northwestern had no answer for Syracuse's Mike Williams in a 37-34 loss, and you could make a good case the Wildcats would have won the game had McManis played.

Williams also provides a boost to a defense that hasn't tackled well for much of the season.

Michigan loses Molk, regains Moosman

September, 21, 2009
9/21/09
11:55
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg


Michigan will be without arguably its best offensive lineman for four to six weeks, as center David Molk sits out with a broken bone in his foot.

Molk, a redshirt sophomore who has started the last 15 games at center, will undergo surgery later today and miss at least a month.

"That’s a tough blow," head coach Rich Rodriguez said Monday. "Not only does he play center, the leader of the line, but David is not just one of our best linemen, he is one of our best football players, period. So we’ll have to adjust a little bit."

The Wolverines did get some good news as senior offensive lineman David Moosman should return from a shoulder injury. Rodriguez expects Moosman to start at center this week against Indiana (Big Ten Network, noon ET). Michigan also might get guard Tim McAvoy (knee) on the field for the first time this year.

In other health news, Wolverines safety Mike Williams and running back Brandon Minor are both day to day with ankle injuries. Minor had just three carries against Eastern Michigan before the ankle forced him to come out of the game. Expect senior Carlos Brown to start against Indiana after his 187-yard rushing performance against Eastern Michigan.

Rodriguez also said Monday that starting quarterback Tate Forcier was a bit banged up Saturday but should be fine for the Indiana game.
“That’s a tough blow,” head coach Rich Rodriguez said Monday. “Not only does he play center, the leader of the line, but David is not just one of our best linemen, he is one of our best football players, period. So we’ll have to adjust a little bit.”

Big Ten power rankings: Week 4

September, 21, 2009
9/21/09
9:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg


Ohio State answered the bell and finally dominated a team, while the Big Ten's upper crust has separated itself. The top five look pretty solid, while the bottom six are a muddled mess.

1. Penn State (3-0) -- The exhibition season is over for Penn State, which looked better on offense and just as stingy against Temple. The Lions finally established a decent running game, and not a moment too soon with Iowa visiting Happy Valley this week. Linebacker Sean Lee has been fabulous in his return to the field, and Penn State's defense is setting the tone. But things are about to get much tougher.

2. Ohio State (2-1) -- I probably punished the Buckeyes a little too much last week, but I needed to see them deliver a convincing performance against an inferior opponent. Terrelle Pryor and the much-maligned offense clicked against Toledo, and the defensive line was merciless against Aaron Opelt and the Rockets. The Buckeyes defense has things rolling right now as Juice Williams returns to Columbus this week.

3. Michigan (3-0) -- This has more to do with Ohio State's overdue performance than anything Michigan did against Eastern Michigan. Wolverines freshman quarterback Tate Forcier looked his age at times Saturday, but Carlos Brown and the rushing attack picked him up nicely. A young Michigan defense still has some things to shore up against the run as it opens Big Ten play against Indiana.

4. Iowa (3-0) -- No Big Ten team has looked more impressive the last two weeks than the Hawkeyes, though national respect is still hard to come by. The good news? Iowa can gain a ton of cred by upsetting No. 5 Penn State on Saturday night in the Whiteout at Beaver Stadium. The defense must maintain its edge and quarterback Ricky Stanzi needs to limit his first-half mistakes in Happy Valley.

5. Wisconsin (3-0) -- The Badgers took care of business against FCS Wofford and continued to get steady play from junior quarterback Scott Tolzien. The schedule really favors Wisconsin this year, with four consecutive home games to begin the season, and Bret Bielema's team has capitalized. Michigan State will be a desperate team Saturday, but Wisconsin gets the Spartans and Camp Randall Stadium.

6. Minnesota (2-1) -- After a rough start, Minnesota rallied against Cal and made the nation's eighth-ranked team work for a victory at TCF Bank Stadium. Kevin Cosgrove and Ron Lee have the defense playing extremely hard, especially in the front seven. Eric Decker is a stud, but the offense remains far too one-dimensional. The Gophers will struggle in the Big Ten if they can't run the ball.

7. Indiana (3-0) -- Surprised to see the Hoosiers here? Well, they deserve it after their second 3-0 start in the last three seasons. Akron clearly missed suspended quarterback Chris Jacquemain, but Indiana took advantage of the situation and intercepted backup Matt Rodgers four times. The competition gets much harder this week at Michigan, but kudos to Bill Lynch and Indiana for the hot start.

T-8. Northwestern (2-1) -- The Wildcats resume looks pretty weak right now, with a blowout win against Towson and a close call against Eastern Michigan followed by a loss at Syracuse. A banged-up defense let Greg Paulus and Mike Williams pile up yards and points Saturday, leading some to believe that last year's improvement was a fluke. Quarterback Mike Kafka's play was very encouraging, but if the defense reverts to pre-2008 form, Northwestern will struggle in the Big Ten.

T-8. Michigan State (1-2) -- Credit the Spartans for playing extremely hard in South Bend, but they still came out with a tough loss. Listening to quarterback Kirk Cousins, who handled a difficult situation well, you'd think these Spartans won't go the way of their predecessors. A trip to Madison this week has to be classified as a must win before arch-rival Michigan visits East Lansing on Oct. 3.

10. Illinois (1-1) -- The Illini didn't play on Saturday, but they lost a huge piece of their defense last week as middle linebacker Martez Wilson (neck) will miss the rest of the season. Wilson will be missed, and linebackers Ian Thomas and Russell Ellington must pick up the slack. The biggest boost must come from Juice Williams, Arrelious Benn and the offense. Illinois season could be decided in the next three games (Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan State).

11. Purdue (1-2) -- A home loss to Northern Illinois carries a price, even though the Huskies are an improved team. NIU loaded up against the run and held Ralph Bolden in check, and Purdue couldn't get its downfield passing game going. It's hard to know what to make of Purdue, which should have beaten Oregon on the road but really struggled against NIU. The Boilers can strike back this Saturday night against Notre Dame (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET).
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Football can be a cruel game, as Mike Kafka found out Saturday night at the Carrier Dome.

Northwestern deserved to lose to Syracuse. The Wildcats were uncharacteristically undisciplined, committing a flurry of penalties. Their banged-up defense had no answer for Greg Paulus or Mike Williams. And their special teams once again struggled.

Kafka was the only reason Northwestern stayed in the game, and yet his mistake is the one people will remember. The senior quarterback had a career night, completing 35 of 42 passes for 390 yards and three touchdowns. He completed his first 16 passes and went 18-for-19 in the first half.

But his 42nd attempt, a terrible decision that resulted in an interception, led to the Wildcats' demise. Northwestern had the ball in plus territory with the game tied, but a critical drop by Andrew Brewer and Kafka's interception gave Syracuse one final chance, and the Orange cashed in.

The defense lost this game for Northwestern, and while injured cornerback Sherrick McManis would have made a huge difference against Williams, the performance was inexcusable. Twice Northwestern had leads, and twice the defense let Syracuse answer easily. Leading 34-27 in the fourth quarter, Northwestern failed to stay with Williams and allowed an easy touchdown.

Kafka's performance and the team's rally from a 17-0 deficit are positive signs, but if the defense doesn't get healthier and a lot better, it'll be a very long season for Pat Fitzgerald's crew. These are the games that prevent Northwestern from getting much respect around the Big Ten, and the loss will test the team's resolve.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

A very entertaining game between Northwestern and Syracuse so far. The teams have combined for 45 points and a ton of big plays.

Northwestern looked sloppy early on, falling behind 17-0. But the Wildcats scored 21 unanswered points to take the lead as quarterback Mike Kafka completed his first 16 pass attempts and 18 of 19 in the half for 242 yards and two scores. Syracuse answered to go ahead, 24-21.

The Wildcats are extremely banged up on defense, and Greg Paulus has taken advantage. Northwestern is playing without starting middle linebacker Nate Williams, starting corner Sherrick McManis and backup corner Justan Vaughn. Syracuse's Mike Williams is having a field day against the secondary.

Northwestern is also without running backs Stephen Simmpons and Jeravin Matthews, but Kafka has kept the offense afloat.

The team that makes the best halftime adjustments wins this one.

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