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Saturday, October 6, 2012
Previewing the B1G afternoon games

By Adam Rittenberg

Let's take a quick look at the two Big Ten contests on tap this afternoon:

Illinois (2-3, 0-1 Big Ten) at Wisconsin (3-2, 0-1), 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC regional/ESPN2 mirror: Both of these teams already have reached a critical juncture in their seasons after shaky starts. Things certainly are more dire for Illinois, which has been blown out in three of its past four games by a combined score of 132-45. The Illini rank last in the Big Ten in points allowed (27.8 ppg) after ranking 15th nationally in scoring defense (15.8 ppg) in 2011. Next to Illinois' defense, Wisconsin's offense has been the league's biggest surprise from a production standpoint, as the Badgers still rank last in the league in yards per game (309.2 ypg). Wisconsin showed some improvement last week at Nebraska and once again will turn to redshirt freshman Joel Stave at quarterback. The Badgers are getting healthy and will get defensive ends Brendan Kelly (hamstring) and Pat Muldoon (thumb) back for the game. Illinois defensive end Michael Buchanan will play, while linebacker Jonathan Brown (leg) is a game-time decision. The Illini haven't won in Madison since 2002.

Michigan (2-2) at Purdue (3-1), 4 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network: Although Nebraska-Ohio State and maybe even Northwestern-Penn State are getting more attention, the Michigan-Purdue game could be the most intriguing of the Big Ten's Week 6 slate. Michigan returns to the field for the first time since its turnover train derailment at Notre Dame. Purdue begins its defining stretch of the season -- Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio State -- with a game some Boiler fans think is the team's biggest since the 2004 clash with Wisconsin at Ross-Ade Stadium. Speaking of Ross-Ade, the Boilers have been a juggernaut on their home field, averaging 51 points through the first three games. Michigan's defense appeared to turn a corner at Notre Dame but must contend with Purdue weapons like Antavian Edison, Gary Bush, O.J. Ross, Akeem Shavers and Akeem Hunt. On the other side, Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson goes up against a talented Purdue defense led by Kawann Short, although the unit struggled to contain Marshall last week. Purdue has won 12 of its past 15 Big Ten openers.