Chicago Colleges: Bennet Jackson

Big Ten viewer’s guide: Week 7

October, 10, 2014
Oct 10
10:00
AM CT
Week 7 is here, and let’s not sugarcoat it: Big Ten football has looked more interesting on other weekends. This first Saturday of the season without nonconference action lacks marquee matchups. Still, the division races will continue to take shape.

Here’s a look at the five games (all times Eastern):

Noon

Illinois (3-3) and Wisconsin (3-2), ESPN2: Will Melvin Gordon run for 300 yards? If the Badgers wanted it to happen, Illinois’ 119th-ranked rushing defense would likely comply. More of the intrigue in Madison involves the quarterbacks. For Wisconsin, Joel Stave, who returned last week against Northwestern, will see time, in addition to Tanner McEvoy, who might also take a shot at receiver. And with Illinois’ Wes Lunt out with a fractured leg, senior Reilly O’Toole and sophomore Aaron Bailey, who was set to redshirt, have competed in practice this week.

Indiana (3-2) and Iowa (4-1), ESPNU: Indiana has shown it can win on the road in tough spots, handing Missouri its lone loss on Sept. 20. The Hoosiers are more explosive on offense than any foe Iowa has faced. But Indiana still can’t defend well, in particular against proficient quarterbacks. The Hawkeyes are going back to Jake Rudock at the start, but C.J. Beathard will play. How well can Greg Davis manage this? If it’s a disaster, Indiana might just find itself in the right place at the right time for an upset bid.

[+] EnlargeDavid Cobb
Leon Halip/Getty ImagesDavid Cobb and Minnesota can take a big step in their quest for a Western Division crown by beating Northwestern on Saturday.
Northwestern (3-2) at Minnesota (4-1), BTN: Who would have guessed a month ago, as the Golden Gophers fell flat at TCU and the Wildcats sat winless, that this game would have legitimate implications for the West Division title race? It does, with NU in quest of a third straight unexpected win to open league play. Its defense led the charge against Penn State and Wisconsin. Minnesota is simply solid, led by David Cobb, statistically the league’s most valuable offensive player. Minnesota has defended the pass especially well in recent games and will test Northwestern’s Trevor Siemian, 13th in the Big Ten in QBR.

3:30 p.m.

No. 8 Michigan State (4-1) at Purdue (3-3), ESPN2: At least it’s not the best team in the Big Ten against the worst. Purdue escaped the low spot last week with a win over Illinois. And sophomore quarterback Austin Appleby looked good in the victory. Very good, in fact. Back at home, he figures to find a much more difficult situation against the Spartans, who might come in a bit angry after nearly blowing a 24-point, fourth-quarter lead against Nebraska.

7 p.m.

Penn State (4-1) at Michigan (2-4), ESPN2: The visitors from Happy Valley, after an off week, get an opportunity to show that their anemic performance against Northwestern was just a fluke. With an upcoming stretch of three challenging games, no better time exists for PSU to get healthy than at Michigan, trying to avoid its first 0-3 start in the Big Ten since 1965. Against a good Penn State front, the Wolverines must protect Devin Gardner and throw the football, neither of which they’ve done well in recent weeks.

Required reading

Brian Kelly radio show recap

September, 29, 2011
9/29/11
7:13
PM CT
Rain in the area throughout the week forced Notre Dame indoors during practice for the first time this season, as the Fighting Irish ducked for cover in the comforts of the Loftus Sports Center.

But it's not like the week will be completely unfamiliar to the Irish, who will treat Friday like a home game since they are traveling less than three hours away to West Lafayette. Brian Kelly said during his weekly radio show Thursday that his team will walk-through outside Friday.

He also sent out punters, kickers and return men Thursday to the LaBar Practice Complex to get some work in the rain.

Kelly was asked on his show about his punt return options, namely Bennett Jackson. The second-year coach reiterated that Theo Riddick would be the team's ideal punt returner, but Week 1 struggles there bled into his production as a wide receiver.

"Athletically you can be as fast as you want," Kelly said at Legends of Notre Dame, "but if you don't have a confidence level in catching punts, we saw what happened to Theo offensively."

Here are some notes from Kelly's earlier post-practice session with reporters:
  • Assistants Mike Denbrock, Tony Alford and Chuck Martin will be on the West Coast on Friday for recruiting duties. "For them they can sleep on the plane," Kelly said. "There's plenty of time to sleep in March."
  • On injured linebacker Danny Spond (hamstring): "He's moving around well. He's in a backup role right now. I think if it was a situation where we needed him we could probably go with him, but we like his progress. He's running around and he looks good."
  • An Everett, Mass., native, Kelly began his session by asking if reporters would like to talk about the Red Sox's collapse before saying the Rays were a better story because he's a team guy. "That's the only way I can look at it without jumping off my balcony," he joked.

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