Chicago Colleges: Jordan White

Big Ten viewer’s guide: Week 7

October, 10, 2014
Oct 10
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):


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

Early Week 1 preview: Illinois

July, 2, 2012
Less than two months remain until the start of the 2012 season, and to get you prepared, we're taking a very early look at the Week 1 opponents throughout the Big Ten. The Tim Beckman era at Illinois begins against a fairly familiar Big Ten nonconference opponent. Let's take a look at what to expect during Beckman's first game at the helm of the Illini.

Week 1 opponent: Western Michigan

Coach: Bill Cubit (eighth season, 47-39)

2011 record: 7-6 (5-3 MAC; lost to Purdue in Little Caesars Pizza Bowl)

Returning starters: 16 (7 offense, 8 defense, 1 specialist)

About the Broncos: Most Big Ten fans need no introduction to the Broncos, who have played six Big Ten squads since the start of the 2008 season (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska and Purdue). Western Michigan has gone .500 or better in three of the past four seasons, reaching bowl games both last year and in 2008, when it won nine games. Cubit, a former WMU offensive coordinator, is known for fielding high-powered attacks that put up big yards and big points. Last year's offense ranked eighth nationally in passing (337.3 ypg), 18th in scoring (35.3 ppg) and 19th in total yards (458.5 ypg). Although record-setting wide receiver Jordan White departs, Western Michigan returns record-setting quarterback Alex Carder (3,873 pass yards, 31 TDs in 2011) and its entire running back corps, led by Tevin Drake. MAC Defensive Player of the Year Drew Nowak departs and new defensive coordinator Rich Nagy has some areas to address at both linebacker and in the secondary.

Random factoid: Western Michigan is one of just three teams outside the Big Ten to face multiple Big Ten teams in both 2011 and 2012. The others: Notre Dame and Eastern Michigan. Western Michigan faced three Big Ten squads in 2011 (Michigan, Illinois and Purdue) and visits two this season (Illinois and Minnesota).

Series with Illinois: The Illini lead 3-1, including a 23-20 victory last September in Champaign.

Totally unscientific percentage chance Illinois wins: 58.3 percent. In addition to the two blockbuster games -- Michigan-Alabama and Michigan State-Boise State -- this should be one of the better matchups involving a Big Ten team on opening weekend. Carder and the Broncos' offense provide a very good test for an Illinois defense expected to be the team's strength. Carder passed for 306 yards and two touchdowns in last year's game in Champaign, and though White's departure hurts, Western Michigan has little trouble developing strong pass-catchers. The Illini need their work-in-progress offense to show up, and Western Michigan is lacking on the defensive side. Illinois ran the ball well last year against the Broncos (296 yards) and must do so again. Given the Illini's treacherous road schedule, they really need to win this one and get the Beckman era off to a good start.



Thursday, 10/16
Saturday, 10/18