Chicago Colleges: Teddy Bridgewater

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
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy's decision to prohibit quarterback Wes Lunt from transferring to the SEC, the Big 12 or Southern Miss is being justifiably panned.

It's petty and hypocritical for coaches, many of whom flirt with other jobs, to restrict players from pursuing their careers at their desired programs. That Tennessee is on Gundy's no-go list -- the same Tennessee that nearly pried Gundy away from his alma mater in December -- underscores the hypocrisy. The Pac-12 and Central Michigan, a future Oklahoma State opponent, also reportedly are off the table for Lunt.

But all of this is good news for Illinois.

Now that potential transfer targets Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Southern Miss are off the table, Lunt likely will decide between Illinois and Louisville. Lunt, a native of Rochester, Ill., wants to play somewhat close to home. Illinois' campus is about 90 minutes from Rochester, while Louisville is approximately a two-and-a-half hour drive.

Lunt started five games for Oklahoma State as a true freshman, passing for 1,108 yards with six touchdowns and seven interceptions. He competed this spring with Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh for the top job but opted to transfer after Chelf emerged as the Cowboys' No. 1 option.

The 6-foot-4, 211-pound Lunt wants to play for a coach he knows, and he has familiarity with Illini head coach Tim Beckman, a former Oklahoma State assistant under Gundy. New Illinois offensive coordinator Bill Cubit also pursued Lunt while Cubit was Western Michigan's head coach. Lunt, who will sit out the 2013 season because of NCAA transfer rules, reportedly visited Illinois on Thursday.

Louisville looks like the more stable option for Lunt as the Cardinals come off of a Sugar Bowl championship and awarded coach Charlie Strong a long-term contract. But Lunt wants to play and could see the field earlier at Illinois, which loses three-year starter Nathan Scheelhaase after the 2013 season. Although Louisville star quarterback Teddy Bridgewater could depart for the NFL after his junior year, the Cardinals have Will Gardner, who picked Louisville over Alabama, ready to step in. Junior Reilly O'Toole and incoming freshman Aaron Bailey are expected to compete for Illinois' starting job in 2014.

Beckman needs some good news before the 2013 campaign. His team undoubtedly will need to show immediate improvement this fall, but adding a piece like Lunt would raise optimism for the future.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TOP 25 SCOREBOARD

Thursday, 10/30
Saturday, 11/1
TOP PERFORMERS