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Storms looming, Big Ten defenses ruling early

9/13/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- It's a toasty, humid day here in north-central Indiana, but not for long. Thunderstorms are expected right around kickoff or shortly thereafter. The rain might slow down Oregon's speedsters, but the accompanying wind will also bring problems for Purdue's pass-oriented spread offense. Either way, weather should be a factor.

Looking around the Big Ten, the defenses are shining in bad weather:

  • The Illinois defense seems to have gotten its act together, storming out to a 17-3 lead against Louisiana-Lafayette. Linebacker Brit Miller already made a huge play, stripping the ball from quarterback Michael Desormeaux and racing 27 yards to the end zone. This game provided a decent test for Illinois' run defense, and so far they've come through on a day where quarterback Juice Williams has had some problems.

  • Michigan State's defensive line also has stepped up so far, holding Florida Atlantic scoreless in the opening half. Owls standout quarterback Rusty Smith had a horrendous half, completing just 4 of 22 passes in a downpour, but credit the Spartans' defense for stepping up (just 88 first-half yards allowed).

  • Iowa continues to move the ball behind Ricky Stanzi and Shonn Greene but has little to show for it so far. Stanzi completed just 5 of his first 12 pass attempts and the Hawkeyes haven't scored since the game's early minutes. Fortunately for them, Iowa State hasn't done anything against a strong defensive front seven.

  • Northwestern's defense continues to hold together long enough for the offense to get going. The Wildcats still have some troubles finding the end zone and the offensive line is a question, but they seem to be best after they get behind and running back Tyrell Sutton is taking over in the rain. And the defense is clearly better and more assertive under new coordinator Mike Hankwitz.

  • Montana State is giving Minnesota some problems, but as expected, quarterback Adam Weber got it together in the second quarter. This could come down to the final minutes.