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Thursday, October 9, 2008
Big Ten picks for Week 7


Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

At first glance, this week's slate appears a little easier to project, but as we've found out this season, anything can happen on Saturday. The Big Ten title picture will take shape even more as No. 6 Penn State faces its toughest test to date against hungry Wisconsin, while No. 23 Michigan State visits unbeaten Northwestern.

No promises of another perfect week, but here's how I see things shaking out.

Iowa 24, Indiana 20 -- The Hawkeyes finally break through after dropping three consecutive games by a combined nine points. Both teams are struggling, but Iowa has fewer problems. Iowa can run the football with Shonn Greene and contain Kellen Lewis with one of the Big Ten's most physical defensive lines. The Hawkeyes limit turnovers, force some and beat an Indiana team still searching for its identity.

Michigan 30, Toledo 13 -- Rich Rodriguez called out his team for playing soft last week, and the Wolverines should respond against a weak Toledo team. Michigan's defense could be without top pass rusher Brandon Graham but regains the form it showed in the first four games. Toledo ranks 110th nationally in scoring defense (35.8 ppg), so quarterback Steven Threet and the Michigan offense turn in a strong showing.

Illinois 34, Minnesota 24 -- This should be a good one, as Minnesota coach Tim Brewster returns to his alma mater with a surprising 5-1 Golden Gophers team. An upset of the high-powered Illini would further validate Minnesota's surge, but quarterback Juice Williams and his many weapons overpower an improved defense. Keep an eye on the perimeter, as Illinois' Arrelious Benn goes up against talented cover man Marcus Sherels and FBS receiving leader Eric Decker faces Illini star cornerback Vontae Davis.

Ohio State 34, Purdue 17 -- The Boilermakers' bend-but-don't-break defense could keep the game close for a while, especially if Chris "Beanie" Wells is limited by soreness in his right foot. But Purdue's passing game has been inconsistent all season, and Ohio State's veteran secondary will capitalize on Saturday. Coach Joe Tiller sticks with struggling senior quarterback Curtis Painter all game, but Purdue's offense continues to struggle in the red zone, where it ranks 10th in the league (73.3 percent).

Michigan State 23, Northwestern 21 -- Easily the toughest game to pick this week, and one that could go either way. Northwestern has won four of the last six meetings and should have won a fifth in 2006. Wildcats quarterback C.J. Bacher always plays well against the Spartans, who could be banged up in the secondary. Both teams have improved on defense, but the Spartans' offense, led by Heisman Trophy candidate Javon Ringer, will be a little more consistent. Northwestern makes a costly turnover and the Spartans escape with a win.

Penn State 30, Wisconsin 24 -- Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno ends up in the press box again, and he watches his team grind out its toughest win of the season. Wisconsin will be motivated after consecutive losses and last year's 31-point setback in Happy Valley, but Penn State has a better offense than Ohio State and will stretch the Badgers' defense with its numerous weapons. If quarterback Allan Evridge steps up and running backs P.J. Hill and John Clay control the clock, the Badgers could pull the upset, but Penn State prevails.

Byes: None

Season record: 43-7