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November 17, 2005The Big Ten season wraps up Saturday, but there's still a lot at stake within the conference.
Penn State must win to secure its automatic BCS bid, but to do so the Nittany Lions must get past a Michigan State team which needs one more win to become bowl eligible.
In the most hyped game of the week, No. 9 Ohio State travels to Ann Arbor to face its arch rival, No. 17 Michigan. Get the scoop on the rest of this week's Big Ten matchups.
All game times are Eastern Time.
Minnesota (7-3, 4-3) at Iowa (6-4, 4-3)
Saturday, noon, ESPN2
The Daily Line: Iowa -4?
Minnesota player to watch: Minnesota's running attack further proved itself to be the nation's best last week as Amir Pinnix became the third Minnesota back to rush for more than 185 yards in a single game this season. Pinnix may not get many touches, though, because Laurence Maroney and Gary Russell are both healthy.
Iowa player to watch: Chad Greenway did more than his fair share to smother Wisconsin's Brian Calhoun last weekend. Greenway piled up 12 tackles, including a tackle for loss, as Calhoun was held to 18 rushing yards.
The inside scoop: With a win on Saturday and a Michigan loss against the Buckeyes, Minnesota will sneak into a third place finish in the conference. The Gophers have the best running game in the nation, but Iowa showed it knows how to shut down explosive running games last weekend. On the other side of the ball, Iowa's Albert Young is still the best running back that nobody is talking about.
Minnesota will win if it rushes for more than 300 yards again.
Iowa will win if it controls the line of scrimmage.
Notes: Minnesota is averaging a whopping 295 rushing yards per game, which is the best in the nation by 11 yards. Iowa held Wisconsin to only 176 total yards of offense last weekend. Ed Hinkel caught four passes for 50 yards in his return from a broken arm last weekend.
The pick: Minnesota 34, Iowa 31
Northwestern (6-4, 4-3) at Illinois (2-8, 0-7)
Saturday, noon, ESPN Plus
The Daily Line: Northwestern -14?
Northwestern player to watch: Tyrell Sutton has a real shot at winning the Rivals.com Freshman of the Year award. His 6.6 ypc against Ohio State was downright impressive, but other freshmen are gaining fast. Since the outcome of this game isn't in doubt, keep an eye on what kind of stats Sutton puts up. Another 150 yard, 2-touchdown performance, and he's a near lock for the award.
Illinois player to watch: Tim Brasic had his first truly terrible game of the season last weekend. His sub-par performances against Ohio State and Penn State are to be excused, but 49 passing yards is inexcusable against Purdue. Here's to hoping that he ends the season on something other than a remarkably low note.
The inside scoop: Senior quarterback Brett Basanez is only 561 yards shy of taking over second place for total offense in Big Ten history. Former Indiana quarterback Atwaan Randle El currently sits in second with 11,364 yards. Watching Basanez's charge for Randle El's spot will be more bearable than watching Illinois get pounded by 30-plus points again.
Northwestern will have won by the end of the first quarter. That should be enough time to put a few touchdowns on the board.
Illinois will lose its eighth straight game to close out a dreadful season.
Notes: Against Ohio State last weekend, Northwestern was held 257 yards under its previous average of 508 yards per game. Illinois ranks 110th in the nation in total defense, giving up 456.6 yards per game. Northwestern is 116th (second to last) in NCAA D-IA in total defense, giving up 487.2 yards per game.
The pick: Northwestern 54, Illinois 23
No. 9 Ohio State (8-2, 6-1) at No. 17 Michigan (7-3, 5-2)
Saturday, 1 p.m., ABC
The Daily Line: Ohio State -3
Ohio State player to watch: All eyes will be on Troy Smith, who torched the Wolverines last year for 368 yards of offense. But Antonio Pittman's emergence this season has provided a serious boost to a struggling Ohio State offense. If Pittman can get the ground game going, things will be much easier for Smith.
Michigan player to watch: Michael Hart is listed as probable against Ohio State, and the Wolverines must be relieved. Even so, it'll be tough to move the ball against the Buckeyes' stellar defense. The solution? Kick returner Steve Breaston, who has been on a tear after a slow start. If Breaston can provide a short field on occasion, the Wolverines offense is still potent enough to do the rest.
The inside scoop: This is college football at its best - two teams steeping in tradition battling for bragging rights for the next year - not to mention a better bowl game. Between Ted Ginn and Breaston, the return games of these two teams could go a long way in deciding what is sure to be a classic Big Ten grudge match.
Ohio State will win if its defense can neutralize the run and prevent any long returns.
Michigan will win if the Wolverines can keep Pittman and Smith from running buck-wild on them.
Notes: The Buckeyes have scored 35 points or more for five consecutive games, which hasn't been done at Ohio State since 1977. Michigan has a healthy overall lead in the series at 57-38-6. Ohio State linebacker A.J. Hawk has been announced as one of three finalists for the Butkus Award.
The pick: Ohio State 24, Michigan 20.
Purdue (1-5, 3-6) at Indiana (4-6, 1-6)
Saturday, 1 p.m.
The Daily Line: Purdue -12
Purdue player to watch: After a quick start to the season, Jerod Void cooled considerably during the meat of Purdue's schedule. But the senior running back is finishing his football career in strong fashion, having compiled 236 yards and four scores in the last two games. Look for Void to put the icing on his career with another 100-yard performance.
Indiana player to watch: James Hardy figures to be back in the lineup for Indiana on Saturday, and the Hoosiers' fans rejoice. Hardy is just 145 yards shy of reaching the 1,000-yard plateau, but he'll have a tough time reaching the mark against a Purdue defense which has just recently found its legs.
The inside scoop: This is a dangerous game for Purdue. The Boilermakers are polishing off an undoubtedly disappointing season, while a win Saturday will give Indiana its first five-win season since 2001. But Purdue seems to just be hitting stride, and the Boilermakers won't let the Hoosiers get away with an easy 'upset.'
Purdue will win if Void rushes for 100 yards and quarterback Curtis Painter avoids costly mistakes.
Indiana will win if Hardy returns to pre-injury form.
Notes: Purdue has won two games in a row for the first time since the first two games of the season. Indiana has yet to beat a team with a winning record this season. These two teams are surrendering a combined average of 61.5 points per game.
The pick: Purdue 27, Indiana 23
No. 5 Penn State (9-1, 6-1) at Michigan State (5-5, 2-5)
Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN
The Daily Line: Penn State -7?
Penn State player to watch: Linebacker Paul Posluszny was overshadowed at the beginning of the season by more hyped 'backers, but he has everyone's attention now. Posluszny has made the final list of three for the Butkus Award, and a good performance shutting down the Spartans could lock up the honor.
Michigan State player to watch: Games hardly come more pressure-packed than this, and the Spartans are going to need someone to step up in a big way to have a shot at knocking off PSU. Forget defense - Michigan State has to find a way to score on the nation's 11th-best defense. Quarterback Drew Stanton had better bring his best game.
The inside scoop: This game means everything for both teams. The Nittany Lions are playing for an automatic BCS bid, while Michigan State has to win just to make it to a bowl game. Penn State has shut down several powerful offenses already this season, but Michigan State will be another beast entirely on Saturday. The game is in East Lansing, and the Spartans have their backs to the wall.
Penn State will win if the defense performs like it did against Ohio State, Minnesota and Wisconsin - among others.
Michigan State will win if Stanton has the game of his career.
Notes: Penn State is 11th in the nation in total defense (297.1 ypg). Stanton is ninth in the nation with 310 yards of offense per game. After winning its first four games, Michigan State has dropped five of its last six.
The pick: Penn State 38, Michigan State 35
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