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November 8, 2006
Big Ten: Week 11 Breakdown
Five score and two years ago: It has been more than a century since the Big Ten last had two teams reach 10-0. The year was 1904, when Michigan and Minnesota both finished undefeated. This year it's the Wolverines and Ohio State which carry 10-0 marks, but both won't be finishing undefeated. If they survive this weekend they'll meet on Nov. 18 in Columbus.
Best matchup: The Indiana passing offense vs. the Michigan pass defense. You've heard all about the Wolverines run defense, and rightfully so. It has been awesome, and it remains on pace to yield the lowest per-game average in more than 40 years. Consequently, teams have to throw the ball to get anywhere against Michigan. The problem if your Lloyd Carr and defensive coordinator Ron English is that teams have been able to throw the ball with relative ease. The Wolverines are 76th in the nation in pass defense, and that isn't all garbage yardage. The Hoosiers have been throwing it around with relative success under redshirt freshman quarterback Kellen Lewis. They're 33rd in the nation in passing offense, good for third in the conference just ahead of Ohio State.
Worst matchup: The Temple offense vs. the Penn State defense. The Owls are last in the nation in total offense and 115th out of 119 teams in scoring offense. The Nittany Lions are 22nd in scoring defense and 32nd in total defense. But it's OK, because Temple is used to long days on Saturdays.
The pressure is on: Ohio State's offense and Michigan's defense. Among the strongest units in the nation, neither looked the part last week against less-than-stellar competition. The Wolverines wound up in a dogfight with Ball State and surrendered 26 points and 250 passing yards. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes were shut out in the second half against Illinois and managed only 224 total yards. Efforts like that this week, with both teams on the road and looking ahead to their matchup next week, and suddenly it won't be the game we've all been dreaming about because one of them will come in with a loss.
Upset alert: Indiana's Kellen Lewis and James Hardy are capable of throwing another big scare into Michigan. The Wolverines need to get to Lewis, who also can make plays with his legs (75 rushing yards in each of IU's last two games).
BCS implications: Is either of the Big Two primed for an upset? Or did last week's hiccups get them more focused to follow the clichι "one game at a time?" They had better not look ahead or one of them could get caught napping.
Who's hot: Illinois linebacker J Leman had 19 tackles against Ohio State, including 3.5 for loss. He has 11 tackles for loss in the past four games and is the Big Ten's leading tackler. Northwestern running back Tyrell Sutton has 428 yards in the past four games, including 168 in the Wildcats' 21-7 upset at Iowa on Saturday.
Who's not: The Indiana defense. When you make this year's Minnesota offense look like a world beater, you've gone the extra mile to look bad. The Hoosiers were allowing 35.4 points per game in Big Ten play before they allowed the Golden Gophers to score 63. Minnesota hadn't so much as topped the 30-point mark in the conference. The Gophers came in averaging 308.2 yards per game in the conference before dropping 541 on IU. Michigan State quarterback Drew Stanton has completed just 26 of his last 51 passes for 261 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions as the Spartans have lost their past two games. Illinois true freshman quarterback Juice Williams hasn't completed more than 48 percent of his passes in a game in his past five outings.
Must see TV: Michigan at Indiana, 3:30 p.m., ESPN.
Newcomer/Backup that could have an impact: Indiana redshirt freshman running back Demetrius McCray will have to provide some help on the ground to keep the Michigan defense honest. McCray had the biggest game of his young career in the blowout loss to Minnesota, with 92 total yards and three touchdowns.
Key stat: Michigan is 76th in the nation in pass defense, allowing 211.2 yards per game.
Take the line: Indiana is getting a whopping 19 points at home against Michigan. The Wolverines haven't beaten a Big Ten team by more than 18 this season, and that was at home against Michigan State after it had lost to Illinois. Take the Hoosiers. Season against the line: 7-3.
They said it: "I don't know what (being the) overwhelming favorite does for us. It doesn't spot us any points, or get us any first downs. So what does it say that we got taken against the wall? Everybody can get taken against the wall." Ohio State coach Jim Tressel
Injury update: Penn State football coach Joe Paterno is expected to be on the sidelined for the game against Temple on Saturday after surgery to repair injuries to his left leg. The injuries were suffered last weekend in a sideline collision during the game against Wisconsin. Paterno suffered a tibial plateau fracture of his left leg (top of shin bone) and tore the medial collateral ligament and posterior cruciate ligament in his knee. The mishap occurred in the third quarter when Wisconsin's DeAndre Levy and Penn State tight end Andrew Quarless tumbled into Paterno after a Quarless catch. ... Michigan receiver Mario Manningham was in for about 10 snaps against Ball State, though he did not catch a pass. He is slated to start on Saturday at Indiana.
Worth noting: With 10 points in Saturday's win over Ball State, kicker Garrett Rivas became Michigan's all-time leading scorer (339 points). He supplanted running back Anthony Thomas on the list. Northwestern became just the third team to win at Iowa in the past 30 games. The only other teams to beat the Hawkeyes at Kinnick Stadium in that span were Ohio State and Michigan. Good news for Michigan: Indiana has never beaten a team ranked in the top two in the nation. Indiana's Marcus Thigpen has the best kickoff return average (32.7) for a Big Ten player since Purdue's Stan Brown in 1970. The Ohio State defense is giving up the fewest points (7.2 per game) of any conference team since the 1985 Michigan squad. The average margin of victory against Illinois in conference play last season was 34.3. The much-improved Illini have cut that margin to 7.2 points this season. Former Illinois running back Jim Grabowski will call his last Illini game on the radio on Saturday. He's hanging it up after 28 years in the booth. Iowa's last win against a ranked opponent came against Wisconsin last season. It plays host to the 16th-ranked Badgers on Saturday. Kyler Schlicher's next field goal will be the 50th of his career at Iowa. Hawkeyes defensive end Bryan Mattison has forced four fumbles, which ranks fifth nationally. No one on his father's defense (Greg Mattison is co-defensive coordinator at Florida) has forced more than two fumbles.
Looking back: C.J. Bacher passed for 200-plus yards for the third consecutive game and Northwestern shut down Drew Tate to shock host Iowa 21-7. Visiting Ohio State built a 17-0 halftime lead then hung on to beat Illinois 17-10. Michigan rushed for a season-high 352 yards, with 100-plus yards from Mike Hart and freshman Brandon Minor, and held off Ball State 34-26. Minnesota, behind 378 passing yards and four TD tosses from Bryan Cupito, routed Indiana 63-26. Casey Welch kicked a 19-yard field goal with 4:49 to play as Purdue slipped by Michigan State 17-15. Wisconsin got 148 yards from redshirt freshman running back P.J. Hill and limited Penn State running back Tony Hunt to just 35 yards on 11 carries as the Badgers turned back the Nittany Lions 13-3.
Freshman who impressed: A pair of freshman cornerbacks in the Land of Lincoln had impressive outings. Northwestern's Sherrick McManis made his second career start and came up with five tackles and a pass breakup in the upset of Iowa. Illinois' Vontae Davis was instrumental in helping the Illini limit Ohio State to just 17 points and 108 passing yards. Michigan running back Brandon Minor had the first 100-yard game of his career against Ball State, including a 40-yard touchdown.
Bowl watch: Ohio State (10-0), Michigan (10-0), Wisconsin (9-1), Penn State (6-4) and Iowa (6-4) are eligible. Indiana (5-5) is one win away. Purdue sits at 6-4, but must win one more because it has a 13th game at Hawaii.