September 13, 2007

Plenty of power remains

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BUCHANAN'S BIG TEN PICKS
Saturday's games
Illinois 31, Syracuse 20
Indiana 27, Akron 21
Iowa 34, Iowa State 21
Michigan 28, Notre Dame 24
Michigan State 27, Pittsburgh 21
Minnesota 34, Florida Atlantic 14
Northwestern 38, Duke 24
Ohio State 21, Washington 17
Penn State 45, Buffalo 6
Purdue 42, Central Michigan 24
Wisconsin 38, The Citadel 7
Overview: Michigan's early struggles and tougher-than-expected wins for Wisconsin over UNLV and Ohio State over Akron have some wondering if Big Ten football has experienced a power outage. Yet, the Big Ten has more 2-0 teams than any other Division I-A conference. Games against Division I-AA opponents (sorry, Wolverines) are a major factor in that early success, but facts are facts - the Big Ten has eight undefeated teams. That figure could change this week with Ohio State facing unbeaten Washington and Michigan State taking on unbeaten Pittsburgh. Don't look for a dramatic change, though: Big Ten teams also play four winless opponents this week.

Best matchup: Washington vs. Ohio State is one of the few games on the Big Ten schedule that features unbeaten teams.

Washington appears on the rise after knocking off Boise State a week ago, and the Huskies - boosted by redshirt freshman quarterback Jake Locker and tailback Louis Rankin - are averaging 33 points per game. That would appear a stern challenge for Ohio State's defense, which has allowed just eight points after two games.

But the Buckeyes are last in the Big Ten in rushing offense and have managed consecutive rushes of 4 yards or more on just six of 26 possessions. Chris Wells has rushed for 189 yards, but the going isn't likely to be easy against Washington. The Huskies are allowing only 55.5 rushing yards per game.

The pressure is on: Lloyd Carr is one of three Michigan coaches to win at least five Big Ten titles. However, he's in danger of becoming one of three whose teams lost their first three games in a season. The most recent was Harry Kipke's team in 1937. The other was Tad Wieman's in 1928. Both were replaced after those seasons.

Who's hot: Purdue junior quarterback Curtis Painter is coming off the best passing game of his career with six touchdowns against Eastern Illinois. He has thrown 10 touchdowns in two games without an interception. Painter is averaging 296 passing yards per game. … Michigan State receiver Devin Thomas has posted back-to-back 100-yard receiving games, the first Spartan to do that since Charles Rogers.

Who's not: You're kidding, right? That would be the Michigan defense, which has allowed 1,011 yards in two games. Even more damaging, the Wolverines have given up 73 points in two games. That's more points than they allowed in the first five games last season. If it can't stop Notre Dame, which has yet to score an offensive touchdown, the Wolverines' defense goes from serious condition to critical.

Freshman to watch: Ryan Mallett moves into Michigan's starting lineup to fill in for injured Chad Henne. Mallett played the second half of last week's loss to Oregon and was 6-for-17 for 49 yards and an interception.

BIG TEN STANDINGS
TeamConf.All
Purdue0-02-0
Indiana0-02-0
Penn State0-02-0
Michigan State0-02-0
Northwestern0-02-0
Wisconsin0-02-0
Ohio State0-02-0
Iowa0-02-0
Minnesota0-01-1
Illinois0-01-1
Michigan0-00-2
Numbers game: Northwestern's opponent, Duke, has a 22-game losing streak and is getting close to the dubious all-time Division I-A record of 34 consecutive losses held by Northwestern from 1979-82. … Iowa's defense hasn't allowed a touchdown, which is the first time in the Kirk Ferentz era that the Hawkeyes have not allowed a TD in consecutive games. Last week, Syracuse did not get a first down until the third quarter and had just 1 yard of total offense in the first half. … Michigan State is anticipating its first sellout of the Mark Dantonio era. A crowd approaching 72,000 is expected for Saturday's game against Pittsburgh. … Penn State has managed just 68 rushing yards in the first half, but has rushed for 332 in the second half. … Illinois' Kyle Hudson returned punts 34 and 15 yards last week and is averaging 11.0 yards on five attempts. That's a dramatic improvement over last year, when the Illini ranked 111th in the country with a 5-yard average per return. …Ohio State has held its first two opponents to a combined eight points, which marks the lowest point total allowed through two games since 1996. In that campaign, the Buckeyes opened with a 70-7 win over Rice and followed with a 72-0 win over Pittsburgh. … Indiana is tied with Penn State for the most sacks in the nation with 13.

Keep your eye on: Michigan tailback Mike Hart, who may be the only Wolverine who hasn't been disappointing. Hart has posted consecutive 100-yard rushing performances and figures to get the hat trick against Notre Dame, which ranks 100th nationally in run defense. The Irish have allowed career-high outputs by the past two tailbacks they've faced; Georgia Tech's Tashard Choice rushed for 196 yards and Penn State's Austin Scott gained 116. Also, expect a big game from Painter against Central Michigan, which has allowed more than 300 passing yards in each of its first two games.

They said it:
"It's not so much the coach that I hate or the players, it's Iowa State. It's the entity that they are, it's the whole rivalry. I was raised as an Iowa kid, and no matter what happens I'm probably always going to hate Iowa State - no matter who they are playing or who their coach is."
— Iowa guard Julian Vandervelde on Saturday's game against Iowa State.

"I can't anymore because they drafted a guy from South Bend. When they drafted (former Wisconsin tackle) Joe Thomas No. 3, I was so relieved. And then I'm just sitting there watching the draft and they trade up with Dallas and I'm like, 'Oh, no, I can't believe this is happening.' "
— Michigan State quarterback Brian Hoyer commenting that he doesn't support his hometown Cleveland Browns after they drafted former Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn.

"I haven't heard any of that. It's probably age. I'm getting old, and I don't hear as well as I used to."
— Michigan coach Lloyd Carr, who's 62, when asked if he heard boos at Michigan Stadium last week.

"I guarantee that there are players at The Citadel that could come over here and start for us right now."
— Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema on the Badgers' opponent this week.

Injury update: Northwestern tailback Tyrell Sutton sprained an ankle in the second quarter of last week's victory over Nevada. He returned for just one play in the third quarter, and he'll be a game-time decision for this week's game against Duke. Linebacker Eddie Simpson (leg) is out. … Wisconsin wide receiver Paul Hubbard (sprained right knee) is out six to eight weeks. …Michigan State center John Masters (leg) is day-to-day and tackle Mike Gyetvai (shoulder) is out. … Indiana free safety Joe Kleinsmith (hamstring) is questionable for this week and strong safety Austin Thomas (concussion) is day-to-day. … Michigan guard Jeremy Ciulla (back) and linebacker Jonas Mouton (undisclosed injury) are questionable. … Minnesota tight end Jack Simmons (toe) is day-to-day. Defensive end Derrick Onwuachi (sprained ankle) will play. … Penn State guard John Shaw (knee) will play against Buffalo.

Worth noting: Iowa junior tight end Tony Moeaki redeemed himself for three drops in the first game with three touchdown catches, including a 52-yarder, last week against Syracuse. He had a career-high with eight catches for 112 yards. … Michigan wide receiver Greg Mathews figures to lose his starting job for a week after kicking an Oregon player in the groin late in last week's loss. … Northwestern has not committed a turnover in its past 10 quarters, dating to the second half of last season's finale against Illinois. … Minnesota kicker Jason Giannini lost his job after missing three field-goal attempts last week. Junior Joel Monroe and redshirt freshman Eric Ellestad are competing for the job. … Penn State coach Joe Paterno has lifted the suspensions of sophomore tight end Andrew Quarless and sophomore cornerback Willie Harriott. They were suspended for underage drinking. Penn State kicker Kevin Kelly has reached the end zone on 11 of his 16 kickoffs. … Indiana's Austin Starr converted a career-long 48-yard field goal last week. He leads the Big Ten with five field goals. … Ohio State's Ray Small, a potential game-breaking receiver and kick returner who has been sidelined by a high ankle sprain, will play against Washington.

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.

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