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September 20, 2007

Michigan hopes to bounce back in Big Ten

» MORE WEEK 4 BREAKDOWNS: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Pac-10 | SEC

Saturday's games
Overview: Maybe the Big Ten is like an old car on a cold day - it just takes a while to get started. Look at Ohio State. The Buckeyes have scored a total of six first-half points in their past two games. However, OSU has scored 46 points combined in the second halves en route to posting comfortable victories. Maybe that explains why Wisconsin had to rally to defeat UNLV and The Citadel. Maybe that's an indication Michigan – the preseason pick to win the Big Ten – shouldn't be overlooked against Penn State on Saturday. Although it lost its first two games, Michigan bounced back to steamroll Notre Dame 38-0 last week. The Wolverines' maligned defense posted eight sacks in the process. Penn State's offensive line is much stronger than Notre Dame's. However, the Nittany Lions run a similar pro-style offense, which is much different than the spread styles that gave the Wolverines so much trouble in the first two games. Besides, Michigan has won eight in a row over against Penn State.

Best matchup: Michigan TB Mike Hart vs. Penn State run defense. Despite Michigan's issues this season, Hart has been as good as ever. He has posted three 100-yard games and twice exceeded 180 yards. His 502 rushing yards are the most in the nation. But he'll find the going much tougher this week against Penn State, which leads the nation in run defense. The Nittany Lions have not allowed more than 41 rushing yards to an individual this season.

The pressure is on: Minnesota's pass defense has allowed almost 1,300 yards and ranks 119th – next to last – nationally after facing Bowling Green, Miami (Ohio) and Florida Atlantic. The Gophers must improve immediately to have any chance of upsetting Purdue on Saturday. The Boilermakers rank 15th nationally in passing, and quarterback Curtis Painter has thrown for 708 yards and nine touchdowns in the past two games. Painter has 13 touchdowns on the season and has yet to throw an interception.

Who's hot: Indiana quarterback Kellen Lewis is the Hoosiers' leading rusher after gaining 199 yards in last week's victory over Akron. He fell just 11 yards short of equaling Indiana's best rushing performance by a quarterback (Antwaan Randle El rushed for 210 yards against Minnesota in 2000). Lewis also has passed for 643 yards and nine touchdowns. … Ohio State tailback Chris Wells has averaged 6.3 yards per carry while rushing for 278 yards in the Buckeyes' past two games.

Who's not: Penn State tailback Austin Scott has fumbled three times in the past two weeks, including twice on his first three carries in last Saturday's win over Buffalo. He carried only six more times against the Bulls, and his starting job may be in jeopardy after Rodney Kinlaw replaced him and rushed for 129 yards.

Freshman to watch: Purdue freshman running back Dan Dierking will take a more prominent role after the loss of Jaycen Taylor, who is likely to miss the rest of the season with a broken arm. Dierking has averaged 6.4 yards on 18 carries and has two touchdowns. Iowa true freshman Colin Sandeman is becoming more active in the receiver rotation. Last week, he had two catches for 24 yards - including one for a key first down.

Numbers game: Michigan State has won five in a row at Notre Dame Stadium. No visiting team has ever won six consecutive games there. …Michigan State, Penn State and Indiana are tied for the most sacks in the country with 17. Notre Dame, Michigan State's opponent this week, has allowed the most sacks in the nation (23). … Michigan has posted eight consecutive victories over Penn State. … With its win over The Citadel last week Wisconsin extended its winning streak to 12, which is the second-longest in school history. … Illinois opens its Big Ten schedule at Indiana on Saturday; the Illini haven't won a Big Ten opener since 1993. … Indiana has scored 133 points in its three games, which is the most in a three-game stretch since 1993. That also marks the last season the Hoosiers played in a bowl. … Iowa is 10-11 in its past 21 games. … Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz issued his fifth suspension of the season this week after backup safety Lance Tillison was arrested for suspicion of drunken driving. Ferentz also imposed an in-residence curfew by midnight on Saturdays. … Minnesota led the nation in turnover margin last season at plus-18. This season, the Golden Gophers are last at minus-3 per game after committing seven last week.

Keep your eye on: The quarterback situation at Michigan bears watching. Freshman Ryan Mallett threw three touchdown passes in last week's win over Notre Dame, but only completed 7 of 15 attempts. Chad Henne, who sat out last week with a leg injury, has thrown for 408 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions in his career against Penn State. … Michigan State tailback Javon Ringer will be going against Notre Dame's 112th-ranked run defense. … Penn State sophomore defensive end Jerome Hayes is emerging as a powerful pass rusher. He has 2½ sacks.

They said it:
"I try to look up at the (Michigan Stadium) screen every time he's carrying the football. Mike Hart is a great back. I'd hate to have to play against him."
— Michigan defensive tackle Terrance Taylor

"We want to win every game. It's as simple as that. As far as feeling good about touchdown passes or whatever, it's whatever it takes to win. I just want to win."
— Penn State quarterback Anthony Morelli

"I kind of know how (West Virginia quarterback) Pat White feels. I didn't know I was that close to 200 or I might have done a quarterback sneak on that last play instead of taking a knee."
— Indiana quarterback Kellen Lewis on his 199-yard rushing performance last week against Akron.

"I felt going into the year the Big Ten was going to be better than it was in '06, and I still feel the same way. No one was talking about Purdue being undefeated or Michigan State being undefeated or Indiana. At the end of the day, we're going to say our conference is pretty darn good."
— Ohio State coach Jim Tressel

Penn State0-03-0
Michigan State0-03-0
Ohio State0-03-0
Injury update: Michigan quarterback Chad Henne (leg) is day-to-day and may start this week against Penn State. … Iowa receiver Trey Stross (hamstring) is out for this week's game against Wisconsin. … Penn State starting safety Tony Davis (shoulder) is expected to play against Michigan. … Northwestern tailback Tyrell Sutton (ankle) is expected to play Saturday against Ohio State. … Indiana offensive tackle Charlie Emerson and safety Austin Thomas (concussions) are expected to play this week. … Minnesota tight end Jack Simmons (toe) is expected to play. Guard D.J. Burris (leg) is out. Linebackers Steve Davis and Kevin Mannion (ankles) are day-to-day.

Worth noting: Second-year Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema is 15-1, which makes him one of four coaches in Big Ten history to win at least 15 of their first 16 games. The others are Michigan's Fielding Yost, who was 55-0-1 from 1901-05, and Ohio State's John B. Eckstrom, who was 16-0-1 from 1899-1900 and Carroll C. Widdoes, who was 16-1 from 1944-45. …Penn State All-American linebacker Dan Connor has 303 career tackles and is 69 away from the school record. … Michigan's Henne originally committed to Penn State, this week's opponent, before changing his mind and signing with the Wolverines. ... Iowa junior defensive tackle [/db]Mitch King[/db] had a career-high 10 tackles in last week's loss to Iowa State.

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

» MORE WEEK 4 BREAKDOWNS: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Pac-10 | SEC

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