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Around the Big Ten

BY DI STAFF | NOVEMBER 05, 2010 7:20 AM

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INSIDE A COACH'S MIND

"I probably would not have done that, but I'm not going to cry about it. That's their choice, their call. I would not have done it. He's the coach. If it makes him feel better about him and his team, call it, chuck it, and run it up."

— Purdue head coach Danny Hope after Illinois left starting quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase in against the Boilermakers despite leading 37-10 in the fourth quarter.

POWER RANKINGS

1. Wisconsin (Previous rank: 2)
A bye week couldn't have come at a better time after knocking off Ohio State and Iowa.

2. Iowa (4)
The Hawkeyes didn't wait long to make a statement after falling to Wisconsin. They rolled Michigan State last week.

3. Ohio State (3)
Everyone has seemingly dismissed the Buckeyes, but two of their three remaining games will be played at the Horseshoe.

4. Michigan State (1)
The Spartans show how quickly things can change in a week. Still, a Rose Bowl is attainable — with some help.

5. Illinois (7)
Perhaps no coach entered the season with less job security than Ron Zook, but his team has played to a 5-3 start, led by the Big Ten's third-best scoring defense.

6. Northwestern (5)
The Wildcats have gone 1-2 after a 5-0 start and enter a rough four game-stretch featuring matchups against Penn State, Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin.

7. Penn State (8)
Penn State got a much-needed win last week over Michigan, but this week's home matchup against Northwestern appears to be another one the Lions need to have.

8. Michigan (6)
For Rich Rodriguez and Company, this season appears all too similar to last year's.

9. Indiana (10)
The Hoosiers only need two more wins to become bowl eligible, but it doesn't appear as if they'll get one of those wins this week against Iowa.

10. Purdue (9)
Considering all its injuries, that Purdue is even 4-4 is impressive, but the Boilermakers' being shorthanded really showed last week in their 44-10 drubbing by Illinois.

11. Minnesota (11)
Minnesota's defense surrendered 52 points last week. Enough said.

GAMES TO WATCH

Northwestern at Penn State
Time: 2:30 p.m. (CDT)
Location: Beaver Stadium, State College
Where to watch or listen: ABC or ESPN2

KEY HIGHLIGHTS

With both the Wildcats and the Nittany Lions sitting at 2-2 in the Big Ten, this should prove to be a pivotal matchup. Penn State was able to earn a victory last week despite being without Rob Bolden. Northwestern squeaked out a 3-point victory over Indiana. Penn State still needs one more win to become bowl eligible, while Northwestern has already sealed its bowl eligibility and is simply looking to improve its winter destination.

Wisconsin at Purdue
Time: 11 a.m. (CDT)
Location: Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette
Where to watch or listen: Big Ten Network

KEY HIGHLIGHTS

Both Iowa and Ohio State fans should have their eyes glued to this contest. After losing to the Badgers, the Hawkeyes and the Buckeyes need Wisconsin to drop a game to have a chance at the Big Ten title. The Boilermakers — coming off a 44-10 loss to Illinois — may not be the best candidate to knock off Bucky, but this game is the second-to-last road contest the Badgers will play this season.

Illinois at Michigan
Time: 11 a.m. (CDT)
Location: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor
Where to watch or listen: ESPN

KEY HIGHLIGHTS

Finding a matchup with two teams whose outlooks contrast with each other more may be a difficult task this week. The Illini are riding high after a 44-10 blowout of Purdue, and have amassed a surprising 5-3 record this season. Meanwhile, Michigan has lost three straight and is in dire straits. Can Denard Robinson reignite his magic from the beginning of the season and lead the Wolverines to a much-needed win?

OFFENSIVE IMPACT

Name: Mikel Leshoure
Position: Running back
Year: Junior

Prior to the season, Leshoure — Illinois' starting running back — told stltoday.com's Stu Durando he was "bigger, stronger, [and] faster."

"The main things were my diet and not going out and partying, handling it and being smart," Leshoure said. "I stayed in more, just hanging out with the family. It was pretty easy because the No. 1 thing I thought about was football season and what would make me better."

Clearly, those decisions have paid off for Leshoure.

The Champaign, Ill., native is the Big Ten's fourth-leading rusher through eight games, having recorded 780 yards on 158 carries thus far.

Leshoure's efforts earned him recognition from Phil Steele as a midseason Big Ten first-teamer. Though he struggled last week against Purdue (23 yards on 15 carries), he still scored two touchdowns for the Illini. Michigan's shoddy defense — which is surrendering nearly 150 yards on the ground per game — may be his next victim.

DEFENSIVE IMPACT

Name: Greg Jones
Position: Linebacker
Year: Senior

Jones was unsurprisingly named a Lombardi Award semifinalist, which is given annually to the nation's top linebacker. The 2009 consensus All-American has made 78 tackles for the Spartans through nine games, making his best effort to earn repeat honors.

This year, Jones leadership has also been a big part of Michigan State's 8-1 start. Of course, head coach Mark Dantonio already knew what he had in Jones long before the season started.

"When you look at our football team, you have to look at our defense, because it starts with Greg Jones," Dantonio told the *Cleveland Plain Dealer*'s Doug Lesmerises in August. "He has a great physical presence on the field. He's a first-team All-Big Ten player, first-team All-American player, and certainly through the middle of our defense gives us a guy who can make plays all over the field."

Now, Jones and the Spartans are coming off a loss and are set to match up against Minnesota and its futile rushing attack. It could be a long Saturday for the Gophers.


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