Heading into the weekend's slate of games, SaturdayBlitz.com is breaking down the c..."/> Heading into the weekend's slate of games, SaturdayBlitz.com is breaking down the c..."/>

Saturday’s Chalkboard: Big Ten Match-Ups


Heading into the weekend’s slate of games, SaturdayBlitz.com is breaking down the critical strategies for each Bowl Subdivision match-up. The Big Ten’s turbulent run to the inaugural championship game can go any number of ways. We break down how the contenders can maintain, and the spoilers can detour the roads to Indy.

Iowa at Purdue

IOWA: Become Road Warriors

Bad news for Hawkeyes fans is that three of Iowa’s four losses were on the road, UI has yet to win a road Big Ten game, and the team’s done with home games for 2011. Kirk Ferentz must find a way to get his team to play like West Lafayette is Iowa City — not an easy task given the atmospheres are completely different.

PURDUE: Establish TerBush as a passer

Iowa has been uncharacteristically porous defensively, especially against the pass. Caleb TerBush can rush, but isn’t especially effective. He’ll need to attack the Hawkeye early to free the Boilermaker ground game.

FACTOID: A win gives Danny Hope his first bowl eligible team since becoming Purdue’s head coach in 2008. If it doesn’t happen this week, it should in Week 13 when the Boilers face Indiana. Better to not leave to chance, though.

Wisconsin at Illinois

WISCONSIN: Get just enough defense

The Badgers’ two losses were not coincidentally also UW’s two worst defensive outings of the season. Illinois has struggled mightily to put points on the board during this four-game skid. Chris Ash and Charlie Partridge must continue that trend for UW to remain in control of its Big Ten Championship destiny.

ILLINOIS: Let Scheelhaase pass

There’s no coincidence that Illinois excelled last season when Nathan Scheelhassse was allowed to pass more. This season, the Illini have become an almost exclusively ground-based offense, and Scheelhasse’s sophomore slump has been sack-filled. UW gave up big passing yardage to Kirk Cousins, and while Braxton Miller didn’t throw for many yards, the decisive plays came in the air.

FACTOID: Illinois’s defense has given up less than half the number of rushing touchdowns all season (10) that UW running back Montee Ball has scored (23).

Nebraska at Michigan

NEBRASKA: Contain Toussaint

Denard Robinson should play against Nebraska, which certainly buoys the Wolverine offense. Focus is always on stopping Robinson, but when Michigan excels it’s because Fitzgerald Toussaint is giving it that necessary combination punch. In the Wolverines’ losses to Michigan State and Iowa, Toussaint rushed for seven and 58 yards respectively.

MICHIGAN: Pester Martinez

Taylor Martinez is a rushing quarterback, but he rushes much differently when the play calls for it than he does on a scramble. When blitzes crash around him is when Martinez makes bad decisions. Expect Mattison to dial up plenty of of eight-in-the-box schemes with steady pressure to threaten Martinez’s comfort zone.

FACTOID: So, you’re a BCS hater? You can place some blame on these two teams, whose split national championship in 1997 was the final straw for the old bowl system.

Indiana at Michigan State


OK, so maybe the Hoosiers can somehow catch MSU napping. And, if…nevermind.


You’re hosting the worst team not only in the conference, but arguably in *any* BCS conference. You’re playing for the conference title game. How does Mark Dantonio keep his team engaged enough to handle its business against the Hoosiers? That’s really the only way MSU loses, dropping its guard and making mental errors.

FACTOID: Indiana last defeated MSU in 2006, starting a four-game, season-ending losing streak for Sparty in one of the program’s worst campaigns in recent years.

Minnesota at Northwestern

MINNESOTA: Rush early, rush often

Northwestern hasn’t been particularly good stopping the rush (179 yards per game yielded), and that has been as strong a suit as Jerry Kill can claim for his first Gopher team. Minny succeeded in taking the air out of the ball against Iowa, and a similar strategy limits the damage Dan Persa can inflict on the opposite side.

NORTHWESTERN: Attack the secondary

Minnesota hasn’t been bad against the pass, No. 68 overall in yards yielded. But the Gophers are prone to big games defending the pass while failing to make some of their own. Minnesota has just three interceptions on the season, so Dan Persa should have some freedom to air it out. He might be feeling especially brazen coming off a season-best performance in last week’s rout of Rice.

FACTOID: A win gives Northwestern bowl eligibility for a fourth consecutive season. The current three game Pat Fitzgerald’s established is already a program-best, but he has yet to win one. In fact, no Wildcat team has won its bowl game since the 1948 Wildcats in the Rose Bowl.

Penn State at Ohio State

PENN STATE: Keep it within a score early

Penn State has made a habit of playing opponents close, whether it’s Nebraska or Illinois. The latter was a victory; PSU’s anemic offense capitalized on the defense’s performance just enough to get the win because the Lions were never in a significant hole. Conversely against Nebraska, the Nittany Lions had to try and fight back from down 17.

PSU is a decided second half team, but lacks the firepower to claw back from down more than a touchdown. Keeping pace with the Buckeyes early will have PSU in the position it wants to be late.

OHIO STATE: Capitalize on opportunities

The Nittany Lion is one of the nation’s toughest, but so is Ohio State’s. Neither is going to allow many opportunities to the opposing offense. Therefore, it’s crucial the offenses capitalize on what their own defenses provide. OSU needs to score when given a field shorter than 60 yards, every time. This ensures victory.

FACTOID: These teams are on inverse pyramids in points surrendered to points scored. OSU ranks No. 15 defensively, but 74th on offense. PSU is No. 3 in points yielded, yet 102 in points scored.