Last updated: February 17. 2013 9:36AM - 100 Views

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Well, a lazy Saturday for Penn State writers at least. Bill O'Brien is hoping his players don't follow our lead.

For the first time in recent years, Penn State players were given the go-ahead to travel this weekend, with plenty of guys taking advantage of the situation to go home and see friends and family.

And to rest up. But not too much.

"We told 'em ... this wasnt time for them to sit on the couch with a big bag of potato chips and watch the games," O'Brien said on his weekly radio show.

Well that's no fun.

"That's one thing I've been hapring on and I hope keeps resonating with them," O'Brien said. "We have only six more opportunities to play this year. So let's make sure it counts."

We won't judge if you decide to watch Big Ten games anyway this week. Here's a look at the slate.

—derek

 

WEEK 7


IOWA (3-2, 1-0 Big Ten)
 at MICHIGAN STATE (4-2, 1-1 Big Ten)

AWAY DETAILS HOME

Noon, Saturday

Spartan Stadium,
East Lansing, Mich.

 

 


LINE: MSU by 9. Here, of course, is the one of most interest to Penn State fans. Tough to figure out Iowa through September. The Hawkeyes have certainly looked awful outside of a decisive win against Minnesota two weeks ago. Vegas understandably wasn't impressed by the win over the unbeaten Gophers, judging by the spread this week. It's especially notable because Michigan State has turned in four straight lousy performances. Normally a great second half like the one the Spartans had last week could lead to a spark, but it's overshadowed by the fact that it came against Indiana. Sparty somehow fell behind 17-0 in that one against Indiana's gameplan of pass-pass-pass-punt. The good news for MSU is that Andrew Maxwell is starting come around, making some big throws in the fourth quarter to make sure the team didn't go into full meltdown mode. Michigan State goes from facing one extreme to the other -- from the Big Ten's No. 1 passing offense to No. 8 in Iowa. It's still about the latest in a long stretch of obscure but successful Iowa backs in Mark Weisman, who surprisingly was one of the most productive runners in the country in September. The Hawkeyes had an extra week to prepare for this one and it feels like this could be another midseason rally point for Iowa. I don't have the guts to pick Iowa outright here but they should make it interesting and give us plenty to talk about headed into the primetime game against Penn State.

NORTHWESTERN (5-1, 1-1 Big Ten)
at MINNESOTA (4-1, 0-1 Big Ten)

AWAY DETAILS HOME

Noon, Saturday

TCF Bank Stadium,
Minneapolis, Minn.
 

 

LINE: NU by 3.5. It's almost like clockwork for Northwestern. Another near-miss after a 5-0 start. Another second-half dud against Penn State. The letdown was confined only to the fourth quarter this time, but what a letdown it was, being outscored 22-0 in the final 10 minutes. This is still a talented Northwestern team and it would be surprising to see consecutive disappointing finishes. What was made clear against Penn State is that Venric Mark is a vastly underrated running back and it's still very puzzling why he only touched the ball a few times after his electric punt return for a score last Saturday. The Wildcats seemed too intent on trying to exploit PSU's shaky secondary rather than getting Mark and the option game with Kain Colter some more looks. It was excellent in the red zone, producing two touchdowns. Against Minnesota, expect Colter to start getting a few more throws in as well after not attempting a single pass on Saturday. PSU defensive coordinator Ted Roof admitted after the game they weren't concerned with Colter at QB at all, and the Wildcats will try to bring that dimension back to give another wrinkle to the offense. An off week hasn't helped patch up Minnesota's own QB situation, as MarQueis Gray is expected to miss another game with Max Shortell taking his place. The Wildcats should be able to win this one comfortably regardless of who plays quarterback for either side.

WISCONSIN (4-2, 1-1 Big Ten)
at PURDUE (3-2, 0-1 Big Ten)

AWAY DETAILS HOME

Noon, Saturday

Ross-Ade Stadium,
West Lafayette, Ind.


 

LINE: PU by 2. Hey look, it's the Leaders Division championship game. Hooray? Somehow it takes the punch out of it to have just two teams who have a real chance to win the thing. And it doesn't help that both teams don't have a 60-minute performance against a reasonable opponent between them. After completely rolling over last week in the Big House, this might already be last-stand time for the Boilers. Lose this one, and Purdue's promising season goes in the tank very, very quickly -- especially with Ohio State on the schedule next week. Tough to explain how badly the Boilers played against Michigan. Win this one, however, and that's mostly forgotten. Likewise, Wisconsin can put an underwhelming first month of the season out of mind. The Badgers still have to be considered the favorites to return to Indianapolis, shaking off a hiccup against dead-in-the-water Illinois. With Joel Stave seemingly locking down the QB job, the Badgers have a chance to finally get into rhythm on offense with Purdue reeling. Montee Ball hasn't been himself this season, the victim of that assault in August and then dealing with an overhauled coaching staff, a fired O-line coach and now a revolving door at quarterback. And yet he still has eight touchdowns and is back up above 4 yards per carry. He'll have a tough go of it against Purdue's big front but he should be able to produce enough to finish off the Boilers.

ILLINOIS (2-4, 0-2 Big Ten)
at No. 25 MICHIGAN (3-2, 1-0 Big Ten)

AWAY DETAILS HOME

 

3:30 p.m., Saturday

Michigan Stadium,
Ann Arbor, Mich.



LINE: UM by 25. How is it possible that Illinois fired Ron Zook and ended up with an even more absurd head coach? After his summer hijinx in State College, Tim Beckman came across as something of a weasel. After these last few weeks it seems much more likely that the guy is just not all that bright. From mumbling about redshirting the already-redshirted Ryan Nowicki to being caught by ABC cameras packing a giant wad of Skoal into his lower lip, it's been one embarrassment after another. And that's not even getting into the four losses by 17 points or more. Oh, that use of tobacco is actually an NCAA secondary violation, which was self-reported by the Illini. The system works! Things aren't going to get any better this Saturday. Illinois looks to be down their top defensive back in Terry Hawthorne, who left the field in an ambulance in a scary moment last week. There's zero evidence that the Illini are going to be able to stop Denard and Co., who shredded a much better defense last week in Purdue. Despite a 3-2 record, Michigan probably still is one of the 25 best teams in the country, considering they lost against two of the very best defenses around in Alabama and Notre Dame. The Wolverines remain vulnerable on defense, but it's hard to imagine the Illini caring enough to make this a game.

  No. 8 OHIO STATE (6-0, 2-0 Big Ten)
at INDIANA (2-3, 0-2 Big Ten)

AWAY DETAILS HOME

8 p.m., Saturday

Memorial Stadium,
Bloomington, Ind.


LINE: OSU by 17.5. The Big Ten has just two teams ranked in the top 25, and that's in the AP poll with Michigan and Ohio State. Because of NCAA probation, however, the Buckeyes aren't eligible for the coaches poll, and the Wolverines just missed. That means, for the first time in history, there are no Big Ten teams ranked by the coaches. None of that actually matters here, but there's just not much to talk about on the field for this matchup. Credit the Hoosiers for developing a productive passing game with Chase Coffman racking up some nice yardage since being pressed into duty. That should be enough to get the Hoosiers some points against an Ohio State secondary that never got off to a good start. But it's too much to ask Indiana to keep pace with the Bucks' offense, which absolutely demolished Nebraska last week, scoring a late touchdown to finish with a whopping 63 points. If Urban Meyer wants to, he could probably hit that number again this week. But this time around Braxton Miller should be out of the game well enough before that happens.

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