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October 11, 2006
Big Ten: Week 7 Breakdown
Pictures of perfection: Ohio State and Michigan both climbed to 6-0 last week. The significance? The last time each team went 6-0 it finished the season undefeated and won the national championship. Jim Tressel's Buckeyes were on their way to 14-0 and a title in 2002. Lloyd Carr's Wolverines finished 12-0 in 1997 to claim the crown.
Best matchup: Penn State running back Tony Hunt vs. the Michigan defense. The Nittany Lions senior has four consecutive 100-yard games. He's ranked 11th in the country in rushing at 111.5 yards per game. The Wolverines have not allowed a 100-yard rusher this season. As a matter of fact, Ron English's defense has allowed only one team to gain more than 100 yards on the ground, and that was Minnesota's 108. Michigan is No. 1 in the country against the run (yielding just 40.3 yards per game). Hunt topped the 100-yard mark last year, but Michigan won the game.
Worst matchup: Northwestern quarterbacks vs. the Purdue secondary. The Wildcats are last in the league in passing offense (127.0 yards per game). The Boilermakers are last in the league in pass defense (284.7 yards per game). Fortunately for Purdue it should run up so many points on a porous NU defense that its own defense should have little bearing on the outcome.
The pressure is on: The Michigan receivers. Super sophomore Mario Manningham, he of the nine TD receptions and 22.0 yards per catch, is out of action for the Penn State game after having arthroscopic surgery on his knee. Senior Steve Breaston has not caught a touchdown pass this season and is averaging less than 10 yards per reception. He'll have to do better than that - as will sophomore Adrian Arrington, who at least has three TD catches in the Wolverines' past two games.
Upset alert: Penn State certainly will have revenge on its mind after losing to Michigan 27-25 on the final play a year ago in Ann Arbor. It was the Nittany Lions' only blemish on an otherwise stellar season. The game is in prime time, and the atmosphere figures to be electric. Can the Nittany Lions secondary shut down the Michigan receivers, minus Manningham? Can the Penn State receivers shake loose against a talented Michigan secondary?
BCS implications: Michigan must beat Penn State to stay on target for a BCS berth.
Who's hot: Michigan's Hart had his second consecutive 100-yard game in the victory over Michigan State. He has topped the century mark five times this season. … Ohio State defensive end Vernon Gholtson had the first interception of his career against Bowling Green. The sophomore also had two tackles for loss, including a sack. That's 5.5 tackles for loss in his past three games. … Indiana return specialist Marcus Thigpen had his third kickoff return for a touchdown this season in last week's victory at Illinois. The sophomore, who did not have a kick return in the season opener, leads the nation with a 41.8-yard average.
Who's not: Michigan's Steve Breaston hasn't topped 50 yards receiving since the season opener against Vanderbilt. … Michigan State quarterback Drew Stanton hasn't thrown a TD pass in the Spartans' past two games, both losses. He had at least one TD pass in each of his team's first four games.
Must-see TV: Michigan at Penn State, 8 p.m. Eastern, ABC. Brent Musburger, Bob Davie and Kirk Herbstreit will have the call. Penn State graduate Lisa Salters is the sideline reporter.
Newcomer who could have an impact: True freshman wide receiver Greg Mathews, who has only two receptions this season, could figure into the mix to set off the loss of Manningham. Mathews is 6-3, 195 pounds and was a member of the Rivals100. He was one of the top-20 prospects in Florida when he came out of Orlando's Edgewater High School.
Key stat: Michigan is 14-1 when Hart tops the 100-yard mark. … Penn State is 9-2 when Hunt tops the 100-yard mark. … Wisconsin is 5-0 when P.J. Hill tops the 100-yard mark. … Ohio State is 8-1 when Troy Smith tops the 50-yard mark.
Take the line: Northwestern has yet to score more than 21 points in a game this season. Purdue has failed to reach 21 only once - last week against Iowa when it rang up 456 yards but threw three interceptions and lost 47-17. The Boilermakers should cover the 7½. Season against the line: 4-2.
They said it: Michigan coach Lloyd Carr on the atmosphere at Penn State: "I've always told guys I recruit, you may go play 15 years in the NFL, but you're never going to play in front of a bigger crowd than as an 18-year-old freshman at Michigan. With that said, it's extremely loud. I think the positive for us is that we've been to Notre Dame. We've been to Minnesota, which was an extremely loud place to play. So I think that helps you. Still, that doesn't make it any less daunting a challenge in terms of the noise. It's not like every guy that will make that trip has been in those circumstances."
Injury update: Michigan wide receiver Mario Manningham will miss the game against Penn State after having arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee. … Wolverines running back Mike Hart, who left the Michigan State game last week in the third quarter with a twisted ankle and did not return, is expected to be 100 percent. … Penn State All-American offensive tackle Levi Brown is listed as probable for this week after missing the Minnesota game. … Redshirt freshman Andrew Brewer is listed as No. 1 on the QB depth chart heading into the Purdue game. C.J. Bacher, who was injured in the preseason, has practiced for the past two weeks and should be available. Mike Kafka, who began the season as the starter, has missed the past two games after suffering a leg injury at Nevada.
Worth noting: With its sixth win last week, Michigan clinched a bowl berth for the 31st consecutive year - the longest active streak in the nation. … For the third time this season Penn State faces an opponent ranked in the top five in the nation. No other team can make that claim. … The Nittany Lions have an 11-game home winning streak. … Minnesota and Wisconsin resume the longest rivalry in Division I-A football this weekend in the battle for Paul Bunyan's Ax. The teams have played 115 times, beginning in 1890, and they've played every year since 1907. The 114-game rivalry between Missouri and Kansas ranked second nationally entering this season. The Gophers and Badgers originally played for the Slab of Bacon Trophy, which mysteriously disappeared in the 1940s and was replaced by the ax in 1948. … Northwestern receiver Shaun Herbert has caught at least one pass in 30 consecutive games, eighth-longest streak in the country. … Ohio State has scored 24 or more points in its past 13 games. … Buckeyes QB Troy Smith is 19-2 as a starter, 9-1 against ranked teams. … Ohio State has outscored its opponents 76-16 in the fourth quarter. … Purdue has 24 pass plays of 20 yards or longer. The Boilermakers have three of the top six players in the Big Ten in receiving yards. … Minnesota wide receiver Logan Payne has posted five consecutive six-reception games. … Indiana's victory at Illinois snapped a 17-game road losing streak in the Big Ten. … Saturday will mark the first time any current Hawkeyes have played against Indiana
Looking back: Iowa got back on track after its loss to Ohio State with a 47-17 drubbing of Purdue. QB Drew Tate completed 17 of 23 passes for 253 yards and two TDs. Linebacker Adam Shada had five tackles and a school-record 98-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Freshman who impressed: Wisconsin redshirt freshman running back P.J. Hill racked up 249 yards and a touchdown on 35 carries in a 41-9 rout of Northwestern. … Indiana quarterback Kellen Lewis won his duel with another freshman, Illinois signal-caller Juice Williams. Lewis completed 20 of 39 passes for 240 yards and rushed for 47 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Williams played well, too – going 10-of-21 for 190 yards and two TDs. He also rushed for 53 yards on 10 carries, but the Illini lost 34-32.