Preview of Saturday's Big Ten football action
This game is especially intriguing because Illinois is playing some great football on both sides of the ball, led by quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase who is proving to be the exact type of leader you need on a Big Ten team. He is tough, smart, and doesn't make a ton of mistakes. He is facing off against one of the Big Ten's most valuable players, Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa, who will make his season debut on Saturday.
Persa has not played since tearing his Achilles last year making the game-winning touchdown pass against the Iowa Hawkeyes on November 13th. It was widely speculated that Persa would be a Heisman candidate in the Big Ten in 2011 as a senior.
This should be a fun game to watch with two of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the conference.
Michigan State Spartans vs. Ohio State Buckeyes, 3:30 PM ET, ABC/ESPN
Ohio State is coming off of a big victory against the Colorado Buffaloes last week as they head into Big Ten play against the disappointing Michigan State Spartans.
Kirk Cousins, the Michigan State quarterback and one of the more veteran players in the conference, was expected to make a huge impact in 2011 and thus far has not proven to be a big impact player. Cousins has only five touchdown passes through the team's first four games, which included a 31-13 road loss to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Ohio State will send out freshman standout Braxton Miller to take snaps against the Michigan State defense after a first start that included two passing touchdowns and 83 yards on the ground.
This is a relatively young, inexperienced Ohio State team facing off against a pretty veteran Michigan State squad. Ohio State has home field advantage, so this could be a really intriguing game.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers play their first game in the new Big Ten conference, and they get a really tough introduction with the balanced Wisconsin Badgers.
The Badgers brought in the biggest offseason addition arguably in the entire country when they got former North Carolina State quarterback Russell Wilson to come and lead their offense. Wilson has done nothing but impress, and he has the second highest quarterback efficiency rating in the entire country, and is a potential Heisman candidate.
Wisconsin also features a ground game that makes defensive coordinators lose sleep, led by Montee Ball, a junior who already has nine touchdown runs this season, and is averaging almost six yards per carry.
The Cornhuskers feature one of the best rushing offenses in the country, led by quarterback Taylor Martinez and junior running back Rex Burkhead, the team's two leading rushers with a combined 14 touchdowns on the ground. Martinez is going to have to do more than just run against a Wisconsin defense that has allowed only 8.5 points per game this season.
Defensively, Nebraska has three blue-chip NFL prospects in cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, defensive tackle Jared Crick, and tackling machine Lavonte David at outside linebacker. If they are going to win this game, those guys are really going to have to step up and limit the Wisconsin offensive attack.