Push for league title begins

Jim Martinho

Iowa at Michigan

Time: 11:05 a.m.

Place: Ann Arbor, Mich.

Line: Michigan by 3 1/2


Records: Iowa (7-1, 4-0 Big Ten), Michigan (6-1, 3-0)

What’s at stake: The winner puts itself in prime position for a run at the Big Ten title.

Overview: The Wolverines will rely on quarterback John Navarre’s arm against the nation’s stingiest run defense. Navarre is coming off a career-best 271 yards in a win against Purdue last week. Iowa’s pass defense is ranked last in the Big Ten but has intercepted 10 passes in four conference games. Hawkeyes quarterback Brad Banks leads an offense that tops the Big Ten in scoring at 38.2 points per game. Iowa tailback Fred Russell needs 103 yards to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark for the season. But Michigan’s defense is tough, leading the conference with 27 sacks.

Penn St. at Ohio St.

Time: 2:30 p.m.

Place: Columbus, Ohio

Line: Ohio State by 4 1/2


Records: Penn State (5-2, 2-2), Ohio State (8-0, 3-0)

What’s at stake: The Buckeyes bring an unblemished record and a shot at the national title into this showdown at The Shoe.

Overview: This is the next Big Ten test for Ohio State, which outlasted Wisconsin 19-14 last week. The Buckeyes’ mammoth offensive line will face a daunting task in protecting quarterback Craig Krenzel from a defensive line that has 16 sacks in four conference games. Penn State quarterback Zack Mills leads a versatile offense. Mills engineered a 29-27 come-from-behind win over the Buckeyes in his first start last season. Running back Larry Johnson broke the Nittany Lions’ school record with 257 rushing yards against Northwestern last Saturday. The Buckeyes’ defense has yet to allow more than 21 points.

Minnesota at

Michigan St.

Time: 6 p.m.

Place: East Lansing, Mich.

Line: Wisconsin by 2 1/2


Records: Wisconsin (5-3, 0-3), Michigan State (3-4, 1-2)

What’s at stake: The Badgers have lost three straight in the Big Ten and still need two more wins to become bowl-eligible.

Overview: Michigan State quarterback Jeff Smoker was suspended indefinitely Thursday for violating team rules, so sophomore Damon Dowdell will start for the Spartans. Wisconsin sophomore tailback Anthony Davis ran 25 times for 144 yards last week. The Badgers will rely on him even more the rest of the way after learning that star receiver Lee Evans’ knee injury — suffered in April — will keep him out all year.

Indiana at Illinois

Time: 1 p.m.

Place: Champaign, Ill.

Line: Illinois by 8 1/2

TV: None

Records: Indiana (3-4, 1-2), Illinois (2-5, 1-2)

What’s at stake: The Big Ten’s two top-rated passing offenses go head-to-head in what should be an offensive shootout.

Overview: The Hoosiers outgained Iowa 481-358 in a 24-9 loss last week. Quarterback Gibran Hamdan has emerged as one of the Big Ten’s most reliable quarterbacks. He leads the conference in passing yards per game. Illinois is seventh in the nation at 464.6 total yards per game. It is led by wideout Brandon Lloyd, a Biletnikoff Award semifinalist.

Big Ten Overall

Team Record Record

Iowa 4-0 7-1

Ohio St. 3-0 8-0

Michigan 3-0 6-1

Minnesota 3-1 7-1

Penn St. 2-2 5-2

Indiana 1-2 3-4

Michigan St. 1-2 3-4

Illinois 1-2 2-5

Purdue 1-3 3-5

Wisconsin 0-3 5-3

NU 0-4 2-6

Last Week

Penn St. 49, NU 0

Michigan 23, Purdue 21

Iowa 24, Indiana 8

Ohio St. 19, Wisconsin 14

Minnesota 28, Michigan St. 7