It’s Week 6. Believe it or not, we’ll be midway through the 2011 Big Ten football season at the conclusion of Saturday’s slate of five Big Ten games. This week, BTN has Indiana hosting undefeated Illinois at a special time, 2:30 p.m. ET, and Northwestern entertaining perfect Michigan at 7. Don’t forget, Dave, Gerry and Howard will be on-site at Ryan Field at 6 p.m. ET for an hour-long Countdown To Kickoff show. Use our GameFinder to find your BTN game and track all of the action on our Big Ten scoreboard. Watch our latest Big Ten Blast here and check out Brent Yarina’s Week 6 Preview in this post.
Minnesota (1-4, 0-1) vs. Purdue (2-2, 0-0)
Time: noon ET
Series: Minnesota, 33-31-3
Last meeting: Purdue, 28-17 – 2010
About Minnesota: Since 2009, the Gophers have come from behind in each of their last 10 victories.
About Purdue: Junior wide receiver Antavian Edison has a team-high 12-game reception streak, dating back to last season.
Prediction: Purdue 27, Minnesota 13
Illinois (5-0, 1-0) vs. Indiana (1-4, 0-1)
Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
Series: Illinois, 44-21-3
Last meeting: Illinois, 43-13 – 2010
About Illinois: Dating back to last season, the Illini have won six in a row, marking the program’s longest winning streak since the 2001 Big Ten Championship team won seven straight.
About Indiana: The Hoosiers are tied for second in the Big Ten with 11 takeaways and are plus-3 in turnover margin.
Prediction: Illinois 33, Indiana 12
Iowa (3-1, 0-0) vs. Penn State (4-1, 1-0)
Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Series: Iowa, 12-11
Last meeting: Iowa, 24-3 – 2010
About Iowa: The Hawkeyes, who are 5-7 in Big Ten openers under Kirk Ferentz, have won eight of the last nine meetings against the Nittany Lions.
About Penn State: The Nittany Lions have held four of their first five opponents to 10 points or fewer for the first time since 1996.
Prediction: Iowa 23, Penn State 17
Michigan (5-0, 1-0) vs. Northwestern (2-2, 0-1)
Time: 7 p.m. ET
Series: Michigan, 52-15-2
Last meeting: Northwestern, 21-14 – 2008
About Michigan: Michigan has scored on 21 of its 22 red zone opportunities (95 percent), including 17 touchdowns. The only unsuccessful red zone trip came while kneeling the ball to conclude the Minnesota game.
About Northwestern: After missing the season’s first three games, Dan Persa threw for a career-high four touchdown passes on just 14 attempts last week.
Prediction: Michigan 36, Northwestern 23
Ohio State (3-2) vs. Nebraska (4-1)
Time: 8 p.m. ET
Series: Ohio State, 2-0
Last meeting: Ohio State, 34-7 – 1956
About Ohio State: The Buckeyes rank second in the Big Ten with six interceptions in five games and face Taylor Martinez, who threw three picks last week.
About Nebraska: Nebraska leads the nation in kickoff returns, at 30.5 yards per return.
Prediction: Nebraska 27, Ohio State 17
Season record: 42-10 (81 percent)
Game of the Week: Michigan at Northwestern – The perfect Wolverines hit the road for the first time this season, and they’ll be facing a ticked off Northwestern team that will be looking to avenge last week’s collapse against in-state rival Illinois. Aside from the allure of seeing whether Michigan can improve to 6-0 for the first time since 2006, this game will be of much interest because it features Denard Robinson against Dan Persa, two of the most exciting quarterbacks out there. This one could be a high-scoring affair that comes down to the wire.
Player of the Week: Denard Robinson, Michigan – I must admit, I had Illinois’ Nathan Scheelhaase here before looking at Dave Revsine’s latest installment of Numbers. If one reads the stats in that link, it’s pretty hard not to expect a huge day from the Michigan quarterback. So, even though I hate going with the same player in consecutive weeks, the numbers make Robinson the smartest pick. Here are those numbers: Michigan is averaging 15.9 yards per completion, fourth best mark in the nation, and Northwestern is allowing 15.9 yards per completion, second worst nationally. And then there’s Robinson’s legs, which lead the Big Ten in rushing (603 yards) and yards per carry (7.8) among players with at least 30 totes.
Team of the Week: Iowa – The Hawkeyes are still a mystery team. Are they a contender, especially considering their favorable schedule? Are they a work in progress? What exactly are they? Well, we won’t get the official answer Saturday, but the result at Beaver Stadium will provide its share of insight. Win, and Iowa would have its ninth victory over Penn State in the last 10 meetings, plus it would erase much of the horrors of that triple-overtime loss at Iowa State. More importantly, beating Penn State and its stout defense (5th among FBS teams in yards per game, 7th in points per game and 16th in passing yards) would mean Iowa really has something with its new pass-happy offense.
Random thought of the Week: The Gophers need a fast recovery, victory. One week after its embarrassing 58-0 loss at Michigan, Minnesota travels to struggling Purdue. This is a game the Gophers can win and, really, might need to win if they want to record a Big Ten win this season. After this week, Minnesota’s remaining schedule is rather daunting, with home games against Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois and road trips to Michigan State and Northwestern. All together, those opponents are 23-5 – good enough for an 82 percent winning percentage.
You can follow Brent on Twitter @BTNBrentYarina.