Previewing the Big Ten noon games

Saturday's action in the Big Ten begins with two games, one expected to be close and the other not so much. We'll see. Here's what is on tap at high noon (ET, that is):

No. 24 Northwestern (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten) at Penn State (3-2, 1-0), ESPN: The Wildcats are looking for their first 6-0 start since 1962, but this will be their toughest test yet. Penn State has won three consecutive games and seems to have things clicking on both sides of the ball for first-year coach Bill O'Brien. There are some good matchups here, starting with Northwestern's potent offense -- led by running back Venric Mark and Swiss army knife Kain Colter -- against Michael Mauti, Gerald Hodges and the rest of the Nittany Lions defense. On the other side, Matt McGloin has had some of his best games against the Wildcats, and he's having by far his best season in 2012 so far. Northwestern's sometimes-shaky secondary will have to contain the McGloin-to-Allen Robinson combo. We'll find out if the Wildcats are legitimate Legends Division contenders if they can win on the road.

Michigan State (3-2, 0-1) at Indiana (2-2, 0-1), Big Ten Network: The battle for the Old Brass Spittoon, and the Hoosiers haven't been able to spit any tobacco or Big League Chew bubble gum into it since 2006. Michigan State still leads the Big Ten in total defense, while Indiana somewhat surprisingly has the No. 2 offense in the league. Are the Hoosiers a paper tiger, or can they go toe to toe with the Spartans' D? First, they've got to decide on a starting quarterback, as Cameron Coffman and true freshman Nate Sudfeld battled it out in practice all week. Receivers Cody Latimer and Kofi Hughes are playing well and will challenge MSU corners Johnny Adams and Darqueze Dennard. The Spartans will look once again to get the passing game going, with true freshman Aaron Burbridge making his first start at receiver. But IU's big concern should be Le'Veon Bell since it ranks last in the league in rush defense.