Powers' Week 6 football preview

Pittsburgh (2-2) at Notre Dame (2-3)

WHEN/WHERE: 2:40 p.m. at Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Ind.


Radio: WLS-AM 890

Web: und.com, pittsburghpanthers.com

What you need to know: Pittsburgh is coming off two consecutive victories over Notre Dame, including a four-overtime thriller in South Bend in 2008. Panthers coach Dave Wannstedt shuffled the offensive line before last Saturday's win over Florida International and has dealt with some crushing injuries on the defensive side of the ball. The FIU game did not feature Panthers sophomore running back Dion Lewis, who will return from a shoulder injury against the injury. The nation's returning leader in yards (1,799) is close to losing his starting job after totaling just 143 total yards through the first three games this season. Classmate Ray Graham, a reliable reserve last season, stepped in and peeled off 277 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries. Quarterback Tino Sunseri is averaging around 183 passing yards per game. Defensively, the Panthers are surrendering close to 500 yards per outing -- a pretty even split against the run and pass. Notre Dame, coming off a morale-boosting road win over rival Boston College, suffered three minor dings along its offensive line, but all three injured players are expected to go Saturday. Irish QB Dayne Crist had his least productive day in terms of yardage against the Eagles, but the offense achieved some measure of balance that coach Brian Kelly had been searching for. Though RB Armando Allen coughed up the ball once (as did backup Cierre Wood), the senior came close to the century mark for the first time since Purdue. Both squads are looking for production from their star wide receivers. Notre Dame's Michael Floyd has just two touchdowns and has only eclipsed 100 yards in a game once this year. Pitt's Jon Baldwin, who had six 100-yard games in 2009, enters this weekend's game with just 15 receptions for 211 yards and two TDs. The Irish may be trying to end a losing streak, but first-year coach Brian Kelly hopes to continue his winning ways against the Panthers. Kelly led Cincinnati to back-to-back Big East championships by going through a talented Pitt team each of the last two seasons.

Wes Morgan's prediction: Notre Dame 30, Pittsburgh 23.

Purdue (2-2) at Northwestern (5-0)

When, where: 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill.

TV: Big Ten Network

Radio: WIND-AM 560, WNUR-FM 89.3

Web: WGNradio.com, wnur.org, NUsports.com

What you need to know: Northwestern has a chance to improve to 6-0 for the first time since 1962. Although the Wildcats haven’t faced a challenging schedule, they have taken care of business so far, and that should continue against Purdue. The Boilermakers have had their share of struggles this season. They’ve lost to Notre Dame and Toledo and narrowly defeated Ball State and Western Illinois. In last week’s 31-20 loss to Toledo, Purdue’s defense allowed 378 total yards to the Rockets, who had been ranked last in the nation in offense. Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa, who ranks second in the country in quarterback rating, should be able to move the ball against Purdue. The key will be eliminating red-zone mistakes. In last week’s 29-28 win over Minnesota, the Wildcats turned the ball over twice in the red zone.

Scott Powers’ prediction: Northwestern 41, Purdue 27

Illinois (2-2) at Penn State (3-2)

When, where: 11 a.m. Saturday at Beaver Stadium in University Park, Pa.


Radio: WIND-AM 560

Web: ESPN3.com

What you need to know: Illinois proved in last week’s 24-13 loss to No. 2 Ohio State that it can play with the big boys. The Illini’s defense contained Buckeyes quarterback Terrelle Pryor for much of the game, and their offense was able to move the ball. Illinois needs to start moving on from moral victories, though. The Illini played better than expected against Missouri in the season-opener and against Ohio State, but they’re still losses. If they’re going to end up over .500 this season, they need to start winning games. That could prove difficult with their next two being at Penn State and at Michigan State. The Nittany Lions are beatable, though. Their offense has scored just 19 points a game. If Illinois redshirt freshman quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase can get his team in the end zone a few times, the Illini could pull off the upset. Illinois needs to reduce its penalties. It committed nine of them for 74 yards last week.

Powers’ prediction: Penn State 24, Illinois 20

Temple (4-1) at Northern Illinois (3-2)

When, where: 11 a.m. Saturday at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Ill.

TV: ESPN GamePlan

Radio: WSCR-AM 670

Web: ESPN3.com

What you need to know: Northern Illinois is on a roll with back-to-back road wins over Minnesota and Akron. In last week’s 50-14 victory over Akron, Huskies quarterback Chandler Harnish passed for 281 yards and three touchdowns. This week should be more challenging as Temple appears to be the class of the MAC. The Owls have defeated Army, Central Michigan, Connecticut and Villanova and lost in a close one at Penn State. Northern Illinois will have to contain running backs Matt Brown and Bernard Pierce. They have combined for 727 rushing yards this season.

Powers’ prediction: Northern Illinois 21, Temple 20

Northern Iowa (2-2) at Southern Illinois (2-3)

When, where: 2 p.m. Saturday at Saluki Stadium in Carbondale, Ill.

TV: None

Radio: None

Web: SIUSalukis.com

What you need to know: Southern Illinois snapped its three-game losing streak with a 38-17 win over Illinois State last week. The Salukis ran for a season-high 342 yards in the win. Shariff Harris rushed for 163 yards and two touchdowns. Northern Iowa will be another test for Southern Illinois. The Panthers are ranked No. 15 in the FCS Coaches Poll and are coming off a 24-14 win over South Dakota State.

Powers’ prediction: Southern Illinois 34, Northern Iowa 21

Illinois State (3-2) at Indiana State (2-2)

When, where: 2 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Terre Haute, Ind.

TV: None

Radio: None

Web: GoRedbirds.com

What you need to know: Illinois State looks to bounce back after losing to Southern Illinois 38-17 last week. The Redbirds’ defense had trouble containing Southern Illinois’ running attack. Illinois State wide receiver Marvon Sanders was one of the lone bright spots as he had his third consecutive game of 100-plus yards. Indiana State, which lost 40-7 to Western Illinois earlier in the season, shouldn’t give Illinois State much trouble.

Powers’ prediction: Illinois State 49, Indiana State 13

Eastern Illinois (0-5) at Eastern Kentucky (1-3)

When, where: 6 p.m. Saturday at Roy Kidd Stadium in Richmond, Ky.

TV: None

Radio: None

Web: ESPN3.com

What you need to know: Eastern Illinois fell to 0-5 with last week’s 28-13 loss to Southeast Missouri. Freshman quarterback Jimmy Garappolo, a Rolling Meadows’ graduate, had his ups and downs last week. He was 20-of-33 passing for 163 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions. Eastern Kentucky should be more even of an opponent for the Panthers. The Colonels lost their first three games before defeating a D-II opponent last week.

Powers’ prediction: Eastern Illinois 17, Eastern Kentucky 10

Western Illinois (4-1) at South Dakota State (0-4)

When, where: 6 p.m. Saturday at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium in Brookings, S.D.

TV: None

Radio: None

Web: GoLeathernecks.com

What you need to know: Western Illinois pulled off a shocker last week, defeating FCS-ranked North Dakota State 28-16 on the road. The Leathernecks rushed for 223 yards and two touchdowns, and Matt Barr was 17 of 24 for 175 yards and two touchdowns against one of the top FCS defenses. With a win over South Dakota State, Western Illinois would be off to its best start since 2000.

Powers’ prediction: Western Illinois 41, South Dakota State 17