Week 8 in-state football preview

Dan Persa and the Wildcats face one of the nation's hottest teams, Michigan State, on Saturday. Jerry Lai/US Presswire

No. 7 Michigan State (7-0) at Northwestern (5-1)

When, where: 11 a.m. Saturday at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill.


Radio: WGN-AM 720


What you need to know: The last time Northwestern took the field was two weeks ago, and it wasn’t a memorable occasion. The Wildcats fell 20-17 at home to a struggling Purdue team. Their bye week arrived at the perfect time. Northwestern has had two weeks to fix some things, especially its special teams’ play, and prepare for Michigan State. The Spartans arrive in Evanston as one of the country’s hottest teams. Their offense (34.4 points per game) and defense (16.6) have been equally good with both ranking in the top 25.

Scott Powers’ prediction: Michigan State 34, Northwestern 24

Notre Dame (4-3) at Navy (4-2)

When, where: 11 a.m. at The New Meadowlands Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.


Radio: WLS-AM 890.

Web: und.com, navysports.com.

What you need to know: Saturday marks the 84th installment of the rivalry, with Navy having won two of the last three (2009 and 2007). Notre Dame is 14-0 all-time against the Midshipmen in New Jersey. Strange things tend to happen when these two teams square off. In seven of the last 14 meetings, one team has scored at least one touchdown on defense or special teams. Navy, isn't getting the same kind of production from Ricky Dobbs, who rushed for 27 touchdowns in 2009 and set an NCAA record for a quarterback, but is still pumping out around 260 rushing yards per game. However, the Midshipmen recently fixed their red zone issues. Navy was ranked 118th out of 120 FBS teams through its first four games when inside the opponent's 20-yard line. But in their last two victories over Wake Forest and Southern Methodist, the Mids were 8-for-8 on TDs once inside enemy lines. Defensively, Notre Dame has become increasingly stingy in that category, allowing only five touchdowns on opponents' last 16 trips to the red zone. The Irish have also stiffened against the run, giving up only a combined 152 yards in their last three contests. It's the best three-game stretch by an Irish defense since 1982. Sophomore linebacker Manti Te'o has a lot to do with that, ranking fifth in the FBS with 79 tackles. Navy's triple-option offensive scheme shouldn't completely throw the Irish for a loop considering coach Brian Kelly has designated a chunk of time each week in preparation for the unconventional scheme. Offensively, the Irish are hobbled. Tight end Kyle Rudolph was a spectator last week against Western Michigan and will be the rest of the season. Starting slot receiver Theo Riddick is out Saturday with a severe ankle sprain and star Michael Floyd is slowed by a hamstring. Fortunately, running back Armando Allen appears healthy and will provide QB Dayne Crist with a veteran pair of hands out of the backfield. As far as the big picture is concerned, Notre Dame knows what a loss to Navy means. Starting with the Mids, the Irish, 6-2 at the time, lost their final four games last season, leading to a coaching change.

Wes Morgan's prediction: Notre Dame 31, Navy 27.

Indiana (4-2) at Illinois (3-3)

When, where: 11 a.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill.

TV: Big Ten Network

Radio: WIND-AM 560

Web: FightingIllini.com

What you need to know: Illinois is still in good shape in the Big Ten. It was vital the Illini won one of their last three games, and they were able to upset Penn State on the road. They also hung with Michigan State and Ohio State. Illinois now has a stretch of games beginning with Indiana where it has to take care of business. Purdue, Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern and Fresno State follow the Indiana game. Most of those are winnable. The Hoosiers started out the season strong, but lost their first two conference games and just held on for a win over Arkansas State last week.

Powers’ prediction: Illinois 30, Indiana 17

Central Michigan (2-5) at Northern Illinois (5-2)

When, where: 3 p.m. Saturday at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Ill.

TV: Comcast SportsNet Chicago, ESPN GamePlan

Radio: WSCR-670 AM

Web: ESPN3.com

What you need to know: Northern Illinois is riding a four-game winning streak into this week. The Huskies have been putting together strong performances on both sides of the ball. In each of their last three games, they’ve scored more than 30 points and held their opponents to less than 17 points. Their running attack ranks 11th in the country with 242.6 yards per game. Chad Spann has rushed for 753 yards and eight touchdowns. Central Michigan isn’t a team to overlook. It has been in most games this season, including a 30-25 loss to Northwestern.

Powers’ prediction: Northern Illinois 24, Central Michigan 20

Illinois State (4-3) at Northern Iowa (3-3)

When, where: 4 p.m. Saturday at UNI Dome in Cedar Falls, Iowa

TV: None

Radio: None

Web: GoRedbirds.com

What you need to know: Illinois State rebounded from a two-game losing streak to defeat North Dakota State 34-24 last week. Cornerback E.J. Jones came up big with two interceptions and one forced fumble. Northern Iowa will be a difficult test for the Redbirds. The Panthers’ record doesn’t show it, but they are among the best teams in the FCS.

Powers’ prediction: Northern Iowa 27, Illinois State 21

Murray State (2-4) at Eastern Illinois (0-7)

When, where: 1:30 p.m. Saturday at O’Brien Field in Charleston, Ill.

TV: None

Radio: None

Web: EIUPanthers.com

What you need to know: Eastern Illinois’ woes continued last week with a 34-20 loss to Tennessee Tech. The Panthers committed six turnovers in the loss. This week won’t get any easier. Murray State has a high-powered offense and scored 72 points in its last game.

Powers’ prediction: Murray State 42, Eastern Illinois 21

Western Illinois (5-2) at Missouri State (2-4)

When, where: 1 p.m. Saturday at Plaster Field in Springfield, Mo.

TV: None

Radio: None

Web: GoLeathernecks.com

What you need to know: Western Illinois got back on the winning track last week with a 40-38 win over Youngstown State. Matt Barr connected with Lito Senatus for a 17-yard touchdown in the final minute to give the Leathernecks the win. Missouri State is coming off an overtime loss to Indiana State and a 72-59 loss to Murray State.

Powers’ prediction: Western Illinois 38, Missouri State 20