Rice (3-6) at Northwestern (4-5)
When, where: 11 a.m. Saturday at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill.
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: WGN-720 AM
What you need to know: Northwestern never lost confidence throughout its five-game losing streak. The Wildcats believed they weren’t that far from turning it around, and it appears they were right. They’ve won their past two games, including last week’s 28-25 upset at Nebraska. Their defense especially came through against the Cornhuskers. It was the first time it had allowed less than 30 points since Sept. 17. Rice shouldn’t present a huge challenge for Northwestern. Rice’s defense has had its struggles this season, giving up 73 points to Houston two weeks ago.
Powers’ prediction: Northwestern 45, Rice 24
No. 24 Michigan (7-2) at Illinois (6-3)
When, where: 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill.
Radio: WIND-560 AM
What you need to know: Illinois hasn’t been losing by much, but it has been losing, and that’s what’s important right now. Just as Illinois coach Ron Zook stated, a win was a win after a narrow victory over Western Michigan, a loss is still a loss. The Illini have dropped their past three games and are on the verge of seeing their season slip by. After starting 6-0, they’re now 6-3 and still have games against Michigan and Wisconsin. Last year’s Michigan game was a shootout with the Wolverines pulling out a 67-65 victory in triple overtime. Illinois’ defense should be better than that. The question is whether its offense can get going. The Illini haven’t scored more than 14 points in their last three games. They are coming off a bye last week.
Powers’ prediction: Michigan 24, Illinois 21
Notre Dame (6-3) at Maryland (2-7)
When, where: 6:30 p.m. Saturday at FedEx Field in Landover, Md.
Radio: WLS-890 AM
What you need to know: Notre Dame is amidst the easier portion of its schedule with Navy, Wake Forest and Maryland in consecutive games. Last week’s win over Wake Forest wasn’t as cushy as the Irish would have liked. Notre Dame needed to score 14 points in the third quarter and shut out Wake Forest in the second half to pull out a 24-17 win. Quarterback Tommy Rees is still searching for consistency. He threw two interceptions last week. Maryland enters this game on a five-game losing streak, but it has had some close contests. Its offense hasn’t put up more than 17 points in the last three weeks.
Scott Powers’ prediction: Notre Dame 34, Maryland 17
Ball State (6-4) at Northern Illinois (7-3)
When, where: 7 p.m. Tuesday at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Ill.
Radio: WSCR-670 AM
What you need to know: Northern Illinois, which has won five straight, is in first place in the MAC West, but it still likely needs to win out to remain atop the league. Their offense was its usual stellar self in Tuesday’s win over Bowling Green. What was different in the win was the defense also came to play. After allowing a touchdown on the opening play, Northern Illinois only gave up one more score the entire game. Ball State, one game behind the Huskies, has given up its share of points this year. In its four losses, it allowed 37 points or more.
Powers’ prediction: Northern Illinois 45, Ball State 27
Eastern Illinois (2-8) at Southern Illinois (2-7)
When, where: 2 p.m. Saturday at Saluki Stadium in Carbondale, Ill.
Web: EIUPanthers.com, SIUSalukis.com
What you need to know: Neither team’s season has gone as it hoped. Eastern Illinois looked like it had some potential at the beginning of the season, but have fallen on the wrong side of close games. The Panthers have lost four games by seven points or less, and two of those were by one point. Southern Illinois was 2-1 early in the year, but has lost its last six games. The Salukis’ offense struggled at first, but their defense has been the cause of defeat the last few weeks. They lost to South Dakota State 45-34 last week. This will be the final game for Eastern Illinois coach Bob Spoo, who is retiring.
Powers’ prediction: Eastern Illinois 38, Southern Illinois 31
South Dakota State (4-6) at Western Illinois (2-7)
When, where: 1 p.m. Saturday at Hanson Stadium in Macomb, Ill.
What you need to know: Western Illinois has dropped its past four games. The Leathernecks’ offense has struggled the last three weeks, failing to score more than 17 points in any of those games. South Dakota State’s problem this season has been stopping opponents from scoring. The Jackrabbits have given up 30-plus points in seven games. Something will have to give in this one.
Powers’ prediction: South Dakota State 34, Western Illinois 24