Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Both Penn State and Ohio State are off this week, but the Big Ten slate still has plenty of intrigue. For all the talk about the spread offense, this league has been dominated by defense and running backs. Some of the scores below reflect those trends.
Not an easy week to forecast, but that will be the case from here on out.
Central Michigan 27, Indiana 24: Kellen Lewis should be back from a high ankle sprain, but backup Ben Chappell performed well last week in leading the Hoosiers to their first Big Ten win. Who should coach Bill Lynch start at quarterback against Central Michigan? Indiana's offense makes some plays, but Central Michigan and standout quarterback Dan LeFevour have things rolling right now. A strong second half lifts the Chippewas to their fifth straight victory.
Michigan State 21, Wisconsin 17: Expect a quick game with lots of running from Javon Ringer, John Clay and P.J. Hill. Wisconsin gained some confidence last week behind quarterback Dustin Sherer, but Michigan State has a better defense than Illinois and will limit the Badgers' scoring chances. For the Spartans, there's some concern about an emotional letdown following the Michigan win, but this team is mentally tough and will win a close one.
Minnesota 24, Northwestern 14: The Gophers have played virtually mistake-free football, going 7-1 despite being outgained. A letdown could come soon, but not against a Northwestern team likely playing with a new starting offensive backfield (quarterback Mike Kafka and running back Omar Conteh). Both teams are improved on defense, but Minnesota forces tons of turnovers and Northwestern is prone to giveaways. The Gophers march on.
Michigan 19, Purdue 14: The Big Ten's two worst offenses meet at Ross-Ade Stadium in a game that could be hard to watch. Both teams are dealing with injury issues (Purdue's Curtis Painter, Michigan's Sam McGuffie), and both struggle in the red zone, so the game likely will come down to defense and turnovers. This could go either way, but Michigan forces a late turnover and sends Purdue to its sixth straight defeat.
Iowa 27, Illinois 21 -- This one was a real struggle, as both teams desperately need a win to boost their both hopes. Illinois Ron Zook called out his team and promised changes this week, which could ignite what has been a very inconsistent product. But Iowa's defensive line will pressure Juice Williams and force mistakes. The Hawkeyes are becoming more balanced and wear down Illinois' defense with Shonn Greene. Plus, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz has owned Illinois.
Byes: No. 3 Penn State (9-0, 5-0 Big Ten), No. 12 Ohio State (7-2, 4-1)
Season record: 56-10 (84.8 percent)