Illinois (1-1) at No. 13 Ohio State (2-1)
2:30 p.m. at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio
Radio: WIND (560 AM)
What you need to know: The Illini begin their treacherous stretch here with Ohio State followed by Penn State followed by Michigan State. If they can pull out one of the three, they may be lucky. Illinois needs to prove itself on both sides of the ball. The defense's ability was already being questioned, so the season-ending loss of middle linebacker Martez Wilson may be especially tough. Quarterback Juice Williams and wide receiver Arrelious Benn haven't been on the field for more than a few plays this season because of injuries. They'll need to have a big day to win at Ohio State.
Scott Powers' prediction: Ohio State 34, Illinois 17
Notre Dame (2-1) at Purdue (1-2)
7 p.m. (CDT) at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Ind.
Radio: WLS (890 AM).
What you need to know: Purdue and Notre Dame are combining for an average of 70.3 points and 919.3 offensive yards per game this season. And if both defenses hold true to form, those numbers could increase Saturday night. The Irish are 96th in total defense and 63rd in scoring defense -- making them actually the superior unit statistically coming in. The Boilermakers have the nation's No. 2 rusher in sophomore Ralph Bolden. The Irish have the nation's No. 2 passer in junior Jimmy Clausen, cleared to play after some uncertainty earlier in the week over a turf toe injury. Even without injured wide receiver Michael Floyd, the Irish likely have enough offensive octane to outscore Purdue. But if ND is going to make it through October without its BCS hopes unraveling, the defense must take its first significant step forward Saturday night.
Eric Hansen's Prediction: Notre Dame 34, Purdue 19
Minnesota (2-1) at Northwestern (2-1)
11 a.m. at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill.
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: WGN-720 AM
What you need to know: Northwestern's loss last week to Syracuse was tough to swallow. So much for a possible 6-0 start to the Wildcats' season. It was originally thought that Northwestern could knock off the Orange, win at home against Minnesota, and then defeat Purdue and Miami (Ohio). Instead, the Wildcats could be on the verge of their second loss this week. Minnesota defeated Syracuse to start the season and hung right with a talented California team last week.
Scott Powers' prediction: Northwestern 24, Minnesota 21
Idaho (2-1) at Northern Illinois (2-1)
2:30 p.m. at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Ill.
TV: Comcast SportsNet
Radio: WSCR-670 AM
What you need to know: Northern Illinois needs to make sure there is no letdown after last week's upset of Purdue, as Idaho is much improved from last year's 2-10 record. Already, the Vandals have won twice and stuck with Washington, which just defeated USC. As in their previous wins, the Huskies will need their two running backs, Chad Spann and Me'co Brown, to be productive.
Scott Powers' prediction: Northern Illinois 27, Idaho 20
Eastern Illinois (3-0) at Austin Peay (1-2)
6 p.m. at Governors Stadium in Clarksville, Tenn.
What you need to know: Eastern Illinois is off to its best start since 1995. Despite being their third consecutive road game, the Panthers should have little trouble with Austin Peay, which was defeated last week 38-7 by Illinois State. Eastern Illinois will look for quarterback Jake Christensen to continue putting up big numbers.
Scott Powers' prediction: Eastern Illinois 38, Austin Peay 14
North Dakota State (1-2) at Southern Illinois (1-1)
6 p.m. at McAndrew Stadium in Carbondale, Ill.
What you need to know: North Dakota State provided Southern Illinois with its only Missouri Valley Conference loss last season. Both offenses are capable of putting up a lot of points. The Salukis are coming off a win where they had 699 yards against Southwest Baptist. Look for Southern Illinois running back Deji Karim to have a monster night.
Scott Powers' prediction: Southern Illinois 44, North Dakota State 27
South Dakota State (2-0) at Illinois State (1-2)
7 p.m. at Hancock Stadium in Normal, Ill.
What you need to know: Illinois State hasn't had many easy games to start the season, and South Dakota State continues that trend. The Jackrabbits have outscored their opponents 85-6. The growing pains look to continue for the young Redbirds. To have a chance, Illinois State will need running back Clifton Gordon to continue his success of last week, as he rushed for four touchdowns in the Redbirds' win over Austin Peay for it have a chance.
Scott Powers' prediction: South Dakota State 33, Illinois State 21
Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at email@example.com.