We have a full lineup this Saturday of seven Big Ten games, so there are plenty of performances to watch and even more players to follow. As a result, we decided to take a closer look at the B1G athletes who are poised for big games and bigger numbers.
Who could break out? Or who could be in for a big Saturday? Take a look:
Austin Ward: Minnesota’s backfield stable
Minnesota has no shortage of options to rush the football, and just about everybody it has turned to so far this season has chewed up yardage and put points on the scoreboard. The Gophers even added to their stable last week with the return of Shannon Brooks from injury, which could only add to the headache for Penn State on Saturday. The Nittany Lions have been the worst run-stopping team in the league by a wide margin, and they’ve already allowed at least 326 yards on the ground twice this season. Penn State is going to have its hands full against a roster that has no trouble keeping its tailbacks fresh or turning quarterback Mitch Leidner loose to plow through defenders.
Jesse Temple: Michigan State QB Tyler O'Connor
O'Connor endured a brutal game against Wisconsin in which he completed less than 50 percent of his passes and threw three interceptions with no touchdowns. It was a poor enough performance that coach Mark Dantonio had to answer questions this week about whether he would remain the starter. But don't forget he's 3-1 in a starting role, with road victories against Ohio State and Notre Dame. Going on the road to face Indiana could be what he needs. The Hoosiers' pass defense has made major strides since last season, allowing 223.7 yards passing per game -- down from 313.8 a year ago. Still, Michigan State quarterbacks have owned Indiana in recent years. During the Spartans' current seven-game winning streak against the Hoosiers, Michigan State QBs have averaged 286 yards passing per game and tallied 17 touchdowns with only two interceptions.
Brian Bennett: Maryland CB/PR Will Likely
Likely has yet to grab an interception this season, though he has played well for the Terrapins. This is the week he gets his first pick, at least. Purdue’s David Blough has thrown more interceptions (seven) than any other Big Ten quarterback. Five of them came in the same game against Cincinnati, but the point is that the Boilermakers are susceptible to turnovers. Coming off a bye week, look for Maryland to find ways to get Likely as involved as possible. A big punt return and maybe even some more cameos on offense could be in store for the league’s most versatile player not named Jabrill Peppers.
Dan Murphy: Indiana WR Nick Westbrook
Unless you're a Hoosier, there's a good chance you don't know about the most productive receiver in the Big Ten so far this season. Westbrook is averaging 110.5 receiving yards per game for Indiana. The sophomore caught two touchdowns against Ball State and two more against Wake Forest. His 6-foot-3 frame will present some matchup problems for Michigan State's secondary. If the Indiana offense has time to throw the deep ball, expect Westbrook to pull a few of them down this Saturday.
Josh Moyer: Ohio State RB Mike Weber
OK, maybe this is cheating a little bit -- because no Big Ten team is more overmatched this week than Rutgers. Ohio State is a 38-point favorite here, so we’re almost guaranteed offensive fireworks. But Weber might stand to benefit the most and could very well cross the 200-yard plateau. Rutgers has allowed 30 rushes of at least 10 yards this season, the fifth-worst rate in the Power 5 and the worst in the Big Ten -- and that’s with FCS Howard and New Mexico on the schedule. Nobody is expecting it to be pretty Saturday in Columbus, and Weber could have his best game yet.