Purdue’s task:
Make Ann Arbor nice

Oct 21, 2003 3:07 AM

It was an absolutely beautiful day in Madison, Wisconsin. Not only was the air crisp, but it was filled all day with balls from ”” you guessed it ”” Purdue’s talented passing attack.

PURDUE: With a dominating air assault, "QB" Kyle Orton and the Boilers handed Wisconsin a 26-23 defeat. Orton completed 38 of 55 passes for 411 yards. Top WRs John Standeford and Taylor Stubblefield combined for 30 receptions and 314 yards. All year Purdue has been using a very balanced combination of running and passing. This week the Boilers travel to Michigan, a key matchup in the Big Ten race.

WISCONSIN: The high-powered Badgers running game just didn’t emerge as they gained only 97 yards on 34 attempts. For the second straight week backup "QB" Matt Schabert had to replace injured Jim Sorgi. Early reports list Sorgi as "highly questionable" this week because of a knee injury. Wisconsin visits Northwestern, which is off a bye week.

NORTHWESTERN: The Wildcats have given up a tremendous amount of yards on the ground. This fits right into the strength of the Badgers, which typically pour it on against this type of opponent. However, you may want to check the status of Sorgi. I think the talent level drops off a bit with Schabert behind center. If the line comes in at 13 or less, I would have to take a serious look at laying the points.

MICHIGAN ST: The surprise team in the Big Ten. The Spartans continue to roll as they held on to beat Minnesota on the road, 44-38. It’s only the third time in school history that the Spartans have opened 4-0 in the Big Ten. The previous two times (1965 and ”˜66), they went on to win the title. Against Minnesota, the back breaker was a 100-yard kickoff return by DeAndra Cobb. Jeff Smoker completed 30 of 46 for 252 yards. The Spartans are off this week, preparing for a Nov. 1 clash with Michigan.

MINNESOTA: "QB" Asad Abdul-Khaliq was 27 of 40 for 377 yards and four touchdowns against the Spartans. The Gophers look to snap a two-game slide this week at Illinois. One has to wonder if the Gophers can rebound, but Illinois isn’t much of a test. No early line posted due to the questionable status of the Illinois starting "QB". This is the most difficult game to predict in the Big Ten at this time.

MICHIGAN: The Wolverines were supposed to blow out Indiana, but an emotional loss to Oregon the week before helped the Hoosiers stay in the game longer than most thought. Two weeks ago Michigan had an emotional comeback win over Minnesota. This time they responded with a lopsided win over Illinois, 56-14. Michigan is a 5½-point favorite against Purdue. That’s a perfect number for what should be a tight struggle.

ILLINOIS: The Illini have lost their Big Ten games by an average of 32 points. The six consecutive defeats marks the worst record since Coach Ron Turner’s first year in 1997.

OHIO STATE: Looking at last week’s 19-10 win against Iowa, one could attribute the lack of offense for both clubs to the stingy defenses on the other side of the field. As I will continue to state until they give me a reason to believe otherwise, these are the most overrated clubs in the Big Ten. Ohio State is a 20½-point favorite on the road at Indiana, which is also off a bye week. With the Buckeyes still having trouble scoring, I would have to take a good look at the underdog.

IOWA: The Hawkeyes had more total yards than the Buckeyes, but turnovers that sealed their fate. Iowa had a chance to tie the game but, with 3:03 remaining, center Eric Rothwell snapped the ball over "QB" Nathan Chandler and it went through the end zone for a safety.

PENN STATE: The Nittany Lions, off a bye week, visit Iowa. Penn State is the most mysterious team in the Big Ten. With last week’s rest, one has to wonder if Joe Paterno will put together a great game plan.

As I take an early look at the schedule, three games caught my eye:

Penn State (+10½) at Iowa: Joe Paterno had a week to come up with a game plan and I think his team is ready. Iowa is overrated and Penn State will keep it close. PENN ST.

Iowa State (+22) at Nebraska: Iowa State is just playing horrible football. Nebraska had an off year in 2002 and fell 36-14 to the Cyclones. The Huskers should come out firing on all cylinders in a blowout win. NEBRASKA.

No. Illinois (—4) at Bowling Green: NIU has been playing great football, but I think this is a nice spot to take the home dog. The host Falcons were in a similar spot when they beat Purdue to open the season. Revenge could also be a factor because Bowling Green lost to the Huskies last year. BOWLING GREEN.

Last week: 2-1

Season: 14-7

(For more free picks visit Doc, who has been in business for more than 30 years, at www.docsports.com.)