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Defensive Discussions, Week 9 In The Big Ten

How will Indiana attack the relatively vanilla attack of Iowa? Indiana runs a basic 4-3 and they are most effective when an explosive front four gets pressure and clogs running holes. Jammie Kirlew, Greg Middleton, and Larry Black Jr. will try to push the Iowa offensive tackles upfield, forcing that patented Iowa off-tackle run back into the middle of the defense or making TFL's.

How does Fitzy gameplan against Clark and Royster? Northwestern's base 4-3 features an underperforming defensive line that stepped up big against Indiana in the 2nd half of last weeks game. Pressuring Chappell and stuffing any semblance of a Hoosier run gave enough time for Kafka to lead a comeback. But PSU is a different beast, again featuring the Big Ten's best passing attack. What should Pat Fitzgerald be doing to slow PSU's well rounded attack? Play zone. The Wildcats feature one of the least talented linebacking corps in the Big 10 - they can't cover Quarless down the field in man. And we've seen what Graham Zug can do against the one on one coverage of Michigan. Drop into a zone and pray for some front four pressure, Iowa style.

Can Michigan stop giving up big plays for long enough to survive Illinois? It's actually a perfect storm for the Wolverines. Illinois's offense has generated fewer long gains than any offense in the Big Ten, while Michigan seems to give up long passes against any talented team they play. ND? Clausen throws for almost 400 yards with a couple of long tosses. Indiana? 85 yard run late in the fourth, long bomb to Doss. Iowa? 2 TD's, 35 and 42 yards, to a wide open tight end. Michigan is pressing on defense, trying to make big plays and leaving safety's on islands or in bad position. If any team won't be able to exploit this Wolverine D, it's Illinois. GregRob should leave his safeties deep, roll his corners up, and make Juice or Charest throw between defenders - something they haven't done successfully all year.

Will the Spartan 4-3 be tested at all versus Mini? This unit, headlined by All-Everything LB Greg Jones, is giving up only 103 yards per game rushing, third best in the Big Ten. Talented DT's who shoot gaps and an active, physical linebacking corp make the 4-3 an effective run defense. But the secondary is prone to penalties and breakdowns. Expect Narduzzi, the MSU defensive coordinator under fire for pulling out a prevent defense late versus Iowa, to stick to his vanilla 4-3 guns here with full confidence that his improved defense is more talented than the Gophers injury prone offense.

Did Purdue's D-Co learn anything from OSU about stopping Wisky? The Buck's executed a solid gameplan to slow John Clay and Co, slowing Clay early by jamming the middle and then dropping into a deeper zone and picking Tolzien three times. The Bucks could do this because of their outstanding talent, but Purdue is an improved team across the board defensively. Ryan Kerrigan will get the lions share of media attention, but the key will be the linebackers here. If Wisky cannot run early, Tolzien will be throwing those beautiful 20 yard out routes and seam routes into multiple defenders.