Big 10: Hoosiers make rare visit to Big House

Break out the GPS: These Indiana players may need directions to Ann Arbor.

The Hoosiers' trip to No. 23 Michigan on Saturday will be their first since November 2005. The schools played in Bloomington in 2006 and did not face each other the past two seasons.

That means none of the more than 100 players on Indiana's roster has ever played at The Big House and only a handful have ever made the trip.

One veteran who can provide an idea of what to expect from the more than 100,000 fans who will show up Saturday is DE Jammie Kirlew.

"I was there at that game," said Kirlew, who redshirted in '05. "A lot of guys were saying you're playing at The Big House and this is where you're going to see the most people you'll ever see."

Coach Bill Lynch's toughest task this week will be preparing Indiana for all the trimmings that come with Michigan's environment, primarily the hostility and the crowd noise. The Hoosiers have lost seven straight road conference games but did win at Akron last weekend.

"It really is 11 on 11 and that's the approach you take," he said. "But it is a great opportunity. You want to take it in, not be intimidated by it."


HAS-BENN? Illinois WR Arrelious Benn, named to some preseason All America teams after a 1,000-yard season in 2008, has one catch through the Illini's first two games, a nine-yarder in the opener against Missouri. Illinois State shut him out Saturday, the first time in Benn's 27 games at Illinois that he didn't catch a pass.

He played in one of the biggest moments in recent Illini football history two years ago, but, as the team heads to Columbus for Saturday's contest, he doesn't remember much about his last trip there.

Benn was a freshman during Illinois' 28-21 upset of then-No. 1 Ohio State two years ago, the game that propelled the Illini to the Rose Bowl and sank the Buckeyes' bid for a perfect season.

Benn suffered a concussion during the game and says he remembers nothing of the game-ending drive that sealed the win.

Illinois held the ball for the final 8:09, converting first down after unlikely first down.

"Man, I couldn't even tell you what was going on," Benn said. "I had no clue. I was knocked out, a bit woozy."


RODRIGUEZ'S RETAINER? Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez awarded a scholarship to walk-on WR Jon Conover and poked some fun at himself.

"I think he's applying for law school," said Rodriguez, who has been entangled in lawsuits with West Virginia University and from a real-estate deal. "If anybody has any influence on helping him get in there, I think he would be terrific. I know enough about lawyers now that I think he'd be a great one. I'd probably be employing him someday."

Rodriguez has a soft spot for walk-ons because he was one for the Mountaineers.

"I can remember when (coach) Don Nehlen told me I was going to get (a scholarship)," Rodriguez recalled. "I was stretching during two-a-day camp right before my sophomore year, and it was the year I had to get one. And he said, 'You can tell your mom and dad that I'm going to give you a scholarship, but it's only going to be one year and you'll have to earn it again next year.' It was two weeks before we opened up at Oklahoma. So I was on cloud nine those first couple weeks."


LIONS FAN: Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz grew up in western Pennsylvania as a Penn State fan, and he said this week that his goal at Upper St. Clair High was to play for the Nittany Lions and coach Joe Paterno. He never got that chance, but Ferentz went on to become an academic All-Yankee Conference player at Connecticut before embarking on a coaching career.

Penn State knows all about Ferentz now. The Hawkeyes have won six of the last seven in the series, including last season's dramatic 24-23 upset in Iowa City.

"They were the program in the state of Pennsylvania, and really the program in the East at that point," Ferentz said of the Nittany Lions. "That, and coach Paterno to me has not only been great for college football but great for college sports. He's right up there with the John Woodens of collegiate sports history. To me everything about him was good. That's probably why everybody in Pennsylvania wanted to go there."


KAFKAESQUE: Northwestern's Mike Kafka ran all over Minnesota in last year's meeting at the Metrodome, won by the Wildcats on a last-second interception. They meet again on Saturday.

Filling in for the injured C.J. Bacher, Kafka had 27 carries for 217 yards - a school record for a QB. As the starter this season, Kafka has taken to the air, even though he can still cause problems with his legs. Last week in a loss to Syracuse, he completed a school-record 16 straight passes to begin the game. He ended up with three TD passes, ran for a score and caught a pass for six points - the first Big Ten player to get the touchdown trifecta since Penn State's Zack Mills did it against Akron in 2004.


SPARTY'S TRIP: Michigan State is 1-2 after heartbreaking losses to Central Michigan and Notre Dame. The Spartans are eager for a fresh start when they open Big Ten play at Wisconsin, where they often struggle. Michigan State has lost four of its last five in Madison, last winning in 2001.


HELP FOR DECKER: Eric Decker continues to be the primary passing target for Minnesota, with 415 of the team's 700 receiving yards through three games. There are signs of others emerging for the Gophers, though. Sophomore Brandon Green is one of the up-and-comers, with 93 yards on eight receptions so far including some tough ones in the clutch.

"He's cool as a cucumber," Decker said. "I love that kid. It's third down, you need a play, and some guys get nervous, get tense about it, but he's one of those guys that just steps up."

Green will return to his Chicago roots on Saturday when the Gophers play at Northwestern.

"I have my parents and people from back home that are going to be able to come to the game, so it should be fun," Green said.


QUICK-HITTERS: Players of the week: Michigan RB Carlos Brown, Kafka, Penn State LB Sean Lee, Iowa P Ryan Donahue and Wisconsin LB Chris Borland. ... Purdue also hosts Notre Dame on Saturday. ... When Ray Fisher took the opening kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown at Akron, it marked the first time in 125 years of football that Indiana scored on the opening kickoff.


AP Sports Writers Rick Gano in Chicago; Mike Marot in Indianapolis; Dave Campbell in Minneapolis; Luke Meredith in Iowa City, Iowa; and Larry Lage in Ann Arbor, Mich.; and Associated Press Writers Tim Martin in East Lansing, Mich.; and David Mercer in Champaign, Ill.; contributed to this report.


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