The Wolverines get no time to search for answers after a 23-20 loss at Wisconsin ended their national championship hopes, dropped them out of the Associated Press top 25 for the first time since 1998 and ended their streak of victories in the Big Ten opener at 23. Instead, they head for instate rival Michigan State, which is itching for revenge after wasting a 17-point fourth-quarter lead against Michigan last season at the Big House. MSU is favored for the first time since at least 1973, which is as far back as records exist on odds in the series. Michigan hopes to have tailback Mike Hart back after going without him in most of the last three games. Hart suffered a hamstring injury in the first quarter of game two against Notre Dame. He did not play against either Eastern Michigan or Wisconsin Michigan has lost its last six road openers. One reason the Wolverines' offense is struggling is the lack of production from supposed big-play threat Steve Breaston. He caught one pass for minus-1 yard and averaged just 5.5 yards on punt returns and 14.8 yards on kickoff returns at Madison.
The Illini's reward for absorbing a 61-14 loss against Michigan State is a trip to Iowa, where the Hawkeyes are steaming over a 31-6 loss at Ohio State. Head coach Ron Zook would like to find some help, but there aren't many alternatives. "You can't go to the waiver wire," Zook said. One small consolation in the lopsided loss to Michigan State? Illinois got plenty of practice returning kickoffs. The Illini rank 13th nationally with an average of 28.6 yards per return. Pierre Thomas is fourth in the league at 25.3 per return. He ranked 10th nationally last season. Illinois is the only team in the Big Ten and one of 18 teams nationally to convert each of its red zone possessions into points. The Illini have scored 11 touchdowns and seven field goals on their 18 trips inside the opposing 20-yard line.
Head coach Terry Hoeppner could really appreciate Wisconsin tailback Brian Calhoun, if only the Hoosiers' defense wasn't faced with containing him Saturday at Camp Randall. "I see him running in my sleep," Hoeppner said. "If you forget you have to play against him, he's fun to wach." Indiana tried to parlay its 3-0 start into a little love in the polls, but voters would have none of it. The school sent e-mails to voters in the Associated Press top 25 trumpeting the Hoosiers' start, but IU didn't receive a single vote.