Powers' Week 9 college football preview

No. 12 Penn State (7-1) at Northwestern (5-3)
3:30 p.m. at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill.
Radio: WGN-AM 720
Web: ESPN360.com
What you need to know: Northwestern pulled off its biggest comeback win in school history last week as the Wildcats overcame a 28-3 deficit to defeat Indiana 29-28. Northwestern won't have that luxury if its falls behind early against Penn State. If the Nittany Lions lead big early, they will likely lead big late. Northwestern's defense and special teams need to get their act together for a full game on Saturday. A few big offensive plays and a few big returns led to Indiana's 28 first-half points. Penn State is riding a four-game winning streak since losing to Iowa. It has won all of its games by double digits and have allowed more than 17 points just twice this season.
Scott Powers' prediction: Penn State 34, Northwestern 17

Michigan (5-3) at Illinois (1-6)
2:30 p.m. at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill.
Radio: WIND-AM 560
Web: ESPN360.com
What you need to know: Illinois' season doesn't getting any easier with Michigan coming to town. The Wolverines are only 1-3 in the Big Ten, but their losses have been to Iowa, Michigan State and Penn State. Illinois plans to play Juice Williams and Jacob Charest both again at quarterback. Sophomore running back Mikel Leshoure was one of the few bright sports for the Illini last week in their loss at Purdue as he rushed for a career-high 122 yards on 15 carries. They will need that and a whole lot more to pull off the upset against Michigan.
Powers' prediction: Michigan 35, Illinois 20

Akron (1-6) at Northern Illinois (4-3)
11 a.m. at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Ill.
Radio: WSCR-670 AM
What you need to know: Northern Illinois survived a late rally by winless Miami of Ohio last week to remain just behind Central Michigan in the MAC West. Running back Chad Spann was the hero last week as he had two carries of 40-plus yards and finished with 156 yards and two touchdowns. He has had five multiple touchdown games this season. Akron is another of the MAC's bottom teams. The Huskies will look to put together a complete game and put away Akron for good early.
Powers' prediction: Northern Illinois 31, Akron 10

Southern Illinois (6-1) at Indiana State (1-7)
11 a.m. at Memorial Stadium in Terre Haute, Ind.
TV: None
Web: SIUSalukis.com
What you need to know: Southern Illinois quarterback Chris Dieker is expected to miss six weeks with a broken left clavicle. The Salukis will certainly miss him, but they should be fine with new starting quarterback redshirt freshman Paul McIntosh. Indiana State had lost 33 consecutive games before beating Western Illinois 17-14 last week. The Sycamores will have their hands full with Southern Illinois running back Deji Karim, who leads the Football Championship Subdivision in rushing with 1,026 yards.
Powers' prediction: Southern Illinois 45, Indiana State 7

Eastern Illinois (6-2) at Murray State (2-5)
1 p.m. at Stewart Stadium in Murray, Ky.
TV: None
Web: OVCSports.tv
What you need to know: Eastern Illinois worked it way up to No. 19 in the FCS rankings after defeating Jacksonville State, which was ranked No. 12, last week. Lorenzo Ricks blocked a punt, returned a kick for a touchdown and forced a late fumble for the Panthers last week. Jake Christensen also threw two touchdowns in the win. This week should be easier for Eastern Illinois, which is looking to improve to 5-1 on the road this season.
Powers' prediction: Eastern Illinois 42, Murray State 10

North Dakota State (1-7) at Western Illinois (1-6)
1 p.m. at Hanson Field in Macomb, Ill.
TV: None
Web: GoLeathernecks.com
What you need to know: Western Illinois suffered its worst loss of the season last week as the Leathernecks fell 17-16 to Indiana State, which had previously lost 33 straight games. They will need to step up their offense this week at home to avoid a loss to North Dakota State. Western Illinois' Dre Gibbons rushed for 166 yards and a touchdown in last week's loss. North Dakota State's record doesn't show it, but it has played in some close games.
Powers' prediction: North Dakota State 21, Western Illinois 17

Illinois State (3-4) at Missouri State (5-3)
1 p.m. at Plaster Field in Springfield, Mo.
TV: None
Web: GoRedbirds.com
What you need to know: Illinois State is coming off its bye week and will look to put together its first back-to-back wins under first-year coach Brock Spack. Murray State is on a two-game winning streak with a one-point win over Western Illinois and a four-point victory over North Dakota State. The two programs have met 29 previous times and gone 14-14-1 against each other. Illinois State wide receiver Eyad Salem ranks second in the FCS with 61 receptions.
Powers' prediction: Illinois State 24, Missouri State 21

Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at spowers@espnchicago.com.