What can you expect to find in this series? I’ll tackle the week’s top storylines, offer my Game of the Week, quarterback matchup to watch and coordinator matchup to watch, plus tell you who should be on upset alert.
Storylines: Seven Big Ten teams take to the road for the first time, as 12 games are on the menu. … Illinois (Tim Beckman)and Arizona State (Todd Graham) are in their first seasons. … Penn State has lost two of the last three meetings with Virginia, which went 8-5 last season under Mike London … Notre Dame has won four in a row and six of the last seven vs. Purdue, which hasn’t left South Bend a winner since 2004. … Michigan State never has played at Central Michigan. … When Nebraska visits UCLA, it will encounter a new coaching staff led by Jim Mora, Jr. The Bruins—6-8 in 2011 after playing in the Pac-12 title game and a bowl–and Huskers haven’t met since 1994, with Nebraska holding a 6-4 edge in the series. … The Indiana at UMass game will be played at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.
Game of the week: There are some interesting matchups, but I’m going with the good ol’ hatred of the Iowa-Iowa State series. The visit from Iowa State to Iowa will be entertaining. The teams will battle for the newly designed Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Trophy, a piece of hardware that the Hawkeyes won three seasons in a row before the Cyclones took a zany 44-41 victory in 2011. But know this: Iowa has won four in a row in Kinnick over Iowa State. However, Kirk Ferentz is just 6-7 vs. the Cyclones. Hmmm.
Quarterback matchup to watch: Keep an eye on Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez vs. whomever UCLA has under center—Brett Hundley, Kevin Prince or Richard Brehaut. The signal-caller will be key for each team, as each program needs to amp up its passing game to reach its goals. And this key non-league game will be a good testing ground.
Coordinator matchup to watch: Wisconsin offensive coordinator Matt Canada vs. Oregon State defensive coordinator Mark Banker. Canada is in his first season in Madison but has a knack for developing quarterbacks. His Northern Illinois offense was among the top scoring units in the nation in 2011, averaging 38.3 points to rank 12th in the country. Banker is one of the top defensive coordinators in the nation, rarely getting the praise he deserves. He’s in his 10th season in Corvallis and has had over 50 players earn all-league honors.
Upset alert: The Air Force game should have Michigan wary. The Wolverines will be coming off that much-anticipated season opener vs. Alabama in Arlington, Texas, that the entire civilized world will be watching. What will be the mind-set of the Wolverines? Will they have a big letdown? Complicating matters for Michigan will be prepping for the always confounding Falcon option attack. This could be very interesting.
September 8: ranking the games
- Iowa State at Iowa
- Nebraska at UCLA
- Air Force at Michigan
- Illinois at Arizona State
- Wisconsin at Oregon State
- Vanderbilt at Northwestern
- Penn State at Virginia
- Purdue at Notre Dame
- Central Florida at Ohio State
- Michigan State at Central Michigan
- New Hampshire at Minnesota
- Indiana at UMass
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