I’m continuing my super-early look at each week of the 2012 Big Ten football season as a way to preview the entire campaign. Here’s my Week 4 schedule analysis in this post and watch our feature on Michigan State’s memorable 2010 win over Notre Dame now. And you can catch up by looking back now at my Week 1, Week 2 Week 3 posts.
Storylines: The last week of full-scale non-conference games, as Purdue (Sept. 27 Marshall) and Indiana (Oct. 20 at Navy) still will have non-league contests. … Be careful, Illinois. Led by rising star coach Sonny Dykes, Louisiana Tech won the WAC in 2011. The Bulldogs can move the ball and score. … UAB went 3-9 last season and has a new coach in Garrick McGee, the former Arkansas offensive coordinator. The Blazers will visit Ohio State. … Northwestern foe South Dakota is a FCS team from the Great West Conference that went 6-5 last season. … Central Michigan, which visits Iowa, is just 6-18 in two years under former Michigan State quarterback Dan Enos. … Idaho State figures to be little more than a speed bump for Nebraska, a FCS team from the Big Sky that went 2-9 last year. That’s good, because the Huskers open Big Ten play the next two weeks vs. Wisconsin and Ohio State. … Purdue and Indiana are off, the first teams to enjoy a bye week.
Game of the week: Michigan-Notre Dame is one of the sport’s iconic rivalries. The Wolverines have won three in a row in the series and five of six vs. Notre Dame. This one is under the Golden Dome. The Wolverines won 28-24 at Notre Dame in 2010. But this may be Brian Kelly’s best ND team yet. Last year’s game was epic. Michigan claimed a 35-31 thriller over the Fighting Irish, as Denard Robinson hit Roy Roundtree with a game-winning 16-yard touchdown pass with two seconds left. It was the third consecutive season that Michigan overtook the Irish in the final 30 seconds to claim victory.
Quarterback matchup to watch: Central Michigan’s Ryan Radcliff (3,286 yards, 25 TDs in 2011) may be the top signal-caller in the MAC. James Vandenberg (3,022, 25) may be the top signal-caller in the Big Ten. Let the fireworks begin!
Coordinator matchup to watch: Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges vs. Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco. Borges will attack the Fighting Irish defense from a number of different angles with a multi-dimensional offense. Will Diaco be ready? Notre Dame’s defense still is looking to hone a championship hue. And trying to slow down what should be a strong Wolverine offense will be a formidable challenge for Diaco, a former Iowa linebacker.
Upset alert: Temple almost beat Penn State last season, falling 14-10 after the Nittany Lions scored the winning touchdown with 2:42 to play. The Owls will be the third bowl team Penn State will face in the non-conference. How will the Nittany Lion offense look vs. a Temple defense that has more athletic ability than many people realize? Penn State has won 29 in a row vs. the Owls dating to a 14-0 Temple win in 1941. Could that skein end?
September 22: Ranking the games
1. Michigan at Notre Dame
2. Temple at Penn State
3. Syracuse at Minnesota
4. Louisiana Tech at Illinois
5. Central Michigan at Iowa
6. UAB at Ohio State
7. UTEP at Wisconsin
8. Eastern Michigan at Michigan State
9. Idaho State at Nebraska
10. South Dakota at Northwestern
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