These could change throughout the course of the season, of course, but I single out a trend for every Big Ten team and offer a guess as to what will happen Saturday. Also, don’t forget to cast your votes!
Question: How many snaps will Nathan Scheelhaase play?
Analysis: The Illini quarterback is coming off an ankle injury that forced him to miss last week’s loss at Arizona State. He’s expected to play Saturday, but there’s the chance he could be babied or that he re-aggravates the injury. Plus, Illinois is playing Charleston Southern, so it may not need Scheelhaase past the first couple of quarters.
My pick: 30 – Illinois needs to get its quarterback some reps before Big Ten play begins, and if it isn’t this week, the Illini only have one game left before the conference season kicks off.
[Related: Illinois adds helmet stickers]
Question: Will Shane Wynn catch a touchdown for the third consecutive week?
Analysis: One of the bigger wide receiver surprises in the Big Ten, Wynn has a touchdown catch in each of Indiana’s first two games, both wins. He’s been productive aside from the touchdowns, as well, hauling in 11 receptions for 135 yards.
My pick: No. After two games, it looks like Tre Roberson’s season-ending broken leg will affect Wynn more than any other Hoosier. The two had developed a very good rapport early on, and now Wynn has to get familiar with backup Cameron Coffman. Coffman is a superior passer, but it’s hard to know who he’ll target. It could be Wynn, although I want to see things play out.
[Related: Tom Dienhart’s Q&A with Greg Heban]
Question: Will James Vandenberg throw a touchdown pass?
Analysis: Vandenberg, who threw 25 touchdown passes last season in his first year as the starter, is stuck on zero scoring strikes through the first two games. It’s not all on Vandenberg, though, as the entire Iowa offense seems to be struggling to adapt to Greg Davis’ new offense.
My pick: Yes. Not only is Vandenberg much better than he’s shown this season, the guy only had two games all of last year without a touchdown pass. He has a track record, and it’s only a matter of time before he figures it out.
Question: How many points will Michigan score against Massachusetts?
Analysis: Look, Massachusetts is not very good. The program, which moved up from FCS this year, has been outscored 82-6 in its first two FBS games. Those first two opponents: Connecticut and Indiana. It’s scary to think what Michigan could do to UMass at The Big House.
My pick: 57 points – As I said in our weekly Big Ten predictions, Michigan could match the 82 points UMass has surrendered in its first two games if it wanted to. But that’s not going to happen. Brady Hoke won’t keep Denard Robinson out there that long if this thing gets out of hand – not with Notre Dame on deck.
Question: Will the Michigan State defense allow its first touchdown?
Analysis: Through two games, including one against Boise State, the Michigan State defense has yet to surrender a touchdown. Yep, the two touchdowns scored against the Spartans have come on interceptions returned for a score. In all, it’s allowed just six points, on two field goals where the opponent started in Michigan State territory.
My pick: Yes. The streak comes to an end Saturday, but it’s not like the Irish torch the Michigan State defense. No team figures to do that this season, come to think of it. Best guess: Notre Dame, which boast more weapons than either of the two teams Michigan State has faced, scores at least one touchdown.
[Related: Tom Dienhart’s 12 questions for Week 3]
Question: Will a Gopher running back rush for 100 yards?
Analysis: In one of the more surprising stats, Minnesota running backs have compiled only two 100-yard performances in the last 14 games. Both came last season, and both were accomplished by former Gopher Du’ane Bennett. To no surprise, through two games, QB MarQueis Gray leads the team in rushing (177 yards).
My pick: Yes. Donnell Kirkwood is the guy this week. The sophomore has run for 81 and 71 yards, respectively, in the first two weeks, and against Western Michigan, Minnesota’s toughest opponent yet, the Gophers will need to establish the run.
Question: How many points will Nebraska give up against Arkansas State?
Analysis: By now, we all know the stats from the loss at UCLA. They were ugly, none worse than the 653 total yards of offense allowed. Up next: Arkansas State, which just happens to be coached by former Auburn OC Gus Malzahn and is averaging 33.5 points in its first two games.
My pick: 24. The Huskers defense won’t get everything figured out Saturday, but expect some improvement. To be fair, would 24 points against Arkansas State be considered improvement? After last week, yes, I think so.
Question: Will it be Kain Colter or Trevor Siemian?
Analysis: Each of Northwestern’s games have come down to the wire. And in each of them, Siemian, the backup quarterback, has come in to lead the Wildcats on the game-winning drive. It happened in the final seconds at Syracuse and late in the fourth quarter last week versus Vanderbilt.
My pick: Kain Colter. This one, of course, is dependent on the Wildcats winning the game. But if Northwestern is to improve to 3-0, it will be Colter who leads the team down the field for the decisive score. Nothing more than a hunch.
Question: How many carries will Braxton Miller rack up?
Analysis: Miller has been nothing short of phenomenal through the first two weeks. The sophomore ranks fourth in the nation in rushing yards, and he’s set Ohio State rushing records for quarterbacks in each of the first two games. But how much is too much? After all, Miller carried the rock an eye-popping 27 times last week.
My pick: 17. Urban Meyer was quoted as saying 15 would be the ideal number for Miller this week. Once Ohio State gets some semblance of depth in the backfield, though, Meyer wants that number around 12. Even with Jordan Hill expected to return this week, the depth isn’t there. So that means Ohio State will have to rely on Miller’s legs more than Meyer wants.
Question: Will Allen Robinson lead the Big Ten in receptions for the third consecutive week?
Analysis: Not many people had Robinson on their radar when it came to breakout Big Ten wide receivers. Through two weeks, he’s the leader of the pack. His 19 receptions lead the Big Ten, and he hasn’t had fewer than nine catches in either game.
My pick: Yes. It’s no secret Matt McGloin is short on offensive weapons, so Robinson is his first, second and third option on most passing plays. That will be the case even more so this week as receiver Shawney Kersey opted to leave the team.
[BTN Connect: Join the conversation and see who’s trending]
Question: Will Rob Henry throw a touchdown pass?
Analysis: Danny Hope doesn’t seem sold on Caleb TerBush, last season’s starting quarterback. Last week, at Notre Dame, Hope had TerBush and Robert Marve split time under center. Part of that had to do with Marve’s great play in the season opener, but it sure seems like Hope isn’t afraid to give other guys a chance. And with Marve’s latest ACL injury, that other guy is Henry.
My take: No. While Henry figures to see action, especially if Purdue puts Eastern Michigan away early, the Boilers will be leading by so much that he’ll be handing off the ball.
Question: Will Montee Ball reach the 100-yard rushing plateau?
Analysis: It’s crazy to think we’re even entertaining this question, isn’t it? But the guy who eclipsed the 100-yard barrier in 16 of his previous 20 games prior to last week’s 61-yard dud is struggling to find running room behind Wisconsin’s typically dominant offensive line. Heck, he’s averaging just 3.9 yards per carry and the struggling ground game already has cost a man his job.
My pick: Yes. Utah State has limited its first two opponents to 152 rushing yards, however this is a 2011 Heisman Trophy finalist who will be ticked off. On top of that, Ball’s running behind an offensive line that will be out to prove it can live up to Wisconsin expectations.
|BTN.com web editor Brent Yarina covers football and men’s basketball for BTN.com. He writes the popular uniform feature “Clothes Call,” which also focuses on the latest cosmetic changes across Big Ten arenas and stadiums. Read all of his work here. You can subscribe to Yarina’s RSS feed and follow him on Twitter @BTNBrentYarina.|