Yes, the 2013 football season still is two-plus months away. That won’t keep me from looking ahead and taking an in-depth look at each and every week’s top matchups and storylines. I’m also offering my rankings of every week’s slate of games. Up now: Week 3, highlighted by Nebraska’s rematch vs. UCLA.
Game of the week: No doubt, the visit from a rising UCLA program to Nebraska will be challenging. Last year’s trip to La-La Land was a nightmare for Nebraska. The Huskers allowed 653 yards in a 36-30 loss in the venerable Rose Bowl. It was the first of three horrible performances for the Husker defense (at Ohio State; Big Ten title game). UCLA figures to be a preseason Top 25 team led by QB Brett Hundley. Is Nebraska’s overhauled defense ready for this Bruin offensive juggernaut?
Ranking Week 3 games
1. UCLA at Nebraska
2. Wisconsin at Arizona State
3. Ohio State at Cal
4. Iowa at Iowa State
5. Notre Dame at Purdue
6. Washington vs. Illinois at Chicago
7. UCF at Penn State
8. Western Michigan at Northwestern
9. Bowling Green at Indiana
10. Akron at Michigan
11. Youngstown State at Michigan State
12. Western Illinois at Minnesota
Quarterback matchup to watch: There will be few better all season than UCLA’s Brett Hundley vs. Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez. Hundley, a dual-threat sophomore, ranked second in the Pac-12 in passing in 2012 and is a star on the rise. Martinez has gotten better each season and appears poised for a big senior send off. He also will be ensconced with great talent.
Coordinator matchup to watch: It will be fun to watch UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone take on Nebraska’s John Papuchis/Bo Pelini. The Bruins will have one of the nation’s top offenses, putting ample pressure on a Cornhusker defense with a re-tooled front seven that has a lot to prove. Mazzone is one of the best in the business.
Upset alert: Penn State needs to be careful when UCF visits State College. The Knights are well-coached by George O’Leary and are coming off a 10-4 season that included a trip to the C-USA title game and a bowl victory. And many key players—including the quarterback—return for a team that has more than enough athletic ability.
Storylines: This by far is the best week of non-conference action. The only duds: three games vs. the MAC, and two vs. FCS foes. Still, there’s lots to like with UCLA at Nebraska; Wisconsin at Arizona State; Ohio State at Cal; Notre Dame at Purdue; Iowa at Iowa State, among others. And danger looms with three of those teams on the road: Wisconsin; Ohio State; Iowa. … Illinois will play Washington in Chicago’s Soldier Field. The Illini haven’t played in the home of the Chicago Bears since dropping a 10-9 decision vs. Washington State in 1994. … The Fighting Irish have had their way with the Boilermakers of late, winning the last five meetings—and seven of eight. … Wisconsin’s rebuilt secondary and new 3-4 defensive scheme will be put to the test during a trip to Tempe. Todd Graham’s Sun Devils’ play a high-flying brand of offense that operates at a quick pace. The Badgers better be in shape—and ready. … Iowa State has been a pain in Iowa’s keister, winning the last two meetings behind vastly underrated coach Paul Rhoads. In fact, Kirk Ferentz is just 6-8 vs. the Cyclones. This has to stop if the Hawkeyes want to climb out of last year’s 4-8 funk that has some doubting the direction of the program. Iowa hasn’t lost three in a row to Iowa State since dropping five in a succession from 1998-2002. … The Golden Bears almost won in Columbus last season, as the Buckeyes didn’t score the game-winning touchdown until less than four minutes remained in a 35-28 victory. And the Bears have a new dynamic coach in Sonny Dykes, whose high-flying offense may pose issues for a retooled OSU front seven. … In case you have forgotten, Michigan fans: Akron is coached by Terry Bowden. Yes, THAT Terry Bowden, who went 1-11 in his debut last season.
|About Tom Dienhart||BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.|
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