Dienhart: Week 1 Questions? Yes. Answers? Not yet.
The Big Ten took the lid off the 2013 season last night, with Minnesota and Indiana recording resounding victories by registering point totals that would have tilted a pinball machine. The unveilings continue tonight, with Michigan State playing host to Western Michigan, and then the other nine schools play Saturday. Here are questions I have for each of the 10 schools yet to kickoff.
Will the Fighting Illini dominant a FCS foe? Well, maybe “dominate” is too strong of a word. I’ll settle for a “convincing” effort vs. Southern Illinois, in which the offense runs with power and the defense stuffs generates some big plays and turnovers. Wins may be precious in 2013 for Illinois, so it needs to capitalize when it can.
How is the ground game? To be successful this season, the Hawkeyes need to pound the rock with a collection of good backs and a strong line. Iowa can’t count on first-year starting QB Jack Rudock chucking the ball 30 times a game to win. Mark Weisman, Damon Bullock, Jordan Canzeri and Co., need to run well.
How do the running backs look? This position was at one of its all-time lowest spots in program history last season. Fitz Toussaint getting hurt exasperated the situation. Toussaint is back and looks to be in his 2011 form. But who is No. 2? The staff doesn’t even seem to know. Derrick Green? Thomas Rawls? Drake Johnson? Toussaint will need help behind an o-line that is breaking in three new starters on the interior
Is the defense as dominant as I think it can be? I bet you thought I’d have a question about the offense. Nope. The coaches won’t show much vs. Western Michigan, which should get blown back to Kalamazoo as quickly as you can say “row the boat.” Instead, I wanna see a defense that oozes talent like Max Bullough, Marcus Rush and Darqueze Dennard dominate a middling MAC team. Break some oars, Sparty.
Will the defensive line get some heat? This unit has been overhauled after a tumultuous 2012 but has some nice talent and depth with guys like Jason Ankrah, Randy Gregory, Thad Randle, Greg McMullen and Avery Moss, among others. Wyoming has a dynamic offense that likes to pass. The Husker front must respond with some heat.
Will the Wildcats be impacted by the late start at Cal? Pat Fitzgerald is being as proactive as possible, altering his players’ sleeping habits and practicing at night in anticipation of a game that will start at 9:30 p.m. NU time on Saturday night. The Wildcats can’t be caught sleepwalking vs. the Golden Bears’ up-tempo attack led by first-year coach Sonny Dykes.
Will the Buckeyes take care of business? And by “take care of business,” I mean thrash and smash Buffalo. Ohio State needs to dominate an over matched MAC team and show why it’s ranked No. 2 in the country. Nothing less than 50 points and 500 yards will suffice, right?
[ MORE: View our Week 1 Big Ten scoreboard ]
Who will start at quarterback? Honestly, it may not really matter. In time, I think Christian Hackenberg will emerge over Tyler Ferguson and do great things this fall—as long as injuries don’t set in. Hackenberg eventually will show what all the fuss was about. And he won’t be asked to carry a huge load early on, as there is plenty of veteran talent on this offense to buffet the new quarterback.
Will the offense make some plays? The line could be OK. And Rob Henry is a veteran option under center with the athletic ability to make something happen. But who will step up at receiver? And is there a running back behind Akeem Hunt? This team needs playmakers.
Will the offense still have all of its usual subtlety of a punch in the nose? There is a new coach in town: Gary Andersen. And all signs indicate not much will change on offense. But I still wanna see if running backs James White and Melvin Gordon get a heavy dose of pigskin toting vs. UMass. You know Barry Alvarez will be watching from high above, peering through his sun glasses with his arms folded across his chest.
|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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