It’s quiz time! Clear your desks and get out your No. 2 pencil. Game day is almost here! To get you ready, take this pop quiz that will help get you up to speed for all the action on what shapes up as a terrific Saturday of games–a Saturday that will go a long way toward shaping public opinion about the Big Ten.
1. Which 2-0 Big Ten is most dubious?
E. Michigan State
Answer: It has to be Wisconsin. Now, before you go firing off an angry e-mail or making some nasty post on a fan site about this story, hear me out. The Badgers have beaten a UMass team that until last season was a FCS member. And Wisconsin has whipped a FCS team in Tennessee Tech. The good news: The Badgers ripped these teams apart like they should have, outscoring them an aggregate, 93-0. But, honestly, no 2-0 Big Ten has opened with two softer opponents.
2. We already have seen the value of a good backup quarterback at places like Ohio State, Indiana and Northwestern. Which Big Ten school has the shakiest backup quarterback situation?
Answer: C. Purdue (Austin Appleby) and Iowa (C.J. Beathard) each have a redshirt freshman backup who at least has been on campus a year. Nebraska may be in the best shape of these schools with senior Ron Kellogg, who has 14 career passes. That leaves Michigan and Morris. Yes, he was a five-star recruit coming out of high school, according to Scout.com. He’s very talented with a bright future. But, he’s a true freshman. And, we all know the foibles of a true freshman quarterback—though Christian Hackenberg is looking awfully good at Penn State. Morris played in a season-opening 59-9 massacre vs. Central Michigan, hitting 4-of-6 passes for 59 yards and an interception. If Devin Gardner is hurt and Morris has to come in, the Wolverine offense would lose a lot of dynamic athletic ability.
3. True False: Minnesota’s Jerry Kill is the early leader for Big Ten Coach of the Year honors?
Answer: False. Yes, Kill has done a fine job in forging a 2-0 start. But Illinois’ Tim Beckman gets the nod–for now. Look, the guy was coming off a 2-10 debut in 2012 that saw the Fighting Illini go 0-8 in the Big Ten and lose their last nine games. Expectations were impossibly low entering 2013. But, look here: Illinois is 2-0, already matching last season’s win total! Yes, the season-opening 42-34 win over FCS Southern Illinois left many thinking 2013 was going to look a lot like 2012 in Champaign. But, Illinois’ 45-17 win over Cincinnati last week was one of the most impressive efforts by any team in the Big Ten thus far. More importantly: It has many thinking this is a bowl team. Much of the credit goes to new offensive coordinator Bill Cubit. Illinois is No. 5 in the Big Ten in total offense (493.0 ypg). Last year, the Illini were No. 12 (294.2).
4. True or False: If the Big Ten splits its four games with Pac-12 this Saturday, it will be a disappointment.
Answer: False. I expect Ohio State to win at Cal. I also think Nebraska will win a high-scoring game with UCLA. But I don’t think Illinois is ready to handle Washington in Chicago’s Soldier Field. And Wisconsin will melt in Tempe taking on a very good Arizona State squad that has a strong offense led by quarterback Taylor Kelly.
5. How many yards will Nebraska’s defense allow to UCLA?
A. Less than 300
B. Between 300-400
C. Between 400-500
D. Between 500-600
E. Over 600
Answer: C. In case you forgot, UCLA burned Nebraska for 653 yards in a 36-30 win over the Cornhuskers last season in Pasadena. Well, little has changed about the Bruin offense, which again is led by quarterback Brett Hundley. The sophomore sensation hit 22-of-33 passes for 274 yards and two touchdowns in helping UCLA notch 647 yards in a season-opening 58-20 win over Nevada this season. He hit 21-of-33 passes for 305 yards and four touchdowns last year vs. the Huskers. Yes, Nebraska has a lot of new talent along its front seven and a strong secondary. But, I still think UCLA will get its share of yards.
|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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