Best of Week 3: Rutgers makes Big Ten debut

Week 3 isn’t filled with a plethora of sexy matchups, but there is no lack of intrigue. A big highlight is the first Big Ten game of the season, as Penn State visits Rutgers. In fact, it will be the Scarlet Knights’ first Big Ten game and the first time the Nittany Lions have been on Rutgers’ campus since 1955. See my Best of Week 3 in this post.

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BEST OF WEEK 3

Best storyline: We have a rivalry game, people! Iowa State at Iowa! The Cyclones have been a pain in Ferentz’s keister, going 8-7 vs. Captain Kirk since he followed Hayden Fry in 1999. Iowa State gets jacked to play the Hawkeyes, who usually always have better talent. Still, Iowa State has found a way to pace this rivalry, going 9-7 in the last 16 meetings after Iowa ripped off 15 wins in a row in the Cy-Hawk Series from 1983-97.

Game of the week: Nebraska at Fresno State. The trip to Fresno State has “scary” written all over it. The Bulldogs went 11-2 en route to winning the Mountain West in 2013. But Fresno State will be without departed quarterback Derek Carr, as the Bulldog offense may be a bit bumpy. Still, Tim DeRuyter is a good coach who leads a typically tough and physical Fresno program. The Bulldogs play at a quick pace offense and are uber aggressive on defense, a unit with experience. Again, the key will be QB. Who will it be? Brian Burrell, Myles Carr, or Zack Greenlee? Nebraska figures to be pushed to the limit.

Top quarterback matchup: The battle between Indiana’s signal-caller (Tre Roberson or Nate Sudfeld) and Bowling Green’s Matt Johnson should be good. The Hoosiers led the Big Ten in passing last season (306.7 ypg) and return some top wideouts, too. Johnson threw for 3,467 yards and 25 TDs with just seven picks last year as a sophomore for the Falcons, who have a new coach in Dino Babers after Dave Clawson took the Wake Forest job.

Best coordinator battle: How about Iowa State offensive coordinator Mark Mangino vs. Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker? Yes, please. Mangino is a top offensive mind who made Kansas football matter when he led the program to an Orange Bowl crown in the 2007 season. Think about that for a second. KU hasn’t made a peep since it unjustly chased Mangino from Lawrence after the 2009 season. He sat out from 2010-12 before remerging at FCS Youngstown State in 2013. Now, he’s back in the big-time. Parker’s Hawkeye defense ranked second in the Big Ten last season (303.1 ypg) and should excel again even with three new linebackers.

Upset alert: Minnesota is on the rise but will face a big challenge in Ft. Worth, Texas, vs. TCU. Yes, the Horned Frogs are coming off a 4-8 record. Still, Gary Patterson has a top-flight Big 12 program that’s always physical and always plays hard. As a sidebar, Patterson and Kill are best buddies. So, there’s that. The Gophers have two home games as tune-ups, playing FCS Eastern Illinois and Middle Tennessee State. So, that will help. Minnesota has the skill to win this game. Does it have the moxie?

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Week 3 nuggets: Michigan State, Northwestern and Wisconsin are off … Purdue’s game with Notre Dame, an annual rival since 1946, will be its last until the series kicks off again in 2020 … Maryland-West Virginia is a long rivalry, having been played 50 times. The Mountaineers are coming off a 4-8 season … After playing four games vs. the MAC last week, there are three meetings this week: Indiana at Bowling Green; Miami (Ohio) at Michigan; Kent State at Ohio State. It’s rare for a Big Ten team to play at a MAC school, but that’s what the Hoosiers are doing.

RANKING WEEK 3 GAMES
1. Nebraska at Fresno State
2. Minnesota at TCU
3. Penn State at Rutgers
4. Iowa State at Iowa
5. West Virginia at Maryland
6. Illinois at Washington
7. Purdue vs. Notre Dame (in Indianapolis)
8. Indiana at Bowling Green
9. Miami (Ohio) at Michigan
10. Kent State at Ohio State

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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Cs on 6/4/2014 @ 3:24pm EDT Said:

I can understand Nebraska / Fresno game and I can also understand the first Big Ten game for Rutgers along with all the hype still surrounding the PSU program / NEW COACH. I also know and understand how terrible Purdue was last year…I do. Even if they did only lose to the Big Ten Champs 14-0 in the fourth quarter AT MSU…however this is a new year. Predictions are just that. So here I go…And I know its hard for anyone to talk about a 1-11 team in any positive regard unless your a true fan but Purdue has historically always played ND hard and it came down to the fourth quarter last year / final minutes (even as bad as they were)… Purdue should be, and I’ll say should be again, undefeated (given who they play) heading into this game and ND will be coming off a big win or loss at MI, making this a trap game either way in my mind. I def think when PU plays ND at Lucas Oil Stadium you won’t find a better venue / atmosphere week 3 in the Big Ten and or a empty seat in the house for this in-state rival. It could be a blow out on paper and ND sails (but so could any of the other games on the list honestly) or Purdue does what they have done historically / the past 15 years, they keep it close and they will play ND like they have nothing to lose (as they don’t)…It should definitely be in the top five games somewhere for wk 3…Danny Etling has his freshman year under his belt and finally shows why he was a highly recruited QB in his class…Raheem Mostert has 100 yds rushing…R. Russel has 2.5 sacks and PU wins by 3 and finally pulls of a close game over ND with some bragging rights until 2020…call it wishful thinking, a prediction, or a much needed upset after 1-11 start last yr… but I think it will be a top match up for week 3 after its all said and done….

the corporation on 6/4/2014 @ 8:19pm EDT Said:

Not sure many people understand the hatred rutgers has for pennst. The nits are walking into a war zone sept 13 2014. On top of that, the new coach in happy valley, who hasn’t accomplished a darn thing, is running his mouth just a bit too much.

To put nebraska vs fresno as the top game doesn’t seem right. Fresno loses a bunch of players, namely quarterback Carr, and won’t be nearly as good as last year. Minnesota/TCU is an exciting matchup.

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