Dienhart: Best chance for each Big Ten team to be upset

Dienhart: Best chance for each Big Ten team to be upset

Upsets. They happen. Ask Iowa fans, who won’t soon forget losing at home to FCS North Dakota State last season. Northwestern can sympathize, as the Wildcats fell at home to Illinois State in 2016. No doubt, more upsets will take place this fall.

Here is a look at the best chance for each Big Ten team to be upset.

Illinois: vs. Western Kentucky, Sept. 9. The Fighting Illini need to be careful when Jeff Brohm’s old team comes to town. The current Purdue coach had the Hilltoppers rolling, going 31-10 the last three seasons with three bowl games and two league titles. Western Kentucky won C-USA in 2016, going 11-3.

Indiana: vs. Rutgers, Nov. 18. The Hoosiers should be favored when they welcome Rutgers in the second-to-last game of the season. Indiana will need to be careful. Yes, the Scarlet Knights went 2-10 last year in the debut of Chris Ash. But this is a program that continues to add talent. If Rutgers has solved its issues at quarterback, it may be a difficult out in a game that could have big bowl implications for both teams. IU is 1-2 vs. RU since the Scarlet Knights joined the Big Ten.

Iowa: vs. Minnesota, Oct. 28. The Hawkeyes need to be careful when Minnesota comes to Kinnick Stadium in a battle for Floyd of Rosedale. You know new Golden Gophers coach P.J. Fleck would love to knock off the Hawkeyes in his first edition of this iconic series. But know this: Minnesota hasn’t won in Iowa City since 1999 when Glen Mason was coach, losing the last seven visits.

Maryland: vs. Central Florida, Sept. 23. The Terrapins need to be careful. The Golden Knights went 6-7 last season and played in a bowl; this is a rising program under second-year coach Scott Frost. Maryland needed double overtime to beat UCF last year in Orlando, 30-24.

Michigan: at Indiana, Oct. 14. The Wolverines have won 21 in a row vs. Indiana, last losing in 1987 in Bloomington. Still, the Wolverines need to be on alert when they travel to Bloomington. The Wolverines will be coming off what figures to be an emotional game vs. Michigan State, and it may be looking ahead to a trip to Penn State the following week. Plus, IU has played the Wolverines tough of late, losing 20-10 last year and 48-41 in 2015. And who can forget the wild 63-47 game in 2013?

Michigan State: vs. Maryland, Nov. 18. The Terrapins are on the rise under second-year coach DJ Durkin. And Maryland dumped Michigan State last season. Making this tilt more challenging for the Spartans is the fact it comes on the heels of games vs. Penn State and at Ohio State.

Minnesota: vs. Middle Tennessee State, Sept. 16. The Blue Raiders have gone to bowls in three of the last four seasons and have a talented QB in Brent Stockstill, the son of MTSU coach Rick who led his team to a win at Missouri last year.

Nebraska: vs. Iowa, Nov. 24. The Cornhuskers should be favored in the finale on Black Friday when Iowa visits Lincoln. The Hawkeyes have won the last two meetings and three of the last four. If the Cornhuskers want to move up the pecking order of the Big Ten West, they need to start beating Iowa, which will have a new QB.

Northwestern: vs. Minnesota, Nov. 18. The Golden Gophers have a new leader and loads of mojo behind coach P.J. Fleck. Minnesota has won three of the last four meetings. Fleck needs a new quarterback and has holes to fill in the secondary, but he has talent. And a bowl trip may be on the line this late in the season for the Gophers.

Ohio State: vs. Oklahoma, Sept. 9. No doubt, OU wants revenge after losing at home in 2016 to the Buckeyes. And having QB Baker Mayfield back is a boon to the Sooners’ hopes, but iconic coach Bob Stoops shockingly retired in June and was replaced by 33-year-old offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley. How will that impact OU? This will be Oklahoma’s first trip to Columbus since 1977, when it won 29-28 in the first meeting ever between the giants.

Penn State: vs. Nebraska, Nov. 18. These storied programs haven’t clashed since 2013—in State College–and have met just three times since the Cornhuskers joined the Big Ten. And Nebraska has won all three meetings. PSU last toppled the Huskers in 2002 in Beaver Stadium. The Lions also need to be careful when they play at Iowa in the Big Ten opener on Sept. 23. Penn State has won three in a row vs. the Hawkeyes and won the last time in Iowa City in 2012. Still, Iowa is a difficult out in Kinnick Stadium.

Purdue: vs. Ohio, Sept. 8. The Bobcats are a top MAC program under 72-year-old Frank Solich, who is in his 13th season in Athens owning an 88-67 mark, eight bowls and four division titles. One of those championships came in 2016, when Ohio went 8-6. It would be far from a shock to see the Bobcats leave Ross-Ade Stadium with a victory. The schools last met in 1988, with Purdue prevailing in West Lafayette.

Rutgers: vs. Purdue, Oct. 21. The Scarlet Knights may not be favored often in 2017. But they should be when Purdue visits. However, the Boilermakers figure to be coached better than they have been since the Joe Tiller era. And they have a veteran QB in David Blough. Plus, Purdue may be playing well when it rolls into Rutgers for the first time ever and has to think it has a good shot to win. Be wary, Scarlet Knights.

Wisconsin: vs. Northwestern, Sept. 30. The Badgers will have a bye week to prepare for their Big Ten West rival, but the Wildcats look strong and could be in the mix to win the division. Wisconsin won last year vs. NU, but the Wildcats won two in a row before that. These teams are similar, as each can run the ball and has a nice defense. It may come down to which QB makes the most plays: Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson or UW’s Alex Hornibrook?

Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer

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, and send him questions to his weekly mailbag.

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