Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, September 9, 2014
The Big Ten is ready to turn the page on last week, when the conference dropped three high-profile games and saw two other programs fall to MAC schools. There also were several near-upsets to lesser schools. But that was then.
This is a fresh week, a Saturday of great possibilities. The first Big Ten game is on tap, with Penn State traveling to Rutgers in a battle of 2-0 teams. Three schools-Wisconsin, Northwestern and Michigan State-are off.
Get Tom Dienhart's latest coverage:
[display-posts category="tom-dienhart" posts_per_page="5"]
Here are my Week 3 previews and game rankings:
1. Penn State (2-0) at Rutgers (2-0) (Watch on BTN2Go). There arguably have been few more anticipated home games at Rutgers in the last quarter century. It will be the Scarlet Knights? first Big Ten game ever and the first time the Nittany Lions have been on Rutgers? campus since 1955. The previous six times PSU played ?at? Rutgers were in East Rutherford, N.J. The Scarlet Knights are 2-22 all-time vs. the Nittany Lions. PSU should have some glide in its stride knowing its bowl ban has been lifted and the program can play in the postseason this season. This is suddenly a big game in the Big Ten East.
2. Illinois (2-0) at Washington (2-0). The Huskies won this meeting last year in Chicago?s Soldier Field. Can the Fighting Illini return the favor? Illinois is coming off two harrowing home wins that required furious fourth-quarter comebacks that featured 21 fourth-quarter points. U-Dub is 2-0 coming off a wild 59-52 wins vs. FCS Eastern Washington, which had 475 yards passing. I?m guessing this makes Wes Lunt smile. This could be a fun, high-scoring game.
3. Iowa State (0-2) at Iowa (2-0). The Hawkeyes have looked uneven the first two games, slipping by FCS Northern Iowa and Ball State. Now comes rival Iowa State, which has gone 9-7 in the last 16 meetings vs. the Hawkeyes after Iowa ripped off 15 wins in a row in the Cy-Hawk Series from 1983-97. ISU is 0-2. Still, this is a heated rivalry. You know the adage: Throw the records out the window ? blah, blah, blah. This one could be decided in the fourth quarter.
4. West Virginia (1-1) at Maryland (2-0) (Watch on BTN2Go). This is a long rivalry, having been played 50 times. The Terps beat WVU last year but lost seven in a row to the Mountaineers before that. Dana Holgorsen may be coaching for his job, so Maryland should expect everything the Mountaineers have. They gave Alabama a tough game in the opener.
5. Minnesota (2-0) at TCU (1-0). 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 season. Still, Gary Patterson has a top-flight Big 12 program that?s always physical and always plays hard. The Gophers? passing game must pick up the pace. Will QB Mitch Leidner be able to play after hurting a knee last week? If not, the Golden Gophers may be in trouble.
6. Nebraska (2-0) at Fresno State (0-2). Don't let the 0-2 record fool you. Fresno's two losses, both of the blowout variety, have come at USC and Utah. Bulldog Stadium is a tough place to play, to be sure, and it's never easy to travel West. Also, let's not forget, the Bulldogs went 11-2 en route to winning the Mountain West in 2013.
7. Miami (Ohio) (0-2) at Michigan (1-1) (Watch on BTN2Go). A visit from the 0-2 RedHawks-who just lost to FCS Eastern Kentucky–may be just what ailing Michigan needs coming off that brutal 31-0 loss at Notre Dame. The offense needs a punching bag to regain its mojo. How does 250 yards rushing sound? Pretty good if you?re Michigan. This team needs to taste success-any success–after going 3-7 in its last 10 games.
8. Kent State (0-2) at Ohio State (1-1). You have to pity the Golden Flashes, who will arrive in Columbus a week after the Buckeyes endured their first home-opening loss since 1978. Don?t be shocked if OSU pitches a shutout-and the offense posts some big numbers. It?s vital for the Buckeyes to get their o-line in gear. This is a good game to do that.
9. Purdue (1-1) vs. Notre Dame (2-0) – Indianapolis. The Boilermakers are reeling, coming off a humiliating home loss to Central Michigan in which they never were in the game. It was a colossal step back after opening with a win vs. Western Michigan. And Purdue opened this week not knowing who would be its quarterback. ND has an unquestioned stud at QB in Everett Golson. And, the 2-0 Fighting Irish are coming off a 31-0 whipping of Michigan. The Boilermakers have lost the last six meetings and eight of the last nine vs. the Fighting Irish. This one could get ugly in Lucas Oil Stadium.
10. Indiana (1-0) at Bowling Green (1-1). The Hoosiers were off last week following an opening victory vs. FCS Indiana State. The Falcons won the MAC last year, when they also lost in Bloomington. This should be a nice test for Indiana, especially the Hoosiers? new 3-4 scheme.
|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.|
And if you want to leave a comment on this post, use the box below. All comments need to be approved by a moderator.