Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, June 1, 2015
The opening week of action is filled with some interesting clashes headlined by Wisconsin's neutral site game vs. Alabama and Ohio State?s visit to Virginia Tech.
Other enticing clashes include TCU at Minnesota, Michigan at Utah and BYU at Nebraska.
Stories within those stories–Paul Chryst will be making his debut for the Badgers vs. Nick Saban and the 10,000-pound beast that is Bama football, while Mike Riley will be coaching his first game for the Cornhuskers vs. a very good BYU squad led by talented QB Taysom Hill. TCU?s Gary Patterson and Minnesota?s Jerry Kill are best buddies.
The Stanford at Northwestern is a good chance for the Wildcats to get on track after back-to-back 5-7 seasons. A win vs. a good Cardinal club that has gone to six bowls in a row could be a confidence booster. Stanford finished 2014 as one of the hottest teams in the nation and will have a good offense. The defense? It has questions.
The Nittany Lions haven?t lost to the Owls in Philadelphia since a 14-0 defeat in 1941. Since then, Penn State is 38-0-1 vs. Temple. But PSU barely won the last time it played Temple in Philly, taking a 14-10 decision in 2011.
Purdue and Marshall played a wild one in Ross-Ade Stadium in 2012, with the Boilermakers taking a 51-41 decision. The Thundering Herd had 534 yards; Purdue had 443. Marshall will have a monster offense again. The Boiler attack? Who knows?
Four teams will open with lighter fare, playing FCS foes: Iowa, Rutgers, Maryland and Indiana. The Hawkeyes need to be careful when they entertain a good Illinois State squad that played for the FCS title last year and is led by ex-Indiana quarterback Tre Roberson and coached by former Purdue linebacker and defensive coordinator Brock Spack.
Game of the week: Wisconsin vs. Alabama. Anytime the Big Ten takes on an SEC power, especially Alabama, it's a huge game with conference bragging rights on the line. Adding to the intrigue here is the fact that it's a prime time game on the opening Saturday of the season at Jerry World in Arlington, Texas. Oh, and it also happens to be former Wisconsin player and assistant Paul Chryst's head coaching debut at his alma mater. He'll face the iconic Nick Saban, who owns four national titles.
A very close second is the Ohio State-Virginia Tech rematch in a prime-time Monday night affair at Lane Stadium. Everyone knows the Hokies were the only team to beat the Buckeyes last season, and everyone knows the reigning national champs will have revenge on their minds. This will be fun.
Best quarterback matchup: Michigan State?s Connor Cook vs. Western Michigan?s Zach Terrell. Cook, a senior, is a legit Heisman contender who led the Big Ten in passing last year with 3,214 yards and is 23-3 as a starter. Terrell, a junior, will be one of the top signal-callers in the MAC after throwing for 3,443 yards in 2014 with 26 touchdowns.
Best head coach matchup: Jerry Kill vs. Gary Patterson is a good one. But let?s go with Urban Meyer vs. Frank Beamer, two icons. Meyer has won three national titles and has the hottest program in the nation. Beamer is entering his 29th season in Blacksburg with a 273-138-4 mark and has built one of the nation?s most respected programs. He is the winningest and active longest tenured coach in FBS who has been to 22 bowls.
Best coordinator matchup: It will be fun to watch TCU offensive coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie match wits with Minnesota defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys. In their first season running the Horned Frogs attack, the duo helped TCU become the nation's most improved offense in total yards (+188.2 ypg) and scoring (+21.4 ppg). The 2014 Horned Frogs ranked second in the nation in scoring (46.5 ppg) and tied for fifth in total offense (533.0 ypg). Want more? TCU set 26 school records for offense in winning its first Big 12 championship. Claeys is no slouch. His 2014 Gopher defense held 10 teams below their final season scoring averages. In one stretch, the Claeys-led defense held three consecutive conference teams at least 13.8 points below their averages.
Upset alert: Alabama hasn?t lost a season-opener since 2001. Could the Crimson Tide slip vs. Wisconsin in Arlington, Texas? Bama is breaking in a new quarterback and needs some wideouts to emerge. And the secondary has something to prove, too. Can the Badgers take advantage, while finding running room vs. what should be a strong Bama front seven in Paul Chryst?s debut? Oh-by-the-way: Michigan played the Tide in this venue to open 2012 and got plastered, 41-14.
Ranking Week 1 Games
1. Wisconsin vs. Alabama in Arlington, Texas, Sept. 5
2. Ohio State at Virginia Tech, Sept. 7
3. TCU at Minnesota, Sept. 3
4. Michigan at Utah, Sept. 3
5. BYU at Nebraska, Sept. 5
6. Stanford at Northwestern, Sept. 5
7. Michigan State at Western Michigan, Sept. 4
8. Purdue at Marshall, Sept. 6
9. Illinois State at Iowa, Sept. 5
10. Penn State at Temple, Sept. 5
11. Kent State at Illinois, Sept. 4
12. Richmond at Maryland, Sept. 5
13. Southern Illinois at Indiana, Sept. 5
14. Norfolk State at Rutgers, Sept. 5
|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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