Monday, September 7, 2009
A quick look at Week 2 in the Big Ten
By ESPN.com staff
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
The Big Ten went 10-1 in Week 1, though several teams looked unimpressive in victory and Illinois looked like a mess in defeat. The level of competition jumps up in Week 2, as the league has several chances to distinguish itself on the national stage.
Here's a quick look at what's on tap:
Syracuse (0-1) at Penn State (1-0), Big Ten Network, noon ET
Orange quarterback Greg Paulus exceeded expectations in the season opener, making several big plays against Minnesota before tossing a costly interception in overtime. He could be in for a rude awakening against Penn State, which recorded 13 tackles for loss and four sacks Saturday against Akron. The Lions' defensive front hasn't missed a beat, but Joe Paterno wants to see better play from his offensive line against Syracuse.
Eastern Michigan (0-1) at Northwestern (1-0), Big Ten Network, noon ET
Barely tested in Week 1, Northwestern should once again have little trouble this week against Eastern Michigan, which comes off a 27-14 home loss to Army. Ron English's team really struggled to defend the run, and Northwestern will try to spark its ground game with multiple backs. The competition will get much tougher for Northwestern in the coming weeks, but these games are important to build confidence and continuity on offense. Pat Fitzgerald also wants a more dominant performance from his defense, which didn't generate much of a pass rush against Towson.
Western Michigan (0-1) at Indiana (1-0), Big Ten Network, noon ET
Both teams struggled in their openers, though Indiana made enough plays on defense to escape with a win. The Hoosiers will need an even better performance from their defenders as they face veteran Broncos quarterback Tim Hiller. Hiller couldn't possibly play much worse than he did against Michigan, and it will be important for Indiana defensive ends Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton to provide a heavy dose of pressure, much like the Wolverines did on Saturday.
Central Michigan (0-1) at Michigan State (1-0), ESPN2, noon ET
Chippewas quarterback Dan LeFevour provides a good early test for Michigan State's defense, though he'll have to be much better than he was Saturday at Arizona. Spartans defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi wants to see improvement against the run, while Michigan State's quarterback competition resumes after Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol combined to throw five touchdowns against Montana State. The teams haven't met since 2004, and Michigan State has won the last four meetings.
Fresno State (1-0) at Wisconsin (1-0), ESPN, noon ET
Are the Badgers on upset alert? They'll need a more complete performance against Fresno State, which racked up 511 yards of offense in a 51-0 win against UC Davis. Wisconsin junior quarterback Scott Tolzien did some nice things in his first career start, and the coaches will look for more production from running backs Zach Brown and John Clay against the Bulldogs. The Badgers won last year's meeting with defense, and they'll need to re-emphasize their offseason theme of finishing games after allowing two fourth-quarter touchdowns against Northern Illinois.
Iowa (1-0) at Iowa State (1-0), Fox Sports Net, noon ET
After barely surviving against FCS Northern Iowa, the Hawkeyes visit a place where they never seem to play well. Iowa has dropped four of its last five at Jack Trice Stadium and needs more production from a run game that had just 87 yards against UNI. Cyclones quarterback Austen Arnaud looked good against North Dakota State, passing for 227 yards and two touchdowns. Iowa's defense tries to step up after letting UNI's Pat Grace get too comfortable in the pocket.
Notre Dame (1-0) at Michigan (1-0), ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET
This matchup got a lot more interesting after both teams looked impressive in season-opening victories. Michigan's defense totally flustered Hiller and will try to apply steady pressure on Irish junior Jimmy Clausen, who has thrown nine touchdowns and no interceptions in his last two games. Wolverines freshman quarterbacks Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson will be tested by a Notre Dame defense that blanked Nevada last week. Michigan has won two of its last three home games against the Irish, both by a score of 38-0.
Air Force (1-0) at Minnesota (1-0), Big Ten Network, 7 p.m. ET
The TCF Bank Stadium era begins as Minnesota faces a tricky test against Air Force, which comes off the most lopsided win in team history, a 72-0 triumph over Nicholls State. Minnesota's defense will need to be assignment sound against the option, and junior quarterback Adam Weber looks to improve upon a 19-for-42 passing performance against Syracuse. It should be an emotional night in Minneapolis as freshman linebacker Sam Maresh, who returned to football following open heart surgery in June, leads the team onto the field.
Illinois State (0-1) at Illinois (0-1), Big Ten Network, 7 p.m. ET
What happened to the Illini on Saturday? Ron Zook and his players were wondering the same thing after getting rolled by Missouri. Illinois must generate some positive vibes against Illinois State, which dropped head coach Brock Spack's debut 31-6 at Eastern Illinois. Star wide receiver Arrelious Benn and running backs Jason Ford and Daniel Dufrene likely will return from sprained ankles as Illinois tries to jump-start an offense that scored only nine points in the opener.
USC (1-0) at Ohio State (1-0), ESPN, 8 p.m. ET
A game that needs no introduction. The entire Big Ten should be rooting for Ohio State because no game means more to the league's national reputation than this one. USC has won nine consecutive games against the Big Ten, stretching back to 1996, and trounced Big Ten co-champs Ohio State and Penn State last year. The Buckeyes struggled to beat Navy on Saturday and must be much more sound on defense against freshman quarterback Matt Barkley and USC's stable of running backs. This should be a defining game for Ohio State sophomore Terrelle Pryor.
Purdue (1-0) at Oregon (0-1), Fox Sports Net, 10:15 p.m. ET
What looked like a mismatch before the season seems a bit more intriguing now, after Purdue's impressive debut and Oregon's meltdown at Boise State. How will the Ducks respond after their offense imploded and their running back exploded on the blue turf? Purdue needs a repeat performance from running back Ralph Bolden and fewer mistakes from quarterback Joey Elliott at Autzen Stadium. Most importantly, the Boilers defense must contain Jeremiah Masoli and the Ducks, who struggled at times last year in West Lafayette.