Monday, September 14, 2009
A quick look at Week 3 in the Big Ten
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
After a Saturday showcase in which the nation's two most significant games involved Big Ten teams, the Week 3 slate is a bit of a letdown. Still, there are several interesting matchups and games that can help the league improve its national reputation.
Here's a quick snapshot.
Eastern Michigan (0-2) at Michigan (2-0), Big Ten Network, noon ET
Back in the national rankings and the national spotlight, Michigan tries to keep the momentum going against Eastern Michigan. Several veteran Wolverines defenders will be reunited with former coordinator Ron English, who's in his first year at the helm of the Eagles. Eastern Michigan gave Northwestern all it could handle and looks improved on offense behind quarterback Andy Schmitt. The Wolverines' defense aims for a better showing after struggling to contain Notre Dame's receiving threats.
Temple (0-1) at Penn State (2-0), Big Ten Network, noon ET
The Lions will have no trouble winning this game, but they want to be nearing their peak before Iowa visits Happy Valley on Sept. 26. That means better play from the offensive line and more consistent production from Evan Royster and the running backs. Penn State's defense should shut down a Temple team that lost to Villanova in Week 1, but the Lions' offense needs to diversify before Big Ten play kicks off. Linebacker Navorro Bowman (groin) could miss his second straight game.
Wofford (1-1) at Wisconsin (2-0), Big Ten Network, noon ET
Anyone who watched Wisconsin's win against Fresno State knows the Badgers need to polish things up on defense, particularly in third-down situations. This seems like a perfect opportunity to do so. Wofford got crushed in the season opener at South Florida before rebounding nicely last week against Charleston Southern. Badgers running back John Clay could cement himself as the starter with another strong performance after rushing for 143 yards and a touchdown last week.
California (2-0) at Minnesota (2-0), ESPN, noon ET
The Gophers' defense has stepped up so far, especially the three starting linebackers, but they face a huge challenge in California and Heisman Trophy contender Jahvid Best. Minnesota did a nice job of limiting big runs against Air Force, and containing Best and backup Shane Vereen will be paramount. On the offensive side, Minnesota must find ways to make big plays and identify other options to complement wide receiver Eric Decker. Head coach Tim Brewster isn't afraid to schedule these types of games, and Minnesota gets a huge opportunity against a top 10 team.
Northern Illinois (1-1) at Purdue (1-1), Big Ten Network, noon ET
The Boilers offense has been impressive so far, leading the Big Ten in scoring with 44 points a game. Sophomore running back Ralph Bolden aims for his third consecutive strong game against Northern Illinois, which gave Wisconsin a game and pounded Western Illinois last week. With Notre Dame lurking next week, Purdue's secondary needs a strong performance against talented Huskies quarterback Chandler Harnish.
Ohio State (1-1) vs. Toledo (1-1) at Cleveland, ESPN GamePlan, noon ET
After a heart-wrenching loss to USC, Ohio State tries to bounce back against a Toledo team riding high from its blowout victory against Colorado. The Rockets' offense has looked very impressive so far, and quarterback Aaron Opelt will attack Ohio State's secondary. Terrelle Pryor and the Buckeyes' offense really needs a big game to build confidence after wasting numerous opportunities against USC. This will be a homecoming game for many Buckeyes players who hail from the Cleveland area.
Michigan State (1-1) at Notre Dame (1-1), NBC, 3:30 p.m. ET
A very intriguing matchup in South Bend, as both teams are coming off extremely disappointing losses. The heat is rising on Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis, who likely can't afford many more losses to keep his job. Michigan State has won six consecutive games in South Bend, the longest streak for any visitor at Notre Dame Stadium. The Spartans appear to have found their quarterback in sophomore Kirk Cousins, but they need to make sure last week's loss doesn't linger. This team has a history of struggling with high expectations, and Michigan State must rebound.
Indiana (2-0) at Akron (1-1), ESPNU, 3:30 p.m. ET
This is a very big game for Bill Lynch's crew, which has found ways to win despite some inconsistency on both sides of the ball. Indiana discovered its rushing attack last week, as Demetrius McCray turned in a career-best performance against Western Michigan. Akron quarterback Chris Jacquemain and wide receiver Deryn Bowser will challenge Indiana's secondary, which did a decent job against Tim Hiller. With upcoming games against Michigan and Ohio State, the Hoosiers need a big boost on the road.
Arizona (2-0) at Iowa (2-0), ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET
Mike Stoops returns to Iowa with a pretty solid Arizona team that will test the Hawkeyes at Kinnick Stadium. Expect a low-scoring game, as both defenses are extremely solid. Iowa got its rushing attack going last week behind freshmen Brandon Wegher and Adam Robinson and will need to establish things on the ground. The Hawkeyes' front seven faces a good challenge in Arizona junior running back Nic Grigsby, who has 325 rush yards and three touchdowns in two games.
Northwestern (2-0) at Syracuse (0-2), no TV, 7 p.m. ET
The Orange are winless, but they've performed better than many expected in lossses to Minnesota and Penn State. Syracuse sees this game as its breakthrough opportunity, and Northwestern needs to be careful after a shaky second-half performance against Eastern Michigan. Wildcats quarterback Mike Kafka dazzled the last time he was in a domed stadium, setting a Big Ten quarterback rushing record with 217 yards against Minnesota. Northwestern's defensive front needs a more polished showing against Greg Paulus.
Bye: Illinois (1-1)