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Saturday, September 22, 2012
Previewing the Big Ten noon games

By Adam Rittenberg

Here’s a quick look at the three-pack of Big Ten games kicking off at noon ET ...

UAB (0-2) at No. 16 Ohio State (3-0): The Buckeyes aim for their 400th win at Ohio Stadium as they conclude a relatively easy four-game home stretch to open the season. Tackling has been an emphasis point this week for an Ohio State defense that ranks 66th nationally in total yards allowed and 101st nationally in pass yards allowed. The defense has produced its share of highlights, but head coach Urban Meyer and his staff are looking for greater consistency and fewer breakdowns. Quarterback Braxton Miller, running back Jordan Hall and others face a Blazers defense that ranks 109th nationally against the run.

UTEP (1-2) at Wisconsin (2-1): A week after switching offensive line coaches, Wisconsin has switched quarterbacks as redshirt freshman Joel Stave gets his first career start Saturday. Stave replaced the turnover-prone Danny O'Brien for the second half of last week's win against Utah State and made his collegiate debut. He'll benefit from the return of top receiver Jared Abbrederis, who has been the team's only downfield threat this season. Wisconsin ranks 116th nationally in total offense and 113th in scoring. The Badgers have won 18 consecutive home games and 25 consecutive non-league home games stretching back to 2003. UTEP paced Oklahoma for three quarters in the season opener Sept. 1 before being outscored 14-0 in the fourth.

Central Michigan (1-1) at Iowa (2-1): Walk-on fullback Mark Weisman put himself on the map and took Iowa back to the end zone last week against Northern Iowa. Weisman now makes his first start for the Hawkeyes, who likely will be without top backs Damon Bullock (head) and Greg Garmon (elbow), although Jordan Canzeri could return to the mix following a speedy recovery from an ACL tear this spring. Although Weisman-mania is in full swing in Iowa City, it's important for Iowa to spark the passing game in its final non-league tune-up. Senior quarterback James Vandenberg has yet to throw a touchdown pass this year. Central Michigan nearly got shut out in its last game, a 41-7 loss to Michigan State on Sept. 8. Chippewas quarterback Ryan Radcliff ranked 19th nationally in passing last season but has just one touchdown pass and three interceptions in his first two games this fall.