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Saturday, September 14, 2013
Big Ten Week 3 primer

By Adam Rittenberg

Are you ready for Week 3 in the Big Ten? You had better be, as it's easily the best slate of nonconference games this season.

To get you ready for the big day -- and long night -- let's go through the vitals ...

Noon ET

Bowling Green at Indiana (ESPNU): After a disappointing loss to Navy, Indiana's challenge only gets tougher against Bowling Green, which has dominated its first two opponents. The Hoosiers' defense must tighten up against a more conventional offense led by running back Travis Greene. It will be interesting to see if Indiana coach Kevin Wilson actually uses Tre Roberson more at quarterback or sticks mainly with Nate Sudfeld.

Akron at No. 11 Michigan (Big Ten Network): Quarterback Devin Gardner tries to build on his five-touchdown performance against Notre Dame as the Wolverines face an Akron team that hasn't beaten an FBS opponent since 2010. Coach Brady Hoke wants to see a cleaner performance from his defense against the seemingly overmatched Zips.

Western Illinois at Minnesota (BTN): Yawn. The Gophers continue their march of cupcakes and should have little trouble improving to 3-0. Their main objective is sparking a passing attack that has produced just 226 yards in two games. Minnesota wide receiver Jamel Harbison returns from suspension.

No. 16 UCLA at No. 23 Nebraska (ABC): It's the biggest matchup on the Big Ten slate and one of the better quarterback pairings in the nation as UCLA's Brett Hundley leads his team against Taylor Martinez and the Huskers. Hundley torched Nebraska last year as UCLA piled up 653 yards in a 36-30 win. He doesn't have running back Johnathan Franklin by his side, however, and Huskers defensive end Randy Gregory looks to apply pressure. Martinez needs more signature wins to go along with his record-setting numbers, and this would be a big one. Both teams will wear helmet decals honoring Nick Pasquale, the UCLA wide receiver killed in an accident last weekend.

2 p.m. ET

Youngstown State at Michigan State (BTN): The Spartans' quarterback quandary continues, and it could be freshman Damion Terry's turn to try and get a troubled offense on track. Connor Cook will start under center, but fan favorite Terry might make his collegiate debut. Shilique Calhoun and Michigan State's lockdown defense faces a Youngstown State team averaging 47.5 points and 579 yards per game.

6 p.m. ET

Iowa at Iowa State (FOX Sports 1): It's only Sept. 14, but Iowa faces a virtual must-win against Iowa State, which has won the teams' past two meetings and owns a 5-2 record against Kirk Ferentz's Hawkeyes at Jack Trice Stadium. If the Hawkeyes fall Saturday, it's hard to see them reaching a bowl with a tough Big Ten schedule ahead. Iowa's best bet is to get Mark Weisman and the run game going against a Cyclones defense that allowed 228 yards on the ground in its season-opening loss to FCS Northern Iowa.

UCF at Penn State (BTN): Lions second-year coach Bill O'Brien faces off against his former boss and mentor George O'Leary in a sneaky good matchup in Happy Valley. Penn State's defense will be tested by UCF quarterback Blake Bortles, whom O'Brien expects to play in the NFL. Penn State freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg must limit mistakes against a dangerous Knights defense.

Washington vs. Illinois (BTN): A surprising start for Illinois could turn into much more if it knocks off an experienced and talented Washington squad in its "Chicago Homecoming" game. Washington star tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins returns from suspension and will be a load for Mason Monheim and the Illini defense. Illinois hopes to crank up its big-play offense early and often after recording 17 plays of 20 yards or more in the first two games, fifth most in the country.

7 p.m. ET

No. 4 Ohio State at California (FOX): Junior quarterback Braxton Miller (sprained knee) traveled to Berkeley but will be a game-time decision. If Miller can't go, backup Kenny Guiton will lead the offense against a leaky Cal defense that has surrendered 1,061 yards in its first two games. Golden Bears freshman quarterback Jared Goff, the nation's passing leader at 467.5 yards per game, will challenge cornerback Bradley Roby and the Ohio State secondary.

8 p.m. ET

No. 21 Notre Dame at Purdue (ABC): The Fighting Irish try to rebound from a frustrating loss to Michigan, while Purdue hopes to jump start the Darrell Hazell era after a poor start. A mismatch on paper, Purdue's spotty offensive line must contain Notre Dame star front men Louis Nix III and Stephon Tuitt. The Irish have captured the teams' past five meetings.

9 p.m. ET

Western Michigan at No. 17 Northwestern (BTN): Despite the continued absence of star running back Venric Mark, Northwestern's offense marches on after an impressive showing last week against Syracuse. Quarterbacks Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian combined to complete 22 of 24 passes in the first half of last week's game and face a Western Michigan team that fell last week to Nicholls State. Northwestern needs to tighten up defensively before Ohio State comes to town Oct. 5. Tonight would be a good time to start.

10:30 p.m. ET

No. 20 Wisconsin at Arizona State (ESPN): The last game of the day could be among the best, as two teams that have looked dominant against poor competition square off. Wisconsin's defense hasn't allowed a point but should be pushed by Arizona State's potent offense led by quarterback Taylor Kelly, who has 13 touchdown passes and no interceptions in his last four games. Wisconsin running backs James White, Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement all have at least 250 rush yards and will try to control the clock and the tempo against a Sun Devils team that is 8-0 against the Big Ten at home.

WEATHER

And, finally, check out some of our top posts from this week ...