Big Ten: Beanie Wells

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

It's always fun at this time of year to look back at preseason thoughts and predictions. In August, I outlined 25 items I wanted to see during the Big Ten season. Several of them came true, others didn't and some materialized in different ways.

Here's a look back at the list to see what worked out and what didn't. 

 
 AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
 Terrelle Pryor earned Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors.

1. Terrelle Pryor lead an offensive drive -- He might be a Tim Tebow-like weapon near the goal line, but I'm more interested in how the Ohio State freshman quarterback handles a real offensive series. Pryor's athleticism is undeniable, but it will be important to monitor his passing accuracy and the way he leads older teammates.

The verdict: We had plenty of opportunities to see Pryor lead drives after he was named Ohio State's starter in Week 4. Despite a few growing pains, Pryor held his own and displayed remarkable athleticism in winning Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors. He also came up big in the clutch to lead Ohio State's game-winning touchdown drive Oct. 4 at Wisconsin. 

2. Michigan's quarterbacks -- Rich Rodriguez has ushered in a new era in Ann Arbor and will turn to unproven players like Steven Threet, Nick Sheridan and possibly Justin Feagin to lead his spread offense. There will undoubtedly be growing pains, but if one of those three takes control, the Wolverines will surge.

The verdict: Oh, there were growing pains. Big ones. Threet and Sheridan struggled to fit into Rodriguez's system, and Michigan finished the season ranked 109th nationally in total offense. Feagin likely will move to slot receiver in 2009, and incoming freshmen Shavodrick Beaver and Tate Forcier will compete for the starting quarterback spot. 

3. Jump Around at night -- Camp Randall Stadium is intimidating enough during daylight hours, but the electricity will reach new levels this fall with back-to-back night games against Ohio State and Penn State. The Badgers haven't lost at home under coach Bret Bielema, and they should have a tremendous home-field edge this fall.

The verdict: It was pretty cool to see Ohio State players jump in lockstep with the Wisconsin students on Oct. 4, but Camp Randall certainly lost its edge this fall. Wisconsin saw its home win streak fade against Ohio State and then suffered its worst home defeat since 1989 the next week against Penn State. Plus, the Badgers band was suspended from performing Oct. 4 after allegations of hazing surfaced. 

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Big Ten Friday Mailbag

September, 5, 2008
9/05/08
3:49
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

A much better response the last two days, so job well done, everyone. Let's take a look at what's on your mind.

Tom from Charlotte, N.C., writes: Hey Adam. Looking ahead, what are your thoughts on the Wisconsin at Fresno State game? Is it just me, or is ESPN hyping up the Fresno State football program more than a June Red Sox/Yankees series? Granted the Bulldogs put up a solid win last week in New Jersey, but Rutgers wasn't even ranked. Everyone talks about when Fresno State ALMOST beat USC in 2005. The reality is they haven't beat a ranked team since Virginia...which was in 2004. Which "Hill" are you more impressed with; Pat or PJ?

Adam Rittenberg: Fresno State gets a decent amount of hype for a non-BCS team, but most of it is deserved. Pat Hill's approach to scheduling is unique in an era where bland weekends like this one are becoming more and more common. I'll agree that Fresno State has fallen off in recent years, and the Bulldogs are behind Boise State and Utah on the non-BCS hierarchy, but the 2008 team looks solid, especially on defense. They'll give Wisconsin an excellent test next week. The Badgers' Hill and the other backs should be able to wear down the Bulldogs over time, but I have a sense the game will come down to Wisconsin quarterback Allan Evridge and whether or not he can make a clutch play. Both Hills are very impressive for different reasons, and they add spice to an appetizing matchup next week.


Andy from Greensboro, N.C. writes: First off, great blog. I love how you update it many times a day. Second off, I am hearing a lot of criticism coming towards Jim Tressel for having Beanie Wells in the game when he got hurt. Do the same 'critics' know that at the same point in the game, other Heisman candidates such as Bradford, Tebow, Moreno, Stafford, and even Sanchez were playing as well. All of these players had big wins like OSU, yet Tressel is the only coached to get ripped for leaving the star in. I know this is a touchy subject when it comes to at what point to take a player out of a game, but the play in question would have given Wells something like 3 more yards, 1 more carry, and 1 more TD. That doesn?t sound like padding the stats to me. Would you have taken him out or let him rush for that last TD in question?

Adam Rittenberg: This is one of those situations that only matters when a coach gets burned, or, as Pat Forde puts it, loses at cupcake roulette. As you point out, every coach plays their superstars into the second half of these games, and usually it doesn't matter. I don't fault Tressel as much as some for keeping Wells in the game. It was the first drive of the second half, a little early to pull everyone off the field. These players train all year for 12 shots at this thing, and though potential injuries to superstars have to be taken into consideration, I say let 'em play -- at least until the fourth quarter.

(Read full post)

Big Ten: What to watch in Week 2

September, 5, 2008
9/05/08
10:16
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

There's obviously not a great game selection this week, but the Big Ten features plenty of intriguing storylines on Saturday. And no, not all of them have to do with Beanie Wells' big toe.

Here are 10 things to keep an eye on:

1. Penn State's response to turmoil: The Nittany Lions thought they were past off-field melodrama, but the suspensions of starting defenders Maurice Evans and Abe Koroma and reserve tight end Andrew Quarless cast a shadow over Happy Valley. Will this team cave to the distractions or take care of business against a decent Oregon State team? The D-line will be shorthanded against Beavers quarterback Lyle Moevao.

2. Boom and Zoom: With Beanie Wells out, the spotlight turns to Ohio State's young running backs Dan "Boom" Herron and Brandon "Zoom" Saine, who along with Maurice Wells will carry the rushing load against Ohio. The Buckeyes need every weapon they can muster for USC, and the performances of the three backs against Ohio could loom large for next week.

3. Steven Threet era might begin: The Michigan redshirt freshman seemed to gain confidence toward the end of a season-opening loss to Utah and should get the starting nod against Miami (Ohio). Both Threet and Nick Sheridan are far from finished products, but Threet could take an important step in his evolution with an efficient performance against the RedHawks.

4. Tyrell Sutton faces Duke: The Northwestern senior sat out last season's embarrassing home loss to the Blue Devils, a game that kept the Wildcats out of a bowl. He'll be ready to roll on a potentially sloppy track in Durham, N.C., as Northwestern aims for redemption and a 2-0 start.

5. Star-studded crowd in Champaign: It should be a banner day for Illinois, which unveils the renovated Memorial Stadium and plays before a collection of living legends, including Dick Butkus. Eastern Illinois shouldn't present too much trouble, but the Illini are searching for a stronger defensive effort after last week's poor tackling display against Missouri.

6. Doyt Perry Stadium rocks as Gophers arrive: Bowling Green hosts its first-ever Big Ten opponent at Doyt Perry, and Minnesota will try to spoil the fun. The Gophers barely survived at home against a rebuilding Northern Illinois team last week and will need a much stronger effort, particularly on defense, to overcome Tyler Sheehan and the Falcons on the road.

7. Flipping quarters at Iowa: Is this the week Hawkeyes junior Jake Christensen cements himself as the starting quarterback? He'll have the chance to do so against Florida International, but improved sophomore Ricky Stanzi remains very much in the mix. It's important to see some separation soon, and Christensen still needs to improve his consistency and decision-making.

8. Beckum returns for Badgers: Wisconsin gets All-American tight end Travis Beckum back against Marshall, a potential tune-up for next week's trip to Fresno State. It's important for Beckum and new starting quarterback Allan Evridge to establish a good in-game rhythm, particularly in the red zone, where Wisconsin had two turnovers last week. Evridge can't rely solely on the run game, and he knows Beckum will be his greatest asset.

9. Penn State's Clark ready to run: We should get a much better read on Nittany Lions starting quarterback Daryll Clark this week against Oregon State. After facing no pocket pressure last week, Clark expects to showcase his running skills often against a Beavers defense that allowed 210 yards in a season-opening loss to Stanford. Clark will get help from Evan Royster and Stephfon Green as Penn State tries to run over the Beavers.

10. Purdue's offense takes flight: The Boilermakers finally make their debut and feature several offensive players in different roles. Senior Kory Sheets becomes Purdue's featured running back -- a spot he always coveted -- following a season-ending knee injury to Jaycen Taylor. Quarterback Curtis Painter gets to sample several wide receivers in more prominent roles (Brandon Whittington, Keith Smith, Desmond Tardy) against Northern Colorado.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Penn State and Ohio State will be without All-Big Ten players Saturday, but for very different reasons. And while Beanie Wells' health beyond this week is a concern, the bigger problems are in Happy Valley.

Week 2 is just around the corner, and here's what's happening around the league.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel officially confirmed what was plainly obvious several days ago: star running back Beanie Wells will sit out Saturday against Ohio because of a right foot/toe injury. This is a no-brainer for Ohio State, which already has drawn some criticism for having Wells in the Youngstown State game after halftime.

You don't risk further injury to a big toe, which, last I checked, most running backs need to do their jobs. You especially don't risk further injury to Wells against Ohio when top-ranked USC is up next on the schedule. And this is a player who has faced injuries before, so keeping him as healthy as possible for as long as possible should be the priority. Who knows how Wells responds from the injury, but it's better to find out in L.A.

Wells' injury allows the Buckeyes to see what they have from their other running backs. Maurice Wells is a veteran who can contribute, but what about Dan "Boom" Herron and Brandon Saine? How will their performance Saturday against Ohio impact the way the coaches use them for USC? Saine's versatility is well documented, but putting him in a traditional tailback role for 15-20 carries could be greatly beneficial, especially since Ohio State doesn't know how effective Beanie Wells will be next week. Herron might be the Buckeyes' back of the future, so let's see how he handles the spotlight

I've gotten more than a few e-mails from Buckeyes fans criticizing a lack of creativity among the coaches, particularly offensive coordinator Jim Bollman. Well, here's a chance to experiment a bit, see what Mo Wells, Herron and Saine provide. Put two backs in or try the pistol offense a little bit more. Terrelle Pryor appears to have leapfrogged Joe Bauserman for the backup quarterback spot. Will Pryor be used differently without Wells on the field? Coach Jim Tressel doesn't think the two situations correlate, but Saturday is the last chance for Ohio State to see what it has from Pryor before USC.

No one wants to see a star player sit out right before a huge game, but Ohio State has to use this game as an opportunity.

Big Ten picks for Week 2

September, 4, 2008
9/04/08
10:06
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

My editors don't know it yet, but this will be my last blog post for ESPN.com. I'm taking the fiancée, moving to Vegas and setting up shop. C'mon, did you see last week's picks? Sure, there were only three or four true toss-up games, one of which I got woefully wrong. But a 9-1 record with five near-perfect score predictions tells me I'm in the wrong line of work. In all seriousness, I highly doubt I'll have another week like that all season, so please don't mortgage your house on what you read below. However, this should be another Saturday to pad the season record before things get much tougher in Week 3.

Here we go:

Ohio State 45, Ohio 7 -- No Beanie, no problem for the Buckeyes, who have the chance to showcase their creativity on offense before the USC game. Running backs Dan "Boom" Herron, Mo Wells and Brandon Saine have big games as the Buckeyes roll. Ohio has some speed threats in wideout Taylor Price and return man Donte Harden, but the Buckeyes defense stands tall again.

Wisconsin 40, Marshall 13 -- Quarterback Allan Evridge and the Badgers should iron out the kinks in the red zone against the Thundering Herd. Evridge will find a healthy Travis Beckum for the first of many touchdown passes this season. Like Akron, Marshall could present some first-half trouble with with Dariuses (Marshall and Passmore), but ultimately the Badgers will be too strong.

Illinois 52, Eastern Illinois 3 -- There are several factors working against the Panthers. Illinois unveils its renovated stadium and welcomes back the program's greatest living players to Champaign. The team wears Dick Butkus-era throwback jerseys. And the Illini are ticked off after the Missouri loss. The Illinois defense forces at least three turnovers and Juice Williams continues to surge.

Michigan State 42, Eastern Michigan 14 -- Expect a big day for Spartans senior Javon Ringer, both at running back and kickoff returner. Quarterback Brian Hoyer finds his rhythm and another wide receiver follows Mark Dell's performance with a big game. Eagles quarterback Andy Schmitt and tailback Terrence Blevins test a still-iffy Spartans defense, but Michigan State pulls away in the third quarter.

Michigan 27, Miami (Ohio) 6 -- The Wolverines offense won't look quite as bad with Steven Threet most likely at the helm, and a running back -- don't know which one -- steps up big against Miami. Linebacker Obi Ezeh and the Michigan defense builds off the second-half performance against Utah and shuts down a turnover-prone RedHawks offense.

Iowa 44, Florida International 10 -- I won't make the same mistake twice after doubting the Hawkeyes' offense last week. Iowa's run game continues to prosper behind Shonn Greene, and junior quarterback Jake Christensen finally cements himself as the clear-cut starter with a strong performance. Aside from return man T.Y. Hilton, FIU doesn't have much to scare the Hawkeyes.

Purdue 41, Northern Colorado 0 -- Given what's coming up next, the Boilers need a strong start and get one from quarterback Curtis Painter and running back Kory Sheets. At least three receivers catch touchdown passes as coach Joe Tiller samples what he has besides Greg Orton. Purdue's improved secondary will shut down a Northern Colorado team that averaged just 11.3 points a game last fall and is picked last in its league.

Penn State 38, Oregon State 30 -- The Beavers secondary looks strong, but will it matter if the front seven can't stop the run? If Stanford racked up 210 yards against Oregon State, just think what Penn State will do with Evan Royster, Stephfon Green and mobile quarterback Daryll Clark, who will be on the move much more this week. Quarterback Lyle Moevao presents some problems for Penn State's secondary, but the Lions pull through at home.

Indiana 45, Murray State 10 -- Quarterback Kellen Lewis breaks another long run or two, but the Hoosiers get more help from their running backs against a Murray State team that was tied with Lambuth early in the second half of last week's victory. Hoosiers defensive end Greg Middleton picks up two or three sacks as the walk down easy street continues.

Northwestern 30, Duke 21 -- Several factors could hurt Northwestern: the weather, an improved Duke team, mobile quarterback Thaddeus Lewis and the emotions after last season's embarrassing loss in Evanston. Here's another factor: running back Tyrell Sutton, who missed last year's game with an ankle injury. Sutton will be the best player on the field Saturday night and help Northwestern escape with a win.

Bowling Green 38, Minnesota 34 -- There's still too many problems on the Gophers defense, and Falcons quarterback Tyler Sheehan will capitalize in a big way. I could see a mini-letdown for Bowling Green after the Pitt win, but the Falcons are hosting their first Big Ten opponent at Doyt Perry Stadium and should prevail. Gophers quarterback Adam W
eber
has another big game, but it's not enough.

Bye: None

Season record: 9-1

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

It was a good day for Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark and Michigan running back Kevin Grady, both of whom received good news about their future playing days. Ohio State's Beanie Wells missed another day of practice, so his small window of playing Saturday is shrinking fast.

Here's a look around the league:

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

As soon as Beanie Wells injured his right foot/toe against Youngstown State, I thought there was no way the Ohio State star would play this week against Ohio. Nothing that has come out of Columbus this week leads me to believe otherwise. Wednesday's comments by running backs coach Dick Tressel only reinforce the likelihood that Wells will sit against the Bobcats. Tressel said the injury is on the base of his big toe. 

"Is he injured or does he just have some pain he can play through?" Tressel said. "We've got a long way to go, we're counting on playing a lot of football this fall. We're going to be smart with his rehab."

A lot of that football will be played next week against top-ranked USC, and "being smart" would mean making sure Wells doesn't risk further injury. Ohio State should take Saturday's game as an opportunity to see what it has with Dan Herron, Maurice Wells and particularly Brandon Saine, who will see more time as a standard running back. The Buckeyes will need all their weapons and plenty of creativity to beat USC on the road.

They don't need to see Wells rack up 150 yards against an overmatched team and possibly make his injury worse. Keep in mind this isn't Wells' first injury. Last season, he played through pain from scar tissue in his left ankle as well as a broken bone in his wrist. There's an injury history here, one that doesn't need to be put at stake against Ohio.

Sure, Wells will want to play Saturday. Any competitor would. But as Dick Tressel said, "It's not his call." It's up to the coaches to make the right decision. 

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

First things first. James Laurinaitis isn't a podiatrist and doesn't know when his Ohio State teammate Beanie Wells will return to the field. The Buckeyes star linebacker and two-time team captain is more focused on leading a dominant defense featuring several potential All-Americans. Laurinaitis, the reigning Butkus Award winner and former National Defensive Player of the Year, was among the Buckeyes stars who passed up NFL money for a final shot at the national title.

 
 Joe Robbins/Getty Images
 Linebacker James Laurinaitis passed up NFL money for a final shot at a national title.

After recording 236 tackles, nine sacks and seven interceptions the last two seasons, Laurinaitis headlines a unit that led the nation in both total defense and scoring defense last fall but once again got gashed in the BCS national championship game. Ohio State started off strong in Week 1, keeping Youngstown State behind the midfield stripe until the game's final play. A much larger test looms Sept. 13 against USC as Ohio State tries to improve its national reputation against an elite opponent. 

Laurinaitis, the preseason Big Ten Defensive Player of the year, sounded off on Wells, the defense and dealing with expectations in an interview this week.

First off, I've got to get your take. How is Beanie and do think he'll play this week or next week? 

James Laurinaitis: I don't know. I'm not just blowing smoke, but I really don't know what's going on with Chris. He's feeling good. He seems like he's doing well. They do a good job of keeping it under wraps, how he is. I think he'll be a day-by-day thing, but to me, he looks good and he looks like he's getting after it in the rehab room. We don't know his diagnosis, so we don't know really what his plan is or what his timing is, but I know one thing about Chris: If he has the slightest chance to play, he'll play because he's an extremely tough kid. 

Have you see him walking around at all in practice? Is he moving OK or struggling?

JL: I walked by him a few times in the locker room and he seems like he's doing OK. He's just trying to get better. Most of the time, he's in the training room and whenever he's not around the practice field or lifting, he's trying to get rehab on it or something. I really haven't seen him all that much.

You're obviously going to be facing some tougher teams later on, but what did you get out of that first game against Youngstown?

JL: With a first game like that, it's harder because you don't know what to expect, so to speak. We knew Youngstown was going to have a new quarterback and things like that and you go into a Game 1 against anyone, teams are going to try something new. They had tendencies, when they're in this formation, they're only going straight downhill. Well, they didn't go straight downhill. They went outside with it. Just reacting and seeing little things that we maybe messed up on scheme-wise and just getting something on film to evaluate, that's the important thing.

What are some of the things you'd like to see improve personally and as a unit?

JL: There's certain things where someone scrambles, they left their guy to go try get the quarterback and then there's an open receiver. Just making sure everyone does their job. When someone tries to go out of their way to make a play, that's where there's openings for a hole to be hit. Just really focusing on scheme stuff, stuff that we can control and trying to improve. Obviously we have to try and improve on turnovers. We had a fumble recovery but we dropped an interception.

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Several teams are getting healthy, while the status of Ohio State running back Beanie Wells remains in doubt as the Week 2 games approach.

Link time:

"History is building. In the eight previous seasons of the 21st century, the Big Ten bowl audit shows 10-12 vs. the SEC, 5-7 against the Big 12, 3-8 in meetings with the Pac-10 and 2-3 vs. the ACC. That's a 20-30 record that computes to 40 percent."
"You know him," she said. "He doesn't want to sit for a week and be rusty (for USC)."
When he spotted reporters Tuesday, Beanie waved his walking boot over his head. Looks like he'll be fine, Doug Lesmerises writes in The Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Big Ten mailbag

September, 2, 2008
9/02/08
5:02
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

College football coaches always say the biggest improvement comes between Week 1 and Week 2, and I hope they're right. The volume of e-mails this week weren't bad at all, but you guys could pick it up a bit for Friday and next week. I'm not looking for why-do-you-hate-my-team stuff, but any questions regarding personnel, coaches, games, my picks, etc., shoot this way.

And be sure to put your hometown. Though I love including notes from Parts Unknown -- home of the Ultimate Warrior and other wrestling greats -- it's nice to know where you're from.

Let's begin:

Zach from Sumpter, S.C., writes: Adam, I've been watching your posts and also watching for Purdue headlines about the Jaycen Taylor injury and any possibility of a medical redshirt this year, and I have not been able to find a thing. Would a medical redshirt be an option or even a possibility for Taylor? By the way, keep up the great blogging and Big Ten/Purdue coverage (any coverage of my Alma Mater is non-existent down here in SEC country).

Adam Rittenberg writes: Zach, I'm sorry you missed it, but there was some blog coverage on the Taylor injury. Here's a post about the impact of the injury on starter Kory Sheets. Taylor will apply for a medical hardship waiver and should have no trouble receiving one. Purdue coach Joe Tiller already has said Taylor will be back for 2009. Although the Boilermakers would love to have had Sheets and Taylor splitting carries this fall, the injury gives each running back the chance to own the spotlight a bit. It's certainly a big loss for Purdue this season, but if Sheets can hang onto the ball, he gives Purdue an explosive threat in the backfield.


Kenny from State College, Pa., writes: Adam, I thought it was funny that PSU scored twice as many points as you predicted them to score on saturday. PSU's defense looked pretty sloppy against Coastal. Do you think it was just because they didn't want to show all there stuff, or do they have some serious problems on Defense?

Adam Rittenberg writes: I definitely underestimated the Nittany Lions' offense, especially against such a weak opponent. When it comes to number of big-play threats, Penn State might have the most in the Big Ten. I'm sure Coastal Carolina had something to do with the defensive performance, but Penn State only allowed 52 rushing yards in the game. The linebackers are a bit of a concern, but the secondary and particularly the line look very solid. They'll get a good test Saturday from Lyle Moevao and Oregon State.

(Read full post)

Beanie 'doubtful' for Ohio game

September, 2, 2008
9/02/08
2:08
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

I just got off the Big Ten coaches' teleconference -- more to come later -- but Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said running back Beanie Wells is doubtful for Saturday's game against Ohio. Wells hurt his right foot/toe in Week 1 against Youngstown State.

Tressel said Wells has yet to practice this week. If the 237-pound junior doesn't participate Wednesday or Thursday, he won't play against the Bobcats. Tressel saw Wells in the training room Tuesday morning and the running back told the coach the foot felt good.

"I would call him doubtful for this week," Tressel said. "If the game were today, he probably wouldn't go."

A much greater concern is whether Wells will be available for next week's mega matchup at USC. Tressel didn't provide a specific diagnosis or long-term prognosis on Wells, saying, "I'm hoping he can get out there as quick as possible."

When asked later Tuesday at his weekly news conference if Wells' injury is not debilitating, Tressel said, "Yeah, I would say that, in a nonmedical way of saying things, that would be fair."

If Wells can't go Saturday, Tressel plans to use a committee system at running back with redshirt freshman Dan "Boom" Herron, senior Maurice Wells and versatile sophomore Brandon Saine, who likely will play more at tailback this week after seeing time split wide as a receiver and at fullback.

"We're not going to change conceptually," Tressel, said, "just different people doing it."

Tressel doesn't expect Beanie Wells' health to impact the way Ohio State uses Terrelle Pryor, but the coach had high praise for the freshman quarterback, who finished as the team's second-leading rusher last Saturday with 52 yards against Youngstown State.

"He's grasped what we're trying to do," Tressel said. "Will we continue to find ways to utilize his talent? Absolutely."

My take: There's no way Beanie plays on Saturday. It's not like he would go into USC without any game experience this season, so it makes no sense to risk further injury. He'll be out there against the Trojans in some capacity, but how effective he'll be is a mystery.

A look at Week 2

September, 2, 2008
9/02/08
11:29
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The Big Ten whiffed on several opportunities to boost its national reputation in Week 1. Now it's time to make sure things don't get worse. The Week 2 slate is underwhelming, to say the least, but still extremely important for Big Ten teams to take care of business.

Here's a look:

Ohio at Ohio State (ESPN2, noon ET)

Beanie Wells' foot injury has overshadowed any intrigue about the game, and the spotlight likely will be on the sideline rather than the field Saturday. If Wells doesn't play -- a strong possibility -- it will be interesting to see how Ohio State's coaches readjust. Do Dan Herron, Maurice Wells and Brandon Saine split carries? How will freshman sensation Terrelle Pryor be used differently? Ohio has some good team speed and should provide somewhat of a challenge for a Buckeyes defense that smothered Youngstown State last week. The Bobcats haven't faced the state's flagship team since 1999, so they'll be up for this one.

Marshall at Wisconsin (noon ET)

The Badgers hope to get healthier and more precise before a huge road matchup against Fresno State in Week 3. Though the running game surged and the offense put up 38 points against Akron, Wisconsin had two turnovers inside the Zips' 10-yard line. Quarterback Allan Evridge must build off his first start in three years against a Marshall defense that struggled last season. Badgers star tight end Travis Beckum practiced earlier this week and might play against the Thundering Herd.

Eastern Illinois at Illinois (noon ET)

Illlinois will unveil its renovated stadium, wear throwback jerseys and welcome back dozens of program greats, including iconic linebacker Dick Butkus. It should be an interesting day on the field as well as the Illini try to atone for a season-opening loss to Missouri against Eastern Illinois. The Panthers feature two former Illinois players, defensive tackle D'Angelo McCray and defensive end Jeff Sobol, and come off a 31-12 loss to Central Michigan.

Eastern Michigan at Michigan State (noon ET)

Despite some positives from wide receiver Mark Dell and others, Michigan State is 0-1 and can't afford to backslide against Eastern Michigan. The Spartans defense needs a much stronger performance against an Eagles team that thumped Indiana State 52-0 and boasts a versatile quarterback in Andy Schmitt. Better discipline also is a priority for the Spartans after being penalized for 82 yards against Cal. Michigan State has scored 47 points or more in its last four meetings with Eastern Michigan.

Miami (Ohio) at Michigan (ESPN, noon ET)

It's only Week 2, but Michigan faces a must-win situation against a Miami (Ohio) program that has regressed in recent years. Don't be surprised if redshirt freshman Steven Threet replaces Nick Sheridan as the Wolverines' starting quarterback, though both men could play. Michigan has to get more from its running backs, particularly freshmen Sam McGuffie and Michael Shaw, against a Miami defense that surrendered 269 rushing yards against Vanderbilt last week. The RedHawks also could go with two quarterbacks, though Daniel Raudabaugh will start.

Florida International at Iowa (noon ET)

It's important for the Hawkeyes to settle on a starting quarterback before games with Iowa State and Pitt, so the spotlight will be on Jake Christensen. The junior had some bright spots and some not-so bright ones against Maine in Week 1, but coach Kirk Ferentz seems to want him to step up and claim the spot for good. Iowa should have no problem with Florida International as long as it can stop T.Y. Hilton, who ranks second nationally in punt returns (44.5 ypr) and 23rd in kickoff returns (25 ypr).

Northern Colorado at Purdue (noon ET)

The Boilers open the season and can finally see what they have at wide receiver. There's little concern about Greg Orton, but expect coach Joe Tiller to use a sizable rotation of receivers to see who else can contribute. Kory Sheets plays his first game as Purdue's featured running back, though it'd be wise to get backup Dan Dierking a decent number of carries. Northern Colorado was picked last in the preseason Big Sky polls, so the Boilers shouldn't be tested too much before a big matchup against Oregon.

Oregon State at Penn State (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET)

What looks to be the day's best game by far lost a little luster after Oregon State dropped its opener against Stanford. Beavers quarterback Lyle Moevao provides a good test for a Penn State defense that's stacked up front but inexperienced at linebacker. Oregon State struggled to contain Stanford's run game and could be in trouble against Evan Royster and Stephfon Green, but if the Beavers flood the box and make Daryll Clark beat them with his arm, this could get very interesting.

Murray State at Indiana (7 p.m. ET)

Indiana and Iowa should co-author a book entitled, "Easing into the season." Like the Hawkeyes, it will be tough to get a great read on the Hoosiers until later this month. Star pass rusher Greg Middleton returns to the field for Indiana after serving a one-game suspension, and the defense looks to limit the pass after allowing 219 yards against Western Kentucky. Murray State allowed 73 points last year against Louisville in its only game against an FBS opponent.

Northwestern at Duke (7 p.m. ET)

If Northwestern wants to change its national perception, beating teams like Duke is a must. The Wildcats failed to do so last year, falling 20-14 at home following an unsightly series of penalties, turnovers and missed opportunities. Duke looks to be improving under new coach David Cutcliffe, but the difference Saturday could be Northwestern running back Tyrell Sutton, the best player on either squad and a guy who missed last year's game with an ankle injury. Keep an eye on the weather as Hurricane Hannah should hit North Carolina on Friday night.

Minnesota at Bowling Green (ESPNU, 7:30 p.m. ET)

The Gophers deserved to celebrate a bit after a season-opening win against Northern Illinois, but if they want to prove they're really a better team, this is the perfect stage. Bowling Green comes off a Week 1 road upset of Pitt and stunned Minnesota last season with a two-point conversion in overtime to seal a 32-31 win. Falcons quarterback Tyler Sheehan will test
a still-unproven Gophers secondary, but Adam Weber should also be a handful for Bowling Green.

Big Ten Power Rankings

September, 2, 2008
9/02/08
9:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

There's minimal shuffling in the ratings after some good performances, some bad ones and some impact injuries. Beanie or no Beanie, Ohio State remains at the top and should stay there for a while, but Illinois and Michigan State missed opportunities to move up.

1. Ohio State: Sure, it was Youngstown State, but the Buckeyes were sharp on both sides of the ball. A star-studded defense didn't let the Penguins cross midfield until the game's final play, Terrelle Pryor turned in a solid debut and starting quarterback Todd Boeckman was steady.

2. Wisconsin: The Badgers are barely hanging onto this spot, mostly because of health concerns on defense. P.J. Hill and the run game looked superb against Akron, but several key defenders are banged up, which could hurt in Week 3 at Fresno State.

3. Penn State: Playmakers abound for the Nittany Lions, as overmatched Coastal Carolina found out Saturday. New starting quarterback Daryll Clark should get plenty of help from wideout Derrick Williams and a run game that produced 334 rushing yards Saturday.

4. Illinois: The Illini deserved to drop after a poor defensive performance against Missouri, but both Michigan and Michigan State lost and no one else beat a decent team. Quarterback Juice Williams did all he could against the Tigers, but a defensive line that was billed as the team's strength fell short.

5. Michigan State: How do the Spartans move up after a loss? They inspired more hope than Michigan and received excellent performances from wide receiver Mark Dell (202 receiving yards) and running back Javon Ringer (200 all-purpose yards) on the road against Cal.

6. Michigan: There's a ton of work to do on offense, and the transition at quarterback will take time to click. But the Wolverines' defense dominated Utah in the second half Saturday and should keep games close until the offense gets on track. Linebacker Obi Ezeh's play was particularly encouraging.

7. Northwestern: The Wildcats were the only Big Ten team to beat a BCS foe, though Syracuse barely qualifies anymore. Still, Northwestern received the boost it sought from a much-maligned defense, which produced a touchdown and a safety in a 30-10 victory. Running back Tyrell Sutton also looked in top form.

8. Iowa: A 4-0 start seems very possible for the Hawkeyes after Pitt's loss, and a mostly unproven group of running backs looked superb against Maine. Iowa still needs more consistency from quarterback Jake Christensen, but linebacker A.J. Edds is developing into a star and will boost a decent defense.

9. Indiana: Quarterback Kellen Lewis can take this team a long way and got off to a strong start after reclaiming his starting job in camp. Defensive end Jammie Kirlew had a nice game, but I'm still not sold on that unit until it faces a sterner test (Ball State on Sept. 20).

10. Purdue: The Boilermakers are hurt a bit by not playing, but more by the season-ending injury to running back Jaycen Taylor. With uncertainty at wide receiver, it would have helped if Curtis Painter could count on two backs instead of only Kory Sheets, who has had fumbling problems. Linebacker depth is a major concern, but an improved secondary could vault the Boilers up the list.

11. Minnesota: Kudos to the Gophers for matching last year's win total in Week 1, but they were seconds away from a home loss to Northern Illinois. The secondary remains susceptible to big plays, which won't cut it this week against Bowling Green and Tyler Sheehan.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

I've never played this much attention to another man's foot, much less his toes. But Beanie Wells' right foot dominated the Big Ten headlines on Labor Day. No matter how this turns out, Buckeyes fans have to be a bit concerned about Wells' growing injury history. For a guy who is 237 pounds and freaking huge up close, Wells seems to have a lot of ailments.

Here's a quick look around the league this afternoon as several teams released their Week 2 depth charts.

  • Columbus Dispatch beat writers Ken Gordon and Tim May weigh in on the Beanie brouhaha, agreeing that the Buckeyes have no business playing Wells against Ohio. It might even force the coaches to think more creatively before the USC game.
  • Wells remains as the starting running back on the Week 2 depth chart (page 11) ahead of redshirt freshman Dan "Boom" Herron. Defensive tackle Nader Abdallah is still listed before Doug Worthington, who sat out the first three quarters against Youngstown State, presumably as a punishment for his DUI.
  • Purdue's depth chart for Saturday's opener against Northern Colorado shows Greg Orton, Keith Smith and Brandon Whittington as the starting wide receivers. Junior college transfer Aaron Valentin is listed behind Whittington, while fellow JUCO transfer Arsenio Curry isn't on the two-deep, but plenty of wideouts will play, Tom Kubat writes in The Journal and Courier. Keep an eye on strong safety Dwight Mclean, who won a starting safety spot opposite Torri Williams and could provide a big boost for the Boilers secondary.
  • Standout defensive tackle John Gill is listed as a starter on Northwestern's Week 2 depth chart (page 8) after being suspended for the opener against Syracuse. Coach Pat Fitzgerald's message clearly got through to Gill, who last week was named defensive practice player of the week, a distinction that usually goes to younger players still proving themselves. Gill's replacement against Syracuse, sophomore Corbin Bryant, turned in an impressive performance and is now pushing incumbent Adam Hahn for the other starting spot. Offensive lineman Desmond Taylor continues to make strides and is listed as a potential starter at both right guard and right tackle.
  • Michigan's depth chart (page 11) didn't change much at the key positions, as both Nick Sheridan and Steven Threet are listed as possible starters at quarterback and freshmen Sam McGuffie and Michael Shaw are the same at running back. Linebacker Marell Evans is making a push for a starting outside linebacker spot, and freshman wideout Darryl Stonum finds himself in the mix at two receiver positions (X and Z). The Detroit Free Press' Michael Rosenberg is convinced Threet should start against Miami (Ohio).
  • Starting fullback Chris Pressley will be back for Wisconsin this week against Marshall, and tight end Travis Beckum practiced Sunday and could return. But defenders Jonathan Casillas and Aaron Henry still are a bit away from seeing the field, Jeff Potrykus writes in the Badgers Blog.
  • Penn State's matchup against Oregon State is by far the best Big Ten game this weekend, and it might not even be that great if the Beavers don't upgrade their run defense, The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News' Bob Flounders writes in his blog.

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