Big Ten: Florida Atlantic Owls

Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini has reached a verbal agreement to become Florida Atlantic's head coach, colleague Joe Schad and others are reporting.

Schad reports that Pelini is expected to be introduced at Florida Atlantic on Monday. Pelini will replace Howard Schnellenberger, who announced before the season that he planned to retire and will coach his final game Saturday when the 1-10 Owls host Louisiana-Monroe. Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne was among those who recommended Pelini for the job.

It will be interesting to see where Nebraska coach Bo Pelini looks to replace his older brother on staff. The Pelini brothers helped bring Nebraska's defense to prominence in 2009 and 2010, and the unit had its good moments this year but also dealt with some puzzling inconsistency.

Former Arizona coach Mike Stoops was among the candidates Carl Pelini beat out for the FAU job, Schad reports. Stoops confirmed he has had discussions with new Ohio State coach Urban Meyer about a position on the Buckeyes staff. It will be interesting if Bo Pelini makes a push for Stoops, his close friend, for the Huskers' vacancy.

Nebraska's offense should be very strong in 2012, and it will be the defense, Bo Pelini's specialty, which must makes strides after losing standouts Lavonte David and Alfonzo Dennard. This will be a very important hire for Bo.
The 2010 Big Ten schedule might leave you scratching your head at times.

Indiana will play a home game against Penn State in Landover, Md., which is a lot closer to State College than Bloomington.

And Michigan State will play a road game against Florida Atlantic ... in Detroit.

The Spartans-Owls game had been in the works for some time but was finalized Thursday. Michigan State opens the season against Western Michigan at home before making the 90-mile trip to Ford Field, where it will wear its road jerseys against Florida Atlantic on Sept. 11.

Florida Atlantic originally was scheduled to open its new on-campus stadium against Michigan State, but financial reasons forced the venue change.

"Because of the difficult financial climate, our completion date has been pushed back a year," FAU athletics director Craig Angelos said in a statement. "Therefore, we considered how we could still use this game toward promoting and supporting our efforts to make the stadium a reality. We thought this neutral site would be an ideal way of benefiting the stadium effort."

FAU will use proceeds from the game to fund its new stadium. Michigan State hosted the Owls in 2008 and won 17-0.

"While we were looking forward to playing the opening game in FAU's new on-campus stadium, we are delighted to be able to play a 'road game' in Detroit," Michigan State athletics director Mark Hollis said in a statement. "This game is certain to have a positive financial impact on the state. It's also important to note from a financial standpoint that Michigan State will play nine of its 12 regular-season games next year in the state of Michigan, with seven games in East Lansing, one in Ann Arbor and the FAU game in Detroit."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg


Michigan State's scheduled trip to Florida Atlantic next season likely will take place much closer to home.

Florida Atlantic wants to move the game against Michigan State to Detroit's Ford Field or Chicago's Soldier Field because the opening date for its new stadium has been pushed back to 2011. The Owls would still serve as the home team, and they'd pocket most of the proceeds from the game, which could exceed $2 million.

But Michigan State fans would fill the stands in either location, especially in nearby Detroit.
"I am sorry that the stadium won't be ready, because we wanted to be a part of that historical first game," Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "We have a lot of alumni in Chicago and Detroit and there is a lot of attraction to both those locations."
Michigan State has told Florida Atlantic athletic director Craig Angelos that a game in Chicago or Detroit would draw 45,000-55,000 fans. Florida Atlantic will still travel to East Lansing to face the Spartans in 2011.

Should the venue change be made, Michigan State would have three home games (Western Michigan, Notre Dame and Northern Colorado) and a neutral-site contest in 2010.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Joey Elliott wants to become the next Josh Heupel.

Sure, he wouldn't mind leading Purdue to a national title, winning the AP Player of the Year award and finishing second in Heisman Trophy voting. But Elliott is more interested in mirroring Heupel's rapid rise up the college coaching ranks.

Heupel landed a job as Oklahoma's quarterbacks coach less than five years after quarterbacking the Sooners to a national title in 2000. Elliott, a senior quarterback at Purdue, wouldn't mind joining the Boilers' staff in the near future.

 
  Sandra Dukes/Icon SMI
  Joey Elliott looks to be the starter this fall for Purdue, but he also has an eye toward a future in coaching.

Rather than savoring the final hours of winter break in January, Elliott traveled to Nashville for the American Football Coaches Association convention. Along with his dad, John, a longtime coach in Indiana, Elliott spent several days networking, studying and soaking it in.

He attended seminars led by Heupel, Arkansas quarterbacks coach Garrick McGee and Georgia Southern head coach Chris Hatcher, among others. And he rarely strayed far from his dad's side.

"I followed his coattails," Elliott said. "He introduced me to everybody he knew and let them know I'm getting into coaching. It's kind of a word-of-mouth career. It's who you know, what you know.

"You need to have a way in."

Elliott might finally have a way in to Purdue's starting quarterback spot after four years of waiting. Curtis Painter has graduated and Elliott's primary competitor this spring, Justin Siller, was dismissed from school earlier this month for academic violations.

A coaching career awaits Elliott, but he's got unfinished business as a player.

"In my mind, he's the starter," Purdue offensive coordinator Gary Nord said. "At the same time, we haven't named anything, and anybody can beat anybody out. Nobody's guaranteed anything. The coaching staff doesn't know what the capabilities are, doesn't know the intangibles of them yet."

The last part shouldn't be a hard sell for Elliott, whose high school coach, Harvey Robbins, said he "always took care of the intangibles."

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Here's a look at what's on tap for head coach Mark Dantonio and the Spartans this fall. 

NONCONFERENCE SCHEDULE

Sept. 5 Montana State

Sept. 12 Central Michigan

Sept. 19 at Notre Dame

Nov. 7 Western Michigan

My take: At first glance, Michigan State appears to have softened up its non-league slate after visiting Cal and hosting defending Sun Belt champ Florida Atlantic last year. But this rundown could present some challenges, as Notre Dame will be improved and both Central Michigan and Western Michigan beat Big Ten opponents last year. Michigan State moved the Western Michigan game to East Lansing from Ford Field in Detroit, providing a seventh home game in rough economic times. Facing the Broncos at Spartan Stadium will help, and Michigan State has won a whopping six consecutive games at Notre Dame Stadium. But with new starters at both quarterback and running back, the Spartans could slip up somewhere along the way. 

BIG TEN SCHEDULE

Sept. 26 at Wisconsin

Oct. 3 Michigan

Oct. 10 at Illinois

Oct. 17 Northwestern

Oct. 24 Iowa

Oct. 31 at Minnesota

Nov. 14 at Purdue

Nov. 21 Penn State

Byes: Ohio State, Indiana

My take: The Spartans' league slate sets up favorably for another run to a January bowl game. All four road games are winnable, and the league opener at Wisconsin will be critical as both teams adjust to new quarterbacks. If Michigan State gets through the first three Big Ten games at 3-0 or 2-1, a major bowl push certainly is within reach. The Spartans face league title contenders Iowa and Penn State at home and don't play Ohio State, which embarrassed them last year in East Lansing. Playing archrival Michigan fairly early on likely will benefit the Spartans, as the Wolverines might not fully be settled at the quarterback position. 

Big Ten mailbag

January, 27, 2009
1/27/09
11:36
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Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Adel from Iowa writes: I enjoy your unbiased opinions in all of your blogs. 1 question. Does Iowa have a chance to win the big ten and return to the glory years(02-04) which all of us fans who bleed black and gold are hoping for?

Adam Rittenberg: Thanks, Adel. Iowa certainly will be in the mix for the league title this fall, but the road schedule isn't easy with trips to Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan State. Shonn Greene obviously is a big loss at running back, but I like Jewel Hampton and love what the Hawkeyes bring back on defense. This should be Kirk Ferentz's deepest team since the 2004 squad, and if quarterback Ricky Stanzi continues to develop, the Hawks will win a lot of games.


Erik from Pasadena, Calif., writes: With Greg Robinson the new Defensive Coordinator at Michigan, how will this effect recruiting? Will the new coach attract some top tier defensive talent to Ann Arbor?

Adam Rittenberg: He won't have much of an effect on the 2009 class, which is practically finished, but Robinson already has started recruiting for the Wolverines and should have an impact on future classes. His poor recruiting at Syracuse certainly is a concern, but there are enough solid recruiters on Rich Rodriguez's staff. Robinson's system and success this coming fall ultimately will have the biggest impact on how he fares on the recruiting trail.


Shawn G. from Parts Unknown writes: Adam, now that Penn State has lost its top 3 receivers, who do you think will start for Penn State in that position? They have a multitude of receivers who are there already and some good recruits coming in. Thanks!

Adam Rittenberg: I'd expect both Brett Brackett and Graham Zug to challenge for starting spots in 2009, but both seem like possession-type receivers. Penn State needs to identify a speedy receiver or two who can stretch the field like Deon Butler and Derrick Williams. The recent addition of former Rutgers commit Shawney Kersey could boost the Lions' receiving corps, but wideout certainly will be a question mark heading into spring ball. I also would like to see Penn State use Stephfon Green more out of the backfield. Green averaged 17.9 yards on 15 receptions in 2008 and could take on a greater pass-catching role this fall.

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Last year, Purdue fans had an excellent reason to watch the Motor City Bowl. Their team played in the game.

The Boilermakers are staying home for the bowl season this year, but the Purdue faithful still should tune in for tonight's Motor City Bowl matchup between Florida Atlantic and Central Michigan (ESPN, 7:30 p.m. ET).

Why?

Florida Atlantic offensive coordinator Gary Nord will call his final game for the Owls before taking the same position on Danny Hope's staff at Purdue. Nord has been doing double duty in recent weeks, helping Florida Atlantic prepare for the bowl while taking recruiting trips for Purdue. He also has consulted Boilermakers coaches about Central Michigan, a team Purdue has faced three times since the start of the 2007 season.

Purdue fans can get a sense of Nord's play-calling style in tonight's game. He will stick with the spread offense in West Lafayette, though he'll put his own spin on the system. Tonight should provide a sneak preview of what's to come for the Boilers in 2009.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The Danny Hope era is under way at Purdue, and the new Boilermakers coach has started to form his staff for 2009.

Today, Hope hired Gary Nord as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach and Shawn Clark as offensive line coach. He also promoted graduate assistant J.B. Gibboney to special teams coordinator. 

The hirings mean that Ed Zaunbrecher will not be retained as offensive coordinator. Purdue ranked last in the Big Ten in scoring before exploding for 62 points in the season finale against Indiana. Clark actually replaces Hope, who coached Purdue's offensive linemen this season.

Tight ends coach John McDonnell also won't be retained, and defensive tackles coach Mark Hagen no longer will oversee special teams. Purdue ranked last in the Big Ten in both punting and kickoff coverage this season. 

Nord comes to Purdue from Florida Atlantic, where he has served as offensive coordinator since 2005. He also served as offensive coordinator at UTEP and Oklahoma and worked with Hope at Louisville from 1985-1995. Like Hope, he has ties to Florida that will help change the recruiting landscape at Purdue. 

"Gary has one of the top offensive minds in the nation," Hope said in a statement. "He also is an outstanding recruiter. We are fortunate to get someone with his background and experience. He's a real catch for us."

Clark served on Hope's staff at Eastern Kentucky from 2003-07 and remained with the Colonels this season. He first met Hope in 2002 as a graduate assistant at Louisville. 

"I have known Shawn virtually his entire career, and he coaches the O-line the way I want it to be coached," Hope said. "He's a bright young coach with a tremendous work ethic, and he's a former lineman himself, so the players know they are learning from someone who has been there, done that."  

It will be interesting to see what Hope does with the rest of Joe Tiller's staff. I'm particularly interested to see if Brock Spack is retained as defensive coordinator. Hope and Spack go way back, to Hope's first stint on the Purdue staff.

The Boilermakers defense performed well for much of the season, and Spack might have earned the right to remain in West Lafayette.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

No one would have blamed Tim Brewster or his players for turning their attention to Ohio State as soon as they left the Metrodome field Saturday afternoon.

The way the Gophers dominated Florida Atlantic, they could have started scheming for Terrelle Pryor and the possible return of Chris "Beanie" Wells early in the fourth quarter of a 37-3 romp.

 
 AP Photo/Paul Battaglia
 Marcus Sherels is part of a secondary that has racked up six interceptions and 23 pass deflections.

But Minnesota wasn't just another BCS team polishing off a fairly negotiable nonconference slate before getting its first major test in league play. In four weeks, the Gophers quadrupled their wins total from all of last season, Brewster's first as head coach.

The nation's worst defense in 2007 has become an opportunistic bunch of talented junior college transplants and holdovers who have upgraded their play. The offense has surged behind quarterback Adam Weber and Eric Decker, limiting mistakes and putting up points in Year 2 of the Spread Coast system.

For the Gophers to gloss over these accomplishments, regardless of the competition, would be a disservice to their fans and themselves.

"As coaches and players, we don't do a good enough job of savoring victory," Brewster said Monday. "We had a great victory over a really good football team on Saturday, and I wanted to make sure our players savored the victory."

So Minnesota celebrated Saturday before reconvening Sunday. Players went through their running and lifting. Then they studied the Florida Atlantic film and made corrections.

"Once we had all of that done," Brewster said, "we started talking about Ohio State."

The Gophers open Big Ten play on Saturday with a visit to the 14th-ranked Buckeyes. But before breaking down the matchup, here's a look at the reasons behind Minnesota's 4-0 start after a 1-11 clunker in 2007.

IMPROVED TURNOVER MARGIN

The Gophers were far too generous last season and ranked 114th nationally in average turnover margin (minus-1.25). This fall, Weber and the offense have safeguarded the football. More important, the defense is consistently taking it away.

(Read full post)

A look back at the Week 4 picks

September, 22, 2008
9/22/08
10:16
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Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Much like the Big Ten itself, the picks continue to avoid a bad week. The score predictions were way off once again, but with a 7-1 record and the lone blemish a 1-point decision, I'll take it. The Big Ten is turning into a defense-oriented league -- at least outside of State College, where Penn State continues to roll -- so expect some lower scores this week as conference play begins.

Time to review the picks:

OHIO-NORTHWESTERN

  • My pick: Northwestern 30, Ohio 24
  • Game result: Northwestern 16, Ohio 8
  • 20-20 hindsight: I've come to accept bizarre games from the Wildcats, but this one set a new standard. Suddenly the defense is dominant and the offense stinks? That was certainly the case against Ohio. Quarterback Boo Jackson didn't provide the test I thought he would, as Northwestern forced him into repeated mistakes and generated four takeaways. The Wildcats' superb defensive effort rescued quarterback C.J. Bacher, who threw four interceptions.
FLORIDA ATLANTIC-MINNESOTA
  • My pick: Minnesota 42, Florida Atlantic 39
  • Game result: Minnesota 37, Florida Atlantic 3
  • 20-20 hindsight: I thought I'd have some fun and pick Minnesota to win by the same score in which it lost last year's meeting against FAU. Guess the Gophers didn't see the humor. They absolutely destroyed the defending Sun Belt champs, as a much-improved defense forced turnovers and quarterback Adam Weber continued to surge. After committing seven giveaways last year, Minnesota won the turnover margin, 4-1. My apologies to Gopher Nation for underestimating your team.

TROY-OHIO STATE

  • My pick: Ohio State 42, Troy 10
  • Game result: Ohio State 28, Troy 10
  • 20-20 hindsight: This ended up being one of the closer score predictions, though Ohio State's ability to underwhelm still seems stunning. Credit freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor for a very impressive debut, but Ohio State entered the fourth quarter leading by just four points. I'm sure most will predict a lopsided result when Ohio State opens Big Ten play against Minnesota, but I've learned my lesson.
TEMPLE-PENN STATE
  • My pick: Penn State 41, Temple 17
  • Game result: Penn State 45, Temple 3
  • 20-20 hindsight: I keep waiting for Penn State's defense to falter, but it keeps coming up big. Linebacker Navorro Bowman (5 TFLs, 3 sacks) led the charge in his first career start as the Lions defense picked up an offense that started a bit slow. It was Stephfon Green, not Derrick Williams, who had the big offensive day for Penn State, and Temple QB Adam DiMichele ended up being knocked out of the game in the first quarter.
IOWA-PITT
  • My pick: Iowa 24, Pitt 20
  • Game result: Pitt 21, Iowa 20
  • 20-20 hindsight: The closest pick of the week turned out to be my only misdiagnosis, as Pitt outlasted Iowa at Heinz Field. Panthers running back LeSean McCoy got the best of Iowa's defense when it mattered most with a 27-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter. But the Hawkeyes still aren't getting enough production from their quarterback position, and it might be time to scrap the rotation and settle on a leader.

CENTRAL MICHIGAN-PURDUE

  • My pick: Purdue 45, Central Michigan 41
  • Game result: Purdue 32, Central Michigan 25
  • 20-20 hindsight: It wasn't the offensive surge I predicted, but the game still provided plenty of entertainment value. Purdue's secondary is better than many forecasted, and the Boilers finally came through in the clutch after Central Michigan appeared poised to steal a road win. Curtis Painter had a solid performance, but the Chippewas' seemingly vulnerable defense limited Purdue to just 16 first downs and 344 yards of offense.

NOTRE DAME-MICHIGAN STATE

  • My pick: Michigan State 31, Notre Dame 28
  • Game result: Michigan State 23, Notre Dame 7
  • 20-20 hindsight: It was wishful thinking to call this "the best game of the day," as Michigan State grinded out a win behind a physical defense and superstar running back Javon Ringer. The Spartans' defense held Jimmy Clausen and Notre Dame's long-range passing attack in check for most of the game, keeping the Fighting Irish off the scoreboard for three quarters. Once again, Ringer was fabulous, becoming the first Spartans player to record back-to-back 200-yard rushing performances.

BALL STATE-INDIANA

  • My pick: Ball State 45, Indiana 42 (OT)
  • Game result: Ball State 42, Indiana 20
  • 20-20 hindsight: Indiana came into the game untested, and it showed. The Ball State offense tore through Indiana's defense despite losing star wideout Dante Love to a tragic and terrifying injury in the first quarter. The Hoosiers didn't hold up their end of the bargain, as quarterback Kellen Lewis threw two inte
    rceptions and the offense shut down in the fourth quarter.

Byes: Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois

Season record: 35-4

Big Ten: What to watch in Week 4

September, 19, 2008
9/19/08
10:14
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Only eight games on the slate this week, but there's no shortage of subplots, especially on the defensive side.

Let's take a look:

1. Ringer vs. the world: Notre Dame will do all it can to stop Michigan State's Javon Ringer on Saturday (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET). Ringer likely can expect to see eight or nine men in the box, as the Fighting Irish dare Brian Hoyer to beat them. The overloading still might not be enough, as Ringer has racked up 417 rushing yards and seven touchdowns in his last two games.

2. Pryor's coronation in Columbus: Terrelle Pryor and Todd Boeckman will split snaps for Ohio State against Troy, but this game is a chance for the freshman to take control of the offense. If Pryor continues to show good poise and playmaking ability, he'll continue to be featured when the Buckeyes enter Big Ten play. Boeckman will get his opportunities as well, but with the top goal off the table for the Buckeyes, they have to look toward the future.

3. Iowa D takes on real McCoy: The Hawkeyes have already collected eight takeaways without allowing a touchdown this season, but they face their first major test in Pitt running back LeSean McCoy. Expect McCoy to run away from Iowa star tackles Mitch King and Matt Kroul, which will put pressure on less proven players to step up.

4. Indiana on the defensive: I've already heard from several furious Hoosiers fans about my upset pick of Ball State against their unproven team. Let's see if an improved Hoosiers defense proves me a fool when it faces dynamic quarterback Nate Davis and FBS receiving leader Dante Love. There's no doubt Kellen Lewis will make plays for Indiana, but the team's fate, as usual, rests with the defense.

5. Northwestern chases history: Nonconference losses have been Northwestern's biggest bugaboo, even during the program's renaissance in the mid-1990s. The Wildcats can sweep their nonleague slate for the first time since 1963 by beating Ohio at home. It won't be easy, as the Bobcats are much better than their record indicates and athletic quarterback Boo Jackson spells trouble for an improved Northwestern defense.

6. Tiller gets record: Joe Tiller already should be Purdue's all-time winningest coach, but his team lost another winnable big game last Saturday against Oregon. Tiller sets the record this week as Curtis Painter and the Boilermakers pick apart a Central Michigan defense that looks overmatched against BCS foes. Dan LeFevour makes the game interesting for a while, but Purdue beats the Chippewas for the third straight time.

7. Gophers secondary tested: No one would mistake Minnesota's nonleague schedule for, say, Washington's, but the Gophers deserve a ton of credit if they go 4-0 after winning one game all of last season. Standing in their path is Florida Atlantic quarterback Rusty Smith, who will perform much better than he did in the rain last week in East Lansing. Minnesota's new-look secondary of Tramaine Brock, Traye Simmons, Marcus Sherels and Kyle Theret have shown good playmaking skills so far and need continued progress against the Owls.

8. Iowa quarterback Jake Christensen: Coach Kirk Ferentz seems to be telling Christensen, "Take the job already, will ya?" The junior gets a great chance to do so on the road against a desperate Pitt team already knocked off its preseason perch. Christensen steadied the offense in the clutch last week against Iowa State but will need to make more pressure plays against the Panthers.

9. Penn State's defensive line: Coach Joe Paterno admits his team hasn't faced any adversity so far this season, at least on the field. Temple quarterback Adam DiMichele should be a good challenge for Penn State's defensive linemen, who have held together nicely despite injuries, dismissals and suspensions. Paterno also should address the status of linemen Maurice Evans and Abe Koroma after the game.

10. Michigan State safety Otis Wiley: Wiley once again looks like the guy who led the team in tackles (94) and pass breakups (10) as a sophomore in 2006. The Spartans need him at his peak against Notre Dame because of lingering personnel issues in the secondary. Fighting Irish quarterback Jimmy Clausen will look to stretch the field with Golden Tate, and it's up to Wiley to limit the damage.

Big Ten picks for Week 4

September, 18, 2008
9/18/08
10:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Things are about to get tough. The cupcake games (read: easy picks) are evaporating, so it's time to get serious. I'm coming off a solid week record-wise but need to do a bit better with the scores. Fortunately, Saturday's weather forecast looks good in Big Ten territory, so the offenses should be back to normal.

A lot of nail-biters this week.

Northwestern 30, Ohio 24 -- This has the makings of a trap game for the Wildcats, who haven't swept their nonconference games since 1963 and face a winless Ohio team that could easily be 2-1. Elusive quarterback Boo Jackson will test an improved Northwestern defense, but he'll make some mistakes down the stretch. Northwestern might start slow on offense and fall behind, but C.J. Bacher is at his best with his back to the wall and makes enough plays to win.

Minnesota 42, Florida Atlantic 39 -- Those who watched last year's game will understand the significance of the score. Don't expect the same Florida Atlantic team that got shut out in the rain last week at Michigan State. Quarterback Rusty Smith and the Owls surge in the Metrodome. But this is a different Minnesota team, one that deserves a little more faith from me. Adam Weber and Eric Decker hook up for a touchdown in the final minute as the Gophers go 4-0.

Ohio State 42, Troy 10 -- Running back Chris "Beanie" Wells will be limited if he plays at all, and the Buckeyes' offense could start slowly. All eyes will be on the quarterbacks as Todd Boeckman and Terrelle Pryor split snaps for the second straight game. Both quarterbacks will make some plays and the competition will continue into Big Ten play. Troy's athletic quarterback Jamie Hampton could provide some initial trouble for the Buckeyes defense before it locks down.

Penn State 41, Temple 17 -- Joe Paterno is talking up Temple, and the Owls could make Penn State's starters work a little longer than a quarter or two this week. But there's no way Temple can contain all of Penn State's weapons. Wideout Derrick Williams takes his turn at putting up big numbers as the Spread HD offense ignites in the third quarter. Temple quarterback Adam DiMichele will be a good test for a patchwork Lions defensive line.

Iowa 24, Pitt 20 -- I made the mistake of putting Pitt in my preseason Top 25 poll, so I'm not going to let Wanny burn me again. This one could go either way, as Iowa really hasn't been tested yet. The key matchup features Panthers star running back LeSean McCoy against Iowa's defensive line, led by tackles Mitch King and Matt Kroul. Iowa could use two quarterbacks again, but junior Jake Christensen makes a big play late to secure the win.

Purdue 45, Central Michigan 41 -- The teams' third meeting in just over a year will be just as entertaining as the previous matchup at the 2007 Motor City Bowl. Purdue still doesn't know how to win big games and could have a hangover from last week's missed opportunity against Oregon, but Central Michigan really struggles to stop BCS teams. The Chippewas have allowed an average of 51.4 points in their last seven games against BCS foes. That bodes well for Curtis Painter.

Michigan State 31, Notre Dame 28 -- This could be the best game of the day, and I hope it is since I'll be there. Michigan State tries to control the clock with running back Javon Ringer and puts pressure on a questionable Notre Dame defensive line. Fighting Irish quarterback Jimmy Clausen counters by stretching the field against a suspect Spartans defense. The slight edge goes to Michigan State, which becomes the first team to win at home in the series since 2000.

Ball State 45, Indiana 42 (OT) -- The Cardinals will be pumped for this one, and star quarterback Nate Davis and FBS receiving leader Dante Love fluster a Hoosiers secondary that could be without standout safety Austin Thomas. No Big Ten team has been tested less than Indiana so far, and though Kellen Lewis will move the ball against Ball State, a late-game miscue will prove costly.

Byes: Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois

Season record: 28-3

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Should get a Chris "Beanie" Wells update from Ohio State coach Jim Tressel in a little bit, so check back later.

Let's link.

A look ahead at Week 4

September, 16, 2008
9/16/08
10:46
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Conference play kicks off next week with several exciting matchups, but five Big Ten teams are trying to round out the non-league slate on a good note. For the second straight year the league is shaping up to have more bowl-eligible teams that available slots, so winning these early games is paramount for squads like Northwestern, Indiana and Minnesota. The Hoosiers get back into action after a week off, and Ohio State returns to the field, hoping to turn the page on the USC flop.

Here's a look at what's on tap Saturday.

Ohio at Northwestern (noon ET)

Don't be fooled by Ohio's 0-3 record. The Bobcats built leads against Ohio State and Central Michigan the last two weeks and could be Northwestern's toughest non-league test. The Wildcats are fighting some history, as they haven't had a perfect nonconference season since 1963. Non-league stumbles kept Northwestern out of bowl games in 2004 and 2007, so a win here would be huge. The Wildcats' improved defense will have to contain Bobcats quarterback Boo Jackson, who set a school record with 413 total yards last week.

Florida Atlantic at Minnesota (noon ET)

The Gophers should have plenty of motivation in this one after losing to the Owls last fall in Miami. After going 1-11 in 2007, Minnesota would be two-thirds of the way to bowl eligibility with a victory. But it won't be easy, and the Gophers shouldn't expect to see the same Rusty Smith who completed just 8 of 34 passes in a downpour last week at Michigan State. Smith will challenge a Gophers defense that missed tackles against Montana State and allowed 463 passing yards in last year's contest with the Owls.

Troy at No. 13 Ohio State (noon ET)

It will be an interesting day along the banks of the Olentangy River. How will Ohio State be received after crumbling at the L.A. Coliseum? Will there be a hangover or a new fire with this team? The Buckeyes might take out their frustration on Troy, a solid Sun Belt team that is 2-0 despite losing its star quarterback (Omar Haugabook) and its star offensive coordinator (Tony Franklin). Regardless of who plays running back, it's important for the offensive line and quarterback Todd Boeckman to settle into a good rhythm. Terrelle Pryor likely will continue to see more playing time as Ohio State tries to build momentum before league play.

Temple at No. 16 Penn State (noon ET)

It's been a tough two weeks for Temple, which lost on a Hail Mary against Buffalo and an overtime touchdown against Connecticut. The Owls won't get much sympathy from a Penn State team that has won three games by an average of 43 points. At least the Lions should be tested by a solid Temple offense led by quarterback Adam DiMichele, who leads the team in both passing (204.7 ypg) and rushing (39 ppg). Former Penn State captain Al Golden will make his first appearance at Beaver Stadium as Temple's coach.

Iowa at Pitt (ESPN2, noon ET)

The Hawkeyes have looked fabulous at home, particularly on defense. Their first voyage away from Kinnick Stadium brings new challenges, namely a Pitt team that desperately needs a win to avoid being branded a bust and putting coach Dave Wannstedt on the hot seat. The game's key matchup pairs Pitt star running back LeSean McCoy against an Iowa defensive line anchored by four-year starters Mitch King and Matt Kroul. The Hawkeyes remain unsettled at quarterback and should get some answers -- good or bad -- at that position against the Panthers.

Central Michigan at Purdue (noon ET)

These teams have to be sick of one another. Saturday marks their third meeting since Sept. 15, 2007, with Purdue winning both previous contests. The Boilers' big-game blues continued last week against Oregon, but another matchup with a quality team provides a chance for redemption. Central Michigan's defense struggles against BCS foes, so Curtis Painter should be able to get on track. The key will be whether Purdue's defense continues to make plays in the red zone against Dan LeFevour. A victory makes Joe Tiller Purdue's all-time winningest coach.

Notre Dame at Michigan State (ABC, 3:30 ET)

The Spartans look like the better team, but in this series it rarely matters. The road team has won the last seven meetings, stretching back to 2001, and Michigan State must only remember its 2006 collapse in the rain to recognize that anything can happen. Notre Dame's improved offense will challenge the Spartans, who shut out Florida Atlantic but will need a strong performance from a patchwork secondary to stop Fighting Irish deep threat Golden Tate. Expect another big game from Spartans running back Javon Ringer, but quarterback Brian Hoyer will have to make a few big plays as well.

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

This should be one of the day's most exciting games, as Indiana gets tested for the first time this season. Ball State quarterback Nate Davis ranks sixth nationally in passer rating (189.4) and will look for Dante Love, the nation's leading receiver (144.3 ypg). Indiana counters with Kellen Lewis, who has been terrific so far, averaging 248 yards of total offense per game. Add in the subplot of Hoosiers coach Bill Lynch facing the team that fired him in 2002, and this is a game you don't want to miss.

Byes: Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois

A look back at the Week 3 picks

September, 15, 2008
9/15/08
1:27
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The record looks good (9-1), but a closer look reveals some score predictions that weren't even on the radar. You can bet I'll be on weather.com throughout the week before making my upcoming selections. Predicting an offensive shootout in East Lansing without accounting for the impending deluge was foolish. Then again, no one forecasted Michigan and Notre Dame combining to score 52 points in rain-soaked South Bend.

Time to review the picks:

FLORIDA ATLANTIC-MICHIGAN STATE

  • My pick: Michigan State 44, Florida Atlantic 23
  • Game result: Michigan State 17, Florida Atlantic 0
  • 20-20 hindsight: The rain slowed down everybody but Javon Ringer, who backed up my prediction with a career high 282 rushing yards. Rusty Smith and the FAU offense looked totally lost in the monsoon, but credit Michigan State's defense for firming up. The Spartans will need a bigger game from Brian Hoyer this week against Notre Dame, but the senior quarterback did his job by handing off to Ringer.

MONTANA STATE-MINNESOTA

  • My pick: Minnesota 45, Montana State 14
  • Game result: Minnesota 35, Montana State 23
  • 20-20 hindsight: I expected a little more from the Gophers' defense, which got a great performance from DE Willie VanDeSteeg (3 TFLs) but missed a lot of tackles. DeLeon Eskridge emerged as a potential answer at running back, and the Adam Weber-Eric Decker combination continued to flourish. Decker had 157 receiving yards and a touchdown.

LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE-ILLINOIS

  • My pick: Illinois 55, Louisiana-Lafayette 24
  • Game result: Illinois 20, Louisiana-Lafayette 17
  • 20-20 hindsight: Juice Williams won't hear any Heisman talk after this game. Same goes for Rejus Benn and several other Illini stars. Coach Ron Zook challenged his best players to be better after a lackluster performance. Linebacker Brit Miller answered the call and had a great strip-and-score on a 27-yard fumble return, but there weren't many other highlights.

SOUTHERN ILLINOIS-NORTHWESTERN

  • My pick: Northwestern 37, Southern Illinois 21
  • Game result: Northwestern 33, Southern Illinois 7
  • 20-20 hindsight: Another rain game in which one team's defense stepped up. I underestimated the Mike Hankwitz effect and the Wildcats continued to surge under their new coordinator, collecting six sacks in the victory. As expected, Northwestern running back Tyrell Sutton returned to form with three rushing touchdowns and quarterback C.J. Bacher looked a bit more comfortable in the pocket.

IOWA STATE-IOWA

  • My pick: Iowa 31, Iowa State 21
  • Game result: Iowa 17, Iowa State 5
  • 20-20 hindsight: Another misread by your Big Ten blogger. I expected sophomore quarterback Ricky Stanzi to take control of the offense, but starter-turned-backup Jake Christensen ended up being the more effective quarterback. The QB controversy continues, but I'm not giving nearly enough credit to a Hawkeyes defense that has allowed six points -- Iowa State had a safety Saturday -- in three games.

PENN STATE-SYRACUSE

  • My pick: Penn State 51, Syracuse 10
  • Game result: Penn State 55, Syracuse 13
  • 20-20 hindsight: This was my closest pick of the week, thanks to Penn State's reliably dominant Spread HD offense and the worst BCS team in the country. Evan Royster had another 100-yard rushing game, but it was the passing attack of Daryll Clark and Pat Devlin that punished the Orange. With five touchdown passes, the Lions showed they can win in multiple ways.

OREGON-PURDUE

  • My pick: Oregon 44, Purdue 31
  • Game result: Oregon 32, Purdue 26 (2 OT)
  • 20-20 hindsight: This turned into a pleasant surprise for those of us who attended the game. Purdue's defense showed a lot of moxie and contained a very dangerous Ducks attack in the red zone. The Ducks' much-publicized speed was a factor down the stretch as Jairus Byrd's punt return for a touchdown changed the game. But the Boilermakers wasted several opportunities to pull an upset and lost another big one.

MICHIGAN-NOTRE DAME

  • My pick: Michigan 21, Notre Dame 10
  • Game result: Notre Dame 35, Michigan 17
  • 20-20 hindsight: The Wolverines' defensive linemen performed below expectations, but they didn't have much chance to dominate the game because their teammates treated the football like a hot potato. Turnovers turned this into a surprisingly high-scoring affair. The weird thing is that both Steven Threet and Sam McGuffie had their moments for Michigan, but the game still turned into a disaster.

OHIO STATE-USC

  • My pick: USC 31, Ohio State 24
  • Game result: USC 35, Ohio State 3
  • 20-20 hindsight: At least USC came through for me on the points total, but I'll count myself among the millions who were let down by the Buckeyes. Ohio State's offense couldn't keep pace for two quarters, much less four, and the team's national title hopes are gone for good. Terrelle Pryor performed about as expected, and Jim Tressel has some decisions to make at quarterback going forward.

WISCONSIN-FRESNO STATE

  • My pick: Wisconsin 28, Fresno State 27
  • Game result: Wisconsin 13, Fresno State 10
  • 20-20 hindsight: P.J. Hill (112 rush yards) had my back after our conversation last week, but Wisconsin's defense proved to be the real story in a huge road win. Both defenses performed well, but the Badgers made more big plays, forcing two turnovers (actually three, if you include a blown fumble call). Wisconsin also avoided a slow start for the first time this year.

Bye: Indiana

Season record: 28-3

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