Big Ten: Lyle Moevao

A look back at the Week 2 picks

September, 9, 2008

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Another decent week of picks, which comes as no surprise given the Big Ten's shoddy competition. I hoped to be a little more accurate, and my lack of faith in an improved Minnesota team prevented perfection. Few foresaw the troubles Ohio U. gave Ohio State, and Penn State continues to exceed early season expectations.

Week 3 provides a much tougher test for Big Ten players, coaches and prognosticators. But first, here's a review of the picks from last week.


  • My pick: Ohio State 45, Ohio 7
  • Game result: Ohio State 26, Ohio 14
  • 20-20 hindsight: Seriously, who saw this coming? Put your hand down, Frank Solich. The Buckeyes came out flat on offense without star running back Chris "Beanie" Wells and could have been in some serious trouble if not for special-teams heroics from Shaun Lane and Ray Small and big plays from star defenders. Ohio's team speed was noted during my pick, but it became a bigger factor than most envisioned.


  • My pick: Wisconsin 40, Marshall 13
  • Game result: Wisconsin 51, Marshall 14
  • 20-20 hindsight: Star tight end Travis Beckum didn't play after Badgers coach Bret Bielema said he would, but quarterback Allan Evridge still got going after a slow start and passed for 308 yards. Evridge hooked up with reserve tight ends Lance Kendricks and Garrett Graham for 167 yards. As expected, Marshall presented some first-half problems for Wisconsin, jumping to a 14-0 lead, but the Badgers' attack countered in a big way.


  • My pick: Illinois 52, Eastern Illinois 3
  • Game result: Illinois 47, Eastern Illinois 21
  • 20-20 hindsight: Ron Zook isn't the only one a little ticked at the Illinois defense, which hasn't consistently stopped the run. The Illini might pay the price in the Week 3 picks. At least Juice Williams had my back with 174 rushing yards and two touchdowns, eclipsing his own school record for rushing yards by a quarterback.


  • My pick: Michigan State 42, Eastern Michigan 14
  • Game result: Michigan State 42, Eastern Michigan 10
  • 20-20 hindsight: The most accurate pick of the week, and probably the easiest to make. Eastern Michigan's defense was no match for Spartans senior running back Javon Ringer, who rushed for five touchdowns in the rout. Quarterback Brian Hoyer had a much better performance (8-of-12 passing), and wideout B.J. Cunningham matched rising star Mark Dell in production.


  • My pick: Michigan 27, Miami (Ohio) 6
  • Game result: Michigan 16, Miami (Ohio) 6
  • 20-20 hindsight: The Wolverines' offense didn't perform to expectations behind redshirt freshman quarterback Steven Threet, who retains the starting job this week. Fortunately for Rich Rodriguez, his veteran defense came up with the save and knocked Miami starting quarterback Daniel Raudabaugh out of the game in the fourth quarter. And a Michigan running back did step up as freshman Sam McGuffie had 74 rushing yards.


  • My pick: Iowa 44, Florida International 10
  • Game result: Iowa 42, Florida International 0
  • 20-20 hindsight: Iowa's offense continues to surge and evidently the defense deserves a little more love after allowing just three points in the first two games. I was wrong about Jake Christensen locking up the starting quarterback job, as sophomore Ricky Stanzi seems to have staked his claim there. As expected, another big game for Hawkeyes running back Shonn Greene (130 rush yards, TD).


  • My pick: Purdue 41, Northern Colorado 0
  • Game result: Purdue 42, Northern Colorado 10
  • 20-20 hindsight: It sounds nitpicky to harp on a 32-point win, but I expected more from Purdue, and evidently so did coach Joe Tiller. Quarterback Curtis Painter was his normal superb self and senior Desmond Tardy emerged as a potential No. 2 wideout behind Greg Orton. But the defense allowed 22 first downs and didn't force a turnover against a Northern Colorado team picked to finish last in the Big Sky Conference.


  • My pick: Penn State 38, Oregon State 30
  • Game result: Penn State 45, Oregon State 14
  • 20-20 hindsight: Daryll Clark, Evan Royster and the Nittany Lions punished an Oregon State defense that can't stop the run. As forecasted, Clark ran much more this week, racking up 61 yards and a touchdown on just five carries. It's a little surprising Lyle Moevao and the Beavers couldn't do more against a Penn State defense missing two starting linemen, but right now everything is clicking in Happy Valley.


  • My pick: Indiana 45, Murray State 10
  • Game result: Indiana 45, Murray State 3
  • 20-20 hindsight: Marcus Thigpen must be reading the blog. I know fellow Hoosiers running back and blogger Bryan Payton does. Thigpen provided the rushing spark Indiana needed with 100 yards and two scores on just seven carries. Star pass rusher Greg Middleton only picked up one sack, but the defense looked very strong in the blowout.


  • My pick: Northwestern 30, Duke 21
  • Game result: Northwestern 24, Duke 20
  • 20-20 hindsight: This one figured to be close, though Duke dominated the stat sheet and would have won with a clutch play or two. Wildcats running back Tyrell Sutton rushed for two touchdowns but had a much smaller impact than forecasted after experiencing leg cramps in the second half.


  • My pick: Bowling Green 38, Minnesota 34
  • Game result: Minnesota 42, Bowling Green 17
  • 20-20 hindsight: Props to the Gophers for proving me a fool, especially regarding their defense. Minnesota forced five turnovers and capitalized with a huge second half. Quarterback Adam Weber performed as expected, completing 21 of 25 passes for 233 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for a score.

Bye: None

Season record: 19-2

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

As the Big Ten's top two rated teams, Ohio State and Wisconsin, endured stretches of silence in their stadiums Saturday, the roar never stopped in Happy Valley.

Penn State moved the spotlight back on the field Saturday and produced a dazzling performance in a 45-14 rout of Oregon State. Concerns about carryover from the suspensions of three players quickly vanished as quarterback Daryll Clark and running back Evan Royster built a 35-7 halftime lead. A defense missing two starters kept the Beavers out of the end zone for the most part, twice picking off Lyle Moevao. A very focused performance, indeed.

Penn State is for real and both Ohio State and Wisconsin should take notice. The Lions might have the league's most explosive offense, and the schedule sets up fairly favorably for Joe Paterno's team.


  • Iowa might have found its starting quarterback in sophomore Ricky Stanzi, who threw three touchdowns against Florida International. Junior Jake Christensen also played well in the 42-0 win, but Stanzi showed poise in his first career start.
"I still think pretty much they're playing pretty even, so it's a good thing for us," coach Kirk Ferentz said.
  • Michigan still has some issues on offense, particularly at quarterback. Nick Sheridan seemed to outshine Steven Threet against Miami (Ohio), so expect the rotation to continue.
  • Wisconsin probably passed the ball more than it wanted, but fifth-year senior Allan Evridge overcame some early struggles. He still needs to be better in the red zone but seemed to find a rhythm with the tight ends.
  • Juice Williams showed his best and worst for Illinois, while Michigan State's Javon Ringer and Purdue's Curtis Painter were terrific in easy wins.

Big Ten: What to watch in Week 2

September, 5, 2008

Posted by'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.

Big Ten picks for Week 2

September, 4, 2008

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

My editors don't know it yet, but this will be my last blog post for 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
has another big game, but it's not enough.

Bye: None

Season record: 9-1

Posted by'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

Posted by'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)

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Penn State coach Joe Paterno thinks he should be seeing a 1-0 Oregon State team Saturday in Happy Valley.

Most people who tracked last Thursday's game between Oregon State and Stanford saw the continued renaissance of a dormant Stanford program behind coach Jim Harbaugh. Paterno saw the inferior team win.

"Oregon State was the better team," Paterno said on the Big Ten coaches' teleconference. "They just blew it. They made a couple of mistakes and took themselves out of the football game."

Paterno was impressed with Oregon State's secondary, which allowed only 91 passing yards against the Cardinal. The group should test Nittany Lions starting quarterback Daryll Clark, who completed 11 of 14 passes against Coastal Carolina.

Oregon State's offense, led by quarterback Lyle Moevao, also provides a challenge for Penn State's talented defense.

"It's a tough trip across the country," Paterno said, "but they should have beaten Stanford. I think they'll come here ready to go and prove to people how good a football team they really have."

Some other items of note from the teleconference:

  • Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said redshirt freshman Steven Threet could take more reps with the first-team offense than sophomore Nick Sheridan in practice this week. Rodriguez lamented a "very disappointing" run game against Utah and several big-play opportunities that weren't converted, but he didn't sound too down on the quarterbacks.
"They're pretty conscientious guys," Rodriguez said. "They understood during the game what they were seeing, the mistakes, the good and the bad. They saw some of the things they've got to get better at. ... They did not seem overwhelmed."
  • Indiana starting wide receiver Ray Fisher is day-to-day after sustaining a shoulder injury against Western Kentucky. Fisher didn't play the second half of the game and will be evaluated throughout the week. Coach Bill Lynch expects to have a decision on Fisher's status by Thursday and said former safety and quarterback Mitchell Evans likely will fill in during the interim. Standout defensive end Greg Middleton and the three reserves who were suspended for the opener will be back in action Saturday against Murray State.
  • Michigan State running back Javon Ringer racked up 102 yards on kickoff returns before Cal started kicking away from him in last week's game. Despite the pounding Ringer takes at his primary position, Spartans coach Mark Dantonio expects to keep the senior on kickoff returns for the foreseeable future.
"Last year we used [wide receiver] Devin Thomas in that capacity and we had the No. 3 kickoff return team in the nation," Dantonio said. "If we can get that kind of production on that team, we'll continue to use the personnel we have. We have to have a guy that can be explosive there. One thing Devin did last year was he broke tackles, he broke arm tackles, and that was one of the things you saw Javon do."
  • Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz expects sophomore linebacker Jeff Tarpinian and cornerbacks Jordan Bernstine and Drew Gardner to return from hamstring injuries Saturday against Florida International. Junior quarterback Jake Christensen will start the game but Ricky Stanzi also likely will see action as the competition continues.
"We'll just watch and see how things go," Ferentz said. "I don't know if you can put a timetable on these things. It's a healthy situation right now, which is good."
  • There's been some concern about Purdue's wide receivers after the losses of Dorien Bryant and tight end Dustin Keller, but coach Joe Tiller thinks most people are overlooking Greg Orton. The senior has 125 receptions the last two seasons.
"For 80 percent of the teams in the country, 60 [receptions] would lead the team," Tiller said. "It might even lead the league. This guy's an accomplished receiver in his own right."
  • Coach Pat Fitzgerald doesn't expect Northwestern's travel plans to Duke to be affected by Hurricane Hanna, but the Saturday night game could be played in sloppy conditions. Fitzgerald has tried to prepare his players for inclement weather by practicing outside in the spring, which in Evanston feels like winter. The Wildcats also likely will practice outside Wednesday and Thursday, when the forecast calls for rain.
"It'll definitely be a factor on Saturday," Fitzgerald said, "but it'll be the same for both teams."
  • Minnesota quarterback David Pittman, a junior college transfer, has recovered from a hamstring injury and will be available, giving the team a full complement of healthy players. Pittman provides another option at quarterback after the announcement Monday that prized freshman MarQueis Gray won't be with the team this season. Coach Tim Brewster said Gray's absence won't affect the depth chart but added, "We're very much looking forward to getting MarQueis back."

A look at Week 2

September, 2, 2008

Posted by'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.