Big Ten: Marshall Thundering Herd
A 2010 season many expect to be special for the Buckeyes started with a huge special teams play. After Marshall won the toss and elected to receive (curious move), return man Andre Booker coughed up the ball following a hit from Dorian Bell. Buckeyes' safety Nate Oliver recovered and the offense was in business.
Ohio State's offense has run seven plays so far, and all but one of them, a Terrelle Pryor imcomplete pass, have worked out well. Pryor has looked good on short to intermediate throws so far, although he's seeing no pressure from Marshall and poor coverage from the Herd secondary.
Wide receiver DeVier Posey and running back Brandon Saine are working on big performances. Saine, who I believe becomes Ohio State's featured back, showcased his speed and power on a 40-yard run to set up Ohio State's second touchdown.
It's 14-0 Buckeyes, and Marshall appears to be in for a very long night.
And make no mistake: The BCS title is the goal for the Buckeyes this season. Head coach Jim Tressel returns one of his most complete teams, and after winning or sharing five consecutive Big Ten championships and winning the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, the next step is rather obvious.
There's a ton of anticipation for this Buckeyes season. I saw people wearing Ohio State jerseys at Midway Airport Thursday morning in Chicago, more Ohio State jerseys after I landed in Chicago and even a few more when I grabbed lunch at Chipotle near my hotel. The Buckeyes are everything in this town, and the anticipation for the season is very noticeable.
These two teams had better be in shape because its very hot tonight. The temperature will be in the high 80s around kickoff and not drop much during the game, maybe 10 degrees. It was very balmy walking to the stadium from the new media parking lot, in a tie, no less. Rain is on the way, but not until early Friday.
Marshall is an interesting first opponent for the Buckeyes. The Thundering Herd return 13 starters but have new systems on both sides of the ball as the Doc Holliday era begins. Senior quarterback Brian Anderson isn't an ideal fit for the spread offense, but the Herd plan to stick with the veteran.
Unless Ohio State stumbles out of the gate, most of my attention Thursday night will be on Buckeyes junior quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Will he take the next step or continue to be inconsistent like he was for much of his sophomore season? I'm also interested to see who emerges at running back, and how young defenders like John Simon and C.J. Barnett perform. Safety/linebacker Tyler Moeller's return to the field also should be pretty special.
We've waited for months, and the season is finally here. Time to get excited. You know I am.
I'm all for tradition, but I love having more games to watch (and cover) on different days of the week.
That's why it was nice to see Ohio State move its 2010 opener against Marshall from Saturday, Sept. 4, to Thursday, Sept. 2. It will mark Ohio State's first regular-season midweek home game since 1997, when the Buckeyes opened against Wyoming.
The kickoff time and TV plan will be announced at a later date, though the game will take place at night.
"This change to a Thursday night opener offers a number of positives for Ohio State," athletic director Gene Smith said in a statement. "Summer quarter classes end the week before, so there will be minimal campus impact on students, faculty and staff that day.
"Along with providing maximum national exposure for our Rose Bowl champions, this unique starting date and time allows our team and fans to escape the heat of the day, and breaks up a string of four consecutive Saturday home games to start the season."
It also gives Ohio State two extra days to prepare for its premier nonconference matchup Sept. 11 against Miami at Ohio Stadium.
The Big Ten will have two teams playing on Sept. 2, as Minnesota opens its season at Middle Tennessee. So far, the league only has been willing to schedule midweek games at the beginning or the end of a season. While it would be nice to see some more midweek games sprinkled in, especially for the teams that could use national exposure, this is a good start.
This series marks the first meetings between the teams.
Other Boilermaker bits:
- Purdue added home games against Mid-American Conference teams Central Michigan (Sept. 6, 2014) and Bowling Green (Sept. 26, 2015) as well as FCS member Indiana State (Sept. 12, 2015).
- Purdue moved a home game against Oklahoma State from Sept. 21, 2013 to Sept. 17, 2016. The Boilermakers visit Oklahoma State on Sept. 14, 2019.
- Purdue still has one game to fill in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Check out the updated schedules here.
What strikes me is how Purdue's schedules get significantly tougher beginning in 2013. The Boilers play both Cincinnati and Notre Dame each year from 2013-2016, and the 2016 nonconference slate features Cincinnati, Notre Dame and Oklahoma State. Very Pac-10-esque. It could come back to bite Purdue when bowl selections roll around, but you've got to love the aggressive approach from AD Morgan Burke. These games certainly will put Purdue in the spotlight in the month of September.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
|David Stluka/Getty Images|
|Badgers running back P.J. Hill ripped Akron for 210 yards rushing in Week 1.|
The ice makers in Madison, Wis., could be in for a rough couple months.
One of their top customers no longer needs their services.
"After a game, I used to be in the training room with like six ice packs on," Wisconsin junior running back P.J. Hill said. "Now, I haven't been up to one."
An injury-free offseason is the primary reason. Hill hadn't had one until this past year.
He broke his tibia in preseason camp in 2005 and underwent shoulder surgery following the 2006 season, limiting his ability to make strides during the winter, spring and summer. Though Hill entered this fall with monster numbers in two seasons -- 2,805 rushing yards and 29 touchdowns on 544 carries -- there were doubts about his durability.
Those have gone away, and both Hill and Wisconsin's trainers are seeing the difference.
"They got tired of my face," Hill said. "They're not my best friends any more."
Opposing defenders are getting tired of seeing the back of Hill's helmet this season. He opened by rushing for 210 yards against Akron, eclipsing the 3,000-yard mark for his career. He added two touchdowns last week against Marshall.
The 236-pound junior leads the Big Ten and ranks 13th nationally in rushing average. He'll need another big performance Saturday night as No. 10 Wisconsin makes a perilous trip to face 21st-ranked Fresno State (ESPN2, 10:30 p.m. ET).
"He's playing as good a football as I've seen him play," coach Bret Bielema said this week. "Physically, he's at a level he hasn't been previously."
Hill is making sure he stays there. In addition to the offseason work, Hill is making better decisions on game day in the interest of self preservation.
"I'm a very physical back, and my first year, when I first came in, I was a guy that just looked for contact and never held anything back," he said. "But as I got more experience, I realized taking a lot of hits takes a toll on my body, and I wanted to be smart about the contact. If I didn't need to take a hit, I wouldn't take a hit.
"I actually do feel fresher in the games. I feel like I've got a little extra burst to my step."
He also has help behind him in sophomore Zach Brown and redshirt freshman John Clay, both of whom average more than 60 rushing yards a game. Brown filled in well behind Hill last season and Clay is considered the team's back of the future.
There's plenty of buzz around Clay, a 6-2, 237-pound bruiser who is home grown (Racine) and ranked among the nation's top prep running backs. But Hill doesn't feel like he's losing popularity.
"They [fans] can see him in there because he is from Wisconsin, and he's a very talented back with a lot of ability that can do something," Hill said. "But [when] I'm in there, they still show me love like they haven't forgotten about me. I don't feel like I have to prove anything to anybody."
So far Hill has been taking about half of the carries, with Brown and Clay splitting the other 50 percent. Before each game Hill and offensive coordinator Paul Chryst conduct a negotiation of sorts about carry distribution.
"He always asks me how many carries I want," Hill said. "Then I'll say like 25 or something like that. And to him, that means 14. So if I do something with that 14, then he'll get me up to my 25. One time I told him 32, and he said, 'That means 16 or 17.'"
If Hill keeps up this pace, Chryst might have no choice but to give the back exactly what he wants.
Posted by ESPN.com'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.
EASTERN MICHIGAN-MICHIGAN STATE
- 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.
OREGON STATE-PENN STATE
- 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.
Season record: 19-2
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
The Big Ten achieved perfection in Week 2, winning all 11 games, all but one by 10 points or more. But there were some interesting moments along the way, particularly in Columbus, where Ohio State nearly squandered its national title hopes the week before the big one at the L.A. Coliseum.
Penn State has joined the mix of Big Ten power players after blocking out distractions to rout Oregon State in Happy Valley. Wisconsin continues to raise some concerns, both on the injury front and on the field, but the Badgers flexed their muscles with 51 unanswered points against Marshall. Michigan still has some issues on offense, while Minnesota has closed the book on 2007 with a 2-0 start and an impressive road win against Bowling Green.
We'll know much more about this league in Week 3, as Ohio State (USC), Wisconsin (Fresno State), Purdue (Oregon) and Michigan (Notre Dame) play showcase games. But first, here are five revelations from Saturday's games.
1. Spread HD stands for Huge Difference -- Penn State's new offense has racked up 111 points in the first two games, and quarterback Daryll Clark looks more than capable of leading the explosive unit. Clark's versatility showed against Oregon State, as he accounted for 276 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns (2 pass, 1 rush) in Saturday's 45-14 win. Redshirt freshman speedster Stephfon Green got all the preseason buzz, but sophomore Evan Royster is proving to be the team's top running threat. Royster had 141 rushing yards and three touchdowns against the Beavers, becoming the first Penn State player to score six touchdowns in the first two games of the season since Lydell Mitchell in 1971.
2. Minnesota is turning the corner: Last year, the Gophers were the ones throwing away games. Against Bowling Green on Saturday night, they were the ones capitalizing on mistakes. Minnesota's much-maligned defense forced four second-half turnovers, and the offense converted all four into touchdowns. Quarterback Adam Weber (233 pass yards, 3 TDs, rush TD) continued to show he's the perfect fit for Mike Dunbar's Spread Coast offense, and both running back Duane Bennett and wideout Eric Decker showed their versatility in the 42-17 win.
3. Pryor not ready for clutch situations: Ohio State trailed or barely led for 54 minutes of Saturday's game against Ohio, but heralded freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor got on the field for just three plays during that span. The coaches are still hesitant about putting the amazingly talented Pryor in pressure situations, which likely will limit his availability next week against USC. He could play a role as a running quarterback in special packages, but if the game is close, which it should be, Ohio State will go with Todd Boeckman.
4. Iowa offense is much better: The competition has been weak and much like Indiana, a wait-and-see approach seems appropriate, but the Hawkeyes' offense no longer appears to be a major liability. Coach Kirk Ferentz received good performances from both of his quarterbacks Saturday, though Ricky Stanzi's poise in his first career start could be the difference for Week 3. Whoever takes the snaps has plenty of help from running backs Shonn Greene and Jewel Hampton, who combined for 184 rushing yards in the 42-0 win against Florida International.
5. Wolverines D must shoulder the load: Rich Rodriguez received better play from freshman running back Sam McGuffie against Miami (Ohio), but the quarterback position remained an adventure. Backup Nick Sheridan out-performed Steven Threet on Saturday after Threet graded higher in the opener. The bottom line is an improved Wolverines defense will have to keep games close until the offense finds some sort of rhythm. Linebacker Obi Ezeh continues to make plays and the defensive line picked up three more sacks in Saturday's 16-6 victory.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Greetings from central Ohio, where it's a bit on the gloomy side but shouldn't be at The Shoe, where I'll be heading in a bit. There could be multiple new quarterbacks today in the Big Ten. I'm not saying, I'm just saying. Let's take a look around the league, starting with the game I'll be watching:
- USC will be watching Buckeyes quarterback Terrelle Pryor today, Doug Lesmerises writes in The Cleveland Plain Dealer. Trojans linebacker Rey Maualuga expects Pryor to run, so it might be important for Ohio State's coaches to let him test the arm. The Buckeyes' backfield depth will be tested, Ken Gordon writes in The Columbus Dispatch. Star left tackle Alex Boone is fine after being treated for an infection this week.
- Today's Big Ten slate could put many to sleep, Teddy Greenstein writes in the Chicago Tribune. The Big Ten Network's Dave Revsine expects the league to pick up some momentum heading into Week 3.
- Illinois has some nice new digs at Memorial Stadium, Terry Bannon writes in the Chicago Tribune.
- Don't expect Indiana to beef up its schedule any time soon, not with bowl games as the priority, Terry Hutchens writes in The Indianapolis Star. It doesn't look like IU is getting nailed with some of the high guarantee costs.
"This year, IU will pay $750,000 combined to its four visiting nonconference opponents. Murray State will receive the largest amount, $250,000. Last week, IU paid Western Kentucky $150,000. Later this season, Ball State will earn $150,000 and Central Michigan $200,000. With gate revenues exceeding $5 million for home games last year, IU sees it as a smart investment."
- Ricky Stanzi's improvement in recent weeks could prompt a change at quarterback for Iowa, Randy Peterson writes in The Des Moines Register. I've got to get Hawkeyes wideout Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, or DJK as he's known, on the phone. Entertaining kid.
- Michigan fans need to be patient with Rich Rodriguez and a transitioning team, Drew Sharp writes in the Detroit Free Press. Steven Threet gets the start at quarterback, but he'll need help from others in a work-in-progress offense, John Heuser writes in The Ann Arbor News.
- Michigan State safety Otis Wiley is getting back to top form after a rough patch, Joe Rexrode writes in the Lansing State Journal.
- Tim Brewster wants to know just how much Minnesota has improved, Kent Youngblood writes in the Star Tribune. He'll find out today against Bowling Green.
- Northwestern's defense gets a big piece back tonight with the return of tackle John Gill, Shannon Ryan writes in the Chicago Tribune.
- Penn State's depth and versatility will be vital today against Oregon State after the suspensions of two defensive starters, Ron Musselman writes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The Lions are hurting themselves with the off-field issues, Bob Flounders writes in The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News.
- Purdue linebacker Kevin Green draws inspiration from his (much) older brother, Stacy Clardie writes in The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.
- Wisconsin's defensive line has bonded over personal tragedies, Tom Mulhern writes in the Wisconsin State Journal. Marshall provides a test for the Badgers' run game, Jeff Potrykus writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
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
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.
Season record: 9-1
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Wisconsin will regain the services of All-American tight end Travis Beckum when it faces Marshall on Saturday, coach Bret Bielema said Tuesday on the Big Ten coaches' teleconference. Beckum missed most of the preseason and the season opener against Akron with a strained right hamstring.
The 6-foot-4, 235-pound senior returned to practice this week.
"Travis will play," Bielema said. "He's set to go on Saturday."
The Badgers were wise to take no chances with Beckum, the league's top returning leader in receiving yards from last season (982), in the Akron game. But with a huge test looming next week against Fresno State, they needed to get him in a game. Beckum should have no trouble readjusting to game speed, but it's more important for new starting quarterback Allan Evridge to establish a rhythm with the star.
Wisconsin also hopes to get standout linebacker Jonathan Casillas on the field against Marshall. Casillas missed the Akron game with a knee injury. Bielema hopes to get the senior involved in practice this week, with a possibility of playing against the Thundering Herd.
Starting fullback Chris Pressley (thumb) will play Saturday, while cornerback Aaron Henry remains out with a knee injury.
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.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
I'll be taking a more in-depth look at the Week 2 games today. Saturday isn't so much a chance for that, and the mailbag is coming up, so send in those last-minute e-mails.
Love those links:
- The Big Ten lost the three games that mattered in Week 1, so the league's rep is still hurting, Howie Beardsley writes in The Grand Rapids Press. Since the SEC and Big Ten will never schedule a challenge series, The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Doug Lesmerises is holding a fake one.
- Illinois coach Ron Zook admits he might have restrained his defense too much against Missouri, Mark Tupper writes in The Decatur Herald & Review. The Illini's reality show, "The Journey," premieres tonight on the Big Ten Network.
- Despite an easy opening win, Indiana still has questions at running back and with a defense susceptible to big plays, Jared Poertner writes in The Hoosier Scoop blog.
- Iowa fans should be giddy about getting Andy Brodell back, Marc Morehouse writes in The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Despite an impressive running game against Maine, quarterback Jake Christensen must prove more.
- Rich Rodriguez wants to see more physical play from Michigan, particularly the offensive line, John Heuser writes in The Ann Arbor News. Rodriguez wouldn't name a starting quarterback, but several signs point to Steven Threet getting the nod, Angelique Chengelis writes in the Detroit Free Press.
- Gap control will be a focus for Michigan State's defense after the Cal loss, Shannon Shelton writes in the Detroit Free Press.
- Heralded Minnesota freshman quarterback MarQueis Gray must re-take the ACT to get back in school, Myron Medcalf writes in the Star Tribune.
- Last year's embarrassing home loss to Duke kept Northwestern out of a bowl game, but the Wildcats are playing down the revenge factor before a rematch, Shannon Ryan writes in the Chicago Tribune.
- Ohio State fans hope they don't see a repeat of 1985, when Heisman Trophy candidate Keith Byars broke a bone in his foot just before the season, Tim May writes in The Columbus Dispatch. The Buckeyes aim for win No. 800 on Saturday, Matt Markey writes in The Toledo Blade.
- Penn State prepares for its first real test Saturday against Oregon State, Ron Musselman writes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- With some questions on offense, Purdue's season hinges on senior quarterback Curtis Painter, Craig Pearson writes in The Terre Haute News-Star.
- Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema knows first-hand just how dangerous Marshall can be, Jeff Potrykus writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The Badgers could have star tight end Travis Beckum ready for Saturday's matchup, Jim Polzin writes in The Capital Times.
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.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Here's a look at 10 players who earned the title of "Captain Clutch" during their Big Ten careers:
Anthony Carter, WR, Michigan [1979-82] -- Carter was only a freshman when he played a part in one of the greatest plays in Michigan history, hauling in a 45-yard touchdown pass as time expired to beat Indiana in 1979. The wideout/return man had 37 touchdown receptions in three seasons.
Kerry Collins, QB, Penn State [1991-94] -- Penn State joined the Big Ten in 1993, and Collins made his mark the next year. He led the Nittany Lions to a 12-0 record, which included three road victories (Michigan, Indiana, Illinois) by seven points or fewer.
Ron Dayne, RB, Wisconsin [1996-99] -- The NCAA's all-time rushing leader made his mark in big games, winning back-to-back Rose Bowl MVP awards after rushing for 246 yards and 200 yards in Badger victories. Dayne also had a 246-yard effort in his first bowl appearance, a Cotton Bowl win against Utah.
Bob Griese, QB, Purdue [1964-66] -- Griese's near-flawless performance in Purdue's upset of No. 1 Notre Dame in 1965 stands as one of the greatest in team history. The next year he led the Boilermakers to their first Rose Bowl appearance and a 14-13 win against USC.
Brian Griese, QB, Michigan [1994-97] -- After coming off the bench to rally the Wolverines past Ohio State in 1996, Griese cemented himself as a clutch quarterback the next season. He led Michigan to a 12-0 record and a national championship, winning five games by 10 points or fewer, including a 21-16 triumph over Washington State in the Rose Bowl.
Jim Harbaugh, QB, Michigan [1983-86] -- Considered by many to be the best quarterback in school history, Harbaugh led Michigan to a 27-23 win against Nebraska in the 1986 Fiesta Bowl. He won four games by three points or fewer as a senior.
Nile Kinnick, RB, Iowa [1937-39] -- The stadium is named after him for a reason. Kinnick did it all for Iowa, including a 63-yard punt that pinned No. 1 Notre Dame at the 6-yard line in a 7-6 Hawkeyes win in 1939.
Craig Krenzel, QB, Ohio State [2000-03] -- He took heat for his arm strength, but no one could question his late-game toughness. The two-time Fiesta Bowl MVP led Ohio State to a national title in 2002 with his arm and his legs.
Chuck Long, QB, Iowa [1981-85] -- A dramatic fourth-down touchdown run against Michigan State kicked off a memorable 1985 season for the Hawkeyes and Long, who many believe should have won the Heisman Trophy. Two weeks later, Long rallied Iowa past Michigan.
Mike Nugent, PK, Ohio State [2001-04] -- Record-setting kicker was nearly unshakable under pressure. He kicked game-tying and game-winning field goals to beat Purdue in overtime in 2003, and his game-winning 55-yard kick against Marshall stands out in an otherwise forgettable 2004 season.