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Big Ten viewer's guide: Week 1

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The wait is finally over, Big Ten fans. After nearly eight months of offseason talk -- coaching changes, transfers and position battles -- college football is finally back. Even better: The opening week of games featuring Big Ten teams contains plenty of compelling matchups. Here’s a glance at what you should look forward to (all times ET):

8:30 p.m. Thursday

Michigan at Utah, Fox Sports 1: Jim Harbaugh brings his khaki pants to Salt Lake City for the official start of a new era in Wolverines football. Harbaugh this week declined to publicly announce whether his starting quarterback would be graduate transfer Jake Rudock or junior Shane Morris, telling the media only that "they already know." Utah coach Kyle Whittingham has said he expects Rudock, the former Iowa quarterback, to start. But he added the Utes' preparation won't change for either player.

9 p.m. Thursday

No. 2 TCU at Minnesota, ESPN: Minnesota went to TCU last year and laid an egg in absorbing a 30-7 loss. That day, the Gophers committed five turnovers and were held to 99 yards rushing -- 134 below their average at the time. Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner will have to be much better than he was last season at TCU, when he threw three interceptions and also lost a fumble. Expect a rowdy Gophers crowd for one of the program's most highly anticipated nonconference games.

7 p.m. Friday

No. 5 Michigan State at Western Michigan, ESPNU: Western Michigan had the 34th-best passing offense in the country a year ago (267.3 yards per game), and the Broncos bring back preseason All-American Corey Davis at wide receiver. That combination would mean a whole lot more if Western Michigan didn't have to open the season against a Michigan State team ranked eighth nationally in total defense a year ago. The Spartans return three of four starters on the defensive line, including defensive end Shilique Calhoun. It might not matter that Western Michigan can pass if Broncos quarterback Zach Terrell doesn't have enough time in the pocket.

9 p.m. Friday

Kent State at Illinois, Big Ten Network: What a bizarre fall camp it has been for Illinois, which fired head coach Tim Beckman a week before the season opener. Beckman likely would've been fired last season had the Illini not rallied for two late-season victories before losing to Louisiana Tech in the Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl. Can offensive coordinator-turned-coach Bill Cubit help the team pick up the pieces? We'll see soon enough. It doesn't hurt the Illini's chances that Kent State finished 2-9 last season.

Noon Saturday

Illinois State at Iowa, Big Ten Network: The sky isn't yet falling in Iowa City, but if Iowa loses to Illinois State, it just might. Yes, the Redbirds played in the FCS national championship game a year ago and came within two minutes of toppling North Dakota State. And yes, handling Illinois State quarterback Tre Roberson, an Indiana transfer, will be difficult to contain (3,221 passing yards, 30 touchdowns last season). But Iowa simply cannot afford a loss in its home opener, particularly with a Week 2 road game against rival Iowa State looming. This game is as important as any season opener in Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz's tenure.

Richmond at Maryland, ESPNU: Perry Hills elevated himself from presumed third-stringer to starting quarterback during Maryland's fall camp. Now he'll get the chance to shine against a Richmond team that finished 9-5 last season and reached the second round of the FCS playoffs. Hills is a fourth-year junior who has been through a lot, including a torn ACL. But he did start seven games in 2012. This could be a good way to ease back into the starting role.

Norfolk State at Rutgers, ESPNEWS: Hey, Norfolk State quarterback Greg Hankerson once completed 12 of 18 passes against Alabama as a freshman at Florida Atlantic. What, that's not enough to entice you to watch one of the least appealing games on the Big Ten docket? Norfolk State finished 118th out of 121 FCS teams in total offense last season. It should be tough for Norfolk State to keep pace, especially if Rutgers receiver Leonte Carroo has another big day. He won't play in the first half, though.

No. 21 Stanford at Northwestern, ESPN: This will mark the third straight season in which Northwestern opens a campaign against a Pac-12 foe. The Wildcats split a pair of games against Cal the past two years, but Stanford represents a significant step up. Northwestern is coming off consecutive 5-7 seasons and is a double-digit underdog. The Wildcats will rely on redshirt freshman quarterback Clayton Thorson, who has never thrown a pass in a college game. Running back Justin Jackson figures to shoulder the bulk of the offensive load.

3:30 p.m. Saturday

Penn State at Temple, ESPN: The Nittany Lions and Owls share a fairly lengthy history. Most of that history has been completely one-sided. Penn State owns a 39-game winning streak that dates to 1943 and holds a 39-3-1 advantage all-time. Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg needs just 12 completions to tie Matt McGloin for second in Penn State history. But Temple returns 10 starters on defense, including the team's leaders in tackles, sacks and interceptions.

BYU at Nebraska, ABC: BYU has shown it's a team not to be trifled with in season openers. Since 2009, the Cougars have taken down Oklahoma, Washington, Ole Miss, Washington State and Connecticut in openers, with only a three-point loss at Virginia sandwiched in there. Nebraska, meanwhile, hasn't lost a season opener since 1985. Talk about pressure in coach Mike Riley's debut.

4 p.m. Saturday

Southern Illinois at Indiana, ESPNEWS: Southern Illinois finished seventh in the Missouri Valley a year ago and lost to the Big Ten's worst team, Purdue, by 22 points. That's the same Purdue team Indiana beat by seven points, for a point of comparison. The Hoosiers will try to replace tailback Tevin Coleman, and the man to do it could be UAB transfer Jordan Howard, who left when the university shut down its football program. He rushed for 1,587 yards and 13 touchdowns last season and is among the most intriguing transfers in the Big Ten.

8 p.m. Saturday

No. 20 Wisconsin vs. No. 3 Alabama (Arlington, Texas), ABC: Of course, Saturday's biggest game would be among the last ones played. Why spoil the party early? Wisconsin has so much to prove as it attempts to win its most significant early-season nonconference game since beating fourth-ranked Nebraska (then of the Big Eight) 41 years ago. Both teams likely will try to pound the ball. Alabama has tailback Derrick Henry (990 yards last season). Wisconsin has running back Corey Clement (949 yards), who will try to fill the void left by Heisman Trophy finalist Melvin Gordon. What a treat.

3 p.m. Sunday

Purdue at Marshall, Fox Sports 1: Purdue hasn't won a nonconference road game since 2007, and the Boilermakers will have their work cut out for them against the Thundering Herd. Marshall won the Conference USA title game and its bowl game last season, and its only blemish was a wild, 67-66 loss to Western Kentucky. Purdue should be an improved team in Year 3 of the Darrell Hazell era. Given that the Boilermakers are 4-20 during his tenure, they'd better be.

8 p.m. Monday

No. 1 Ohio State at Virginia Tech, ESPN: The undisputed best team in college football gets to kick off the season in grand fashion with a prime-time game on Monday. Even better: storylines abound. Urban Meyer refuses to publicly name a starting quarterback, but he has said there's a chance both J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones will play. And what about that Braxton Miller guy? He's listed on the depth chart as the starting H-back and punt returner. Virginia Tech won this matchup 35-21 a year ago in Columbus, and you'd better believe the Buckeyes haven't forgotten the feeling of their only loss during their national championship season.