Notre Dame Football: Nebraska Cornhuskers

There's no dancing around it: Nonleague play simply matters more for the Big Ten than any other major conference.

SportsNation

How many of the most significant nonleague games will the Big Ten win?

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    24%
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    46%
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    24%
  •  
    4%
  •  
    2%

Discuss (Total votes: 5,665)

The league's national reputation is constantly dissected, and the inevitable question that follows -- how does the Big Ten improve its perception? -- is directly tied to performance in games against top teams from other conferences. If the Big Ten steps up and records several key wins early in the year, it remains in the national discussion, especially this season with the inaugural playoff approaching. If the league struggles, it becomes less relevant and possibly left out of the top four on Dec. 7 -- the worst possible scenario after more than a decade without a championship.

This list examines the five most significant nonleague games for Big Ten teams. They're rated according to quality of the opponent, expectations for the Big Ten team, where the game is being played and when it's being played. There's a drop-off after the top two contests but all five games matter in shaping Big Ten perception.

Without further ado ...

1. Michigan State at Oregon, Sept. 6: Michigan State handed Ohio State its first loss under Urban Meyer and then beat preseason national title contender Stanford in the Rose Bowl. The next step, as the Spartans openly acknowledge, is competing for a national title. It might take an upset victory at Autzen Stadium -- one of the nation's toughest venues for a visiting team -- or at least a good showing to remain in the playoff mix. But a win would be huge, not only for Michigan State's profile as a program that has moved up in class, but for the Big Ten, which has struggled in true road games against the Pac-12. A close loss wouldn't ruin MSU's playoff hopes. A blowout loss would damage the Big Ten's push for respect.

2. Wisconsin vs. LSU (at Houston), Aug. 30: The opponent isn't as sexy and the location isn't as daunting, but any win against an upper-class SEC opponent benefits the Big Ten. Wisconsin enters the season with numerous questions, from quarterback to receiver to defensive front seven, but it can provide a resounding answer about its expectations by upsetting LSU at NRG Stadium. It's a big opportunity for Badgers running back Melvin Gordon to make a statement in the Heisman Trophy race against a top defense. A Wisconsin win would put the Badgers in the playoff discussion, given their favorable Big Ten schedule. A double-digit loss adds to the SEC's superiority case against the Big Ten.

3. Miami at Nebraska, Sept. 20: This is a hold-serve game for both Nebraska and the Big Ten, and it's a bit more significant for the Huskers than the league as a whole. Bo Pelini's team simply has to win this one, especially on its home field against a Miami team that has had major personnel problems during the offseason. Miami isn't UCLA, and Nebraska can't have a meltdown like it did in last year's top nonleague showdown. Unless Nebraska stumbles at Fresno State the week before, it should be poised to improve to 4-0 with a win, two weeks before the first of several Big Ten road tests at Michigan State. A victory keeps the possibilities alive for Nebraska. A loss here, and it's hard to envision the Huskers winning in East Lansing, Madison or Iowa City.

4. Virginia Tech at Ohio State, Sept. 6: This is very similar to the previous game: a home contest against a good but not great ACC opponent that the Big Ten team absolutely has to win to remain nationally relevant. Ohio State likely will enter the season as the Big Ten favorite and the league's best bet to reach the playoff, but it can't afford a slip-up against Virginia Tech. Unlike Michigan State, which probably could remain in the playoff hunt with a close loss at Oregon and a Big Ten title, Ohio State might have to run the table to make the top four. Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, Virginia Tech is no longer an ACC bigfoot that provides a schedule boost. Ohio State has to take care of business on its home field, ideally by 10 points or more.

5. Michigan at Notre Dame, Sept. 6: This one is tricky. The game pops nationally because it's Michigan and Notre Dame. It's also the teams' last meeting for the foreseeable future. It's Notre Dame Stadium under the lights. And it's big for Michigan. But has there been a more misleading game for Michigan in recent years? What have the recent Notre Dame victories -- 2013, 2010, 2009 -- meant for Michigan? Bupkis. The dramatic win in 2011 propelled Michigan to an 11-win season, but for the most part these games have been big teases for the Maize and Blue. Still, Michigan needs an early win away from Ann Arbor, if only because tougher road tests -- Michigan State and Ohio State -- follow during Big Ten play. Perhaps this season mirrors 2011 and the Notre Dame game actually propels Brady Hoke's team. Although Big Ten wins against Notre Dame haven't meant much, they don't hurt, either.

Five more games with B1G importance: Iowa at Pitt, Sept. 20; Nebraska at Fresno State, Sept. 13; Minnesota at TCU, Sept. 13; Cincinnati at Ohio State, Sept. 27; Northwestern at Notre Dame, Nov. 15.
Recruiting the right quarterback means a tremendous amount to every college football program.

In the Class of 2015, the race has been on for months for programs in need of signal-callers.

With the calendar having turned to June, there are more than 55 quarterbacks who have given verbal commitments to FBS programs.

Most recently, Florida snagged West Coast prospect Sheriron Jones over the weekend. In all, 39 of 62 programs in the Power Five conferences have QB commitments, and more are on the way.

Notebook: Columbus NFTC 

June, 1, 2014
Jun 1
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The top prospects from all over the Midwest came out to perform at the Columbus NFTC. When you gather that much talent in one place, it’s only natural that a lot of recruiting news will follow.

ESPN 300 linebacker Justin Hilliard was one of five prospects who earned an invitation to The Opening, and Hilliard discussed whether or not he has narrowed his top-five down even further.

He was one of many uncommitted recruits who made news on the day, as did running back Mike Weber, defensive end Jashon Cornell and offensive lineman Matt Burrell.

Those prospects became targets at the camp for some of the committed recruits on hand. One of the main targets was No. 1-ranked running back Damien Harris, who will soon have news of his own.

List to narrow for Harris


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: Nebraska coach Bo Pelini brought his lucky charm with him on the recruiting trail Wednesday; while a lot of fans are focused on Adoree' Jackson and John Smith, schools haven’t forgotten about Damien Mama; and Notre Dame’s upgrades to its facilities will help on the trail.

Hope recruits don’t have allergies


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Cornell, No. 1 in 2015 class, narrows list 

November, 20, 2013
11/20/13
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Jashon Cornell (St. Paul, Minn./Cretin Derham-Hall), the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2015, has narrowed his top list. After much deliberation, Cornell has cut the list of schools in the running down to 15.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

20 years later, a November to remember

November, 1, 2013
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BowdenAP Photo/Doug MillsIt wasn't without controversy, but the 1993 season ended with Bobby Bowden and Florida State winning the national championship.

Twenty years ago, we had one of the wildest months in college football history. Over the span of four weeks, seven top-10 teams lost, including the No. 1 team twice. Florida State entered the month as No. 1, fell out of that spot and still ended the month atop the polls.

By the end of November, three teams would finish the regular season unbeaten (Nebraska, West Virginia and Auburn), but only two were eligible to play for the national title, and only one would wind up playing for it. The debate simmered for years.

Notre Dame fans were upset that Florida State was playing for the national title with one loss, since that one loss came against the Fighting Irish. West Virginia fans were also upset that FSU was playing for the national title with one loss, with the Mountaineers finishing the season undefeated.

[+] EnlargeTom Osborne
Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty ImagesTom Osborne was denied his first national title when the Cornhuskers lost to the Seminoles in the Orange Bowl.
In addition, WVU argued that it should be included in the national title game since it had a higher ranking in the coaches poll (No. 2) than Nebraska (No. 3). In the AP poll, Nebraska finished the regular season No. 2 and WVU No. 3. Meanwhile, Auburn fans claimed the Tigers were actually the best team in college football, finishing the season 11-0 and with a win over the eventual SEC champion Florida Gators. The Tigers, however, were on NCAA probation and ineligible for postseason play.

As we begin another month of potential unbeaten controversy in college football, here's a look at 20 things to remember from November 1993.

1. Florida State was the No. 1 team in the AP poll every week of the season prior to November. Entering the month, the Seminoles were 8-0 and had outscored their opponents by a combined total of 350-38.

2. Three of the teams that garnered a lot of attention in November were still not even ranked in the top 5 by the beginning of the month. Nebraska (8-0) was No. 6, Auburn (8-0) was No. 8 and West Virginia (7-0) was No. 11.

3. Ohio State also entered November 8-0, its best start since 1979. Two decades later, the Buckeyes enter November again undefeated.

4. The Miami-WVU game on Nov. 20, 1993, drew a crowd of 70,222 at Mountaineer Field (now called Milan Puskar Stadium). It’s still the largest home crowd in the history of the stadium, which opened in 1980. Capacity for that stadium at that time was 63,000, meaning it was 7,000 over capacity for that game.

5. Notre Dame was ranked No. 7 in the preseason AP poll, the lowest preseason rank for the Irish since 1988, when they were ranked 13th and went on to win the national title.

6. No. 1 Florida State was a 6 1/2-point favorite for its Nov. 13 matchup at No. 2 Notre Dame on Nov. 13, 1993.

7. ESPN's College GameDay staged its first live remote show at the FSU-ND showdown in South Bend.

8. The “Game of the Century” matchup with Florida State was the ninth 1 versus 2 game in Notre Dame history, and the second for FSU. Overall, it was the 14th regular-season 1 versus 2 matchup in AP poll history.

9. The Irish beat the favored Seminoles 31-24 to improve to 10-0, the third time in the previous six seasons the Fighting Irish started a season 10-0 or better (1988, 1989).

10. In a wild month, the following Saturday (Nov. 20) was easily the biggest day. Consider what occurred:

  • No. 1 Notre Dame was upset at home by No. 17 Boston College, 41-39, on a last-second 41-yard field goal by David Gordon.
  • No. 9 West Virginia upset No. 4 Miami, 17-14, keeping WVU's undefeated season alive.
  • No. 5 Ohio State suffered its first loss of the season at the hands of its rival, Michigan, losing 28-0.
  • No. 6 Auburn won the Iron Bowl, beating No. 11 Alabama 22-14 and completing a perfect regular season.

11. That Boston College could come in and beat a No. 1 Notre Dame team was surprising enough -- especially considering the Irish had won that matchup by 47 the year before. But it was more of a shocker when you consider the Eagles started the 1993 season 0-2, including a loss at Northwestern, a team that finished just 2-9.

12. A lot was made about how West Virginia did not deserve to play for the national championship over Florida State or Nebraska, because the Mountaineers played a weaker schedule. Mountaineer fans did not want to hear it, but the numbers appear to back up that argument. FSU’s opponents finished 81-61 (.570), Nebraska’s 59-54-1 (.522) and WVU’s 59-64-2 (.480).

13. West Virginia's argument about deserving a shot at the national championship was always the following: WVU beat the team (Boston College, in the regular-season finale) that beat the team (Notre Dame) that beat the team (Florida State).

14. To understand how wacky the month of November was, look at how the AP poll played out since the middle of October:

  • Oct. 18 poll: FSU received all 62 first-place votes
  • Oct. 25: FSU received all 62 first-place votes
  • Nov. 1: FSU received all 62 first-place votes
  • Nov. 8: FSU received all 62 first-place votes
  • Nov. 15: Notre Dame received all 62 first-place votes
  • Nov. 22: Five different teams received at least one first-place vote
  • Nov. 29: Three different teams received at least one first-place vote
  • Dec. 6: Five different teams received at least one first-place vote.
[+] EnlargeChampion
Cal Sport Media/AP ImagesNotre Dame fans are probably still upset about being kept out of the 1993 national championship game despite having beaten FSU.
15. Prior to the Bowl Championship Series, college football's championship game matchups were determined by an organization called the Bowl Coalition. It was made up of five conferences: Big East, ACC, SEC, Big 8 and Southwest -- and Notre Dame. The group had six bowl tie-ins: Orange, Fiesta, Cotton, Sugar, Gator and John Hancock (now Sun Bowl). But it did not include the Pac-10 and Big Ten, because those teams had the tie-in to the Rose Bowl. After the wackiness of November, the top five heading the bowls was:

1. Florida State
2. Nebraska
3. West Virginia
4. Auburn
5. Notre Dame

16. West Virginia was actually invited to play No. 7 Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl, but instead decided to play in the more lucrative Sugar Bowl against No. 8 Florida. The Sugar Bowl was worth approximately $1.1 million more than the Cotton, which elected to invite Notre Dame instead (which beat the Aggies 24-21). The move obviously backfired on the Mountaineers, as they were soundly beaten by the Gators in the Sugar Bowl, 41-7.

17. After losing to Miami on missed field goals in the final seconds in 1991 and 1992, Florida State recruited the top high school kicking prospect, Scott Bentley. Bentley struggled early in his FSU career (seven missed extra-point attempts in the first five games), but eventually was a difference-maker in the Seminoles' run to the national title, kicking the game-winning field goal in a 18-16 Orange Bowl victory against No. 2 Nebraska and giving Bobby Bowden his first national title (and denying Tom Osborne his).

18. Florida State became the first preseason AP No. 1 team to go on to win the national title since Oklahoma in 1985.

19. Auburn's win streak, which began in 1993 as the lone unbeaten, would eventually reach 20 straight before a tie against Georgia on the next-to-last game of the 1994 season. The Tigers lost the following game to Alabama in the Iron Bowl.

20. The matchup that many Mountaineers fans wanted (WVU versus Nebraska) eventually took place … in 1994. The Cornhuskers slammed the Mountaineers in the 1994 Kickoff Classic in the Meadowlands, 31-0.

Big Ten predictions: Week 4

September, 19, 2013
9/19/13
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Three weeks in and we're all square in the season standings. Get ready for a tightly contested race most of the way.

The Week 4 slate isn't nearly as appetizing as its predecessor, although there are a few sneaky good games on the docket. Big Ten play officially begins at Camp Randall Stadium and 11 league squads are in action (Illinois is off).

Let's begin …

SAN JOSE STATE at MINNESOTA

Brian Bennett: Mitch Leidner could start at quarterback for the Gophers as Philip Nelson is questionable with a hamstring injury. That's not good news against a San Jose State team led by a future NFL draft pick in David Fales. The Spartans are the best team Minnesota has played, and I say they pull off the road upset. … San Jose State 24, Minnesota 20


Adam Rittenberg: A tough one here as the Gophers haven't been tested and San Jose State's Fales could stress a secondary already down one starter (Briean Boddy-Calhoun). There's some uncertainty on offense at quarterback, but I like the fact the Gophers have a full stable of running backs. Minnesota racks up 200 rush yards and three touchdowns to survive with a win. … Minnesota 27, San Jose State 24

FLORIDA A&M at OHIO STATE

Adam Rittenberg: The scoreboard operator will be busy as Buckeyes backs Jordan Hall and Carlos Hyde combine for six touchdowns. The quarterbacks don't have to do much in this one as Ohio State rolls on to 4-0. … Ohio State 59, Florida A&M 7

Brian Bennett: This is a ludicrous matchup. Buckeyes can name their score. … Ohio State 63, Florida A&M 10


WESTERN MICHIGAN at IOWA

Brian Bennett: Oh boy. We get to watch Western Michigan take on a Big Ten team for the third time in four weeks. The first two times didn't go well for the Broncos, and Mark Weisman will add to their misery with 150 yards rushing. … Iowa 35, Western Michigan 7


Adam Rittenberg: Northwestern ran roughshod on Western Michigan and Iowa will do the same. Coach Kirk Ferentz gives Weisman a bit of a breather and spreads the ball around, as both Damon Bullock and Jordan Canzeri reach the end zone. Iowa pulls away in the third quarter. … Iowa 31, Western Michigan 10

MAINE at NORTHWESTERN

Adam Rittenberg: Expect another vanilla offensive game plan from Northwestern as the coaches save the goods for Week 6 against Ohio State. Five different Wildcats rush for touchdowns, including true freshman Warren Long, in the team's final tune-up before Big Ten play. … Northwestern 48, Maine 13

Brian Bennett: Please don't feed the Black Bears! Ibraheim Campbell makes it six games in a row with a pick as the Wildcats roll. … Northwestern 45, Maine 17


MICHIGAN STATE at NOTRE DAME

Brian Bennett: The Spartans finally have a bit of confidence and stability at quarterback, but Connor Cook still has a ways to go and this is a tough road spot. The Irish jump out early on a special-teams touchdown and manage to hold on in a defensive struggle. … Notre Dame 17, Michigan State 10


Adam Rittenberg: Michigan State's renewed offense comes in with confidence and scores early. But reality begins to set in on the road, and the Spartans stall midway through the second quarter. The defense keeps it close as always, but Notre Dame rallies late behind Tommy Rees and his receivers. … Notre Dame 19, Michigan State 16

SOUTH DAKOTA STATE at NEBRASKA

Adam Rittenberg: The Huskers rest top quarterback Taylor Martinez (toe), and backups Ron Kellogg III and Tommy Armstrong both play and combine for three pass touchdowns. Imani Cross sparks the rushing attack in the second quarter and Nebraska fans can smile a little after a brutal eight-day stretch. … Nebraska 59, South Dakota State 14

Brian Bennett: The Jackrabbits are just what Nebraska needs right now. The Huskers get off to a sluggish start without a healthy Martinez, but Randy Gregory forces a fumble for a defensive score and the running game is too much for SDSU to handle. … Nebraska 38, South Dakota State 10


KENT STATE at PENN STATE

Brian Bennett: I think the Penn State defense comes out mad after last week's performance, and Kent State has had a tough time scoring so far this season. Zach Zwinak scores twice and the defense comes up with three turnovers. … Penn State 28, Kent State 10


Adam Rittenberg: Unless Blake Bortles secretly suits up for the Golden Flashes, Penn State should be OK in this one and takes control in the second quarter. Chalk up two more touchdown passes from Christian Hackenberg to Allen Robinson, and defensive end Deion Barnes finally shows up for the Lions. … Penn State 31, Kent State 20

PURDUE at WISCONSIN

Adam Rittenberg: No officiating blunders in this one as Wisconsin starts a bit slowly before getting Melvin Gordon and the run game going in the second half. Gordon records his first 20-carry performance and racks up 180 yards and two touchdowns. Purdue jumps out to an early lead but once again struggles in the fourth quarter. … Wisconsin 34, Purdue 21

Brian Bennett: Purdue hasn't been able to stop the Wisconsin running game the past couple of years, and it's no different in this one. Gordon and James White each eclipse 100 yards and the Badgers take out some frustration on the Boilermakers. ... … Wisconsin 42, Purdue 14


MICHIGAN at CONNECTICUT

Brian Bennett: The Wolverines haven't been quite the same team on the road as they have been at home for Brady Hoke, but Rentschler Field ain't exactly the Horseshoe. UConn doesn't have enough offensive talent to do much damage, and Devin Gardner bounces back with four total touchdowns and just one turnover. … Michigan 38, Connecticut 9


Adam Rittenberg: Last week's near disaster against Akron will heighten Michigan's focus. So, too, will a road game under the lights (even if it feels more like a home game). Gardner delivers a turnover-free performance, and Fitz Toussaint has a big game on the ground (130 rush yards, 2 TDs). … Michigan 35, Connecticut 17

MISSOURI at INDIANA

Adam Rittenberg: This should be the most entertaining game of the day, as both offenses will put up points. Maybe I'm buying into Indiana too much after last week's impressive performance, but I like what I saw from the defense, which does just enough against Mizzou and records a game-ending takeaway. Expect another balanced offensive performance as Tevin Coleman rushes for two more touchdowns. … Indiana 41, Missouri 37

Brian Bennett: I expect a wild shootout where the punters can probably chill out on the sidelines. Ultimately, I don't have enough faith in the Hoosiers’ defense and think James Franklin and Henry Josey will be too much to overcome. But take heart, Indiana fans: I've been wrong on your team each of the past two weeks. … Missouri 48, Indiana 42


You've heard from us. Now it's time to see what this week's guest picker has cooked up. As a reminder, throughout the season we'll choose one fan/loyal blog reader each week to try his or her hand at outsmarting us. There's nothing but pride and some extremely limited fame at stake. If you're interested in participating, contact us here and here. Include your full name (real names, please) and hometown and a brief description why you should be that week's guest picker. Please also include "GUEST PICKS" in all caps somewhere in your email so we can find it easily.

We felt a little sorry for this guy after what happened last week in Tempe, Ariz. Garret Olsen from Madison, Wis., the floor is yours:
I am a born-and-raised Wisconsin fan and 2010 University of Wisconsin Grad in complete shock this week. I'm in need of a win. I attended my first Badger football game with my grandparents when I was 5 years old and have attended many more Badger games over the years with them. I never missed a home game during my time as an undergrad and traveled to many of the B1G stadiums and followed the Badgers to Indy and Pasadena. Each week my former Mifflin Street college roommate and I have a friendly pick-off between us and I can proudly report that I have beaten him the last two years. The blog is a daily read for me and I would be honored to pick alongside you and Adam and I promise not to botch any last-second pick situations.

Here are Garret's Week 4 selections:

San Jose State 35, Minnesota 34
Ohio State 45, Florida A&M 7
Iowa 28, Western Michigan 14
Northwestern 55, Maine 10
Notre Dame 17, Michigan State 10
Nebraska 42, South Dakota State 21
Penn State 33, Kent State 24
Wisconsin 49, Purdue 17
Michigan 34, Connecticut 13
Missouri 42, Indiana 38

SEASON RECORDS

Adam Rittenberg: 31-5
Brian Bennett: 31-5
Guest pickers: 27-9

Big Ten predictions: Week 3

September, 12, 2013
9/12/13
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After two relatively easy weeks of picking games, the challenge gets much tougher with a delicious slate of Week 3 games. Last week, our picks mirrored one another. There will be some disagreements this time around.

Let's dive in ...

BOWLING GREEN at INDIANA

Brian Bennett: Bowling Green has looked terrific in its first two games, while Indiana's defense was all but absent last week versus Navy. Different styles, but I think the Falcons seize on the Hoosiers' weaknesses. They kick a field goal late for my not-very-special upset special. ... Bowling Green 37, Indiana 34

Adam Rittenberg: I had Indiana beating Navy and losing this game entering the season, so naturally, I'm picking the Hoosiers to win after falling to Navy. The defense bounces back a little against a more conventional offense, and Nate Sudfeld consistently attacks downfield to Kofi Hughes and Shane Wynn. Sudfeld rallies IU in the fourth quarter and finds Ted Bolser for the game-winning touchdown. ... Indiana 38, Bowling Green 35

WESTERN ILLINOIS at MINNESOTA

Rittenberg: Can you wake me when Minnesota finally starts playing someone? Quarterback Philip Nelson adds two more rushing scores as the Gophers pull away early in the third quarter following a Ra'Shede Hageman forced fumble. Then we can look ahead to San Jose State. ... Minnesota 37, Western Illinois 17

Bennett: There's not much interesting about this game, except that we get to throw around the word "Leathernecks." It's a good week to get Mitch Leidner some experience. ... Minnesota 35, Western Illinois 13


UCLA at NEBRASKA

Bennett: I've gone back and forth on this all week, but in the end I worry that Nebraska's home-field advantage won't be enough to overcome its youth on defense. Brett Hundley amasses five total touchdowns, and the Huskers come up just short on their final drive. ... UCLA 38, Nebraska 34

Rittenberg: Nebraska's defense remains a big concern, especially against Hundley, but with no Johnathan Franklin, the early kickoff and a long trip, I expect UCLA to be a big sluggish. Martinez delivers a turnover-free performance in a big game and finds Quincy Enunwa for the game-winning touchdown pass in the final minute. ... Nebraska 35, UCLA 34

AKRON at MICHIGAN

Rittenberg: UCF's Blake Bortles abused Akron for big plays in Week 1. Devin Gardner, eat your heart out. The Gardner-Gallon connection cranks up again as Jeremy Gallon hauls in two more touchdowns. Fitzgerald Toussaint goes for 120 rush yards and a score as Michigan rolls. ... Michigan 45, Akron 17

Brian Bennett: Akron has won four games since the end of the 2009 season. Notre Dame hangover? Maybe, but it won't matter one bit. ... Michigan 48, Akron 10


YOUNGSTOWN STATE at MICHIGAN STATE

Bennett: Is Jim Tressel back coaching Youngstown State? Maybe then the Penguins would have a chance. The Spartans play Connor Cook and Damion Terry and get only two touchdown drives out of both of them. But the defense scores again. ... Michigan State 27, Youngstown State 3

Rittenberg: I'm tempted to go with the Penguins since Michigan State's offense is ice cold (be sure to tip your waitress). This will be close for three quarters, but Michigan State's Terry steps up late with a touchdown pass and a touchdown run (yes, two offensive touchdowns). Sadly, no touchdown for Bane this week. ... Michigan State 24, Youngstown State 10

IOWA at IOWA STATE

Rittenberg: Do I have to pick a winner here? Iowa took a step back last week in many ways, although the power run stepped up when the team needed a lift. This will be a sloppy game on both sides, but Mark Weisman and Damon Bullock, along with the offensive line, prove to be the difference in the fourth quarter. ... Iowa 19, Iowa State 17

Bennett: Kirk Ferentz really needs this game. Then again, so does Paul Rhoads after losing to Northern Iowa in the opener. I don't expect many fireworks, either, but the Cyclones are just a little more desperate and have the momentum in this series. They win it on an overtime field goal. ... Iowa State 16, Iowa 13

UCF at PENN STATE

Bennett: UCF is a trendy sleeper pick and has an experienced quarterback. But Penn State's defense is a major step up from Conference USA/American Athletic competition. It's close for a half, but Christian Hackenberg gets going in the third quarter with a pair of touchdown tosses to Allen Robinson, and Bill O'Brien tops George O'Leary. ... Penn State 27, UCF 17


Rittenberg: Tricky game for Bill O'Brien's crew, but I expect Penn State's defense to do enough against Blake Bortles and a talented UCF offense. UCF jumps out to an early lead, but Zach Zwinak and Akeel Lynch spark Penn State's rushing attack in the second half, each scoring a touchdown as the Lions prevail. ... Penn State 34, UCF 27

WASHINGTON vs. ILLINOIS (at Chicago)

Rittenberg: Washington is the more talented and experienced team, and a lot needs to go right for the Illini to pull off the upset. I see another fast start for Illinois against a Huskies team that struggles on the road and might be a little sleepy following a bye week. Nathan Scheelhaase throws two more touchdown passes, but Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins proves to be the difference with 120 receiving yards and a score. ... Washington 31, Illinois 21

Bennett: I'd like to pick the Illini here because it would be a great story. They certainly proved me wrong last week in a big way. I still think Washington is just a little too talented, though. Keith Price throws four touchdown passes, making him the best quarterback Soldier Field has seen in a while. (That one's for you, Adam.) ... Washington 37, Illinois 23


OHIO STATE at CALIFORNIA

Bennett: Cal played Northwestern pretty tough and then ... almost lost to Portland State? Inconsistency should be expected, I guess, with a freshman QB and a new coach. There are going to be a whole lot of big plays in this one, and I suspect Kenny Guiton will see the majority of the action. Big coming-out party for Dontre Wilson here. ... Ohio State 49, Cal 28


Rittenberg: Cal provides a nice test for Ohio State's young defense, but the presence of cornerback Bradley Roby should help hold one of the Bears' standout wide receivers (Chris Harper and Bryce Treggs) in check. Ohio State has too much at the line of scrimmage and will use its ground game of Jordan Hall, Rod Smith and Wilson to outlast the Bears. ... Ohio State 38, Cal 27

NOTRE DAME at PURDUE

Rittenberg: The Boilers have shown me nothing to suggest they can knock off a team like Notre Dame, which is pretty darn good despite last week's loss in Ann Arbor, Mich. Purdue starts strong but can't finish two early drives. The Irish then take over with their rushing attack, led by Amir Carlisle, and force two second-half takeaways. ... Notre Dame 38, Purdue 17

Bennett: Circle the wagons, Purdue. It's going to be a long couple months. ... Notre Dame 35, Purdue 7


WESTERN MICHIGAN at NORTHWESTERN

Bennett: Western Michigan just lost to Nicholls State. OK, then. Northwestern might not be quite as sharp after two big games, but it won't need to be. Kain Colter rushes for 100 yards and a pair of scores, and he and Trevor Siemian both get an early rest. ... Northwestern 38, Western Michigan 10


Rittenberg: Previous Northwestern teams might be ripe for a letdown, but not the 2013 squad. Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian deliver another strong performance, combining for five touchdowns (three pass, two rush), including two scoring passes to Christian Jones. The defense forces two more turnovers as the Wildcats cruse. ... Northwestern 41, Western Michigan 17

WISCONSIN at ARIZONA STATE

Rittenberg: I just don't like the matchup for the Badgers, even though they've been so impressive early on. Arizona State's strength (pass game) goes up against Wisconsin's weakness (secondary), and although the Badgers control the clock with their run game, the Sun Devils hit in too many big plays. Too much Taylor Kelly in this one. ... Arizona State 35, Wisconsin 28

Bennett: I think big Will Sutton will be a shock to the system to Wisconsin offensive linemen used to dealing with the UMass and Tennessee Tech lines of the world. The secondary also gets burned a few too many times. Joel Stave throws two interceptions to thwart a comeback attempt, and Big Ten teams stay thirsty in the desert. ... Arizona State 28, Wisconsin 20.


Wait, we're not done yet. It's time for our guest picker of the week. Oh, you haven't heard? Throughout the season, we'll choose one fan/loyal blog reader each week to try his or her hand at outsmarting us. There's nothing but pride and some extremely limited fame at stake. If you're interested in participating, contact us here and here. Include your full name (real names, please) and hometown and a brief description why you should be that week's guest picker. Please also include "GUEST PICKS" in all caps somewhere in your email so we can find it easily.

We found this week's picker in the desert: Adam Fraser from Gilbert, Ariz.

The floor is yours:
I'm a lifelong Husker fan living in Arizona. I'm a season-ticket holder and couldn't make it back for the UCLA game. I just started a new career at Prudential and my boss played football for UCLA. I've followed your blog for years and constantly smash your predictions. Let me put it on record at least one week, the Huskers biggest week of the year!! Thanks Adam (do it for your fellow Adam).

Other Adam's picks ...

Bowling Green 42, Indiana 40
Minnesota 30, Western Illinois 20
Nebraska 41, UCLA 37
Michigan 45, Akron 6
Michigan State 20, Youngstown State 13
Iowa 20, Iowa State 16
Penn State 24, UCF 13
Washington 31, Illinois 30
Ohio State 30, California 28
Notre Dame 38, Purdue 14
Northwestern 48, Western Michigan 10
Arizona State 34, Wisconsin 20

SEASON RECORDS


Brian Bennett: 22-2
Adam Rittenberg: 21-3
Guest pickers: 18-6

The List: Top Big Ten games for recruits 

August, 27, 2013
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The 2013 season is right around the corner, which means recruits will be scheduling official and unofficial visits. The bigger the game, the bigger the implications at stake with regards to recruiting.

With a lot of top prospects still on the board for Big Ten teams, here is a look at the top 10 games this season for the conference.


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Three-star wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp (Lombard, Ill./Montini) said Monday he will honor his commitment to Nebraska rather than go to Notre Dame, ESPNChicago.com's Scott Powers reports.
"I came to the decision last night around midnight," said Westerkamp, who is the 50th ranked wide receiver in the country by ESPN. "When it came down to it, I just love Nebraska. I'm so excited about it and can't wait to get out there. I know Nebraska is the place for me. I had to see my options and put it all on the table. In the end, this is the place for me."

Westerkamp committed to the Cornhuskers in May, was offered by the Irish in December and visited Notre Dame shortly after, a trip he said he had to make to see if he felt the same way about both schools.

Westerkamp was ESPNChicago.com's Player of the Year, becoming Illinois' all-time leader in career receptions (235), yards (4,584) and touchdowns (66) this season. The 6-foot-1, 185-pounder had 12 catches for 353 yards and five touchdowns in the state title game.
"Notre Dame was respectful of it," Westerkamp said. "They respected that I gave them a chance. They told me if anything changes before signing day they would take me in a heartbeat.

"Nebraska was thrilled and excited. They were just really excited and screaming a little bit. They were happy. It was a good feeling that both programs wanted me."

Westerkamp to consider late Irish offer

December, 14, 2011
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Nebraska wide receiver recruit Jordan Westerkamp said Tuesday he will visit Notre Dame this weekend.

Westerkamp, who attends Montini High School in Lombard, Ill., has been committed to Nebraska since May. He said Notre Dame offered him last week and Irish recruiting coordinator Chuck Martin has been after him.

“They’ve been really, really hard on me,” Westerkamp said. “He told me if I commit to them right now they would take me.

“I’m still committed to Nebraska. I’m still really strong about that. I want to go out to Notre Dame and to make sure about it. I have to make the decision best for myself.”

Westerkamp, who is 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, became Illinois’ all-time leader in career receptions (235), yards (4,584) and touchdowns (66) this season. In the state championship game, he had 12 catches for 353 yards and five touchdowns. He was the ESPNChicago.com Player of the Year.

Prior to his Notre Dame visit, Westerkamp will host Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, offensive coordinator Tim Becks and wide receivers coach Rich Fisher at his house on Thursday.

“They understand why I’m doing this,” Westerkamp said of Nebraska’s coaches. “They are all a little shocked.”

Westerkamp said he was also shocked Notre Dame offered him so late. He was recruited by the Irish last year, but they never offered him.

Westerkamp has one family member who definitely supports his decision to visit Notre Dame.

“My mom has always been a diehard Notre Dame fan,” Westerkamp said. “She definitely pulled my leg to make the visit. It’s exciting, but it’s like a business deal. I have to go to the place that is best for myself.”

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