Welcome to the Armchair Big Ten preview. We’ll take a look around the conference’s matchups this week. Most teams have lay-ups, some are on byes and a few have some tough tests ahead. Let’s go!
Game of the Week
Purdue at Missouri
Saturday 9/16, 4 ET, SECNetwork
There’s no matchup of the ranked beasts, there’s no conference tilts and thus, we are left with this. While not the most attractive matchup, it projects to be an incredibly high-scoring affair. Purdue played really well against Louisville and bounced back with a big win last week so, even though Missouri is an SEC team, there’s no reason the Boilermakers can’t get out of there with a victory.
Huge Test for Illini
Illinois at No. 22 South Florida
Friday 9/15, 7 ET, ESPN
This was not the game of the week strictly based on the unpredictability of this Illinois team. They could quite potentially roll over to a pretty good USF team, but there’s a definite feeling that Lovie Smith can get this team to play the Bulls close, even with the likely emotion that will be involved given the state of Florida’s troubles with the recent hurricane. The Illini defense is pretty staunch and if they can piece together some drives, you never know. It could be a defining win of Lovie Smith’s tenure.
Badgers in Provo
No. 10 Wisconsin at BYU
Saturday 9/16, 3:30 ET, ABC
With the Cougars not at the levels of some of the past teams who have orchestrated some upsets, this shouldn’t be a difficult one for Wisconsin. However, the Badgers have struggled early in their opening two games this year. BYU is at a level where they could make it an uphill battle for Wisconsin, even with a good Badger defense. However, new star running back Jonathan Taylor should get plenty of looks on Saturday, and the Badgers should have few issues.
Best of the Rest
No. 7 Michigan vs. Air Force
Saturday 9/16, 12 ET, BTN
The Wolverines had trouble with the Falcons a couple years ago back when Brady Hoke was still messing things up from the sidelines, but that shouldn’t be the case on Saturday. In fact, it provides a great opportunity for the offense to figure itself out. The only caveat is if the defense somehow can’t stop the triple option, but Jim Harbaugh won’t be fooled for too long, if at all.
Nebraska vs. Northern Illinois
Saturday 9/16, 12 ET, FS1
The Cornhuskers have been catching some flack lately. Normally, a one-score loss to Oregon isn’t a bad thing, but given the Ducks’ current rebuilding process, the Huskers should be further along. Northern Illinois has put together some good seasons, namely a few years ago with Jordan Lynch at quarterback, but they should be little match for Nebraska, even with the Big Red’s iffy defense.
Rutgers vs. Morgan State
Saturday 9/16, 3:30 ET, BTN
This is the chance for the Scarlet Knights. They looked so impressive in a loss to Washington, enough to make fans actually think they might be further along than anticipated. Then, a 16-13 loss to Eastern Michigan reminded everyone who they were talking about. It’s still a team with some talent, and that needs to show against the FCS opponent in Morgan State. If Rutgers somehow sees this one slip, the program might forever rest in mediocrity.
Iowa vs. North Texas
Saturday 9/16, 3:30 ET, ESPN2
The Hawkeyes are coming off a great comeback victory over rival Iowa State. They really showed the ability to score which was one of the bigger fears about them coming in. We know they’ll play good defense and have strong interior play on both sides, but can the skill position players contribute effectively? They proved they could against the Cyclones, and should prove it more in a likely blowout over the Mean Green.
Minnesota vs. Middle Tennessee State
Saturday 9/16, 3:30 ET, BTN
Minnesota made many worry with a lackluster win over Buffalo in Week 1, but silenced any doubts with an emphatic win at Oregon State last weekend. The Gophers, led by the energetic P.J. Fleck, have no reason to be on upset alert this week. They’ll continue to get better, and might actually be a force in the Big Ten West. This should be the week where at least one of if not both Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks hit 100 yards in a game.
No. 8 Ohio State vs. Army
Saturday 9/16, 4:30 ET, FOX
Much like their rivals from the state up north, the Buckeyes face a service academy running the triple option. Much like their rivals from the state up north, the Buckeyes will be able to use this game to work on offensive kinks. And you guys thought you were such big rivals, mirroring each other instead! Jokes aside, if J.T. Barrett is at all ineffective, Urban Meyer may start to test his reserves in this one, and that could dramatically change the shape of Ohio State’s season.
No. 5 Penn State vs. Georgia State
Saturday 9/16, 7:30 ET, BTN
With Ohio State’s loss to Oklahoma, the Nittany Lions are officially the Big Ten’s highest-ranked team. Whether you agree or disagree with that, you can’t help but be impressed with how they’ve looked so far. They shut out Akron and ran away from a pesky Pitt team who beat them last season. This contest should be more like the former, with another potential shutout on the horizon.
Northwestern vs. Bowling Green
Saturday 9/16, 7:30 ET, BTN
Your favorite dark horse, the Northwestern Wildcats, have been absolutely atrocious so far. It seems that whenever they have hype, they falter. An ugly win in Week 1 and a blowout loss to ACC middlers Duke proved that the hype was wrong. Now, they start their annual run of quiet wins to get to 8-4 or something like that. Bowling Green is tough though, so if this Northwestern team is as bad as its looked, watch out.