The first week of the college football season has arrived and all fourteen Big Ten teams will be in action. Some are in national marquee match-ups, while others should be on a stroll through the park for their first win of the season. We will take a quick look at every game on the docket for Week 1.
Indiana at Florida International (7:30 PM ET, ESPNU)
Transfer quarterback Richard Lagow will make his first start under center for the Hoosiers in a battle with the Panthers. Lagow stands at 6-foot-6 and was one of the top Junior College transfer quarterbacks last season. He will be helped in his first game by one of the top receivers in the Big Ten, Simmie Cobbs Jr. The Hoosiers look to get this campaign off to a nice start as they hope to make back-to-back bowl games for the first time since 1990 and 1991.
A team that could surprise some people this year, the Golden Gophers come into 2016 led by their fifth-year senior quarterback Mitch Leidner. This Thursday night game against Oregon State should be a good indicator of what kind of team Minnesota will bring to the conference this season. Look for the Ekpe brothers to get some pressure on new quarterback Darell Garretson and prevent him from getting the ball to his elusive receivers, Victor Bolden and Jordan Villamin.
– Matt Martin
Michigan State vs. Furman (7:00 PM ET, BTN)
Remember the stroll in the park I mentioned in the first paragraph? This would be one of those games. The Spartans should have no problems with the Paladins and they might already be looking forward to the September 17th matchup with the Fighting Irish (Sparty has a bye next week). The one thing we will be looking for is how Connor Cook’s replacement, Tyler O’Connor, plays. He was as effective as you could be in the winter storm last season while knocking off Ohio State in Columbus. But now the offense and the spotlight will be his this year.
Ohio State vs. Bowling Green (12:00 PM ET, BTN)
The Bowling Green Falcons, defending MAC Champions, head south to Columbus, Ohio looking for an upset. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes look to break in 16 new starters and begin their quest to return to the College Football Playoff.
Purdue vs. Eastern Kentucky 12:00 PM ET, ESPN News)
Things have not started well for coach Darrell Hazell. His first three years in West Lafayette have brought him a 6-30 record, but this year might be a little different. Finally some stability at quarterback for the Boilermakers as David Blough will take the snaps again this season. Their experience at receiver (four seniors), combined with Blough coming back should help them produce some points this year, especially in this first game. Purdue should be able to take care of business week one against Eastern Kentucky and start their season on the right foot.
Maryland vs. Howard (12:00 PM ET, BTN)
The Terrapins should have no issues as they open up against FCS opponents Howard. Perry Hills will look to hold onto the starting quarterback job in his final year at Maryland, while CB/WR Will Likely is going to try and impress on offense, defense, and in the return game.
Northwestern vs. Western Michigan (12:00 PM ET, ESPNU)
One of the top linebackers in the country, Anthony Walker Jr., is back to anchor the Wildcat defense for another year. Being able to stop this Bronco offense will be a very good test to start the season as quarterback Zach Terrell and receiver Corey Davis look to beat them through the air. Northwestern must be able to stop the run as well, as the dynamic duo of Jamauri Bogan and Jarvion Franklin look to run through defenses in the MAC this year. The Wildcats better come to play this Saturday or Western Michigan might be rowing the boat towards an upset.
Michigan vs. Hawaii (12:00 PM ET, ESPN)
After a trip down under, Hawaii is back on the mainland and will travel to the Big House on Saturday. The Wolverines will most likely start the game with transfer quarterback Jake O’Corn under center, as well as a plethora of returning talent around him. I expect Michigan to impose their will on the Rainbow Warriors and flex their muscles a little as they send a message to the rest of the Big Ten (and maybe all of college football).
The Chris Ash era will officially be underway on Saturday as the Scarlet Knights travel to Seattle. It will be interesting to see how this team has changed from last year while watching this game. I don’t expect Rutgers to have much of a chance in this one but I am excited to see their growth over the course of this season. But hey, maybe the early start, local time, might be enough for Rutgers to catch the Huskies still sleeping. It worked for Northwestern last year!
Lambeau Field is set to host this rematch of the 2014 season opener. Red-shirt senior Bart Houston is finally getting his chance under center, behind a strengthened offensive line. The betting line is at LSU Tigers -9.5. My heart says that Wisconsin can beat it or even win outright, but my head is very worried they can’t. Oh, and there’s Leonard Fournette. A very quality football player.
Penn State vs. Kent State (3:30 PM ET, BTN)
Penn State looks to put some numbers on the scoreboard this year as Trace McSorley steps in to the starting quarterback role. The Nittany Lions ranked 101st in the country in scoring offense a season ago with 23.2 points per game. That number will need to get better this year if they wish to have any success in the Big Ten East. The good news, they have the weapons to do so. With a more experienced offensive line returning, Saquon Barkley should lead the way, while McSorley will be able to spread the ball around to receivers DaeSean Hamilton, Chris Godwin, and Saeed Blacknall. If the Nittany Lion defense can replicate their success from last year, Kent State will be out of this game very early on.
Iowa vs. Miami (OH) (3:30 PM ET, ESPNU)
The Hawkeyes and the Redhawks will kick this season off in Iowa City on Saturday. The well-coached Iowa defense should keep the Redhawks from scoring much, if at all. The main focus will be on the production of the Hawkeye offense. With quarterback C.J. Beathard returning, many think Iowa has potential to replicate their undefeated regular season from last year. Miami won’t pose much of a threat here, but a September 17th matchup against North Dakota State might. With an offense that doesn’t score at a very high rate, it will be important for the Hawkeyes to focus on the task at hand on Saturday.
Illinois vs. Murray State (3:30 PM ET, BTN)
Lovie Smith begins his tenure at Illinois this Saturday and it should play out in his favor. Illinois won’t be the most talented Big Ten team by any stretch of the imagination this year, but they should come away victorious in this matchup. Here is another team who is probably already looking ahead to a matchup with North Carolina next week.
Nebraska vs. Fresno State (8:00 PM ET, BTN)
Tommy Armstrong Jr. returns for another season of Cornhusker football alongside his offensive weapons Terrell Newby, Jordan Westerkamp, and Brandon Reilley. Reilley has been suspended for this first game of the season but it shouldn’t matter too much. I can’t see Nebraska having too much trouble this week and their offense should thrive against the Bulldogs who ranked 118th in scoring defense last season. This one should be over fairly quickly, as should next week’s game against Wyoming.
Welcome to College Football.