Things to watch during the first week of play in the Big Ten Conference:
GAME OF THE WEEK
No. 5 Notre Dame in State No. 2 in Ohio
Ohio State wasn’t happy with how it ended last year, despite a thrilling Rose Bowl win over Utah.
The Buckeyes lost to Michigan for the first time since 2011, ending their four-year run as Big Ten champions. Coach Ryan Day said his team had been “nervous” in the offseason and Saturday night’s game against the Irish should be a good gauge of what’s possible for the Buckeyes.
Attack shouldn’t be an issue with CJ Stroud surrounded by many of the playmakers who have helped the Buckeyes tally 45+ points a game. Day’s most significant move was the hiring of Oklahoma State’s Jim Knowles to shore up an underperforming defense.
To make the matchup even more interesting, Marcus Freeman, linebacker for the Buckeyes from 2004-2008, is starting his first full season as Notre Dame coach.
Oddsmen obviously believe in the Buckeyes. According to FanDuel Sportsbook, they are preferred with 17.5 points.
Purdue offense versus Penn State defense. Thursday night’s opener is a great benchmark for Purdue. The Boilermakers are preseason darlings after a nine-win season that included two wins against top-five opponents and ended with an overtime bowl win over Tennessee. Aidan O’Connell is looking to build on one of the best seasons in the program’s history.
Penn State is in bounce back mode. The Nittany Lions were ranked fourth after a 5-0 start and have lost six of their last eight. QB Sean Clifford is returning but there are many questions about the Nittany Lions trying to rise from the middle of the pack in the Big Ten East.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Indiana will seek its fourth straight win in the series with Illinois visiting Bloomington on Friday night. Illini will be attempting to win his Big Ten opener in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1990-91. … Defending champion Michigan enters their game against Colorado State 10-0 all-time against current Mountain West teams. The Wolverines are 16-0 under Jim Harbaugh in non-conference home games. … Northwestern’s 31-28 win over Nebraska in Ireland last week was the first time since 2016 that the Wildcats had at least 300 yards of passing and 200 yards of rushing in a game.
South Dakota State will be the underdog going into its opener in Iowa. Fanduel Sportsbook hasn’t released a point spread for the game, but the Hawkeyes should expect a challenge from the Championship Subdivision’s jackrabbits.
SDSU convincingly beat Colorado State last year and is in the top three in preseason FCS polls. The Jackrabbits have also made the playoff semifinals or finals in four of the last five years.
Minnesota RB Mohamed Ibrahim is back after suffering a leg injury in last year’s season opener. Ibrahim has 14 career 100-yard rushing games, including the last nine in a row. He is the eighth Minnesota player to reach 3,000 career yards and should have no problem increasing his total against a New Mexico state team that finished 112th last year.
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