Big Ten

Top-five showdown between Ohio State and Oklahoma highlights Week 2 Big Ten previews and picks

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USA TODAY

Top-five showdown between Ohio State and Oklahoma highlights Week 2 Big Ten previews and picks

Ohio State. Oklahoma. Bring it on.

Last year's matchup in Norman ended in one of the Buckeyes' signature wins of the season. Coupled with the win over Michigan in the regualr-season finale, this game propelled Ohio State to the Playoff despite its lack of a conference championship. So the stakes are obviously high.

This time around it's a battle between two top-five teams, the second such game nationally in as many weeks. You've got to love that.

Ohio State had a shaky start against Indiana before figuring things out and running away in a second-half blowout win. Oklahoma pounded UTEP. So expect some points.

Who's going to win? My pick for that game and my picks for every other one of this weekend's contests featuring a Big Ten team are below. Read on and get ready for Week 2.

Friday, Sept. 8

Ohio at Purdue, 7 p.m., FS1

You’ve got to like the Boilers’ chances against this MAC opponent after what they showed in the season-opener against Louisville, holding a fourth-quarter lead on a top-20 team. But turnovers told the story of that game, for better and worse, with Purdue benefitting from a trio of Louisville fumbles and sealing its own fate with a trio of interceptions from the quarterbacking tandem of David Blough and Elijah Sindelar. Again, you’ve got to like the Boilers’ chances this week, but they’ve got to stop throwing so many interceptions.

The pick: Purdue

Saturday, Sept. 9

Cincinnati at No. 8 Michigan, 11 a.m., ABC

I’ll say it again: No Big Ten team looked better than Michigan in Week 1. The defensive performance was incredible considering the 10 new starters on that side of the ball. Yeah, Florida has been notoriously inept on offense in recent seasons, but I don’t think that should take away from what this reloaded group of Wolverines did. Former Ohio State assistant Luke Fickell is now helming Cincinnati, but the Bearcats only scored 26 points against and had just a six-point fourth-quarter lead on Austin Peay last week, so expect another big day for Jim Harbaugh’s boys.

The pick: Michigan

Florida Atlantic at No. 9 Wisconsin, 11 a.m., Big Ten Network

Lane Kiffin’s Owls will have more important things on their minds than football considering the hurricane hitting down in Florida. This game will be played in Madison, and after the Badgers ran off 59 unanswered after a shaky first half against Utah State, you’d figure that more of the same is coming. The Bradrick Shaw-Jonathan Taylor combo at running back is, as the kids say, fire.

The pick: Wisconsin

Northwestern at Duke, 11 a.m., ESPN U

I’d be mighty worried if I were Northwestern after both its own performance in the season-opener and the 60 points Duke dropped in its first win of the season. While the Cats’ 1-2 punch of Justin Jackson and Clayton Thorson looked as good as ever, personnel changes didn’t prevent carry-over woes from seasons past such as missed field goals, dropped passes and the inability to cash in on some scoring chances. Northwestern was favored to beat Nevada by more than three touchdowns. Instead, they need two touchdowns in the final five and a half minutes to turn a three-point deficit into an 11-point margin of victory. And did I mention Duke dropped 60? Interesting note, though, Northwestern has beaten the Dukies in each of the past two seasons, including a 2015 trip to Durham.

The pick: Duke

Iowa at Iowa State, 11 a.m., ESPN 2

The last two meetings between the in-state rivals have been blowout wins for the Hawkeyes. But it was the Cyclones that took three of the previous four, with some ugly performances by Kirk Ferentz’s team in there. Anyone remember the 9-6 loss? Yuck. But Iowa showed a lot in its season-opening win over Wyoming, completely embarrassing Josh Allen, the Cowboys’ quarterback who’s getting hyped as a potential No. 1 draft pick. The Iowa defense destroyed him and his mates, keeping them out of the end zone completely. Iowa State dropped 42 in its season-opening win over Northern Iowa. But that Iowa defense though!

The pick: Iowa

Towson at Maryland, 11 a.m., Big Ten Network

The Terps are riding incredibly high after that 51-point performance in the upset win at Texas. That result and the performance of Kasim Hill are helping to ease the blow of losing starting quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome for the season to a torn ACL. Hill wasn’t asked to do too much vs. the Horns, but he showed some flashes of brilliance. Getting his first full game in against Towson certainly helps.

The pick: Maryland

Pittsburgh at No. 4 Penn State, 2:30 p.m., ABC

This in-state rivalry is suddenly alive and kicking after last year’s instant classic, a 42-39 loss for the Nittany Lions. But Saquon Barkley and Trace McSorley are a year older and already have the Penn State offense humming after last weekend’s beatdown of Akron. While Pat Narduzzi certainly has the ability to pull off another upset — his Panthers beat both Big Ten champ Penn State and eventual national champ Clemson last season — Pitt blew a 21-0 lead last weekend, needing overtime to beat FCS foe Youngstown State.

The pick: Penn State

Indiana at Virginia, 2:30 p.m., ESPN U

The Hoos have been one of college football’s worst Power Five programs for a very long time now, with just one bowl appearance since 2008. They went just 2-10 last season in Bronco Mendenhall’s first year coaching the team. That bodes well for an Indiana team on the rise. Despite getting run away from in the second half of last weekend’s season-opening loss to Ohio State, much of that game served as a demonstration of what the Hoosiers can do. Simmie Cobbs and the rest of the Indiana receiving corps made quarterback Richard Lagow look amazing, while the defense held the Buckeyes at bay for more than a half.

The pick: Indiana

Western Michigan at Michigan State, 2:30 p.m., Big Ten Network

Mark Dantonio’s team got an easy win in the season-opener, something that’s been a rarity over the last calendar year. Even last season’s Week 1 win against Furman came by just 15 points. But Sparty gets an immediate — if perhaps unexpected — test now against a Western Michigan team that gave USC everything it could handle last weekend. The Broncos, who figured to be far less fearsome without P.J. Fleck rowing the boat, were within four points of the Trojans in the game’s final five minutes. Things fell apart in the fourth quarter, USC scoring 28 points, but Western Michigan should still scare Michigan State, which had three turnovers against Bowling Green.

The pick: Western Michigan

Eastern Michigan at Rutgers, 2:30 p.m., Big Ten Network

It’s been a while since praising Rutgers was en vogue, but that was a nice showing against a high-powered Washington team in the season-opener. The Knights didn’t get the win, but the defense looked great, limiting a team that went to last season’s Playoff to very pedestrian numbers. Rutgers will be favored against Eastern Michigan, a team that was actually well improved last year, winning seven games after totaling seven in the previous four seasons.

The pick: Rutgers

Nebraska at Oregon, 3:30 p.m., FOX

Take Oregon’s Week 1 pounding of Southern Utah with a grain of salt because, you know, it was Southern Utah. But the Ducks put up some Chip Kelly Era style numbers in that win, scoring 77 points and going over 700 yards of total offense. That ought to spook the heck out of the Huskers, who had a shaky defensive performance against Arkansas State in their Week 1 win, allowing 36 points and nearly 500 yards of offense. Nebraska can take pride in running back Tre Bryant, who rushed for 192 yards. But that defense would seem to be cruising for a bruising.

The pick: Oregon

No. 5 Oklahoma at No. 2 Ohio State, 6:30 p.m., ABC

I don’t expect a repeat of the 2016 edition of this highly anticipated non-conference matchup, when Ohio State went off down in Norman and crushed Oklahoma. But that’s not to say it’s not possible. As great as the Sooners looked last weekend — Baker Mayfield was 19-for-20 for 329 yards and three touchdowns — the Buckeyes showed plenty in pulling away from Indiana with a huge second half. There might still be question marks about the Ohio State offense, and they’d be deserved. But those questions existed much of last season only for the Buckeyes to put up big numbers — just like they did in the season-opener.

The pick: Ohio State

Western Kentucky at Illinois, 7 p.m., Big Ten Network

A win is a win, but the Illini did not look good in their season-opening victory over Ball State. The offense was mostly stuck in the mud — save some bright spots from Mike Dudek and Mike Epstein — and the defense was thoroughly marched on by Ball State. Western Kentucky no longer has Jeff Brohm at the helm, though it is coming off a conference-championship season. The Hilltoppers played and beat an FCS opponent in their first game, so it’s hard to say what they’ll do Saturday night. But the Illini will have to be better if they want to win, it would figure.

The pick: Western Kentucky

Minnesota at Oregon State, 9 p.m., FS1

P.J. Fleck’s first dip of the oars into the water didn’t look great, just a 17-7 win over Buffalo, but it was a victory nonetheless. The good news is that Week 2 opponent Oregon State is not very good. The Beavers appeared to have turned a corner by ending last season with surprising wins against Arizona and Oregon. But they got beat up bad in their first game of this season by Colorado State and narrowly edged FCS foe Portland State last weekend, bringing former Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen’s record at Oregon State to a gross 7-19. Maybe the Fightin’ Flecks figure things out this time.

The pick: Minnesota

See how they stack up: Week 6 college football top 25 rankings

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USA TODAY

See how they stack up: Week 6 college football top 25 rankings

A special, if somewhat sad edition of the top-25 rankings this week. Saturday delivered another terrific day of college football, but we also must remember and celebrate one of the best rock n rollers of all-time, Tom Petty, who passed away earlier this week. So, in addition to the usual top 25, you get some bonus rankings, my picks for the 25 best Petty songs ever. Enjoy.

With Week 6 in the books, here’s my top 25:

1. Clemson (6-0)

It wasn’t a blowout, but the champs rolled on with a comfortable-enough win over Wake Forest. Of bigger concern is Kelly Bryant, who left the game with an ankle injury.

No. 25: “Saving Grace” from Highway Companion, 2006

2. Alabama (6-0)

Bama held on to win by eight after a 21-point third-quarter lead shrunk down. But was it ever really in doubt for the Tide? They will no doubt roll through a weak schedule leading up to the Iron Bowl.

No. 24: “The Wild One, Forever” from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, 1976

3. TCU (5-0)

Defensively, the Frogs kept West Virginia out of the end zone through the first 41 minutes. Offensively, Kenny Hill had himself a day and matched the Mountaineers’ late charge. Oh, and TCU is now in complete command of the Big 12.

No. 23: “A Woman in Love (It’s Not Me)” from Hard Promises, 1981

4. Georgia (6-0)

The Dawgs delivered another SEC pounding — yawn — and have outscored their conference foes by 100 points in three games. Expect that number to balloon further with Mizzou on the schedule next.

No. 22: “Rebels” from Southern Accents, 1985

5. Penn State (6-0)

Saquon Barkley had a negative rushing total in the first half Saturday, and this one was somehow never in doubt. Barkley finished with a pair of touchdown runs as the Lions look far and away the best team in the Big Ten East.

No. 21: “The Same Old You” from Long After Dark, 1982

6. Wisconsin (5-0)

Things looked a bit dicey with Wisconsin tied with Nebraska in the third quarter. But the Badgers ran away, closing with three straight touchdowns and winning easily on Jonathan Taylor’s huge night: 249 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries.

No. 20: “Shadow of a Doubt (A Complex Kid)” from Damn the Torpedoes, 1979

7. Washington (6-0)

I doubted Washington early, and at this point I’m not sure why. The Huskies pounded Cal on Saturday night — yes, Chris Petersen, a night game — and are one of three teams (Alabama, Ohio State) in the top 10 nationally in both scoring offense and scoring defense.

No. 19: “Century City” from Damn the Torpedoes, 1979

8. Washington State (6-0)

Wazzu’s still undefeated, taking complete advantage of an Oregon team without its starting quarterback, holding the Ducks to just 10 points, Oregon’s fewest since the LeGarrette Blount punch game.

No. 18: “Hometown Blues” from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, 1976

9. Miami (4-0)

What a wild finish in the rivalry game with Florida State, but Miami finally stopped its losing streak to the Noles. The Canes’ defense allowed more than 400 yards, but Malik Rosier threw three touchdown passes.

No. 17: “Listen to Her Heart” from You’re Gonna Get It!, 1978

10. Auburn (5-1)

Just like Alabama and Georgia, Auburn is clobbering everyone else in the SEC. Since only beating Mercer by 14, the Tigers have smoked Mizzou, Mississippi State and Ole Miss by a combined 144-47 score.

No. 16: “Runnin’ Down a Dream” from Full Moon Fever, 1989

11. Ohio State (5-1)

Somehow, the guy who was one of the most focused-on college football players of the summer, J.T. Barrett, is low-key having a phenomenal season. Saturday against Maryland: 320 passing/rushing yards and four total touchdowns.

No. 15: “Louisiana Rain” from Damn the Torpedoes, 1979

12. Virginia Tech (5-1)

Josh Jackson threw for 322 yards in the Hokies’ 13-point win over Boston College. You would’ve liked to see a bit more, but it was a nice bounce back after the loss to Clemson.

No. 14: “Ways to Be Wicked” from Nobody’s Children, 1995

13. Oklahoma State (4-1)

Okie State finally got to rest up after losing to TCU and almost losing to Texas Tech. The TCU loss looks better and better, but the Cowboys need to hope for a slip-up from the Frogs and not slip up themselves in the back-to-back gauntlet of West Virginia and Oklahoma.

No. 13: “Learning to Fly” from Into the Great Wide Open, 1991

14. Notre Dame (5-1)

Not expected to do much after last year’s eight-loss debacle, the Irish are kind of really good. They’re the No. 6 rushing team in the country, adding to their total with 341 more rush yards against North Carolina.

No. 12: “You Wreck Me” from Wildflowers, 1994

15. Michigan State (4-1)

Out of nowhere, here comes Sparty. A sensational defensive performance against a top-10 Michigan team in rain-soaked Ann Arbor, plus a not-so-bad loss to Notre Dame, has Mark Dantonio’s team skyrocketing.

No. 11: “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” from Stevie Nicks’ Bella Donna, 1981

16. West Virginia (3-2)

A valiant comeback attempt by Will Grier & Co. was shut down by Kenny Hill, but that doesn’t take away from West Virginia managing to look good on the road against one of the country’s best teams.

No. 10: “I Won’t Back Down” from Full Moon Fever, 1989

17. USC (5-1)

You don’t really get any points for beating up on terrible Oregon State. But things are about to get much tougher for Sam Darnold and USC with back-to-back games coming against Utah and Notre Dame.

No. 9: “Anything That’s Rock N Roll” from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, 1976

18. Oklahoma (4-1)

Iowa State played out of its mind, had a linebacker throwing passes and pulled the upset of the year. Baker Mayfield played well, the Sooners were just derailed by fumbling at the worst possible time. And like that, the Playoff chances take a nosedive.

No. 8: “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” from Greatest Hits, 1993

19. North Carolina State (5-1)

Don’t talk back to the Wolfpack, who now have beaten Florida State and Louisville this season. A Week 1 home loss to South Carolina — how did that happen? — is all preventing the Nov. 4 game against Clemson from determining the ACC.

No. 7: “Breakdown” from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, 1976

20. Stanford (4-2)

With a big win over previously undefeated Utah, the Cardinal are really still in the mix for the Pac-12 crown. Two losses (even two good ones) might box Stanford out of the Playoff race, but Bryce Love & Co. are a good team.

No. 6: “Don’t Do Me Like That” from Damn the Torpedoes, 1979

21. South Florida (5-0)

No game for the high-scoring Bulls this weekend. All eyes are on the season finale against UCF.

No. 5: “Even the Losers” from Damn the Torpedoes, 1979

22. Louisville (4-2)

Not even Lamar Jackson’s 427 total yards and three total touchdowns could put Louisville past NC State. The Cardinals have allowed 37.3 points per game in their four contests against Power Five teams this season.

No. 4: “Free Fallin’” from Full Moon Fever, 1989

23. San Diego State (6-0)

Another win for the Aztecs and another big day for Rashaad Penny. They’ve got six wins, two of them coming against Pac-12 teams, and can’t possibly lose to another Mountain West team, right?

No. 3: “The Waiting” from Hard Promises, 1981

24. Michigan (4-1)

The Wolverines’ offensive ineptitude really bit them hard on Saturday night, as the Big Ten-iest game of all-time ended in Michigan State walking out of the Big House with a win. Michigan can’t run the ball, nor can it throw the ball, which is a horrendous combination.

No. 2: “American Girl” from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, 1976

25. Utah (4-1)

The Utes are undefeated no more, losing to a good Stanford team on Saturday. In a crowded and competitive Pac-12, Utah gets no rest: USC next and Oregon, Wazzu and Washington down the line.

No. 1: “Refugee” from Damn the Torpedoes, 1979

Others receiving votes

UCF (4-0)

The Knights are rolling just as well as any Group of Five team out there, dropping 51 points in three quarters on Cincinnati.

Georgia Tech (3-1)

Off week for the Jackets, who have the second-best rushing offense in the country (shocking, I know) and a one-loss record in a crowded ACC.

Iowa (4-2)

The Hawkeyes finally got to exhale from those back-to-back losses to Penn State and Michigan State, two of the best-looking teams in the Big Ten. Iowa beat up on Illinois for a near 30-point win.

Texas Tech (4-1)

Scoring 65 points against Kansas is always fun! A good tune up for the Red Raiders who play road games at West Virginia and Oklahoma over the course of their next three games.

LSU (4-2)

Good for Coach O to go into The Swamp and get a huge road win over a ranked Florida team to stop his program’s free fall. Beating Florida is a whole lot better than losing to Troy.

Florida (3-2)

The Gators somehow lost a home game to an LSU team that lost to Troy last weekend. But I wanted to include Florida here to sign off with what The Swamp did to honor Tom Petty. It was awesome.

Other Tom Petty songs receiving votes

“Baby’s a Rock N Roller” from You’re Gonna Get It!, 1978

“Letting You Go” from Hard Promises, 1981

“Straight Into Darkness” from Long After Dark, 1982

“Make It Better (Forget About Me)” from Southern Accents, 1985

“The Apartment Song” from Full Moon Fever, 1989

“Surrender” from Anthology: Through the Years, 2000

New quarterback but similar result as Illini get walloped by Iowa

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USA TODAY

New quarterback but similar result as Illini get walloped by Iowa

Illinois had a new quarterback at the helm of its offense Saturday, but the result was all too similar for Lovie Smith's team.

Jeff George Jr. got the start and had some flashes early on, but the Iowa Hawkeyes dominated the Illini for a 45-16 runaway win in Iowa City.

Illinois actually hung with Iowa for an entire half, holding a second-quarter lead and trailing at halftime by only four. George led a game-tying, 85-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter, and the Illini took the lead after intercepting Nathan Stanley and turning that giveaway into a field goal. But an Akrum Wadley touchdown run in the final seconds before halftime brought an end to Illinois' last lead of the day.

George had the Illini in a position to retake the lead midway through the third quarter, but an 89-yard Iowa pick six pretty much sealed the deal, swinging the momentum entirely in the Hawkeyes' favor. They poured it on in the fourth quarter, scoring four touchdowns to turn an eight-point game into a 29-point rout.

Illinois matched Iowa in many respects, both teams going over 440 total yards. But George's three interceptions proved to be difference, especially when one of those turnovers was taken back for a back-breaking touchdown. George and Stanley threw for a nearly identical number of yards, but Stanley had just one pick to George's three and also threw a trio of touchdown passes.

After making the quarterback change after last weekend's loss to Nebraska, Smith saw an offense that moved much better than it had in previous weeks under Chayce Crouch's leadership. But the Illini still turned the ball over at critical moments and failed to produce many points. This time, though, the defense couldn't hold up its end of the bargain, either, especially late as the score snowballed.

Illinois dropped to 2-3 with the loss and is 0-2 in its two conference games. Iowa stopped the bleeding after losing back-to-back games to Penn State and Michigan State.