Big Ten

Week 2 Big Ten previews: Can Spartans get revenge on Ducks?


Week 2 Big Ten previews: Can Spartans get revenge on Ducks?

It's all about Michigan State and Oregon this week, and rightfully so.

Two of college football's top-10 teams clash Saturday night in East Lansing in a rematch of one of last season's most-anticipated games. The Spartans dropped that one but will be favored this time around, and though revenge is not likely on their minds, can they earn a win that will boost their chances of making the College Football Playoff?

In addition to that big game, Michigan, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Nebraska are all still looking for their first win of the 2015 season after upsetting Week 1 losses.

We'll have you completely covered with live coverage from East Lansing as well as updates and posts all day long. Follow on Twitter at @CSNBigTen.

But how about we now take a look at the Week 2 slate. All games on Saturday and all times are Central.

Oregon State at Michigan, 11 a.m., ABC

The Jim Harbaugh Era started with a thud, a 24-17 loss at Utah. But it wasn’t all doom and gloom. The Wolverines defense played well, as well as it did throughout much of last season, when it was one of the best defenses in the country. The Utes gained just 337 total yards in a game that felt like a blowout much of the way. That kind of performance ought to serve Michigan real well this week against an Oregon State team that struggled to get off the ground in its season-opening win over FCS foe Weber State, a game the Beavers were winning just 6-0 at the half and just 13-7 after three quarters. Oregon State passed for only 110 yards in that game and needed a whopping 56 rushing attempts to get to 281 yards on the ground. But the real factor as Michigan’s season moves forward is the offense. Can Jake Rudock stop throwing interceptions? Can the running backs do some significant damage? That kind of thing.

The pick: French Harbaugh

Western Illinois at Illinois, 11 a.m., Big Ten Network

The Illini have an excellent chance at keeping their momentum rolling after that huge Week 1 win against Kent State. Who knows if Illinois can replicate the 52-3 thumping it doled out last week, but an FCS opponent is a good way to try. Pretty much everything went perfectly in the season-opening win after nothing went perfectly in the week leading up to the game, what with Tim Beckman fired and severe weather postponing the game. Most encouraging for Illinois has to be the way its defense played against Kent State, intercepting three passes and limiting Kent State to just 59 rush yards. The defense played so well, in fact, that it limited its own offense’s stats, handing Wes Lunt & Co. terrific field position almost every time. In turn, Lunt — who completed four touchdown passes — threw for just 162 yards. Western had its own strong showing last week, too, though, crushing Eastern Illinois, 33-5, and forcing five turnovers.

The pick: #TIME2EAT

Bowling Green at Maryland, 11 a.m., Big Ten Network

Highlighted by Will Likely’s 233 punt-return yards — a record-breaking number — Maryland’s 50-21 win over Richmond was what you’d expect against an FCS foe. The Terps out-gained the Spiders by more than 200 yards. The best thing, aside from Likely’s performance, was a very promising rushing attack, which went for a huge 341-yard total, with Brandon Ross leading the way with 150 yards and a touchdown. If that’s a run game that can be relied on, the Terps’ best offense will be something other than praying that Likely can spring free for a TD. It’s especially important with new No. 1 quarterback Perry Hills struggling a bit in his 2015 debut. Bowling Green provides quite the step up in competition, but the Falcons were whomped in their season-opener, a 59-30 defeat against Tennessee. Still, in that game, Bowling Green totaled 557 yards of offense, 433 through the air. A fumble, 12 penalties and an inability to stop the run did in the Falcons. So if the Terps want to get a solid win over one of the better MAC squads, running the ball again might be the way to go.

The pick: Freddie and Frieda

Buffalo at Penn State, 11 a.m., ESPN 2

These are woeful times in Happy Valley, as the Nittany Lions are coming off one of their more-embarrassing losses in recent memory, a 27-10 defeat at the hands of Temple, where the Owls scored 27 unanswered points and sacked Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg 10 times. The same problems that plagued Penn State in 2014 — inability to protect Hackenberg, inability to run the ball and Hackenberg turning the ball over — are back and bigger than ever after just one week of 2015. It’d be easy to say that Buffalo provides a good opportunity for Penn State to get back on track, but then again no one saw the loss to Temple coming, the first time the Owls beat the Lions in 41 years. Buffalo scored a blowout win over FCS team Albany last week, scoring 51 points and piling up 467 yards of offense. There are a lot of things Penn State needs to do better in Week 2. Obviously keeping Hackenberg standing is chief among them.

The pick: Mr. Incredible

Indiana State at Purdue, 11 a.m., ESPNEWS

The Boilermakers experienced their own crushing defeat in Week 1, blowing a late lead in a loss to Marshall. Austin Appleby threw four interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns, proving to be the difference in a 10-point loss. Finishing will be the key for Purdue as the season rolls on. The Boilermakers owned a lead within the game’s final three minutes but gave up two touchdowns in that span to lose. There was a promising performance from D.J. Knox, the running back who carried the ball 22 times for 102 yards and a touchdown. But the Purdue defense will need to be better against Indiana State, an FCS opponent that scored 52 points and racked up 496 yards — including 303 on the ground — in a Week 1 win over Butler.

The pick: "Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Purdue Pete."

Miami (Ohio) at Wisconsin, 11 a.m., ESPN U

Last week featured a lot of bad news for the Badgers, with a 35-7 loss to Alabama being accompanied by injuries to stars Corey Clement and Michael Caputo and a generally abysmal performance both running the ball and trying to stop it. Wisconsin rushed for just 40 yards in that defeat, with Alabama going for 238 and a trio of long touchdown runs. But things look a lot brighter for Week 2. Not only is Miami (Ohio) far from the No. 3 team in the country, but Clement and Caputo could both be back on the field and it’s another week of experience for an offensive line that struggled in Week 1. Injuries and inexperience have haunted that unit since the preseason, but as time goes on — and as the Badgers’ schedule remains pretty light throughout the remainder of the season — it could pull an Ohio State and really turn things around.

The pick: Chris Farley

Hawaii at No. 1 Ohio State, 2:30 p.m., Big Ten Network

There were a couple first-half hiccups, but really Ohio State couldn’t have looked more impressive in its season-opening win over Virginia Tech. Cardale Jones impressed with a trio of touchdowns, and Ezekiel Elliott busted off an 80-yard touchdown run. But Braxton Miller was the star of the show with two eye-popping 50-plus-yard touchdowns, one a catch and run down the sideline, another a long run with a spin move for the ages. The game as a whole was the perfect illustration of how the Buckeyes will likely blow out most of their opponents this season, as there are simply too many weapons. They all happened to play well in Week 1, and therefore Virginia Tech had no chance, outscored in the second half, 28-7. But even if one or multiple of those guys have off nights, there’s so much more to back them up. Hawaii might have beaten Colorado last week, but two interceptions and just 100 yards rushing doesn’t bode well for the Warriors’ chances in Columbus.

The pick: Cardale Jones' Braxton Miller impression

Washington State at Rutgers, 2:30 p.m., ESPN U

This matchup in the season-opener last season allowed Rutgers an impressive victory to kick off its Big Ten tenure. And while you never know what’s going to happen against a team coached by Mike Leach, the Week 1 showings from each team have this game looking like a pretty good chance for the Scarlet Knights to score another win. Rutgers torched Norfolk State by 50 points, getting strong performances from everyone. Leonte Carroo needed just three catches to go for 129 yards and three touchdowns. Chris Laviano pitched all of those TDs, three of his four passes on the afternoon. On the ground, Rutgers got a combined 291 yards and four touchdowns. And Janarion Grant had a kick-return touchdown, to boot. Meanwhile, Washington State lost to FCS opponent Portland State, 24-17, despite out-gaining its foe, 411-294. But the Cougars threw a pair of interceptions and couldn’t produce the points to match their big yardage total. Even with Rutgers’ off-field issues continuing, on the field the Knights look pretty solid.


Minnesota at Colorado State, 2:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network

Another game that makes the Gophers’ schedule extremely tough, a road trip to Colorado Springs is no picnic for visitors. The Rams won 10 games last season, earning Jim McElwain a head-coaching gig at Florida. Minnesota is coming off a Week 1 loss to TCU, the No. 2 team in the country, and in most respects it was a pretty good showing. The Gophers’ defense played extremely well, creating turnovers and coming up with stop after stop. If only the Gophers’ offense could have done something with it. The routinely offensively challenged team continued to be just that, with quarterback Mitch Leidner making a few good plays but not enough to lead his team in an upset. This week, he’ll have to try again. Though playing an FCS team, Colorado State scored a 65-13 rout of a victory in Week 1 over Savannah State, accumulating nearly 600 yards of offense and limiting its opponent to just 183 total yards. A strong Minnesota defense should again give the Gophers a chance to win, but the offense needs to elevate its play to make this a team capable of competing for a conference title.

The pick: The Invincible Iron Gopher

Eastern Illinois at Northwestern, 3 p.m., ESPNEWS

The Northwestern defense should once again dominate after its remarkable performance in a Week 1 win over Stanford. The Wildcats kept a perennially point-producing Cardinal team out of the end zone, limiting it to just six points. And Eastern is coming off its own touchdown-less game in a 33-5 destruction at the hands of Western Illinois. It should be another successful day for the Cats’ D. But this is quite the opportunity for the Cats’ offense, which despite the big win was not exactly a well-oiled machine against Stanford. Now, the Cardinal are always strong defensively, but Northwestern will need some improvement on the offensive side of the ball if it wants to keep on winning as the season progresses. Justin Jackson was his typically excellent self, going for more than 100 yards, but the passing game was shaky under first-time starter Clayton Thorson, whose best play was a 42-yard run. Thorson will be without a few starting offensive linemen this week, making things trickier.

The pick: Dancing Jerry Brown

Iowa at Iowa State, 3:45 p.m., FOX

If the Iowa offense is really a completely different animal under C.J. Beathard, this will be the game to prove it. Last season, this matchup was an ugly one between two low-scoring teams. Iowa blew a 14-3 halftime lead and lost, 20-17, on a last-second field goal when Kirk Ferentz’s attempt to ice the kicker backfired. The Hawkeyes accumulated just 275 total offensive yards in that game under the leadership of Jake Rudock, who threw an interception and zero touchdowns. But now Beathard’s in command of the Iowa offense, and he looked good in a season-opening 31-17 win over Illinois State. The Hawkeyes out-gained the Redbirds by 200 yards and had a nice balance, going over 200 yards both passing and rushing. Iowa State, though, had its own big win over an FCS team, knocking off Northern Iowa, 31-7. So consider this week to be a solid measuring stick of where each team actually is.

The pick: Still Kirk Ferentz in a giant bird's nest

No. 7 Oregon at No. 5 Michigan State, 7 p.m., ABC

The game of the week and maybe the game of the non-conference schedule in college football this season, there’s likely no more anticipated game this September. Last season, these two teams met, and an Oregon win did a lot to wipe out Michigan State’s playoff hopes in Week 2. The Spartans had a lead at halftime after a 24-point second quarter, showing briefly that their offense could hang with the Ducks. But the opposite was proven after halftime, as Oregon outscored Michigan State, 28-3, over the final two quarters to score a 19-point win. The Spartans, of course, have no intention of letting that happen again, and there’s plenty working in their favor. The Ducks lost Heisman-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota, giving the Spartans the leg up at the quarterback position with senior signal-caller Connor Cook. Plus, this time the teams will meet in East Lansing. Week 1 isn’t the most helpful barometer, with both teams earning expected wins over weaker competition. As usual, both offenses pack a big punch. If there’s one concern for Michigan State, it’s a secondary that struggled a bit against Western Michigan last week. But Cook and a running game that had a good showing in Week 1 ought to be able to counteract any damage Oregon can do.

The pick: Mark Dantonio's ugly Christmas sweater

South Alabama at Nebraska, 7 p.m., Big Ten Network

There are fewer worse tastes in the mouths of college football teams than the one in the collective mouth of the Huskers following a stunning loss on a Hail Mary last week against BYU. It was a crazy bit of college-football karma after Nebraska beat Northwestern in nearly identical fashion two years ago. But that fluke ending aside, the Huskers didn’t play their greatest. The defense again struggled, as it has the past few seasons under Bo Pelini. BYU amassed 511 total offensive yards. Mike Riley’s new offense proved a tad tricky at times for Tommy Armstrong, though the quarterback’s numbers were still impressive: 319 yards and three touchdown passes. South Alabama provides a perfect step-down in competition, allowing Nebraska to likely come away with a much-needed bounce-back win.

The pick: Mike Riley blows up balloons 

Florida International at Indiana, 7 p.m., Big Ten Network

The Hoosiers could be in for another roller-coaster ride this week after an insane game in Week 1. Indiana beat Southern Illinois, an FCS opponent coming off a 6-6 season, 48-47, winning thanks to a dropped pass on a two-point conversion attempt in the game’s final seconds. The Hoosiers were successful on offense, gaining nearly 600 yards of offense, but the defense was again awful, surrendering more than 650 yards of offense to the Salukis. Great showings for quarterback Nate Sudfeld and running back Jordan Howard. But not so much for that defense. FIU should have some confidence, too, coming off an upset win over Central Florida. The Golden Panthers — led by former Illinois head coach Ron Turner — scored just 15 points and won on a blocked field goal. But they still racked up 260 passing yards, a number that could balloon against a miserable Indiana pass defense, one that allowed more than 400 to Southern Illinois.

The pick: Ron Turner's revenge on the Big Ten

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Weeks will separate a perfect 10-year anniversary where Northwestern will play at Wrigley Field for one of its regular season games in the upcoming years.

Back on Nov. 20, 2010, the Wildcats battled it out with Illinois, known as the “Wrigleyville Classic,” which saw the Illini take a 48-27 win.

Even though it’s still two years out, Northwestern still planned ahead and announced its opponent for its game at Wrigley Field on Nov. 7, 2020, against Big Ten rival Wisconsin.

“Obviously an exciting opportunity for our football program to come back to Wrigley Field, one of the Cathedrals of sporting venues in the world,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “When I announced it to our team, they were absolutely ecstatic.”

“The opportunity to play at Wrigley field is unique to us, being Chicago’s Big Ten team, and to have the chance to come down and play in an atmosphere like we did a few years back was a bowl game type atmosphere, and I look forward to this special opportunity.”

This game though will be a little different than it was back in 2010. Both the Wildcats and Illini played toward the west end zone due to a tight squeeze near the right field wall due to box seats that were added down the third base line.

Now, Northwestern and Wisconsin do not have to worry about that problem because the bullpens have since moved to the outfield.

Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney spoke at a news conference earlier on Tuesday at Wrigley.

“So excited to welcome back Northwestern to Wrigley Field to talk about football again,” Kenney said. “We had an incredible experience with them back in 2010."

Kenney also mentioned new seating is on a temporary platform that can all be removed and the dugout tops can be removed as well, and the field will expand west, to allow for a longer field.

With a sellout crowd in the last go around for the Wildcats, don’t be surprised for another sellout at the Friendly Confines.

See how they stack up: Week 12 college football top 25 rankings


See how they stack up: Week 12 college football top 25 rankings

With Week 12 in the books, here’s my top 25:

1. Oklahoma (10-1)

Still the team with the best resume in the country, no one can compete with OU’s wins over TCU, Ohio State and Oklahoma State, the latter two coming away from Norman. Baker Mayfield might not be a choir boy, but he’s the best player in the nation.

2. Miami (10-0)

You might think that being down 28-14 to Virginia in the second half was cringe-worthy, but the Canes made up for things by storming back with 30 unanswered points. Now they finally have to go away from South Florida for the first time since almost losing to North Carolina last month.

3. Alabama (11-0)

Tide gonna roll. But this Cupcake Weekend in the SEC has got to stop. While teams in other conferences are slugging it out against rivals, Bama gets to take a day off against Mercer? It’s just not fair. Also, Bama’s schedule is so soft, there’s no way it deserves to be the No. 1 team in the country.

4. Georgia (10-1)

The Dawgs should wrap an 11-1 regular season this weekend against Georgia Tech. But the SEC title game presents a kind of no-win scenario: undefeated Alabama or Auburn, who throttled Georgia earlier this month.

5. Wisconsin (11-0)

You didn’t need Wisconsin to do what it did to Iowa and Michigan to prove it had one of the best defenses in the country — but that sure didn’t help. Stockpiling national love with those two wins, a win in the Big Ten title game figures to make the Badgers a Playoff lock.

6. Clemson (10-1)

Why’d Kelly Bryant have to go and get hurt for that Syracuse game? The Tigers would be No. 1 and the undisputed best team in the country. Still, though, a win over Miami in the ACC title game ought to get the champs back into the Playoff.

7. Auburn (9-2)

Great job pounding Louisiana-Monroe, Tigers. You shall not escape the wrath over Cupcake Weekend in the SEC. That dumb game aside, Auburn and Alabama will meet in a titanic Iron Bowl this weekend with a trip to the SEC title game on the line — and perhaps a Playoff spot, as well.

8. Ohio State (9-2)

Not that pummeling Illinois is any big deal, but the Buckeyes are still alive in this thing and look like a team capable of making some Playoff noise. First, Ohio State has to win The Game and then the Big Ten title game to knock out undefeated Wisconsin.

9. Notre Dame (9-2)

Out of the Playoff chase thanks to that loss at Miami, Notre Dame squeaked by Navy this past weekend. Hope a New Year’s Six bowl game is enough for the Irish. We know it’s not enough for those ND fans. So maybe join a conference? Just saying.

10. TCU (9-2)

The Frogs can still make their mark on the Playoff race, even if they can’t get in themselves. The Big 12 title game will almost surely be TCU’s attempt at revenge on Oklahoma. Unfortunately, if revenge does come, it will probably cannibalize the conference’s Playoff hopes, too.

11. Penn State (9-2)

Why Penn State gave up 44 points to Nebraska, I do not know. What I do know is that probably no one cared because Penn State is going to go down as the most inconsequential 10-2 team of all-time. Such a bummer considering the preseason expectations for both the team and Saquon Barkley.

12. USC (10-2)

Yeah, I guess there’s still a way for USC to make the Playoff, but it’s hard to imagine that madness unfolding, even in the oft-mad college football. The Trojans get the winner of the Apple Cup in the Pac-12 title game.

13. UCF (10-0)

Finally we get our much-anticipated UCF-USF showdown this weekend. Make it count, Knights. This is probably gonna be Scott Frost’s last regular-season game in Orlando.

14. Washington (9-2)

It’s hard to say who has the edge in the Apple Cup, but certainly the stakes are high, with the winner going off to play USC in the Pac-12 title game. Can either team make the Playoff? Well, probably not, no.

15. Washington State (9-2)

Is this it for Mike Leach on The Palouse? He could be a hot candidate this offseason and leave for perceived greener pastures. Winning the Apple Cup would go a long way toward making that happen.

16. Mississippi State (8-3)

A win in the Egg Bowl means a 9-3 regular season for the Bulldogs with their three losses coming against three top-10 teams.

17. Oklahoma State (8-3)

Poor Okie State has been so good all year and had two losses to the two best teams in its conference, and then it went and lost to K-State for some ridiculous reason. The Mullet deserved better in 2017.

18. Northwestern (8-3)

The Cats are the fourth-best team in the Big Ten, simple as that, with wins over Michigan State and Iowa and conference losses to Wisconsin and Penn State. As commendable an effort as you’ll find in a highly competitive league. Plus, Fitz’s team is on a six-game win streak that could end up extending to eight.

19. Stanford (8-3)

Already with a win over Washington, Stanford could close the regular season with two wins over top-10 teams in its final three games. Also Bryce Love is back in the groove after back-to-back 100-yard games.

20. Memphis (9-1)

The Tigers have lost just one game all season, to the best Group of Five team out there. Heck of a season by Memphis.

21. Michigan State (8-3)

A 17-7 win over Maryland couldn't have been the most exciting way for anyone to spend their weekend. Sparty's had a mighty fine season, though, considering how badly things went in 2016.

22. LSU (8-3)

The SEC has seemingly gotten increasingly better as the year has progressed, with LSU and Mississippi State making for a solid-enough middle tier. But remember when LSU lost to Troy? That wasn’t good.

23. South Florida (9-1)

If not for that loss to Houston, USF’s showdown with UCF this weekend would be for Group of Five supremacy. Even without that, though, this should be a highly entertaining affair.

24. Virginia Tech (8-3)

The Hokies have a chance to salvage their tumble at the close of the season with a win at Virginia. But given how well the Cavs played at Miami this past weekend, a VT win is no sure thing.

25. Iowa State (7-4)

I understand the math and all, but can't the Big 12 just suspend its rules and send Iowa State to the title game? We all want to see the OU-ISU rematch. Why are you preventing us from being happy, Big 12?