Here are things to watch during the opening week of play in the Big Ten Conference:
GAME OF THE WEEK
No. 18 Michigan at No. 21 Minnesota. The Wolverines’ last four seasons have ended with whimpers — losses to Ohio State and in a bowl — and fans are getting antsy as Jim Harbaugh enters his sixth year. Michigan is breaking in a new quarterback, presumably Joe Milton, along with four offensive line starters in the Little Brown Jug game. They’re without elite receivers Nico Collins (removed from roster) and Donovan Peoples-Jones (NFL). The defense should be strong up front, but a secondary replacing two corners will be challenged by the Tanner Morgan-to-Rashod Bateman connection. The Gophers, who ended last season No. 10 and began this year in the Top 25 for the first time since 2004, are playing another ranked opponent to start the season for the first time since 1968.
Iowa QB Spencer Petras vs. Purdue defense. The Hawkeyes have a new quarterback for the first time in four years. Petras has attempted 11 passes and one run in five mop-up appearances the last two years. With an abundance of returning experience around him, Petras just needs to keep the train on the tracks. The Boilermakers have long struggled on defense, but they return a decent amount of talent and should provide a good test for a new QB making his first start on the road, albeit with no fans in the stands.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Penn State has won 22 of 23 against Indiana and is a seven-point road favorite. The Hoosiers have played Penn State tough the last two years, and getting the Nittany Lions in the opener at home presents an opportunity. Penn State will be without star running back Journey Brown (undisclosed illness) and linebacker Micah Parsons (opted out). Indiana QB Michael Penix, limited to six games in 2019 because of injury, is a dynamic talent.
Nebraska heads to No. 5 Ohio State as a 26-point underdog and without a road win over a Top 10 opponent since beating then-No. 2 Washington in 1997. Ohio State has won five straight in the series, outscoring the Huskers by an average of 53-19. Nebraska’s last win in the series was a come-from-behind 34-27 victory at home under Bo Pelini.
Graduate transfer QB Peyton Ramsey will make his debut for Northwestern and new offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian at home against Maryland. Ramsey started 23 games for Indiana and threw for more than 6,500 yards with 42 touchdowns. He had 300-yard passing games against Nebraska, Penn State and Purdue last season and gives Northwestern a huge upgrade at the position.
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