Things to watch during Week 3 of play in the Big Ten Conference:
GAME OF THE WEEK
No. 22 Auburn at No. 10 Penn State
Bryan Harsin’s first road game as Auburn’s coach will be like going into the lion’s den. Penn State has designated this the annual “Whiteout” game, meaning the crowd will be louder than usual. It’s the first time since 2011 the “Whiteout” game won’t be against Michigan or Ohio State. Penn State has been impressive in knocking off Big Ten West favorite Wisconsin and MAC favorite Ball State. Auburn has allowed a total of 10 points against weak opposition.
Michigan State QB Payton Thorne vs. Miami secondary. The Spartans are running for 300 yards per game, but the sledding gets much tougher. The 24th-ranked Hurricanes are among 10 teams that have given up two or fewer runs of 20 yards or longer, and they’re averaging nine tackles for loss. That could force the Spartans to pass and Thorne has been excellent so far. He should have opportunities downfield against a defense that’s second-to-last in the ACC against the pass.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Nebraska and No. 3 Oklahoma revive what once was among the college game’s greatest rivalries. From the 1960s to the ’90s, their annual showdown decided 31 of 36 Big Eight championships. Oklahoma (50) and Nebraska (46) rank first and second nationally in conference titles. The schools met twice in No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchups (1971, 1987) and split the games. One of the schools has been ranked No. 1 in 13 meetings of the 86 previous meetings.
Purdue goes to No. 12 Notre Dame as an 8 1/2-point underdog, according to FanDuel Sportsbook, in what figures to be its toughest game until it visits Ohio State in November. Jack Plummer has six touchdown passes and no interceptions, but one of his games was against a struggling Connecticut team. He and star receiver David Bell are going to have to make plays because the run game will be without the injured Zander Horvath.
Indiana quarterback Michael Penix struggled against Iowa in the opener and was good, not great, while playing the first three quarters against Idaho. If the Hoosiers are going to get on track, Penix is the key. Seventh-ranked Cincinnati and Desmond Ridder are going to move the ball, and the Bearcats’ defense is salty. If Penix plays like he did against Iowa, this one will be over early. If he plays like he did when he was healthy last year, this could be a shootout.
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