Big Ten Week 1 Preview and Predictions

League's top games head to Houston, Baltimore and Dublin.

Big Ten 2014 Week 1 Preview and Predictions

See if you can follow the Big Ten in Week 1: Rutgers and Maryland are in the league, and one of those teams will open the season in Seattle.

Meanwhile, the three best games for the league this week will take place in Houston, Baltimore and Dublin.

The Big Ten is going worldwide in Week 1. If you need help staying grounded, luckily there’s one MAC vs. Big Ten game taking place in West Lafayette.

Some traditions are forever.

Week 1 Preview and Predictions:
ACC Big 12 | Pac-12 | SEC

All times Eastern.

Big Ten Week 1 Game Power Rankings

1. Wisconsin vs. LSU (Houston)
Saturday, 9 p.m., ESPN

Expect Wisconsin to rely heavily on Melvin Gordon against a reloading LSU defense in the top game of the week. Tanner McEvoy, though, may be the most interesting player in the field for Wisconsin. The Badgers made the bold move to bench incumbent Joel Stave for the more mobile McEvoy. LSU has a knack for shutting down running quarterbacks (see: Manziel, Johnny), and Wisconsin has no proven pass-catchers on the roster.

2. Ohio State vs. Navy (Baltimore)
Saturday, noon, CBS Sports Network

All eyes will be on J.T. Barrett as he takes over for Braxton Miller. Without Miller, rising star running back Ezekiel Elliott is the Buckeyes’ returning leader in total offense at just under 24 yards per game. From Bowling Green to Utah to Florida to Ohio State, Urban Meyer has rarely had subpar quarterback play, but getting the redshirt freshman Barrett ready to contend for the Big Ten may be Meyer’s toughest challenge yet.

Listen to Athlon's Cover 2 Podcast: Week 1 Preview

3. Penn State vs. UCF (Dublin)
Saturday, 8:30 a.m., ESPN2

After concerns that an eruption of a volcano in Iceland would alter travel plans, Penn State will start the James Franklin era without a hitch — assuming the Nittany Lions can handle the defending Fiesta Bowl champions. First-round draft pick Blake Bortles out-dueled freshman Christian Hackenberg in Happy Valley last season for UCF’s 34-31 win. Bortles is gone, and Penn State is hoping Hackenberg, a potential first-round pick himself, can hold his own behind a rickety Penn State offensive line.

4. Cal at Northwestern
Saturday, 3:30 p.m., ABC/ESPN2

Few coaches have had as trying a year as Pat Fitzgerald. An injury-ravaged Northwestern lost seven of its final eight games last season, voted on unionization during the summer and then lost running back Venric Mark to a transfer and receiver Christian Jones to an injury in the weeks before the season. A win over a troubled Cal team would go a long way to easing some of last year’s struggles.

5. Rutgers vs. Washington State (Seattle)
Thursday, 10 p.m., Fox Sports 1

Welcome to the Big Ten, Rutgers. Now hop on a flight to Seattle to test your shaky pass D against a Mike Leach offense. Washington State will look to feast in the passing game while Rutgers tries to figure out something — anything — on offense. New offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen opted with experience in quarterback Gary Nova, who has thrown 39 interceptions the last three seasons.

6. Appalachian State at Michigan
Saturday, noon, ESPN2

Don’t expect a replay of Appalachian State’s 34-32 win over Michigan from 2007, considered one of the biggest upsets in college football history. Appalachian State is coming off a 4-8 season. In 2007, Appy State was about to win its third consecutive FCS title. Michigan, though, isn’t an easy team to trust after losing five of its final six games last season.

7. FAU at Nebraska
Saturday, 3:30 p.m., Big Ten Network

Nebraska has the nation’s longest active winning streak in season openers at 28 in a row. That figures to continue against Conference USA contender FAU, a school that employed Bo Pelini’s brother until Oct. 31 last season. FAU quietly had a standout finish to last season. The Owls allowed 3.6 yards per play in November, second-best nationally, while recording six interceptions and no touchdown passes.

8. Western Michigan at Purdue
Saturday, noon, ESPNU

Darrell Hazell’s first season wasn’t pretty, but Purdue figured something out on offense in November. Purdue accounted for more offensive touchdowns in the last four games (11) than it did in the first eight (10). Western Michigan has gone from one of the more steady MAC teams to a 1-11 rebuilding project in one season under P.J. Fleck. Purdue will look to pick up its first FBS win since Nov. 24, 2012.

9. Eastern Illinois at Minnesota
Thursday, 7 p.m., Big Ten Network

Minnesota has increased its win total in each of its three seasons under Jerry Kill from three wins to six to eight, but Eastern Illinois will bring a remnant from a more forgettable time. Eastern Illinois features quarterback Andrew Manley, who passed for 288 yards and three touchdowns for New Mexico State in a 28-21 win over Minnesota in 2011.

10. Jacksonville State at Michigan State
Friday, 7:30 p.m., Big Ten Network

Michigan State will hope its defense of its most recent outright Big Ten title goes better than the last one. The Spartans followed their 1966 outright league title with a 37-7 loss to Houston to start the 1967 season. This time, Michigan State is more likely to get a warm up before facing Oregon in Eugene for a potential make-or-break game for the Big Ten in the College Football Playoff.

11. Youngstown State at Illinois
Saturday, noon, Big Ten Network

Wes Lunt returns to his home state after his transfer to Illinois from Oklahoma State. Offense doesn’t appear to be an issue for the Illini, but will the defense help save Tim Beckman’s job?

12. Northern Iowa at Iowa
Saturday, noon, Big Ten Network

Iowa returns its top passer, rusher and receiver for the first time since 2010. With that comes expectations of contending in the new Big Ten West. Iowa hasn’t always handled hype well. Will this season be different? Northern Iowa nearly knocked off Iowa in 2009 before losing 17-16. The Hawkeyes haven’t lost to Northern Iowa since 1898.

13. James Madison at Maryland
Saturday, 3:30 p.m., Big Ten Network

Maryland makes its league debut in the Big Ten Network against a James Madison team coached by Everett Withers, a former defensive coordinator at Ohio State and Minnesota.

14. Indiana State at Indiana
Saturday, noon, ESPNews

Indiana State (1-11 last season) will make Indiana look good. Even the Hoosiers’ defense could tee off on an offense that ranked 114th in the FCS last season.


 David FoxBraden GallSteven LassanMitch Light
Rutgers v. Wash. St. (-8)Wazzu 52-14Wazzu 42-21Wazzu 45-31Wazzu 41-17
Eastern Ill. at Minn.Minn 35-14Minn 31-17Minn 40-14Minn 30-27
Jax State at Michigan St.MSU 38-7MSU 34-3MSU 38-7MSU 37-0
Penn St. (-1) v. UCFPSU 17-14PSU 27-20PSU 27-20PSU 23-20
Ohio St. (-19) v. NavyOSU 38-21OSU 34-10OSU 34-20OSU 34-16
Appy St. at MichiganMich 42-14Mich 38-17Mich 38-13Mich 34-13
Cal at Northwestern (-13)NW 38-17NW 31-21NW 34-24NW 31-24
FAU at Nebraska (-24)Neb 31-13Neb 41-7Neb 40-13Neb 31-24
Western Mich. at Purdue (-12)Purdue 28-14Purdue 27-23Purdue 31-20Purdue 23-13
LSU (-4 1/2) v. WisconsinLSU 28-21LSU 31-14LSU 30-20LSU 27-24
YSU at IllinoisIllinois 35-28Illinois 38-21Illinois 40-13Illinois 28-10
No. Iowa at IowaIowa 31-10Iowa 27-10Iowa 30-20Iowa 27-17
JMU at MarylandMaryland 42-14Maryland 38-10Maryland 45-14Maryland 38-11


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