The Big Ten features several less-than-thrilling games this week, as teams gear up for the fast-approaching conference season.
Ohio at No. 2 Ohio State
The most pressing concern in Columbus isn’t the Bobcats coming to the Horseshoe this week. It’s the status of Chris “Beanie” Wells’ foot, which he injured in the third quarter of the Buckeyes’ 43-0 rout of Youngstown State. The Heisman hopeful ran for 111 yards on 13 carries, including a 43-yard touchdown scamper, before leaving the game. Though the offense has injury concerns, the defense is still rock-solid. Led by last year’s Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, linebacker James Laurinaitis, the unit returns nine starters. If last week’s shutout was any indication, the Buckeyes will likely roll to victory with their marquee matchup at No. 1 Southern Cal looming. The player to watch is freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who looks to continue his impressive debut, and tease Wolverine fans with what they’re missing out on.
Prediction: Buckeyes 42, Bobcats 0
Eastern Michigan at Michigan State
This weekend, Michigan’s Ypsilanti neighbors are facing a loaded Spartan backfield which includes senior running back Javon Ringer and senior quarterback Brian Hoyer. Michigan State is pretty “green” at the receiver position though, with two underclassmen as its two leading receivers. But the big question is, can Hoyer bounce back from his 42-percent completion rate against California last week? His poor performance contributed to a sloppy 38-31 loss. The Spartans hope to rebound from the disappointing showing and steamroll in-state opponent Eastern Michigan. But if the Spartans aren’t careful they could find themselves in a shootout with a team that put up 52 points last weekend. Keep an eye out for sophomore linebacker Greg Jones, who turned some heads last week with his eight tackles, including two for a loss.
Prediction: Spartans 31, Eagles 10
Oregon State at No. 22 Penn State
JoPa is still alive and kickin’ and climbin’ his way up the record books. Last week, the Nittany Lions dominated Coastal Carolina 66-10, which tied Paterno with Florida State’s Bobby Bowden in the ongoing race for the most wins among Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I) coaches. Penn State was dealt an early blow this offseason when star linebacker Sean Lee suffered a torn ACL, forcing the team to scramble for a replacement. Lee’s backup, junior Bani Gbadyu, played well and recorded an interception in his first start. On the other side of the ball, Paterno is still weighing who will start under center against Oregon State because both senior Daryll Clark and freshman Pat Devlin were impressive last week. But the Beavers’ prolific passing attack will be a more difficult test than the Chanticleers’. Look out for Oregon State senior wide receiver Sammie Stroughter, who torched Stanford last week with 12 catches for 157 yards and two touchdowns.
Beavers 31, Nittany Lions 27
Northwestern at Duke
When these two conference bottom-dwellers faced off on the gridiron last year, the Blue Devils were the laughingstock of college football, with a nation-leading 22-game losing streak. Northwestern threatened to score in the game’s final minutes, but Duke’s defense didn’t break and and the Blue Devils left Evanston with their first victory in almost two years. This time around, however, both teams are coming off surprising double-digit victories. Duke dispatched James Madison 31-7, while Northwestern thumped Syracuse 30-10. Watch out for Blue Devil quarterback Thaddeus Lewis, who lit up the Wildcats for nearly 250 yards and three touchdowns last time around. But for Duke to come away with another ‘W,’ the Blue Devils will have to stop Northwestern’s dominating run attack.
Wildcats 24, Blue Devils 14