The good news after the first weekend of the season is that the Big Ten is 11-0. The bad news: The Big Ten’s nonconference schedule was softer than a Skinemax movie. This weekend should be much more entertaining for Big Ten fans.
No. 19 Penn State at No. 4 Notre Dame, Saturday, September 9 – 3:30 p.m., NBC
Last week was bittersweet for the Notre Dame haters. The Fighting Irish didn’t look as strong as the entire world predicted, but at the same time, coach Charlie Weis and boy-wonder Brady Quinn still pulled off a win. This week, the competition is tougher, but the setting is much friendlier. Touchdown Jesus will smile down fondly on the Golden Domers, and the Fighting Irish will look as good as everyone predicted.
Notre Dame 27, Penn State 10
Eastern Michigan at Michigan State, Saturday, September 9 – 3:30 p.m., ABC
The Spartans weren’t very convincing in their 27-17 win over Idaho last week, but they got the job done at home. The Eagles come off a demoralizing 38-20 loss to Ball State. It wasn’t embarrassing because it was to the Cardinals; it was embarrassing because it was broadcast on Comcast Local. Senior Drew Stanton will feel like Vince Young against a Pee Wee football team. The Cardinals’ freshman quarterback Nate Davis completed seven of eight passes for 108 yards and three touchdowns in his collegiate debut.
Michigan State 31, Eastern Michigan 7
Illinois at Rutgers, Saturday, September 9 – Noon, ESPN2
Rutgers fans wince at this match-up. Last season, the Scarlet Knights had a 27-7 lead with 10:49 remaining in the third quarter, only to be outscored 26-3 the rest of the game. Illini running back Pierre Thomas sealed the deal with his two-yard touchdown run in overtime to give Illinois the 33-30 win. Thomas and starting quarterback Tim Brasic are back again, and even though this game is at Rutgers, the Illini will focus on preventing another almost-upset. Well, it’s not like either team is great.
Illinois 24, Rutgers 10
Miami (OH) at Purdue, Saturday, September 9 – 1 p.m., ESPN360
The Boilermakers’ defensive coordinator won’t have much gameplanning to do for this one. The RedHawks offense managed just three points against Northwestern, a defense that finished last in Division I-A last season (Miami (OH) had just 54 total yards in the first half). Purdue was the exact opposite, dropping a 60 spot on Indiana State. The RedHawks’ corners will feel like Wile E. Coyote chasing the Road Runner by the time this game is through. Unfortunately, they won’t have the stick of dynamite to end the game prematurely.
Purdue 37, Miami (OH) 10
New Hampshire at Northwestern, Saturday, September 9 – 2 p.m.
It’ll be an emotional opening day for the Wildcats, who play their first home game since the passing of former coach Randy Walker. Last weekend, Northwestern parlayed an inspiring night into a 21-3 win over Miami (OH). Division I-AA New Hampshire is just looking for a big payday, but it does have fire power thanks to quarterback Ricky Santos (back-to-back 3,000-plus-yard seasons). Last season, the Wildcats were held below 40 points just four times in 13 games (17 points in the opener was their lowest total). If there is one game set up for another I-AA upset, it’s this one.
New Hampshire 42, Northwestern 37
Minnesota at No. 22 California, Saturday, September 9 – 7 p.m., TBS.
How unlucky can Minnesota be? They must face a pack of angry Bears that are pretty perturbed about the spanking they received at the hands of Tennessee. Golden Gopher fans will point to their 44-0 drubbing of Kent State as a sign that Minnesota isn’t that bad, but let’s be honest, a win over Kent State is like winning a local Madden tournament. It’s a fine accomplishment, but no one cares. Thankfully, you can switch to a more interesting Big Ten game an hour later.
No. 22 California 40, Minnesota 13
No. 1 Ohio State at No. 2 Texas, Saturday, September 9 – 8 p.m., ABC
In just one year, this game has already turned into a Florida State-Miami kind of rivalry; two great teams on the field, and both with rap sheets. The Longhorns are 4-0 in No. 1 vs. No. 2 games, while the Buckeyes are 2-0. Last season Vince Young led Texas into Columbus and won in the Horseshoe, despite the fact he told the media it was the most hostile environment he’d ever been in. But Ohio State’s Troy Smith had just 11 pass attempts and 13 rushes, combining for a paltry 105 yards and a touchdown. Imagine how much better the Buckeyes will be if he plays the entire game. And Colt McCoy is no Vince Young. Score one for the Big Ten.
Ohio State 24, Texas 21