Week 2: Big Ten Previews & Predictions

Howard (0-1) at Rutgers (1-0) Sept. 6, 12:00, BTN 
Here’s The Deal: Rutgers couldn’t have started out with a more entertaining win, holding up against the high-powered Washington State offense to pull off a 41-38 thriller to give the Big Ten a big non-conference victory and the program a terrific start. With the Big Ten opener up next, Howard is a chance to rest up, tune up, and get a nice, easy second win. It’s also a chance to let the passing game breathe a bit. The Bison got blasted 41-0 by Akron to open things up, the Bison went 6-6 last season and gave Eastern Michigan a push, but they also got tagged by Old Dominion for 76 points. With a good rushing attack, Howard has the potential to run a little bit, but if last week was any indication, it’ll be a light scrimmage. 
Why Howard Might Win: Can Howard throw the ball at all? The Bison might not be Washington State, but Rutgers still has to prove it can stop a passing game after allowing 532 yards and getting bombed on all over the field. It didn’t happen last week, but really, Akron has a running attack that came up with 148 yards on the Zips. 
Why Rutgers Might Win: Howard couldn’t stop the Akron passing game – call this a chance for the Scarlet Knights to stretch their legs. Gary Nova was okay against Wazzu, completing 16-of-27 passes for 281 yards and two touchdowns with a pick, but can he improve on his accuracy a bit more? Considering the Akron QBs threw for 400 yards and five touchdowns, bombs away. 
Who To Watch Out For: Can Rutgers rest Paul James? The star running back did the heavy lifting in key moments against the Cougars, running 29 times for 173 yards and three touchdowns, but the offense is going to need him to be fresh. Desmon Peoples ran for 36 yards – this is the game to get him some more work and let James prepare for Penn State. 
What’s Going To Happen: Rutgers will call its shot. This will be over by halftime, but Howard’s passing game will be a bit better. 
Prediction: Rutgers 55 … Howard 10 
Line: No Line 
Must Watch Factor: (5: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton – 1: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton and Justin Verlander) … 1

Central Michigan (1-0) at Purdue (1-0) Sept. 6, 12:00, ESPNews 

Here’s The Deal: Purdue took care of the first part of its MAC schedule, and if it can take care of part two, it’ll double its 2013 win total before the season really gets rolling. The Boilermakers were hardly impressive in the 43-34 win over Western Michigan to open things up, but unlike last season, there was some semblance of a running game and the offense actually moved a little bit. Central Michigan didn’t have it so easy, needing to fight to get by Chattanooga 20-16 to kick things off. The offense sputtered and the passing game went nowhere, but the defense did its part when it had to. If nothing else, the Chippewas will be able to see how they stack up compared to WMU – a win would set a big tone for the MAC. 
Why Central Michigan Might Win: There was next to nothing happening downfield for the Purdue passing game. Danny Etling had a shaky game, completing just half of his 38 pass attempts for 181 yards with two touchdowns on dinks and dunks. CMU has the linebackers to hold up against the run, so if it can trust its corners to hold up, selling out to stop Raheem Mostert and Akeem Hunt will be possible. CMU did a great job against a veteran Chattanooga ground game that can produce. 
Why Purdue Might Win: The same goes for Purdue – it can send everyone up to stop the run against a CMU passing game that doesn’t have much to offer. Titus Davis is a big-time talent at receiver, but he only caught one pass for 11 yards. Chattanooga focused on keeping him in check, and it did. Purdue can key on holding down Thomas Rawls, who ran for 121 yards last week for CMU, and it’s going to force QB Cooper Rush to make plays. If the Boilermakers can get up early and make CMU start to press, the mistakes will come. 
Who To Watch Out For: Always known as a good return man, Purdue’s Mostert broke out as a runner, using his terrific speed to blaze away for 146 yards and a touchdown. Hunt, also a speedster, averaged 5.2 yards per carry rushing for 78 yards. Does Purdue finally have a 1-2 rushing punch? It’ll test a good 4-2-5 defense that has the make-up to come up with a slew of stuffs. 
What’s Going To Happen: CMU’s offense will break out a bit, but Purdue will get a better game out of Etling on the way to a hard, tough win. It’s going to take a big drive in the fourth quarter to pull it out. 
Prediction: Purdue 27 … Central Michigan 23 
Line: Purdue -3 o/u: 54 
Must Watch Factor: (5: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton – 1: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton and Justin Verlander) … 2

Akron (1-0) at Penn State (1-0) Sept. 6, 12:00, ESPN2 

Here’s The Deal: Each team looked terrific, but in totally different ways. Penn State rallied back to beat the defending American Athletic and Fiesta Bowl champ, UCF, in a terrific game to kick off the first college football Saturday, while Akron throttled Howard 41-0 in a tune-up game to get ready for the date in Happy Valley and the home game against Marshall. Are the Zips ready to be this year’s surprise team in the MAC? A win over the Nittany Lions would do wonders for the program a year after coming so close to beating Michigan, while Penn State is looking to get out alive before kicking off the Big Ten season at Rutgers. The two schools are only 200 miles apart, but this is only the fifth time they’ve ever faced each other. 
Why Akron Might Win: How do you possibly slow down the red-hot Nittany Lion passing game? Get into the backfield. The Penn State ground attack struggled against UCF, and it could have a wee bit of a problem against a good Akron defensive front. Jatavis Brown and Justin March bring a serious 1-2 linebacking punch, while Nordly Capi is coming off a great first game and needs to pressure Christian Hackenberg. 
Why Penn State Might Win: Akron’s big concern coming into the season? The secondary. If the Akron defensive front isn’t getting into the backfield, it’s going to be a long day against a passing attack that exploded for 454 yards with Hackenberg doing a great job of keeping things moving. Defensively, Penn State was amazing against the Knight ground game and should shut down the Zip attack cold. 
Who To Watch Out For: How was Penn State going to move on without Allen Robinson? WR Geno Lewis needed to step up his game, and he came up large with eight catches for 173 yards and a touchdown, while DawSean Hamilton ripped up UCF for 165 yards on 11 catches. Hackenberg makes everyone better, but along with the top-shelf tight ends, the Nittany Lion passing game is rolling. 
What’s Going To Happen: Akron is better. It’s not quite strong enough overall to pull off the upset, but it’ll hang around with the jet-lagged Nittany Lions just enough to make this interesting. 
Prediction: Penn State 31 … Akron 20 
Line: Penn State -14.5 o/u: 51.5 
Must Watch Factor: (5: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton – 1: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton and Justin Verlander) … 2.5 

Western Kentucky (1-0) at Illinois (1-0) Sept. 6, 12:00, BTN 

Here’s The Deal: The potential is there for this to be really, really fun. WKU is coming off a stunning destruction of defending MAC champion Bowling Green, with Brandon Doughty throwing for 569 yards and six touchdowns, while Illinois has Wes Lunt and a potentially high-powered passing game that didn’t exactly release the hounds last week against Youngstown State. The Illini struggled to get by the FCSer 28-17, and with a trip to Washington up next, they can’t afford to give away a home game. Meanwhile, it’s real deal time for the Hilltoppers. If new head coach Jeff Brohm can get by Illinois, all of a sudden, Conference USA might not be Marshall’s for the taking. 
Why WKU Might Win: Western Kentucky is all of a sudden really good at throwing the football, and Illinois is just okay at keeping teams from throwing the ball well. YSU only came up with 177 yards through the air and was painfully ineffective at times, but the Illinois secondary wasn’t tested deep – the Penguins were having too much fun rolling on the ground. Illinois had the ball for a miniscule 19:59 as it needed to rally late after a sluggish start. The Hilltoppers came out roaring and didn’t stop, hanging on to the ball for close to 36 minutes. 
Why Illinois Might Win: Mr. Lunt, get cracking. The former Oklahoma State passer came through when he had to against YSU, but he didn’t really open it up. This week, he’ll get his chances against a suspect WKU secondary that gave up 313 yards to Bowling Green’s Matt Johnson. The key will be third down defense against a Hilltopper team that kept moving the ball and moving it and moving it more. Illinois did an okay job last week of coming up with the stop, and if there’s a wee bit of pressure coming up front, the WKU juggernaut will slow down.
Who To Watch Out For: The quarterbacks will be in the spotlight, but the receivers will do their part. Illinois had to come up with new targets, and Lunt used nine of them as he spread the ball around to keep Youngstown State guessing. Doughty simply fired away to Taywan Taylor, who made 12 catches for 185 yards and a score, and found Jared Dangerfield ten times for 92 yards and two scores. 
What’s Going To Happen: The stats should be impressive in wild and fun shootout that should see about 1,000 yards of total offense and lots and lots of big pass plays. Illinois will step up its play a little bit after last week, but it won’t do enough to slow down the WKU attack that’ll blow up again. 
Prediction: WKU 45 … Illinois 42 
Line: Illinois -6.5 o/u: 64 
Must Watch Factor: (5: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton – 1: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton and Justin Verlander) … 3.5 

Ball State (1-0) at Iowa (1-0) Sept. 6, 3:30, ESPN2 

Here’s The Deal: Iowa looked okay, but not great as it had to fight to hang on to beat Northern Iowa. It’s understandable for an always emotionally-charged game whenever the in-state teams battle, but still, for a Hawkeye team with the talent and upside to make a sneaky-interesting run at big things in the Big Ten West, it wasn’t the performance many were expecting. Ball State didn’t have any problems with Colgate in a 30-10 win, but for a team built on passing game firepower last season, there wasn’t much in the opener. This is it for the games against the Power 5 teams, and if the Cardinals can win this, then they’re probably going to be favored the rest of the way. 
Why Ball State Might Win: Sawyer Kollmorgen. The Northern Iowa quarterback is a crafty veteran who knows how to move an offense, and he threw a scare into the Hawkeyes with 380 yards despite hitting on just 17-of-37 passes. The Panthers bombed away with five pass plays of 20 or more yards, and while Ball State didn’t open it up against Colgate, the offense has the potential to push it around a bit. When Ozzie Mann did throw, he was effective completing 20-of-32 passes for 203 yards and two scores. However … 
Why Iowa Might Win: This is a different Ball State team than the one that chucked the ball all over the yard with Keith Wenning last season. The running game is going to be featured a bit more, and it showed with Horactio Banks and Jahwan Edwards each hitting the 100-yard mark. That’s not going to happen for an Iowa defensive front that appears to have reloaded at linebacker and ramped things up on the D line, holding UNI to 25 yards on 25 carries because … 
Who To Watch Out For: Louis Trinca-Pasat was serious. Carl Davis is Iowa’s best defensive tackle, but Trinca-Pasat was a one-man wrecking crew making a team-leading ten tackles with 1.5 sacks and three tackles for loss. Ball State will have to account for him with at least two blockers, freeing up the rest of the strong Hawkeye line. 
What’s Going To Happen: It’s going to be a game of big plays, but the Iowa rushing attack will grind out enough yards to get by. Ball State’s passing attack will be good, but not good enough to overcome another great day from the Iowa run D. 
Prediction: Iowa 34 … Ball State 24 
Line: Iowa -17.5 o/u: 53.5 
Must Watch Factor: (5: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton – 1: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton and Justin Verlander) … 2.5 

Middle Tennessee (1-0) at Minnesota (1-0) Sept. 6, 3:30, Big Ten Network 

Here’s The Deal: Middle Tennessee and Minnesota won their openers going away versus overmatched FCS teams. Now they’ll use one another to get a better read on how much work needs to be done before the start of league play. The Gophers weren’t overly impressive on Thursday, getting outgained by Eastern Illinois. The Blue Raiders rolled through Savannah State, 61-7, in a far less demanding matchup. 
Why Middle Tennessee Might Win: There are a lot of playmakers in Murfreesboro, which is a worry for the Gopher staff. The Blue Raiders can get into space with a wave of different skill position players, led by RB Jordan Parker and WR Marcus Henry. Plus, Minnesota can be flexed on defense, even more so now that the D-line has been depleted by Week 1 injuries. 
Why Minnesota Might Win: Yeah, the Blue Raiders are opportunistic defensively, but they’ll be worn down by a Big Ten offensive line. Zac Epping & Co. will pound the Middle Tennessee front, springing feature back David Cobb and agile QB Mitch Leidner. If the Blue Raiders sell out to stop the run, Leidner will play-action his way to seam-busting connections to TE Maxx Williams and WR Donovahn Jones. 
Who To Watch Out For: The Gophers can survive early-season games without much contribution from the passing game. But what happens when the schedule gets prickly, like next week’s trip to Fort Worth? Coordinator Matt Limegrover likes to ground-and-pound, but at some point defenses will stack the box to stop Cobb. 
What’s Going To Happen: While Middle Tennessee has been steady under Rick Stockstill, it’s generally flopped in the face of quality Power Five teams. Such will be the case on Saturday, with the Minnesota running game controlling the clock and ultimately the scoreboard. 
Prediction: Minnesota 38 … Middle Tennessee 21 
Line: Minnesota -16; o/u: 51.5 
Must Watch Factor: (5: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton … 1: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton and Justin Verlander) – 2.5 

Northern Illinois (1-0) at Northwestern (0-1) Sept. 6, 3:30, BTN 

Here’s The Deal: Northwestern found just about every way to lose last year, but against Cal, it found a whole new level. The Wildcats forgot the season started and were down 17 in the first half and 31-7 in the second before the offense woke up and scored 17 unanswered points. It wasn’t enough, and now it’s make-or-break time for a season that could all but be over before it gets going. Meanwhile, it was business as usual for Northern Illinois as it steamrolled past Presbyterian 55-3 in a perfect warm-up act. With road games at UNLV and Arkansas ahead, it could be a rough stretch, but the Huskies can make a bit of a statement for a conference that desperately needs to come up with something splashy. 
Why Northern Illinois Might Win: Cal came out fast, efficient and effective, taking advantage of Northwestern mistakes and mixing things up just enough offensively to keep the chains moving. Defensively, the Bears were able to keep Northwestern from doing anything deep, holding Trevor Siemian and the passing game to just 5.5 yards per pass. NIU has to keep everything underneath. 
Why Northwestern Might Win: No way, no how Northwestern comes out flat at home for a second game in a row. The defensive back seven is far better than it looked against the Bears, and it should be able to load up and slow down an NIU running game that was great without Jordan Lynch against Presbyterian, but will need to prove the downfield passing game can be consistent. Cal only averaged 2.5 yards per carry against the Cats. 
Who To Watch Out For: No one’s asking for Matt McIntosh to be another Lynch, but he was effective and keeping the NIU offense moving last week hitting on 10-of-14 passes for 87 yards and a score. He led Joel Bouagnon and Akeem Daniels to do the work with the two combining for 215 rushing yards with Bouagnon scoring four times. If the Huskies are going to pull this off, there has to be a balance, but the running game has to control the game and the clock. It’s going to take several players to do that. 
What’s Going To Happen: Northwestern will win, but no one will be doing cartwheels over its performance. The offense is going to be sluggish, but it’ll do enough to pull away in the fourth. 
Prediction: Northwestern 31 … Northern Illinois 17 
Line: Northwestern -6.5 o/u: 57.5 

McNeese State (0-0) at Nebraska (0-0) Sept. 6, 12:00, ESPNU 

Here’s The Deal: It’s still an FCS team playing at Nebraska, but McNeese State isn’t just any ordinary team. Considered one of the best teams in the FCS and a legitimate threat for the national championship, 16 starters are back for a team with excellent talent and plenty offensive firepower. But Nebraska is coming off a 55-7 pasting of Florida Atlantic and has a trip to Fresno State up next. This might not be a light scrimmage, but it should be another good show for a Husker team that came out roaring. 
Why McNeese State Might Win: What will Nebraska’s mindset be? Last week was personal, with head coach Bo Pelini making a point against a Florida Atlantic program that canned his brother, Carl. This is supposed to be a relaxing game to work out the kinks, but McNeese State is coming in fresh and has a terrific defensive front that should be the best in the Southland by far. Nebraska is going to have to try. 
Why Nebraska Might Win: The Husker offensive line was destructive last week. As good as the McNeese State defensive line is and will be, it’s going to be in for a long day against a Nebraska running game that cranked out close to 500 yards against FAU and could’ve gone for far more had it kept pushing in the fourth. The Huskers averaged 8.7 yards per carry with explosion and pop on almost every play. McNeese State won’t see anything like this against Incarnate Word and Prairie View. 
Who To Watch Out For: This is the week you rest your stars as much as possible, and for Nebraska DE Randy Gregory, he needs to get healthy after suffering a knee injury last week. The offense should take care of any defensive concerns with the hope to give Ameer Abdullah a short day after running for 232 yards and a score on 21 carries. This is when the backups need to shine – Terrell Newby and Imani Cross need to give the star a break. 
What’s Going To Happen: McNeese State will keep it interesting for a quarter, and then the Nebraska offense will explode in the second to make it an easy day. 
Prediction: Nebraska 45 … McNeese State 13 
Line: No Line 
Must Watch Factor: (5: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton – 1: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton and Justin Verlander) … 1.5 

Western Illinois (1-0) at Wisconsin (0-1) Sept. 6, 12:00, BTN 

Here’s The Deal: How quickly can Wisconsin rebound after imploding in a disastrous final 20 minutes against LSU. The Badgers had a shot to do something special with a 24-7 lead midway through the third quarter, but the defense couldn’t come up with a stop, the offense couldn’t complete a pass, and the Tigers scored 21 unanswered points. Making things even worse, UW was hammered by injuries to go along with the self-doubt. Meanwhile, Western Illinois came out roaring with a 45-6 win over Valparaiso. There’s a date at Northwestern coming up in two weeks, but if the Leathernecks can take advantage of a wounded Bucky, their expectations would quickly change. 
Why Western Illinois Might Win: The Leathernecks can hit. J.J. Raffelson is a terrific tackling linebacker who knows what he’s doing and will hold up well against the Badger ground game, while defensive backs Jonathon Rollins and David McDaniel are strong enough to keep good running plays from being devastating. Overall, this is a smart team that won’t make a slew of mistakes and it won’t beat itself defensively, while the offense is coming off an explosive day against Valpo cranking up close to 600 yards with a great passing game. 
Why Wisconsin Might Win: This is a good WIU team with FCS top 25 potential, but outside of J.C. Baker, the running game is merely average and the run defense got gouged a bit too often. Can the experience turn into production? Eight starters are back on the Leatherneck defense, but it’s going to take a special effort to hold up against the Badger offensive line. After dealing with LSU’s front seven, pounding away on WIU shouldn’t be a problem. 
Who To Watch Out For: How much work will Melvin Gordon get? Hurt against LSU with a hip problem, he’s saying he’s going to be okay, but is it worth the risk so early in the season? The running game will work no matter who’s handling the ball, but the Badgers have to use this game to find a passing attack. Tanner McEvoy completed just 8-of-24 passes for 50 yards and two picks, but he didn’t get any help from the receivers. Against WIU, the offense has to look the part and a receiver has to emerge.
What’s Going To Happen: Wisconsin will come back roaring – after the first quarter. WIU has the experience and the skill to make this a fight and throw a scare into a team desperate now for something positive, but the Badger O line will take over. 
Prediction: Wisconsin 45 … Western Illinois 17 
Line: No Line o/u: No Line 
Must Watch Factor: (5: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton – 1: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton and Justin Verlander) … 1.5 

Maryland (1-0) at South Florida (1-0) Sept. 6, 3:30, CBS Sports Network 

Here’s The Deal: Maryland began life as the Big Ten’s new kid on the block by annihilating James Madison, 52-7. It was a crisp all-around effort for the Terrapins, who possess the some of the base ingredients needed to surprise in their first year in a new league. South Florida flirted with disaster in Week 1, and almost got burned by an FCS team for a second straight year. Sure, a win’s a win, but needing to rally to beat Western Carolina means the Bulls may not be much better than last year’s two-win squad. 
Why Maryland Might Win: Western Carolina had success through the air on South Florida, converting twice as many first downs as the Bulls. That USF D will have problems with Maryland’s myriad offensive weapons. C.J. Brown is a cagey dual-threat quarterback, the ground game has momentum and Stefon Diggs and Deon Long are prolific pass-catchers. This is a tall order for a revamped Bull defense. 
Why South Florida Might Win: Willie Taggart’s system requires a capable feature back. The coach may have found his man in true freshman Marlon Mack, who ran wild in his debut. His 275 yards and four touchdowns could signal a new day for the necrotic South Florida offense. A legit running threat will create more downfield chances for receivers Andre Davis and Chris Dunkley. 
Who To Watch Out For: The Maryland staff was ecstatic by its team’s blocking, a bugaboo in recent years. But can the Terps’ play in the trenches become a trend? The no-name unit will be facing a seasoned South Florida front seven that brought a lot of pressure from the second level in the opener. 
What’s Going To Happen: The Terps played well on the road for Randy Edsall in 2013, a trend that’ll continue this fall. While Mack gives the Bulls hope for the future, South Florida can’t match Maryland’s overall options or experience behind center. The Terps will get to 2-0 without ever trailing in this one. 
Prediction: Maryland 34 … South Florida 20 
Line: Maryland -12.5 o/u: 50 
Must Watch Factor: (5: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton – 1: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton and Justin Verlander) … 2