Around the Big Ten: Week 1
Iowa vs. Tennessee Tech
Iowa gets the new season started against Tennessee Tech. Gone from last season are a number of star players including quarterback Ricky Stanzi and defensive end Adrian Clayborn. As a team, Iowa underachieved last season given their expectations and talent returning from the Orange Bowl winning team of 2009. The Hawkeyes are counting on a number of new faces to help them contend for the Legends Division title. The spotlight is focused on new starting quarterback James Vandenberg. Vandenberg saw little time last year, but made a name for himself with a gutsy performance in Columbus in 2009.
Michigan vs. Western Michigan
The Michigan Wolverines have a date with Western Michigan to get the 2011 season started. They are coming off a roller coaster 2010 season that started with the emergence of star quarterback Denard Robinson and ended with the firing of unpopular head coach Rich Rodriguez. New coach Brady Hoke has brought new energy to the team leading to optimism in Ann Arbor. Defense and special teams were the Achilles heels of Michigan last season and will be the main things for the Wolverines to focus on in the early part of 2011.
No. 17 Michigan State vs. Youngstown State
For the first time since 1990 Michigan State brought a piece of the Big Ten Title back to East Lansing with them. They will be hosting Youngstown State and will look to get the bad taste out of their mouth following the 49-7 beating handed to them by Alabama in the Capital One Bowl. Quarterback Kirk Cousins returns along with a fantastic running game. The defense has to replace Greg Jones and Eric Gordon at the linebacker position. Winning the Legends Division isn’t out of the question as long as they aren’t sunk by the first four games of their conference slate.
Minnesota at No. 25 Southern California
Minnesota looks for a fresh start this season after a year of upheaval in 2010. Jerry Kill is the new man leading the Gophers on the sideline. Kill was very successful coaching Northern Illinois and will look to translate that success to Minnesota. In what looks like the toughest opening game for any Big Ten Team, Minnesota will travel out to Los Angeles to take on USC. Dual-threat quarterback MarQueis Gray will be at the controls for the Gopher offense this season. He can make plays with his legs, but still needs to prove his throwing ability.
No. 10 Nebraska vs. Chattanooga
The new kids on the block that everyone seems to be talking about are the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Big Red will begin their first year as a Big Ten school against Chattanooga. Defensively Nebraska might be the best in the country, but their offense is suspect. At times it has been explosive; however, it disappeared one too many times last season. Quarterback Taylor Martinez was not the same player late in the year following an ankle injury. His health is vital for Nebraska to be legitimate Rose Bowl contenders their first year in the new conference. The non-conference schedule is relatively light, but things will really heat up in Lincoln starting with the Big Ten opener October 1st.
Northwestern at Boston College
Looking to continue their string of winning seasons under head coach Pat Fitzgerald will be the Northwestern Wildcats. Fitzgerald will lead his team up to New England to take on Boston College in week one. All eyes are on star quarterback Dan Persa and the health of the Achilles he ruptured late last season. Northwestern was not the same team following his loss and whether or not he is the same player this season will largely decide the fate of the Wildcats.
Illinois vs. Arkansas State
Ron Zook is the coach with the hottest seat in the Big Ten and his Fighting Illini will need a strong season to secure their coach’s job. The first test of the season for Illinois will be Arkansas State. Three starters left early to play in the NFL, which dealt the Illini a significant blow, but optimism remains thanks to dual-threat quarterback Nathan Scheelhasse. Anything less than 8-4 will probably have Illinois looking for a new coach.
Indiana at Ball State
It’s tough to get football going at an all-time basketball school, but if there is a man for the job it’s new Indiana coach Kevin Wilson. More often than not the Hoosiers have been a punching bag for other teams to take advantage of. Wilson will look to get his career off on the right foot with an in-state showdown against Ball State. Receiver Demarlo Belcher is the most explosive player Indiana has on offense. The only question: who is going to throw to him?
Akron at No. 18 Ohio State
The fans of Ohio State have been looking forward to football season more than any other team in the conference thanks to a tumultuous offseason that cost them their quarterback Terrelle Pryor and their coach Jim Tressel. New coach Luke Fickell will try and continue what had been an immensely successful run by leading the Buckeyes to another BCS Bowl. That is provided that coming NCAA sanctions do not prohibit them from post-season play. Despite not being named week one starter, look for true freshman Braxton Miller to break in similar to the way Pryor did in 2008.
Purdue vs. Middle Tennessee
Losing a starting quarterback at any point in the season is hard, but right at the start of the year is the last thing any coach wants. However, Purdue coach Danny Hope will need a new man under center because quarterback Rob Henry is gone with a torn ACL. Also lost due to graduation is Ryan Kerrigan. The star defensive end is now playing on Sundays and will need to be replaced. New guys shouldering the load will be running back Ralph Bolden on offense and defensive tack Kawann Short on defense.
No. 11 Wisconsin vs. UNLV
Wisconsin was the Big Ten’s Rose Bowl representative last season and might be primed for a similar season in 2011. Despite losing some key players from last year’s squad, there has been a significant amount of buzz coming from Madison thanks to transfer quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson is now a Badger after starting for three years at NC State. The big issue will be how quickly he can get comfortable with a new offensive system.
Dan Cronin is a sophomore majoring in Broadcast Journalism. He can be reached at email@example.com.
About the Contributors
Senior / Broadcast Journalism
I am a senior at Penn State majoring in broadcast journalism. I currently serve as the production director at ComRadio. In addition to that I host a weekly talk show and do play-by-play for a variety of sports including football, basketball, baseball, and hockey.