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Big Ten: Week 2 Preview

Devin Gardner will look to lead Michigan past Notre Dame on Saturday night.

Devin Gardner will look to lead Michigan past Notre Dame on Saturday night.

The Big Ten took care of business in Week 1, for the most part.

Of the conference’s 12 representatives, 10 picked up the win in their season opener, including all five teams ranked in the AP’s preseason Top 25.

Big_Ten_Standings_wk01No. 18 Nebraska was forced to hold on for a 37-34 victory over Wyoming, narrowly avoiding what would have been an embarrassing loss, while No. 17 Michigan (50pts), No. 23 Wisconsin (45), No. 2 Ohio State (20) and No. 22 Northwestern (14) all won by double digits.

Only Purdue and Iowa  found themselves on the wrong end of the scoreboard. Purdue was outmatched and outclassed by the Cincinnati Bearcats at Nippert Stadium, while the Hawkeyes succumbed to a last minute field goal that saw last year’s BCS-busting Northern Illinois leave Iowa City with a 30-27 win.

As Week 2 rolls in, the conference’s winners will look to stay the course, while Purdue and Iowa will look to bounce back from a disappointing start to the season.

No. 14 Notre Dame at No. 17 Michigan

Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI, 8:00 p.m. ET

Tommy Rees starts for the Irish.

Tommy Rees starts for the Irish.

This week’s College Football schedule features a pair of showdowns between ranked sides. The No. 6 South Carolina Gamecocks (1-0, 0-0 SEC) will meet the No. 11 Georgia Bulldogs (0-1, 0-0 SEC) at Sanford Stadium earlier in the day for what already appears to be a vital game in the SEC, before the No. 17 Michigan Wolverines (1-0, 0-0 Big Ten) host the No. 14 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (1-0) in a nationally televised prime-time fixture.

There’s a touch of the bittersweet about Saturday’s showdown between the two schools though. This will be the last time, for the foreseeable future, that the Irish make the trip to the Big House, after Notre Dame opted to wind-down its rivalry with the Wolverines as it looks to meet future ACC commitments. The two schools will meet at South Bend in 2014 before the rivalry ceases. Hopefully we’ll be looking at a hiatus rather than an end.

Of course, Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly made headlines this week claiming that the Michigan-Notre Dame game was more a “big regional game” than a rivalry. Cue more than a few puzzled looks. Kelly has subsequently changed lanes, declaring it to be a “great and historic rivalry.”

Michigan leads the all-time head-to-head 18-15-1, including an 11-6 record at Michigan Stadium. However, the Irish emerged victorious from this fixture last season, taking the game 13-6 and snapping Michigan’s three-game winning streak in the series. The Wolverines have won three straight and six of  the last seven against the Irish at the Big House.

Michigan opened as the narrow favorite playing at home. The spread opened at 3 but has subsequently risen as high as 4½ with some bookmakers. The over/under opened at 50 and has remained constant. Based on last year’s encounter, the under looks like the sensible choice here.

Cincinnati at Illinois

Memorial Stadium, Champaign, IL, 12:00 p.m. ET

Nathan Scheelhasse had a big game last week.

Nathan Scheelhasse had a big game last week.

The Illinois Fighting Illini (1-0, 0-0 Big Ten) is unlikely to make too many appearances as a featured team on this page over the course of the season. After a dismal 2-10 season last year, the very fact that the school is featured in this Week 2 clash is probably a surprise, but when it comes down to it, this could be one of the more competitive games involving Big Ten teams this weekend.

In Week 1, the Illini earned a 42-34 win over Southern Illinois (0-1, 0-0 MVC). At a glance, that score looks somewhat of an embarrassment, but Illinois actually held a 42-24 advantage before squandering the lead late in the game. Still, those backing the Illini to cover the spread were sorely disappointed. Quarterback Nathan Scheelhasse was named the Big Ten’s offensive player of the week after throwing for 416 yards and two touchdowns.

Cincinnati (1-0, 0-0 American) meanwhile picked up an easy 42-7 win over Purdue, shutting the Boilermakers out for the last 48:26 of the game. With Tommy Tuberville in his first year as head coach, the Bearcats are expected to finish second in the rebranded American Athletic Conference behind the Louisville Cardinals. The Bearcats will be looking to take another win over the Big Ten this week to send a message to the Cardinals.

Rumors had been circulating this week that running back Dami Ayoola was on his way out of Champaign. The sophomore did not feature in last Saturday’s 42-34 win over Southern Illinois. On Tuesday it was confirmed that he had been kicked off the team for a violation of team rules, although the specific violation was not disclosed. That’s the sort of distraction Illinois could do without, particularly as the school has started the season 2-0 just twice in the last seven years.

Cincinnati got the better of Illinois in the only other meeting between the schools, a 49-36 win on November 27, 2009.

Illinois opened as the underdog with the spread standing at 10½ but movement on the line has seen that number shrink to 7½ as the game has got closer. The over/under opened at 58 but has dropped as low as 54½ at time of publication.

Coincidentally, Illinois is the only Big Ten team to open as an underdog this week.

Around the Conference

Jordan Hall and Ohio State look to roll on.

Jordan Hall and Ohio State look to roll on.

Fresh from dropping one place in the AP poll, No. 3 Ohio State (1-0, 0-0 Big Ten) will look to have a big week and prove the voters wrong. The Buckeyes welcome San Diego State (0-1, 0-0 MWC), a team that fell to FCS opposition in Week 1. The Aztecs have failed to beat the Buckeyes in three meetings between the schools, just one of the reasons Ohio State opened as a 24-point favorite. The spread has increased to 28½ over the past few days.

Penn State (1-0, 0-0 Big Ten) will look to build on last week’s big 23-17 win over Syracuse (0-1, 0-0 AAC) at MetLife Stadium. With Eastern Michigan (1-0, 0-0 MAC) arriving at State College, the Nittany Lions’ chances look good. But avoiding potential banana skins is part of what makes Saturday such a fun day. PSU opened as a 24-point favorite.

Nebraska (1-0, 0-0 Big Ten) will hope for an easier time of it this weekend when Southern Mississippi (0-1, 0-0), arrives in Lincoln, Neb. The Cornhuskers are 3-1 all-time against the Golden Eagles, and picked up a 49-20 win in this fixture last year. Nebraska opened as a 29-point favorite but the spread has dropped to 27½ since.

Northwestern (1-0, 0-0 Big Ten) will look to hand Syracuse (0-1, 0-0 ACC) another Big Ten loss on Saturday as the Wildcats welcome the Orange to Evanston, Ill. The Wildcats pulled off a 42-41 win in this fixture last year, tying the all-time head-to-head 5-5 in the process. Northwestern opened as a 12-point favorite, but action has seen the line increase to 16½.

Michigan State (1-0, 0-0 Big Ten) will look to hand South Florida (0-1, 0-0 American) a second straight loss on the season, and move to 2-0 in the process. This first meeting between the schools sees the Spartans open as a 17½-point favorite, although the spread stands at 23½ as we close in on game time.

After trouncing UNLV 51-23 last Thursday, Minnesota (1-0, 0-0 Big Ten) will look to pour some more misery on New Mexico State (0-1) on Saturday. The Aggies found themselves on the wrong end of a 56-7 final against Texas in Week 1. That’s not exactly how the school envisioned life as an independent would start. The Golden Gophers opened as a 17½-point favorite but the spread now stands at 14½.

Indiana (1-0, 0-0 Big Ten) will host Navy (0-0) in the latter’s opening game of the season. The Hoosiers own a 2-1 record over the Midshipmen, but lost 31-30 in last season’s matchup between the two. That game was played in Annapolis, Md., though; the Hoosiers have won both games played in Bloomington, Ind., and subsequently opened as a 7½-point favorite. The spread has subsequently risen to 13.

The remainder of the conference will be up against FCS competition this week. Having been toppled by Northern Illinois last weekend, Iowa (0-1, 0-0 Big Ten) will look to avoid another slip up when the school hosts Missouri State (0-1, 0-0 MVC) of the Missouri Valley Conference. Purdue (0-1, 0-0 Big Ten) will also look to avoid going 0-2 when Indiana State (0-1, 0-0 MVC) arrives at Ross-Ade Stadium. Finally, having posted a shutout last weekend, No. 21 Wisconsin (1-0, 0-0 Big Ten) will look to make short work of the Ohio Valley Conference’s Tennessee Tech (1-0, 0-0 OVC).

* * * * *


Week 2

Saturday (All times ET)

12:00 South Florida (0-1, 0-0 American) at Michigan State (1-0, 0-0 Big Ten) (matchup)

12:00 Eastern Michigan (1-0, 0-0 MAC) at Penn State (1-0, 0-0 Big Ten) (matchup)

12:00 Cincinnati (1-0, 0-0 American) at Illinois (1-0, 0-0 Big Ten) (matchup)

12:00 Missouri State (0-1, 0-0 MVC) at Iowa (0-1, 0-0 Big Ten) (matchup)

12:00 Indiana State (0-1, 0-0 MVC) at Purdue (0-1, 0-0 Big Ten) (matchup)

12:00 Tennessee Tech (1-0, 0-0 OVC) at No. 21 Wisconsin (1-0, 0-0 Big Ten) (matchup)

3:30 San Diego State (0-1, 0-0 MWC) at No. 3 Ohio State (1-0, 0-0 Big Ten) (matchup)

6:00 Navy (0-0) at Indiana (1-0, 0-0 Big Ten) (matchup)

6:00 Southern Miss (0-1, 0-0 C-USA) at No. 22 Nebraska (1-0, 0-0 Big Ten) (matchup)

6:00 Syracuse (0-1, 0-0 ACC) at No. 19 Northwestern (1-0, 0-0 Big Ten) (matchup)

8:00 Minnesota (1-0, 0-0 Big Ten) at New Mexico State (0-1) (matchup)

8:00 No. 17 Notre Dame (1-0) at No. 17 Michigan (1-0, 0-0 Big Ten) (matchup)

For a comprehensive list of College Football odds, click here.

Up-to-date College Football Futures, courtesy of Bovada, can be found here.

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