The Big Ten made it through the first week of the 2013 college football season with an impressive 10-2 record, best among all FBS conferences. Week 2 is shaping up to provide more of the same for a hopefully resurgent Big Ten, but that doesn't mean the upcoming schedule isn't without its pitfalls.
Several teams are heading into seemingly innocuous warm-up games this Saturday in preparation for big-time clashes looming in Week 3 or Week 4. As is often the fear for coaches and fans across the nation, players can get caught flat-footed in these trap games as they look past seemingly inferior opposition towards the epic showdown to come.
While every Big Ten team on this list should be a massive favorite this weekend, they'll still need to avoid falling into these traps before heading into games with national implications over the next few weeks.
September 7, Noon EDT, Big Ten Network
The 2013 Wisconsin Badgers look an awful lot like the 2012 Wisconsin Badgers—in a good way. The Badgers had 393 yards on the ground in Week 1; among BCS-AQ programs, only Oregon had more with 500.
The Badgers blanked the MAC's UMass, in only its second FBS season, 45-0. In Week 2, the Badgers will welcome to Camp Randall an FCS program looking to join the ranks of the seven programs from the former Division I-AA to score wins over FBS programs already in 2013.
If there was ever a time an FCS program might sneak one by the Badgers, this weekend might be it. Wisconsin has to be feeling pretty good with the way things turned out against Massachusetts. The Badgers ran around, through, past and over the Minutemen in a game that no one really thought would turn out much differently.
Most people probably don't give Tennessee Tech much of a shot, nor should they; the Golden Eagles were a paltry 3-8 last season. But if you dig a little deeper into TTU's record, you'll notice that with the exception of games against Oregon and Murray State, the Golden Eagles were withing striking distance in each of their remaining nine contests.
Add in a season rife with FCS-over-FBS upsets, Wisconsin's previous penchant for playing down to opponents and the Badgers gearing up for a trip to potential dark horse Pac-12 contender Arizona State, and anything can happen.
September 7, Noon EDT, Big Ten Network
Iowa's Week 1 game against Northern Illinois was one of the few truly disappointing moments for the Big Ten in this very young 2013 season. Iowa was one of just two Big Ten teams to lose in Week 1, and what's worse, Iowa lost to a team from the MAC.
Sure, it was defending MAC champion Northern Illinois, a team that earned a trip to the Orange Bowl last season, but it's still a MAC team. Thankfully, Iowa's Week 2 opponent should provide even less of a challenge: FCS Missouri State.
The Bears are not what anyone could even charitably call an FCS power. Missouri State is coming off of a 3-8 season in 2012, and is already 0-1 in 2013 after losing to fellow FCS program Northwestern State. Iowa should be an overwhelming favorite.
The trick for Iowa is going to be to focus all that pent up energy after a disappointing loss into the kind of effort that not only beats Missouri State, but sends a message as well. With rival Iowa State looming in Week 3, the Hawkeyes won't have much time to correct any glaring inadequacies exposed by Northern Illinois and Missouri State.
September 7, 6pm EDT, Big Ten Network
Nebraska won its Week 1 contest, and considering the opponent was Wyoming, the win shouldn't shock anyone. What is shocking is the fact the Nebraska gave up 34 points and 602 yards of offense to the Cowboys.
What happened to the vaunted Nebraska "blackshirt" defense?
With such a poor performance, it's easy to understand why the Cornhuskers dropped from No. 18 to No. 22 in the AP Top 25. It's also easy to understand why Southern Mississippi's trip to Lincoln could be a major pitfall for the Huskers in the run-up to a major showdown with UCLA in Week 3.
Last season, Nebraska was beaten, 36-30, in Week 2 by UCLA in Los Angeles. That game also came on the heels of a game against Southern Miss (a game Nebraska won, 49-20 in Lincoln). That was also against a Southern Miss team that finished 2012 with an 0-12 record.
While we're not putting much faith in the Golden Eagles this season, especially after an opening week loss to Texas State, Southern Miss can't be as bad this season as it was last season, can it?
Besides, no matter how little faith we have in Southern Miss, we have lost all faith in Nebraska's defense. If Taylor Martinez and his compatriots on offense have an off week, the Huskers could be in for a major fight.
Thanks to Nebraska's half-hearted effort, Wyoming enters Week 2 with a top 10 offense in the FBS—this after finishing 72nd in the FBS last season.
If Bo Pelini and his staff are smart, there wouldn't be a single mention of UCLA anywhere on campus this week in preparation for the Golden Eagles on Saturday. With a defense this bad, the mantra must be "one game at a time."
September 7, 3:30pm EDT, ABC/ESPN2
With expectations so incredibly high this season, it would be pretty spectacular for any team—even one from Columbus—to meet them. We may already be starting to see some repercussions from such lofty expectations, as the Buckeyes dropped from No. 2 to No. 3 in the AP Top 25, but maintained their No. 2 spot in the B/R Top 25.
Ohio State's 40-20 win over Buffalo in Week 1 looked a lot like how Ohio State went about winning games in 2012. That's good and bad. First, the good.
Ohio State was every bit as solid on offense as it was last season. The Buckeyes are capable of scoring a lot of points on weaker opposition, and teams that don't measure up to Ohio State's skill level don't stand much of a chance.
Now, the bad news. Ohio State hasn't shown any signs of improving over last season. How can you improve on 12-0? You can't, really, but if the rest of the Big Ten has stepped up its game only slightly this season, Ohio State could start to see some of those close wins from last season turn into close losses.
With a road trip to Cal in Week 3 (a 35-28 Ohio State victory in 2012 in Columbus), Ohio State will need to bring all of its offensive guns to bear against San Diego State—a team that can certainly score enough points to hang with the Buckeyes.
September 7, Noon EDT, ESPN2/ESPNU
Let's face it: Michigan State was completely unimpressive on offense in Week 1 against Western Michigan. The Spartans offense was so bad, in fact, that the MSU defense outscored their own offense.
Sure, MSU has fielded one of the nation's top defenses over the past few seasons. But the fall of Sparty from a Big Ten title contender to a middle-of-the-road, 7-6 team last season is all about the team's inability to score points on offense. So far, it doesn't look like 2013 will be much different from 2012 in that regard.
All that being said, South Florida will head into East Lansing with an 0-1 record after getting absolutely demolished by FCS McNeese State. Yes, demolished. As in 53-21. That tells us that USF's defense is so incredibly bad, an FCS team that was 7-4 a year ago can eclipse 50 points in 60 minutes of football.
South Florida is so bad on defense, the Bulls can make any team look like it's fielding a prolific, point-a-minute offensive attack. If an FCS team can hang 53 on the Bulls, Michigan State should certainly be able to hold serve.
That raises another concern: the Spartans should look great on offense this Saturday. That could easily lull MSU into a false sense of security about its offense. What's more, Week 3 features Youngstown State coming to East Lansing before the Spartans head to Notre Dame in Week 4.
Realistically there won't be a lot of time to truly judge the offense before the trip to South Bend. Even if the Spartans win this weekend (which they should, easily), they risk falling into a much more insidious trap: complacency.
Trust us, what ails the MSU offense can't be fixed in one week. With the anemic performance we saw last Saturday, it may take an entire recruiting class or two to fix.
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