The Big Ten kicks off conference play this week, and there are some great matchups in week one.
Some lingering questions will get answered this week.
Is Minnesota really that good, or is their 4-0 record a product of weak scheduling? Is Northwestern good or lucky? Will Penn State look as good as they have looked against a team that has the talent to fight back? Can Ohio State finally get their offense clicking?
Big Ten offensive players to watch this week—the running backs: Ohio State's Chris "Beanie" Wells, Michigan State's Javon Ringer, Iowa's Shonn Greene, Purdue's Kory Sheets, and Wisconsin's P.J. Hill.
Big Ten defensive players to watch this week—the defensive lines: Minnesota's defensive line, Michigan's defensive line, Northwestern's defensive line, Penn State's defensive line, and Illinois' defensive line.
MINNESOTA at No. 14 OHIO STATE (12:00 PM ET, Big Ten Network)
Ohio State's quarterback of the future has become the quarterback of now, as freshman Terrelle Pryor has taken over the starting position from sixth-year senior Todd Boeckman. The Buckeyes still have plenty of questions on offense, including whether Brian Robiskie is 100 percent healthy and what happened to Ray Small.
Jim Tressel announced on Tuesday that Beanie Wells is "probable" for the game, and that has fans in Columbus salivating at the thought of having Wells and Pryor together in the backfield.
Minnesota is 4-0 and one of only three teams still undefeated in the Big Ten. But the Gophers are still a big question mark. Are they really as good as their record indicates, or did Tim Brewster's team benefit from an easy schedule?
No matter, the Gophers are riding high and brimming with confidence. The trash talk has already started pouring out of Minneapolis. A defensive player was quoted as saying, "They're just regular. We're not worried. Number Two (Terrelle Pryor), he's just regular too. The only one we're worried about is 28 (Chris Wells)."
Who to Watch
For Ohio State: the much-anticipated tandem of Beanie Wells and Terrelle Pryor. These two in the backfield will keep Minnesota's defense guessing all game long.
For Minnesota: Quarterback Adam Weber has been spectacular this season, throwing for 967 yards and seven touchdowns with only one interception. If the Gophers hope to win in the Shoe, Weber will have to keep those numbers up. The Buckeyes have put special emphasis on turnovers this season and have been picking the ball off with regularity.
Prediction: Ohio State, 31-14
MICHIGAN STATE at INDIANA (12:00 PM ET, ESPN)
The Spartans have found their identity, and his name is Javon Ringer. Mark Dantonio and his team seem content to ride on the back of their stud tailback, who has rushed for an FBS-leading 699 yards and 11 touchdowns in four games.
An area that should be concerning for Michigan State is the play of quarterback Brian Hoyer. Eventually someone will stop Ringer. When they do, will Hoyer be able to put the game on his back?
Indiana looked dreadful in last week's lopsided loss to Ball State. Kellen Lewis was not the same quarterback many Hoosier fans thought they would see this season.
To add injury to insult, Indiana's talented cornerback Chris Phillips has been lost for the season with an ACL injury, free safety Nick Polk has been ruled out with a knee injury, and strong safety Austin Thomas is out with a leg injury.
Who to Watch
For Michigan State: Brian Hoyer and the MSU receiving corps. If ever there was a game to test the passing game, this is it.
For Indiana: the secondary. Freshman Chris Adkins will get the start in place of Chris Phillips, and joining him will be Richard Council at the other corner spot. Jeremy Finch and Joe Kleinsmith will be the safeties. Mark Dantonio probably won't go crazy with the passing game, but the Hoosier secondary will be needed to step up for run support.
Prediction: Michigan State, 28-10
NORTHWESTERN at IOWA (12:00 PM ET, ESPN Classic)
Northwestern is off to a 4-0 start, and Pat Fitzgerald and his team have learned to win the ugly one. The good news for Wildcat fans is that C.J. Bacher and Tyrell Sutton will both play after being injured in last week's win over Ohio. They will need both of their stars to compete against the tough Iowa defense.
Iowa, coming off a heartbreaking one-point loss to Pitt, is looking to rebound. Kirk Ferentz has had a difficult time deciding who should be his quarterback, rotating starts between junior Jake Christensen and sophomore Ricky Stanzi every week.
This week Stanzi will get the start, and if the Hawkeyes ever hope to gain some momentum on offense, Ferentz should stick with Stanzi for the entire game.
Who to Watch
For Northwestern: the defensive line. The Wildcats stuffed the Ohio running game with a tremendous game from the defensive line. Ohio had to worry about Corey Wootton, and Vince Brown came up big making big play after big play, while Malcolm Arrington was all over the place.
For Iowa: tailback Shonn Greene. Greene had a fantastic game against Pitt, rushing for 147 yards. Iowa will need to get another big performance out of him to take the pressure off a mediocre passing attack.
Prediction: Iowa, 20-16
No. 9 WISCONSIN at MICHIGAN (3:30 PM ET, ABC)
Wisconsin, coming off a bye week, will be fresh and eager to get back on the field. The Badgers have a physical, active defense that will most definitely wreak havoc on Michigan's floundering offense.
The offense looked solid in wins over Akron and Marshall but struggled when it faced a talented defense in Fresno State. The Badgers will need to get a good, solid performance out of quarterback Allan Evridge.
Michigan, also coming off a bye, will look to start fresh after an embarrassing performance at Notre Dame. The key for the Wolverines will be to stay in the game by playing good solid defense, pressuring the quarterback, and stopping super tailback P.J. Hill. If the Wolverines can play solid defense, they may have a chance.
Who to Watch
For Wisconsin: Allan Evridge. The Wolverine defense has stopped the run fairly well this season. They will most definitely put eight in the box and force Evridge to beat them. He had trouble against Fresno and the Badgers stole a win, but he can't afford to do that against the Wolverines.
For Michigan: Morgan Trent. I'm still waiting for a breakout performance from the talented corner. This may be the week it happens. Forcing a big turnover just may be the momentum the Wolverines need to get a win.
Prediction: Wisconsin, 28-23
PURDUE at NOTRE DAME (3:30 PM ET, NBC)
Purdue, following a heartbreaking loss to Oregon and a closer than expected game against Central Michigan, is looking to end the streak of bad luck they've had at Notre Dame Stadium. The Boilermaker passing game hasn't been quite as explosive as it was in years past, but the emergence of Kory Sheets has fans in West Lafayette buzzing.
Notre Dame followed their blowout win against Michigan by laying an egg against Michigan State. The Irish have struggled mightily at stopping the run and will have their hands full against Purdue. Kory Sheets is great in space, and tackling has been a problem area for Notre Dame.
Who to Watch
For Purdue: Kory Sheets. Expect a big game from the talented tailback. Joe Tiller will get the ball in Sheets' hands in many different ways, and Sheets has the ability to make Notre Dame look foolish.
For Notre Dame: Jimmy Clausen. For all the hype, it's time for Clausen to step up and put a complete game together.
Prediction: Purdue, 34-17
No. 22 ILLINOIS at No. 12 PENN STATE (8:00 PM ET, ABC)
Illinois is coming off two sluggish wins over Louisiana-Lafayette and Eastern Illinois, followed by a bye week, and Ron Zook says his team is refreshed and feel like they are starting a new season.
Illini fans are hoping that's true and that the defense will show improvement against a Penn State offense that is putting up gaudy numbers, and that the offense will show the consistency that it has lacked in the last two games.
Penn State looks like the team to beat in the Big Ten, and the team is overflowing with confidence. But is it premature? The Nittany Lions have faced four teams that have a combined record of 5-10, and two of those five wins were over FCS schools. Not the toughest of competition. The Nits have yet to be tested, and how they react to adversity remains to be seen.
Who to Watch
For Illinois: Juice Williams and Arrelious Benn. The Illini need to get big games out of their quarterback-receiver combo. Penn State will put points on the board, and Illinois will have to keep up.
For Penn State: the defensive line. There's no doubt that containing Williams will be a key for Penn State and defensive coordinator Tom Bradley. The Lions have not faced a quarterback with his scrambling skills this season. Defensive end Aaron Maybin leads the team with six sacks, while defensive end Josh Gaines and outside linebacker Navorro Bowman have three each.
Prediction: Penn State, 45-31