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Big Ten Football: 5 Biggest Storylines for Week 1

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College football season is officially back, with North Dakota State and Charleston Southern kicking things off in FCS action on Saturday. However, the biggest of the big boys get things going over Labor Day weekend (and a few days earlier).

It means the return of insane tailgating set ups, brutal Group of 5 opponents looking for a paycheck and the first FBS football game in the history of legendary Lambeau Field. With the season about to start everyone seems excited (sorry, everyone but Purdue fans) about the season ahead and hopeful that goals are achieved.

With Week 1 finally upon us, let’s take a look at the biggest storylines to watch for Big Ten football.

 

Can Wisconsin Handle Its Crazy Schedule?

Few topics surrounding the 2016 Wisconsin Badgers were as talked about this offseason as much as UW’s insane schedule. It all kicks off on Saturday afternoon against the LSU Tigers at Lambeau Field. It also is clearly the most difficult non-conference game on the slate for the Badgers, and how it goes could be a sign of things to come for UW this season.

With Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Iowa and Nebraska all in a row to open Big Ten play, confidence is going to be key. Get crushed by LSU and what happens to a team with a lot of moving parts and young players filling up the two deep?

Shock most of the college football world and win? Does that signal a Badgers team that is vastly underrated in 2016?

A lot may depend on the play of newly minted starting quarterback Bart Houston, and the team’s confidence in competing against the best of the best is likely going to come from its confidence that its starting QB can get the job done when called upon in difficult situations.

There are a lot of questions that will be answered about the Badgers on Saturday, but perhaps the most important answer will be how this team looks against the top of the college football heap out of the gate.

 

Are Young Bucks Ready to Step Up?

Ohio State’s biggest question to answer this offseason has been how it replaces all those draft picks, especially the nine players who left for the NFL before their eligibility was up in Columbus.

Few believe that Urban Meyer’s team is going to fall off the face of the earth given its insane run on the recruiting trail and having one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the country still around. Yet, change abounds around J.T. Barrett and even if the hype is there for just about every player stepping on to the field on Saturday, this is still the first go-round for a lot of starters.

There is a new starter at running back who has never played a college football game (Mike Weber) and a backup who is a true freshman (Antonio Williams). OSU also has to deal with its No. 1 wide receiver, Noah Brown, coming off a broken leg last season.

Are there enough proven and capable weapons to not allow teams to just shut down Barrett and call it a day?

Even last season’s sack leader, TyQuan Lewis, has question marks surrounding him after the departure of the uber-talented and offensive line attention grabbing Joey Bosa. Can he really keep that pace up now that he is likely the focus of way more attention from opposing offensive lines?

Bowling Green may not be Michigan or Wisconsin, but they aren’t a pushover team and should this team show a lot of rust from its veterans or shaky play from the newcomers questions will start to become concerns quickly.

 

Is Northwestern’s Offense Back?

The long-standing hope of Northwestern fans was seeing its team finally put together a good defense to go with a scoring machine on offense. Said fans saw the defense come together and be one of the most dominant in the Big Ten last season…they also saw an offense that struggled mightily.

A lot of that had to do with a brand new starting QB in Clayton Thorson.

This season, the hope is that Thorson is ready to have the handcuffs taken off of him and for the offense to blossom while the defense continues to be very good. Should that happen it could be an interesting season in Evanston, Ill.

Reports from spring and fall camp show that Thorson has been much improved and the offense has been more dynamic. Let’s see it happen on the field against a team that is pretty darn good in Western Michigan.

Should the offense sputter against the Broncos, it might be time to worry that Northwestern is in store for a disappointing season ahead.

 

Can Big Ten Avoid Embarrassing Upsets?

Week 1 of the 2016 season isn’t exactly full of awesome matchups, as we struggled to find six meaningful games being played in the opening week for Big Ten teams. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some tricky games to be watching.

Kent State isn’t the pushover it has been in the past, and Penn State certainly has a lot to prove with a brand new looking offense and a brand new quarterback behind center. Western Michigan has been one of the best programs the MAC has to offer and certainly its best team on the recruiting trail. Northwestern isn’t exactly an offensive juggernaut after last season, so if the Broncos can score points it could be an interesting opener in Evanston.

Indiana has an interesting trip to Florida International in the offing, and it certainly has questions to answer on defense. Let’s just say it is a game to keep an eye on given IU’s history of playing down to its competition.

Then there is Purdue facing Eastern Kentucky, and lord knows nothing is safe when it comes to the Boilermakers football program.

Many see the Big Ten as the second-best conference in the country — going through the first week of the season without being laughed at for a major upset would be helpful to say the least.

 

The New Coaches in New Places

Illinois, Maryland and Rutgers all have new head coaches and all three turned to defensive-minded coaches to try to turn around the fortunes of their struggling programs. All three also need to make a statement in Week 1 of play.

Rutgers clearly has the toughest go of it in the opening week, with a trip to one of the Pac-12’s preseason favorites — the Washington Huskies. While a win may not be in the offing, being competitive and showing some defensive pride would be a welcome sight to the coaching staff and fans alike.

Maryland and Illinois take on FCS foes, so a win is likely in the offing. However, it will be important to see the tone that has been set on the heels of camp. Falling flat or struggling for victory would not be a good sign for a quick turnaround.

These changing programs have to show that it is positive change, and what better week to establish that strong base for future success than in Week 1, right?

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

Buckeyes Football

Maryland at Ohio State: Is Maryland Ready To Close The Gap?

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When: Sat. Oct. 7; 4:00 pm ET
Where: Columbus, OH; Ohio Stadium (104,944)
TV: Fox
All-Time Series: Ohio State leads 3-0
Last Meeting: Ohio State won 62-3 last year
Line: Ohio State (-31)

Join our Andy Coppens as we take an in-depth look at the questions to be answered, key stats to watch and of course the key players as the Maryland Terrapins travel West for a matchup with the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Some wonder just where the Terps place is in the Big Ten pecking order…we’ve got the answer…well sorta.

Don’t forget to subscribe and enjoy all our video chatter of all things Big Ten. Buckeyes fans can also support all things talkingBuckeyes by copping this amazing state stripe shirt!

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Kasim Hill’s injury spells end to promising 2017 for Terps

Maryland’s worst fears were realized on Tuesday as a second quarterback is out for the year with an ACL tear.

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One thing was made abundantly clear following Kasim Hill’s injury on Saturday afternoon against UCF. This team needs a dynamic quarterback to be a winner.

The worst of fears about the extent of Hill’s injury were realized on Tuesday, as head coach D.J. Durkin announced Hill had suffered a season-ending ACL tear. He suffered the injury after throwing just one pass for 8 yards in the first quarter of the game.

UCF was going to be Hill’s stiffest test on defense, but he never had a chance to get going as this injury happened so suddenly and so early in the game.

Durkin let us know that Hill’s character was already shining through in this tough situation while addressing the media on Tuesday.

“He’ll bounce back,” said Durkin “He’s got a bright future in football both here and beyond. I think that’s pretty clear. That guy’s a phenomenal talent and that doesn’t even compare to the type of person he is. He’s got a great attitude about it, he’s looking this thing right in the face saying let’s go get it. He’ll have surgery, rehab and be back with us when time allows.”

On Saturday, junior Max Bortenschlager stepped up in Hill’s place. Let’s just say there is a reason he was third on the depth chart heading in to the season.

Bortenschlager isn’t that dynamic quarterback Maryland needs to be successful to say the least, throwing for just 132 yards and a touchdown to two interceptions against the Knights on Saturday.

Sure, he didn’t have the luxury of a full-week of game prep, but he’s been the backup quarterback since Week 1 and should’ve been ready to go in to the game. He’s also had plenty of experience coming off the bench and being part of a quarterback rotation prior to this weekend.

The problem is, Maryland’s formula for winning this season has largely been based off of a dynamic quarterback who can keep defenses honest, run the ball and thus allow the rest of the running backs room to roam too.

Now what for the Terps offense and the 2017 season?

It is time for Walt Bell to totally re-think his offensive scheme going forward. Whether it is Bortenschlager or even Caleb Henderson taking the snaps going forward, both are better suited as pocket passers than spread read-option first quarterbacks.

It’s like the Terps have to flip their offensive 180 degrees and must do so with no time to prepare ahead of the Big Ten season.

Maryland’s saving grace here? Well, it may be in the fact that having to go through quarterbacks like it is going out of style is actually old hat for them. This weekend will mark the fourth time in six seasons that the Terps have had to start three different quarterbacks in the same season.

Is it any wonder they haven’t been successful in the past, and seem to be dead in the water for 2017 too?

We’ll see if the run game is enough to carry this team to bowl eligibility, because the Terps defense seems unable to stop anyone so far this season.

But, it is hard to see Hill’s injury as anything but completely devastating to Maryland’s chances of contending at all in 2017.

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UCF Knights at Maryland Terrapins: Preview, predictions and prognostications

Maryland and UCF played a wild one in 2016. Can we expect more of the offensive fireworks in the re-match?

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What’s better than feasting your eyes on our weekly previews here at talking10? How about feasting your eyes and ears too? That’s exactly what we’ll bring each week going forward as we flip our previews over to talking10TV every week.

Same great formula, just a new format.

Up first is our look at the UCF Knights traveling to College Park, Md. to take on the Maryland Terrapins.

When: Sat.; Sept. 23; 3pm ET
Where: College Park, Md.; Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium (51,802)
TV: FS1
All-Time Series: Maryland leads 1-0
Last Meeting: Terps 30, UCF 24 (2ot) (2016)
Line: Maryland (-4)

*Don’t forget to visit our friends at mybookie.ag to get up to a 100% cash bonus upon your first deposit using code: TALKING10

Our Philip Rossman-Reich breaks down the game for you.

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talking10 Power Poll: Surprises galore in Week 1 poll

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We’re back…after a long offseason, the staff is finally back to watching football, crunching numbers and giving you our opinions on all things Big Ten football.

It also means our weekly staff Power Poll is back as well.

This season we’ve got five staff members voting every week. That includes the following names:

Andy Coppens@AndyOnFootball

Phil Harrison@PhilHarrisonCFB

Philip Rossmann-Reich – @RiseNU

Dave Fitzgerald@BuckeyeFitzy

Zach Worthington@Worthyton

Normally the opening week of the season provides little in the way of knowledge, but that certainly wasn’t the case in 2017. Dare we say the first week of action for the Big Ten was highly entertaining?

You can say that, and we did over at the #B1GRewind Show.

But, how did all of that excitement shake out when it came time to vote? Let’s take a look at the official poll for Week 1:

Let’s just say things were a bit wackier than usual, huh?

Takeaways:

  • Only three teams lost this week, yet it was a winner, Illinois, coming up dead last and it wasn’t even close. The Illini’s unimpressive three-point win was also our winner for “Disappointment of the Week” on the #B1GRewind show…so perhaps their last place finish in the power poll this week was really warranted. It also appears that hanging tough with ranked teams meant a lot to our voters.
  • While the rest of the college football world is in love with Ohio State…our staff is much more in love with the Nittany Lions…well not “much more” but they won out with three first place votes and OSU falling outside the top two in one voters mind.
  • It appears there is going to be an interesting battle for the middle of the pack over the next few weeks. Michigan State was No. 7 in this poll, but had just a three-point lead on No. 10 Nebraska. Let’s just say the next few weeks should shake out the middle a bit more.
  • Speaking of close fights…the battle between Michigan and Wisconsin for the third spot should be an interesting one indeed. Can Wisconsin’s offense keep up the high-scoring and keep UW ahead or will Michigan’s exciting youth movement grow up fast enough to challenge for the top of the East division and thus our poll as well?
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