Big Ten Week One Preview
No. 22 Northwestern travels west to California looking to open the season with a road victory over a BCS school for the fourth-straight season. The ‘Cats bring with them a preseason ranking and high expectations following their first bowl victory since 1949. On the other side is a Cal team led by new coach Sonny Dykes, who hopes to install the Air-Raid offense that made him successful at Louisiana Tech.
Penn State and Syracuse open the season with a neutral site game at MetLife Stadium. Penn State has to decide between junior college transfer, Tyler Ferguson, and freshman, Christian Hackenberg, while Syracuse will be replacing record-setting QB Ryan Nassib.
The Darrell Hazell era at Purdue kicks off with a trip to Cincinnati. Purdue went 6-6 in 2012 to reach a bowl game, while the Bearcats are coming off their fifth 10-win campaign in the last six seasons. Hazell joins the Boilermakers after two seasons at Kent State where he led the Golden Flashes to a six-win improvement.
Iowa opened last season with a victory over Northern Illinois at Soldier Field. The Hawkeyes then proceeded to go 3-8 over their final 11 games, while Northern Illinois ran the table until losing to Florida State in the Orange Bowl. The Huskies must visit Iowa in Iowa City this season, but return QB Jordan Lynch who passed for 3,138 yards, while rushing for 1,815 yards a year ago. Iowa has not lost a season opener since 2000 vs. Kansas State.
Devin Gardner starts the season under center for the first time, looking to lead No. 17 Michigan to its first Big Ten title since 2004. The Wolverines begin the season with an afternoon tilt against Central Michigan, the fourth time the two in-state schools have met on the gridiron (Michigan is 3-0 in the series).
Michigan State has started the past two seasons with Friday night victories, and will look to do it again in 2013, hosting Western Michigan in a primetime affair. The Spartans return starting QB Andrew Maxwell, but the QB situation is unsettled as head coach Mark Dantonio has four quarterbacks vying for playing time.
Minnesota hosts UNLV on Thursday night to begin the season following a campaign in which they made their first bowl game since 2009. Minnesota and UNLV kicked off the 2012 season with a three-overtime thriller in Las Vegas, eventually won by the Golden Gophers.
The No. 18 Nebraska Cornhuskers open the 2013 season with a Saturday night home contest vs. the Wyoming Cowboys. Quarterback Taylor Martinez has increased his passing numbers every year, throwing for 1,631 yards in 2010, 2,089 yards in 2011 and 2,871 yards last season. Nebraska has not lost a season opener since 1985.
No. 2 Ohio State has yet to lose in the Urban Meyer era. The Buckeyes host Buffalo on Saturday afternoon to begin a season with high hopes behind QB Braxton Miller and a rushing attack that accumulated 242 yards per game in 2012. The Buckeyes are eligible to go bowling this season after a one-year postseason ban.
Tim Beckman’s first season at the helm did not go as planned, but Illinois hopes to turn things around in 2012 starting with a home matchup against Missouri Valley Football Conference foe Southern Illinois. Illini fans can find solace in the fact that Beckman’s tenure at Toledo started slow with a 5-7 mark in 2009 before his squad went 7-1 in the MAC the following season.
Indiana opens 2013 with a Thursday night matchup against in-state foe Indiana State, the second-straight year the teams have met to begin the season. Hoosiers junior QB Cameron Coffman completed 60.7% percent of his passes in 2012 for 2,734 yards and looks to play an important role in getting the Hoosiers back to a bowl game.
Wisconsin begins the Gary Andersen era with a Saturday morning tilt against UMass.