Things to watch during Week 1 of play in the Big Ten Conference:
GAME OF THE WEEK
No. 4 Ohio State at Minnesota, Thursday
The Buckeyes begin their quest for a fifth straight Big Ten title, and they’ll do it on the road with a quarterback who has never thrown a pass in a college game. C.J. Stroud has plenty of pedigree. The redshirt freshman was a five-star prospect and rated No. 2 among pro-style QBs when he signed with the Buckeyes. Ohio State can’t sleep on the Gophers, who have one of the country’s most experienced quarterbacks in Tanner Morgan, the 2020 Big Ten rushing leader in Mohamed Ibrahim and almost everybody back on defense.
Indiana QB Michael Penix Jr. vs. Iowa secondary. Penix is 10-2 as a starter in his career and was the Big Ten passing leader when he tore the ACL in his right knee with two games left last year. He threw for 14 touchdowns in six games. The Hawkeyes return all secondary starters on a defense that ranked third in the Big Ten with 11 interceptions. Iowa has 64 picks since 2017, most in the country.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Wisconsin goes into its home game against Penn State with a takeaway in 13 straight games, the longest active streak in the Big Ten. The streak began with a win over Iowa on Nov. 9, 2019. The Badgers have recovered eight fumbles and intercepted 11 passes.
Michigan State heads into its Friday game at Northwestern as a 3.5-point underdog, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. The Spartans handed Northwestern its only regular-season loss in 2020, beating the Wildcats 29-20 on Nov. 28, and have won six of the last seven games at Ryan Field. Northwestern, the defending West Division champion, is a mystery. The Wildcats will have a first-year starting QB, and they bring back only four starters on each side of the ball.
Penn State’s Jesse Luketa is set to play both linebacker and defensive end this season. He spent most of fall camp learning how to play on the edge, but coaches say he also will get time at middle linebacker with Ellis Brooks. The Nittany Lions want to take advantage of Luketa’s unique skill set while also adding depth up front with the loss of Adisa Isaac because of injury.
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