B1G Leaders Week 3 Preview: Night Games and Real Tests for All

If you’ve been waiting for a Saturday to do nothing but watch a ‘lil college football all day, purchase this Saturday is a good one.  Go ahead and load up that kegerator, because it’s time for some real games.

Before you settle in for the B1G match-ups, you probably want to catch #1 ranked Alabama (the Regina George of CFB) take on #7 Texas A&M at 2:30pm, the (overly) proud owners of the much-hyped, much-publicized, much-maligned 2012 Heisman winner, Johnny Manziel.  Yeah, you’ve heard of him.  The Aggies shocked the Tide last year with their only loss.  This is a revenge battle of big talent, big egos, and big bragging rights.  Someone will be going down, big time.

Then settle yourself in for some (finally!) real first tests for the Big Ten conference with the first kick-offs at 6pm Eastern and the last at 10:30pm.  (West Coast Big Ten-ers, rejoice.)  There are some excellent chances for the conference to gain respect in this season.  They’re all pretty significant match-ups this weekend, but here are the stand outs:

 

6:00pm on FOX:  #4 Ohio State at California

Why you should care:  Cal has not become the powerhouse in the PAC-12 that they were expected to be when this match-up was scheduled.  Last year they went 3-9 overall and the Bucks beat them in The Shoe, 35-28, in what started as a comfortable Buckeye win but ended as a close game.

The bad news:  QB Braxton Miller went down in the seventh offensive play for the Buckeyes against SDSU with a sprained MCL in his left knee.  He is still uncertain for this weekend.  The good news:  Back-up QB, savior of the perfect season in the 2012 game against Purdue and Columbus fan-favorite Kenny Guiton (rhymes with fightin’) seamlessly stepped in for Braxton and led the Bucks to their now 14-0 overall record with ease.

Guiton (aka Kenny G) threw for 173 yards with three passing touchdowns along with nine rushes for 83 yards and a TD on the ground.  Not many teams that are vying for a run at the National Title, are looking for a repeat undefeated season, and have a Heisman-worthy starting QB also have a back-up QB that can step in with complete command of the offense and win.  Miller is still the better athlete and quarterback (THOSE feet) but Buckeye Nation can breathe easier no matter who goes in.

Cal just managed to beat FCS school Portland State last weekend, and the Golden Bears head coach Sonny Dykes himself said they were fortunate to win, that Portand “outcoached and outplayed us.”

The return of cornerback Bradley Roby and safety CJ Barnett made a difference on defense for Ohio State last Saturday and allowed for a much more aggressive secondary.  The explosive Cal offense will test the Bucks’ young defense with their penchant for throwing the ball all over the field – a little something nicknamed “The Bear Raid.”  The Golden Bears could try to wear out the Buckeye defense with their speed of play and average number of offensive plays per game (97, the highest in the country.)  The key for the Buckeyes’ defense?  Tackling.

This is the first away game of the season for Ohio State.  Expect the Bucks to prevail and their longest-winning record to jump to 15-0.

What to watch for:  Guiton or Miller, or both?  If the offense stands out.  The Buckeyes’ ability to tackle.  Cal running back Brendan Bigelow.

 

7:00pm on ABC:  #21 Notre Dame at Purdue

Why you should care This probably isn’t going to be one of those games that brings the conference some respect.  But rivalry games are always good to watch and the “Spoilermakers” could surprise us against a nationally ranked team.  Um, they could.

Last year this rivalry game ended with Purdue losing to the 2012 National Title Game contenders by only 3 points, 20-17.  Somehow Purdue usually manages to pull out everything they’ve got against the Irish and fans are definitely looking for that this year.

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While Notre Dame is certainly not the contender they were last year, I’m not sure the Boilermakers can muster up enough magic to pull this one off.  They’ve got nothing on offense – ranked in the nation at 115th – and the Irish have a pretty good defense.  The Boilers just managed to beat Indiana State last weekend, who Indiana hung 73 points on, and were crushed by the Cincinnati Bearcats in their opener, who Illinois just destroyed, 45-17.  (That’s Illinois.)  So, so far their resume lends itself to a painful drubbing at home.  Purdue needs a fast start and an early lead.

What to watch for Anything Purdue has had hidden away at all.  ND QB Tommy Rees.  Pay attention to Notre Dame’s performance for a better idea of how good Michigan’s defeat of them last weekend was or was not.

9:30pm on ESPN/ESPN2:  #20 Wisconsin at Arizona State

Why you should care Arizona State has been considered the dark horse of the PAC-12 this year.  They’ve only played one game so far, against a lackluster Sacramento State, where they hung 55 points on them and allowed zero.

Wisconsin has dominated and played nearly perfect games in their first two, but they have not played anyone of any skill level either.  This PAC-12 match-up is the first real chance for us to see what the Badgers are truly made of under Coach Anderson, and a battle for both teams for dominance within their conference.

This is going to be a tough game – the Sun Devils play fast, have lots of speed on offense and the atmosphere in the Sun Devils stadium will be hypercharged and not too friendly.  They have a great defensive tackle in PAC-12 Defensive Player of the Year and All-American, Will Sutton and their QB Taylor Kelly likes to throw – accurately and efficiently.  They, like the Badgers, haven’t allowed a single point to be scored yet in their season.

If Wisconsin can keep up the level of play they’ve shown us so far, this game can be theirs.  Against a much tougher defense than they’ve encountered yet, you’re going to see the Badgers utilize their 2nd-ranked-in-the-nation running game – expect some James White (RB) and Melvin Gordon (RB) touchdowns.  On defense, LB Chris Borland leads the team in tackles with 14 and should be a top player here.

Notes – The game time temperature forecast in the desert?  A balmy 102 degrees.  Also, if this game comes down to a field goal, no one has much confidence in Badger kicker Kyle French.  Wisconsin really can’t let this game get close.

What to watch for Badgers QB Stave, RBs White, Gordon and also Corey Clement.  Sun Devils RB Marion Grice.  Can Wisky stop the ASU passing game and can ASU stop Wisky’s run game?

Also:

Illinois shocked everyone when they beat an acclaimed Cincinnati Bearcats team last weekend, 45-17.  The Bearcats that absolutely crushed Purdue.  Could the Illini be waaaay better than anyone thinks?  Did they move out of their Mom’s basement?  They face a big test against #19 Washington of the PAC-12 at 6pm on Big Ten Network.  Played on neutral ground in Chicago on Soldier Field, this game could be very interesting.

And Penn State welcomes a sometimes challenging University of Central Florida also at 5pm on BTN.  With the Lions’ strong defense and the best true freshman quarterback in the NCAA, I think they’ll add another W to their list.

About the author: Kristin Conrad is a college football-loving graduate of Ohio State – she bleeds Scarlet & Gray and considers the Varsity Club hallowed ground. A PR pro who just moved back to Columbus from Manhattan Beach, Chicago and NYC, she’s been happy to find that some of her favorite friends ever are from schools she used to hate and that nothing brings people together like sports does.

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