Around the Big Ten: week 1
Joe Skinner, Jeremy Ganes and Chris Hess discuss the landscape of the Big Ten heading into the 2018 season:
Week one of the College Football season has returned after much anticipation and waiting throughout a long and grueling offseason.
The preseason provided a small handful of games to get fans excited for the 2018-2019 season and it did provide some early entertainment. The Big Ten boasts one of the toughest divisions in college football, and the conference is expected to remain competitive heading into the new season.
Illinois will most likely have to play for Lovie Smith’s job in 2018, as he currently holds a record of 5-19 while in Champaign. A.J. Bush will be the man under center for the Fighting Illini in year three under Smith. The Illini jumped onto the youth train in 2017 and finished 2-10.
The Nebraska and Virginia Tech graduate transfer Bush will hope to rejuvenate a team that is in need of some desperate help as Smith remains on the hot seat. The Fighting Illini open their season at home on September 1 against Kent State.
Tom Allen’s Indiana Hoosiers have named their starting quarterback for the new season and it is sophomore Peyton Ramsey. Ramsey saw significant time last season due to the inconsistent play of Richard Lagow. With running back Morgan Ellison indefinitely suspended from the team, who will become the big play threat on offense?
Nick Westbrook is an elite receiver returning from an ACL injury and he could be an extremely dangerous weapon if Ramsey is given time. The Hoosiers begin their season on September 1 in Miami, Florida against Florida Internaional University.
Iowa won its first bowl game since 2010 last year and it gave an always competitive team some confidence heading into 2018. Nate Stanley returns at quarterback and the Hawkeyes will surely make life difficult for a number of teams. Akrum Wadley has departed Iowa City for the NFL and now it’s time for James Daniels to become the next workhorse. Iowa opens its season on September 1 in Iowa City against the always tough and well coached Northern Illinois Huskies.
Maryland has had quite an eventful offseason. The death of Jordan McNair, head coach DJ Durkin being placed on administrative leave and a quarterback battle. Offensive coordinator Matt Canada will serve as the interim coach and his team will invade FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland to take on Texas on September.
It’s now year four in Ann Arbor for Jim Harbaugh. Is this the year where he finally finds an established quarterback?
Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson was granted immediate eligibility by the NCAA and was named the starter for week one. Michigan’s defense will be one of the most dangerous units in the country led by Rashan Gary, Devin Bush, Chase Winovich and Lavert Hill. The Wolverines will open 2018 in South Bend, Indiana, and they will be taking on Notre Dame under the lights on September 1.
Michigan State is a traditional run-first team and that is expected to continue as long as Mark Dantonio is the head coach. Quarterback Brian Lewerke and the rest of the Michigan State team return so much from 2017 and they are going to be a serious force in the Big Ten East. Lewerke is the first true dual-threat quarterback Dantonio has ever had and his running ability provides a number of different looks when the Spartans have the ball. The Spartans open their season on August 31 against Utah State under the lights in East Lansing, Michigan.
PJ Fleck and the Minnesota Golden Gophers will have a tough task ahead of them in 2018 due to a large amount of inexperience. This squad will be extremely young and the quarterback position is a perfect example of that. Freshman and former walk-on Zack Annexstad will be under center for the Maroon and Gold. Minnesota opens their 2018 campaign on August 30 against New Mexico State at TCF Bank Stadium.
Nebraska won the offseason with their hiring of Scott Frost. The former Nebraska quarterback has come home after inheriting an 0-12 team at UCF after the 2015 season. He then led the Knights to a New Year’s Six bowl game just a few years later. Adrian Martinez is the new man under center in Lincoln and the excitement around a proud program is beginning to blossom. The Huskers won’t play for a Big Ten Championship in 2018, but there is plenty of room for optimism. Nebraska opens up the Scott Frost era under the lights in Lincoln against Akron on September 1.
With a new practice facility on Lake Michigan, back to back bowl wins and serious momentum going into 2018, Pat Fitzgerald and his Northwestern team have high expectations for the upcoming season. Clayton Thorson is returning from an ACL tear and he is one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the Big Ten. Losing Justin Jackson at running back is a serious blow, but Fitzgerald always seems to find a way to rally his troops and get the next man to step up. The Wildcats will kick off their season with a conference game, as they will be taking on Purdue under the lights in West Lafayette on August 30.
The Big Ten Conference favorite in 2018 will have to play its first three games without its head coach. Urban Meyer was suspended three games due to his role in the Zach Smith case and assistant coach Ryan Day will take his place during that time. Ohio State named Dwayne Haskins as the starting quarterback, and he will have a number of weapons to work with. JK Dobbins is back and speedy receivers such as Terry McLaurin and Parris Campbell will give Haskins some options. The defense will be just as loaded as last season as Nick Bosa will make a case that he is worthy of being the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. The Buckeyes open their season in Columbus against a rebuilding Oregon State team on September 1.
Saquon Barkley is gone, Mike Gesicki is gone and DaeSean Hamilton is gone. Trace McSorley is going to have a group of new faces surrounding him in 2018. Miles Sanders will now have to fill Barkley’s shoes and new names such as KJ Hamler, Mac Hippenhammer and a number of others will have to accompany Juwan Johnson, DeAndre Thompkins and Brandon Polk. The defense has some serious depth and rotating in fresh legs will be something the Nittany Lions will have to do often. Micah Parsons has been looked upon as a future great and a number of other freshmen are expected to see the field as well in 2018. Penn State opens its season in the friendly confines of Beaver Stadium against the incredibly scrappy Mountaineers of Appalachian State on September 1.
Year one for Jeff Brohm was looked upon as a success after surpassing expectations and winning a bowl game over Arizona to finish 7-6. Elijah Sindelar and David Blough are still battling for the starting quarterback job but both will see the field a lot in 2018. Jackson Anthrop will be a serious offensive weapon at receiver and the duo of D.J. Knox and Markell Jones in the backfield could give some teams headaches. Markus Bailey will lead the defense and his hard-hitting nature will be present throughout the 2018 season. The Boilermakers will start 2018 at home to take on the Northwestern Wildcats in the first conference game of the extremely young season.
It’s officially time for Artur Sitkowski to go under center for the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. The local New Jersey freshman prospect beat out Gio Rescigno and it will add some excitement to a program that is in desperate need of a spark. Raheem Blackshear will pair up with Boston College graduate transfer Jon Hilliman in the backfield. Blessaun Austin and Saquan Hampton will lead a senior-heavy defense in hopes of making a statement in 2018. Rutgers will kick off the 2018 season against Texas State on September 1 at HighPoint Solutions Stadium in Piscataway, New Jersey.
The Wisconsin Badgers are the clear-cut favorites in the Big Ten West in 2018 and they are even serious playoff contenders. Jonathan Taylor is only a sophomore and he is a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender with an extremely bright future. The offensive line is easily one of the most experienced and dominant units in country and they will make life easy for Taylor and company. Wisconsin will begin their quest for another Big Ten West title on August 31 as they welcome Western Kentucky to Camp Randall Stadium.
Christopher Hess is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism and minoring in history. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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