Each week, CSN's Vinnie Duber takes a look at the full Big Ten schedule with game-by-game capsules. You can check out a special preview of the week's most-intriguing Big Ten matchup — Wisconsin vs. LSU — in a separate post.
Eastern Illinois at Minnesota, 6 p.m., Thursday, Big Ten Network. Several Big Ten teams will be taking on FCS teams in those oft-lamented "cream puff" season-openers. And while those rarely come back to bite too many teams, some — like Minnesota opponent Eastern Illinois — are not necessarily worth laughing at. The Panthers are the FCS' 11th-ranked team. Even if they don't provide a threat, this opener should give us a look at how far Gophers QB Mitch Leidner has come this offseason.
Rutgers at Washington State, 9 p.m., Thursday, Fox Sports 1. This game in Seattle is one of several tricky matchups on Rutgers' non-conference slate. Things would seem to favor the Cougars, what with a home-ish crowd and one of those Mike Leach offenses that could cause problems for a Rutgers defense that struggled last year.
Jacksonville State at Michigan State, 6:30 p.m., Friday, Big Ten Network. Jacksonville State is a top-10 FCS team, but it shouldn't provide much trouble for Michigan State. Quarterback Connor Cook used last year's FCS matchup vs. Youngstown State as a breakout performance, completing 15 passes for 202 yards and four touchdowns. A similar outing vs. Jacksonville State could kickstart a Heisman campaign.
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Penn State vs. UCF, 7:30 a.m., ESPN 2. Volcanic activity or no volcanic activity, this game was going to be an intriguing one. It’s James Franklin’s head-coaching debut, and after all the offseason hype and all the recruiting success for the future, it’ll finally give Franklin to step onto the field as the man running the Penn State program and try to get a win. UCF is the defending Fiesta Bowl champion, though they've since lost offensive stars Blake Bortles and Storm Johnson.
Indiana State at Indiana, 11 a.m., ESPNEWS. The Hoosiers have won all five games they’ve played against the Sycamores, including last season’s 73-35 throttling to open the year. It was a game that perfectly illustrated what to come. Yeah, Indiana dropped 73 points on 632 yards of offense. But they also allowed five touchdowns to an FCS team.
Northern Iowa at Iowa, 11 a.m., Big Ten Network. Another matchup against a top-15 FCS squad for a Big Ten team, but the high ranking shouldn't stop Iowa from rolling right on by the Panthers. It's the start of relatively easy non-conference schedule for the Hawkeyes that could put them in prime position to make some noise in contending for a spot in the Big Ten title game and beyond.
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Appalachian State at Michigan, 11 a.m., ESPN 2. We all remember what happened the last time Michigan opened a season against Appalachian State. It was perhaps the most shocking and most memorable upset in college football history. Appy State is in the process of becoming a top-of-the-line FCS team to a low-level FBS team, and given the history here, there's no way Michigan won't be prepared.
Western Michigan at Purdue, 11 a.m., ESPN U. The Boilermakers could really use a good start to the season after a 1-11 finish a year ago. And while a MAC opponent seems like a fine way to do that in 2014, remember that Purdue lost their matchup with a MAC opponent last season, falling to Northern Illinois. But this MAC opponent also went 1-11 in 2013, and that means Purdue, unlike last year, should match its previous campaign's win total in the first week.
Ohio State at Navy, 11 a.m., CBS Sports Network. All eyes will be placed on this game, being played in the home of the Baltimore Ravens, mainly because it'll be the debut of quarterback J.T. Barrett. The redshirt freshman was thrust into a starting role following the recent season-ending injury to Braxton Miller. Ohio State coaches seem high on Barrett. Hopefully for the Buckeyes, he can prove as reliable a Miller fill-in as Kenny Guiton was last season.
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Youngstown State at Illinois, 11:05 a.m., Big Ten Network. There's no better way for Wes Lunt to make his Illini debut than against an FCS opponent, though the Penguins are also ranked in the top 25 in the FCS. And, while the Illinois defense allowed an awful lot of points and yards to FCS foe Southern Illinois last season, the offense had little trouble pouring on its own ton of points. Expect a big day from Lunt, Josh Ferguson and the rest of Bill Cubit's charges on Saturday.
James Madison at Maryland, 2:30 p.m., Big Ten Network. The Terps should also have a big day in their first game as a Big Ten team. Against this FCS opponent, C.J. Brown, Stefon Diggs and the Maryland offense should show just how electrifying they could be this season. It's pretty expected they'll do what Twitter has been telling them to do over the past few days and #BeatJMU.
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California at Northwestern, 2:30 p.m., ABC. Another Big Ten-Pac-12 showdown, this is a rematch of last year's season-opener, which was extremely entertaining and very high-scoring. Northwestern got the better of Cal out on the West Coast, and they'll have an even bigger advantage this time playing at home. And, even if they won't say it, certainly the Cats have to be looking to get some revenge for Sonny Dykes' accusation that they were faking injuries in the game last season.
Florida Atlantic at Nebraska, 2:30 p.m., Big Ten Network. An interesting matchup if only because Bo Pelini's brother ended his head-coaching tenure on less-than-ideal terms at Florida Atlantic. The Huskers have plenty of positive expectations a year after all the talk was about Pelini's job security and not being a national power. This game should provide a nice start to a redemptive season in Lincoln.