Some things to watch in the Big Ten this week:
GAME OF THE WEEK
Michigan vs. Florida, Saturday, in Arlington, Texas. There’s been no shortage of gamesmanship in advance of this intersectional game. Jim Harbaugh, coach of the No. 11 Wolverines, has been slow to publicize his roster, and neither he nor Florida coach Jim McElwain has announced his starting quarterback. This will be the teams’ first regular-season meeting. Michigan has won all three bowl matchups, most recently the 41-7 beat-down of McElwain’s first Gators team in the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1, 2016.
Arkansas State defensive line vs. Nebraska offensive line. Defensive end Ja’Von Rolland-Jones, the preseason Sun Belt Conference defensive player of the year, had 13 of the Red Wolves’ 43 sacks last season and needs 14 to become the all-time FBS leader. This will be a big test for a Nebraska offensive line that struggled at times last year and now is charged with protecting first-year QB Tanner Lee, who is much less mobile than predecessor Tommy Armstrong Jr.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Northwestern’s Justin Jackson is 356 yards from Damien Anderson’s school-record 4,485 career rushing yards. Jackson goes into the opener against Nevada needing 816 yards to make the NCAA top 25. … Minnesota’s P.J. Fleck, at 36, is the second-youngest coach in the FBS behind 33-year-old Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley. … Wisconsin, which hosts Utah State on Friday night, has won 21 consecutive home openers since 1996 for the longest streak in the Big Ten. … Maryland started seven true freshmen in 2016, tied for most in the FBS. … Illinois has nine seniors, tied for fewest in the FBS behind Georgia Southern’s eight. … If David Blough starts — he’s listed as questionable against Louisville — he would be the first Purdue QB since Curtis Painter in 2007 and ’08 to start back-to-back openers. … Akrum Wadley will try to become Iowa’s first back-to-back 1,000-yard rusher since Fred Russell in 2002-03. … Defending Big Ten champion Penn State is celebrating its 25th season in the conference.
Indiana is a three-touchdown underdog at home to Ohio State. Could a surprise be in store on a Thursday night? Probably not. But the opener is as good a time as any to face the second-ranked Buckeyes, who have won 21 straight in the series. Tom Allen makes his first home appearance as Indiana head coach after leading the Hoosiers in their bowl game. And the Hoosiers are 5-0 in Thursday openers.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Rutgers quarterback Kyle Bolin will be the Scarlet Knights’ fourth different starterin four years. The graduate transfer from Louisville backed up Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson last season. Bolin started six of 17 career games at Louisville. At Rutgers, he takes over an offense that ranked 128th, and last, in the FBS in 2016.
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