Each week Phil Harrison previews the upcoming slate of games in the Big Ten by taking a look at five key things of the week . Let’s get crackin’ on week two.
5. Can Ohio State keep rockin’ and show that last week wasn’t a fluke?
The Buckeyes administered a public flogging to Bowling Green last Saturday by throwing up a school record 776 yards of total offense. Almost every phase of the game looked polished and ready to roll with the naked eye despite the youth and inexperience littered throughout the roster.
But don’t tell that to Urban Meyer. He was critical of several phases of the game despite the 67-point beatdown — looking for more out of the offensive line, and sharper route running by the wide-outs.
Meyer on teachable moments: One OL graded a champion. No WRs. So yes, there are teachable moments.
— Bill Rabinowitz (@brdispatch) September 5, 2016
Maybe it was just coach speak to keep growing egos at bay, or maybe there really are some warts that could bubble up against more talented teams. If OSU can duplicate a similar performance against Tulsa, you have to believe this team will continue on an upward curve.
4. What about Michigan?
Not to be outdone by their arch-rivals, the Wolverines also looked fantastic against a Hawaii team that might have been better off staying home hangin’ ten rather than scoring less than ten in a football game.
But like Ohio State, was it just a product of the opposition, or is Michigan also a real player in the Big Ten and beyond? Do it for one week and it’s an outlier, go two weeks in a row and the pattern of a rock star squad starts to emerge. New quarterback Wilton Speight and company will have another week to show everyone they are for real.
3. Can Lovie Smith make an early mark for Illinois?
The Tampa 2 has come to Champaign, and if Lovie Smith has anything to do with it, there’ll be a lot of teams looking to play copycat in the near future.
Truth be known, it’ll likely take some time for Smith to sprout a new culture with the seeds he’s planting now, but there’s an opportunity to serve notice on Saturday that things are ahead of schedule.
The Illini take on a talented Tar Heel team that whitewashed them last year, and if they can Find a way to grind out a win, then there’s reason to believe this whole thing just might work.
2. Will Iowa break the Cyclone curse?
There’s one thing that’s become abundantly clear with this game while Kirk Ferentz has been wearing the headset in Iowa City. No matter what the talent level is of each team, Iowa State always gives the Hawkeyes fits. C.J Beathard and company were able to shake that off last year with a convincing 31-17 victory, but the ten years before that was a wash at 5-5.
Only those with ties to the state of Iowa can truly appreciate the intensity of this rivalry, and know more than anyone that this thing is likely to be a white-knuckle affair despite the loss to an FCS opponent last week for the Cyclones. Iowa seemed to use the victory as a springboard last year, but it could also have the opposite effect if the Cy-Hawk trophy goes back to Ames.
1. Is James Franklin finally ready to begin building something at Penn State?
In what has to be the game of the week in an otherwise unassuming slate, the Nittany Lions hit the road (sorta) to play the Pitt Panthers in Hines Field. If you’ve been keeping an eye fixed at the base of Mount Nittany, you know that Franklin has yet to get any sort of marquee win during his time in Happy Valley.
And while a lot of that is due to circumstances beyond his control, if things don’t start to show progress soon — like this year — the natives will start to become more restless than chef at a fast food convention. Pittsburgh is favored and will provide a stiff test for a Nittany Lion team trying to find its identity. But what a chance to book a solid win that could begin to turn the ship towards open water.
Phil Harrison is the lead Big Ten writer for CollegeFootballNews.com. Catch his analysis and opinion all-season long