September 1, 2016 GMT


1. Ohio State: The youngest team in the nation — Ohio State has zero senior starters on defense and only six returning starters overall — is still saddled with high expectations. Part of that is because of Heisman candidate J.T. Barrett at quarterback, and part is the high level of recruiting done by Urban Meyer. This week: Bowling Green, Sat., 11 a.m. (BTN)

2. Michigan: Not that anyone should be surprised, but coach Jim Harbaugh won’t reveal his starting quarterback until Saturday’s opener, although he said the starter has been informed. The candidates are Wilton Speight, John O’Korn and Shane Morris. This week: Hawaii, Sat., 11 a.m. (ESPN)

3. Michigan State: Well, he’s not a backup anymore, folks. Former Nebraska defensive tackle Kevin Williams, primarily a backup in his career, even though he scolded reporters otherwise before last season, will start at DT in his first and only season with Michigan State. This week: Furman, Fri., 6 p.m. (BTN)

4. Penn State: Coach James Franklin is 0-6 against Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State — the meat of this division — and has two mediocre records under his watch. The buyout is enormous, but Franklin may be on watch this season. This week: Kent State, Sat., 2:30 p.m. (BTN)

5. Indiana: Richard Lagow, a 6-foot-6 transfer from Cisco (Texas) Community college, has established himself as the Hoosiers’ top quarterback. “Statistically, he’s been the best guy,” coach Kevin Wilson said. Lagow threw for 2,285 yards, 21 touchdowns and 10 interceptions last season. This week: at Florida International, Thurs., 6:30 p.m., ESPNU

6. Maryland: Senior Perry Hills will start a season opener at quarterback for the third time in his career. Question is, can he maintain it? Either injury or ineffectiveness had hindered Hills, who’s picked up a new, fast-paced spread offense rather quickly. This week: Howard, Sat., 11 a.m. (BTN)

7. Rutgers: New coach Chris Ash has recruiting on an upswing for Rutgers, which means the fan base is already hyped and hungry. But that won’t pay dividends immediately. Rutgers will battle Maryland, at least, to stay out of the least in the East. This week: at Washington, Sat., 1 p.m. (PAC-12 Network)


1. Iowa: Yes, when expectations are low at Iowa, the Hawkeyes rise from nowhere, and when expectations are high, they wilt under the spotlight. Something says this year is different, with a returning starting quarterback, a star defensive player in Desmond King and a mental toughness this team developed through close victories. This week: Miami (Ohio), Sat., 2:30 p.m. (ESPNU)

2. Nebraska: Everybody knows how close Nebraska came to winning more games last season. The question now is, can coaches and players fix last year’s gaffes — turnovers, big plays on defense, game management — that can swing the combined 34-point differential in seven losses the other way? This week: Fresno State, Sat., 7 p.m. (BTN)

3. Wisconsin: How far can this experienced defense, minus star coordinator Dave Aranda, lead the Badgers? Wisconsin returns RB Corey Clement but lost a veteran lineman during fall camp from a line that doesn’t necessarily pack the same punch as past vaunted lines. Look for some close, low-scoring games. This week: vs. LSU, Sat., 2:30 p.m. (ABC)

4. Northwestern: The Wildcats are 21-1 under Pat Fitzgerald in September games since 2010, and that includes last year’s upset of Stanford in Evanston. This year’s opening foe, Western Michigan, is the preseason favorite to win the MAC. This week: Western Michigan, Sat., 11 a.m. (ESPNU)

5. Minnesota: Can the Gophers challenge in the West Division? They’ll have to navigate their first five-road-game conference schedule (Penn State, Maryland, Illinois, Nebraska and Wisconsin) since 1983. It’s only the fourth time in program history the Gophers will have played five road conference games. This week: Oregon State, today, 8 p.m. (BTN)

6. Illinois: Perhaps, at long last, Illinois has found stability and sanity within its football program with the popular hire of former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith. Of the three new coaches in the Big Ten, he may have the biggest opportunity to make a quick turnaround. This week: Murray State, Sat., 2:30 p.m. (BTN)

7. Purdue: There’s no coach in the nation whose seat is hotter than Darrell Hazell, who enters his fourth season at Purdue having established season records of 1-11, 3-9 and 2-10, with a winning record nowhere in sight this fall. This week: Eastern Kentucky, Sat., 11 a.m. (ESPNews)