1. Emerald matchup
Wisconsin has a chance to make a statement for the entire Big Ten on Saturday night when it plays LSU in Houston. If the Badgers flop, the Big Ten will get another chance Sept. 6, when Michigan State visits Oregon. What a delicious matchup: Michigan State’s defense against Oregon’s offense.
2. Replacing Braxton
Braxton Miller is the two-time reigning Big Ten offensive player of the year, so his season-ending shoulder injury sent the whole conference for a loop. The Buckeyes will turn to redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett, who was a consensus four-star recruit for Urban Meyer coming out of Wichita Falls, Texas.
3. Welcome to the league
Rutgers joins the Big Ten after escaping the crumbling Big East and spending one year in the American Athletic Conference. The Scarlet Knights play their first official Big Ten game Sept. 13 vs. Penn State. After 60 years in the ACC, Maryland plays its first Big Ten game Sept. 27 at Indiana.
4. Trouble in Ann Arbor?
Michigan has gone 11-2, 8-5 and 7-6 in three seasons under coach Brady Hoke. Last year, the Wolverines lost five of their final six games. After the 31-14 loss to Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, defensive end Frank Clark decried the team’s lack of chemistry, saying that had to improve.
5. Franklin’s new project
Penn State isn’t ready to be a dominant team, but the future looks bright in Happy Valley. Coach James Franklin has landed several top recruits since replacing Bill O’Brien. The Nittany Lions, still ineligible for bowl games (and the new playoff), entered last weekend leading the Big Ten in the 2015 recruiting rankings with commitments from 12 consensus four-star players.