1 FIRST AGAINST THE BEST
Michigan and Michigan State will test themselves on a national stage this week, and the results will go a long way toward restoring some Big Ten self-esteem. The Wolverines will be in Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, to take on defending national champion Alabama on Saturday night. On Friday in prime time, Michigan State plays host to another perennial underdog, Boise State.
2 BACK IN BLACK
Plenty of teams like to dabble with alternate uniforms, but Nebraska's conservative red and white seemed like the unlikeliest to be tinkered with. But amid much debate in Lincoln, the Cornhuskers will wear black uniforms and -- gasp! -- black helmets on Sept. 29 against Wisconsin.
3 DO YOU KNOW ME?
The Hawkeyes hadn't changed a coordinator for 13 seasons, but both Ken O'Keefe and Norm Parker left the program last winter. Coach Kirk Ferentz kept the defensive job in the family by promoting secondary coach Phil Parker, but Greg Davis, a longtime Texas assistant, was brought in to shake up the offense. And those weren't even the controversial changes: Ferentz also got around Iowa's nepotism policy to hire his son, Brian, to coach the offensive line.
4 BIG PICKUP
Pat Fitzgerald quietly has upgraded Northwestern's recruiting, but he's never had as splashy a success as attracting Kyle Prater, a Chicagoan who originally chose Southern Cal. After catching one pass in two seasons, Prater transferred to be closer to home, adding the nation's top-rated 2010 receiving recruit to a team that is frequently starved for attention. Prater will be eligible in 2013.
5 RECORD BREAKER
Gophers senior Troy Stoudermire needs only 416 kickoff-return yards to eclipse the NCAA career record. Tyron Carrier of Houston holds the record with 3,517 yards, but Stoudermire, if he stays healthy and matches his career pace of roughly 75 return yards per game, should catch him sometime in October.