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Five Big Ten West storylines

The Gophers are six days from their season opener against TCU, and we’re ramping up our coverage at StarTribune.com. This week, as an added feature, Chip Scoggins and I are unveiling a series of Top Five lists, looking at the Gophers and the national college landscape.

Check out Chip’s latest entries here. I’ve done “Five keys to the Gophers’ season,” “The Gophers’ five most indispensable players,” "The Gophers' five most unsung players," and "Five potential breakout stars for the Gophers." Today, I'm going to swing this around the conference a bit with a look at five Big Ten West storylines:

1. Circle these games

The de facto Big Ten East championship game will be Nov. 27, when Michigan State visits Ohio State. If the West turns into a three-team race between Wisconsin, Nebraska and the Gophers, as many predict, these are the key matchups: Wisconsin at Nebraska (Oct. 10), Nebraska at Gophers (Oct. 17) and Wisconsin at Gophers (Nov. 28).

2. Searching for old mojo

Some picked Iowa to win the West last year (guilty, right here), but the Hawkeyes stumbled to 4-4. Kirk Ferentz can’t afford another year of mediocrity. Fans are restless. And Northwestern has two 5-7 seasons since its promising 10-3 finish in 2013. Like Ferentz, Pat Fitzgerald needs to rediscover his magic touch.

3. West meets East

Overall Big Ten record determines the division champion, but the interdivision challenges are strikingly different. The list: Gophers (vs. Michigan, at Ohio State), Wisconsin (vs. Rutgers, at Maryland), Nebraska (vs. Michigan State, at Rutgers), Iowa (vs. Maryland, at Indiana), Illinois (at Penn State, vs. Ohio State), Northwestern (at Michigan, vs. Penn State), Purdue (at Michigan State, vs. Indiana).

4. Quarterback battles

Purdue had an open competition but stuck with junior Austin Appleby, who passed for three touchdowns in last year’s 39-38 loss to the Gophers. Northwestern named redshirt freshman Clayton Thorson as its starter this week, and the former four-star recruit looks the part, at 6-4 with mobility and a big arm.

5. Disruptive forces

Nebraska junior DT Maliek Collins is a first-round NFL prospect after notching 10.5 tackles for a loss last year. Other returning defenders who lived in opposing backfields last year include Wisconsin LB Vince Biegel (16.5 TFL last year), Wisconsin LB Joe Schobert (13.5), Iowa DE Drew Ott (12.0) and Purdue DT Jake Replogle (11.0). Gophers senior DE Theiren Cockran (7.0) hopes to pick up his production, and the team expects big things from DE Hank Ekpe now that he's healthy.

Under 400 tickets remain for Gophers/TCU game

The Gophers have fewer than 400 tickets remaining for the season opener against TCU, senior associate athletics director Chris Werle confirmed Thursday.

The team is closing on its first home sellout since the 2013 regular season finale against Wisconsin. The capacity at TCF Bank Stadium increased to 52,525 last season with the Vikings coming on as tenants. Last year's season-high attendance was 51,241 for Purdue.

ESPN also announced that Dave Pasch, Brian Griese and Tom Luginbill will be the broadcasting crew for the Gophers/TCU game.

TV Listings

Local Schedule

< >
  • Live racing

    12:45pm

  • Houston at Twins

    1:10pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Phoenix at Lynx

    6pm on ESPN2, 106.1-FM

  • Saints at Kansas City

    7:05pm on 1220-AM

  • Gary at Saints

    7:05pm on 1220-AM

  • Chicago White Sox at Twins

    7:10pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Indy at Minnesota United FC

    7pm on Ch. 45

  • Gary at Saints

    7:05pm on 1220-AM

  • Chicago White Sox at Twins

    7:10pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Chicago White Sox at Twins

    12:10pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Live racing

    6:30pm

  • Vikings at Tennessee

    7pm on 100.3/1130

  • Gary at Saints

    7:05pm on 1220-AM

  • Live racing

    6:30pm

  • Indiana at Lynx

    7pm on 106.1-FM

  • Gary at Saints

    7:05pm on 1220-AM

  • Twins at Houston

    7:10pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Live racing

    12:45pm

  • Twins at Houston

    6:10pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • New Jersey at Saints

    7:05pm on 105.1-FM

  • Live racing

    12:45pm

  • Twins at Houston

    1:10pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

Today's Scoreboard

< >
  • Detroit

    Toronto

     

    - Top 7th

    1

    6

  • LA Angels

    Cleveland

     

    - Bot 6th

    1

    6

  • Boston

    NY Mets

     

    - Top 7th

    2

    4

  • Kansas City

    Tampa Bay

     

    - Bot 5th

    2

    2

  • NY Yankees

    Atlanta

     

    - Top 4th

    7

    2

  • San Diego

    Philadelphia

     

    - Top 5th

    3

    1

  • Colorado

    Pittsburgh

     

    - Top 5th

    3

    0

  • Miami

    Washington

     

    - Top 5th

    4

    2

  • Seattle

    Chicago White Sox

     

    - Bot 2nd

    4

    1

  • Cincinnati

    Milwaukee

     

    - Bot 3rd

    1

    1

  • Houston

    Minnesota

     

    - Bot 2nd

    0

    1

  • Baltimore

    Texas

    2:05 PM

  • St. Louis

    San Francisco

    3:05 PM

  • Oakland

    Arizona

    3:10 PM

  • Chicago Cubs

    LA Dodgers

    7:05 PM

  • Indiana

    Tulsa

    3:30 PM

  • San Antonio

    Los Angeles

    6:00 PM

  • Connecticut

    Chicago

    6:00 PM

  • Phoenix

    Minnesota

    6:00 PM

  • Washington

    Seattle

    8:00 PM

  • Portland

    Seattle

    3:30 PM

  • D.C.

    New York

    6:00 PM

    FOX SPORTS 1