Big Ten Football 2012
Big Ten Football Preview - Week 3
Week 3 Big Ten Football Schedule:
Charleston Southern at Illinois
California at Ohio State
Navy at Penn State
Notre Dame at Michigan State
Ball State at Indiana
Massachusetts at Michigan
Northern Iowa at Iowa
Utah State at Wisconsin
Eastern Michigan at Purdue
Boston College at Northwestern
Week three of the Big Ten season will focus on the team that has given the league reason for optimism: Michigan State. The Spartans' home date with Notre Dame will be a prime-time attraction this Saturday, a point of interest for the national college football community and not just Big Ten diehards.
The Fighting Irish possess more speed on offense than they did in previous years. Quarterback Everett Golson owns more agility than other recent Notre Dame signal callers. He can scramble better and make more plays when flushed out of the pocket. The Irish own an extra dimension of versatility that they lacked in 2011. They are showing signs that their malaise over the past few years could be coming to an end, and that this storied football school is about to regain a place of prominence in the sport.
Notre Dame's defense, though, is the biggest reason why the Irish can upset Michigan State. Manti Te'o is one of the best linebackers in the United States. His nose for the ball and his keen football sense enable him to react to plays with the swiftness and crispness one needs in a linebacker. Notre Dame's ability to flow to the ballcarrier and get off its blocks will pose a substantial problem for Michigan State's offensive line, which has its work cut out for it on Saturday. The Spartans rely on their ground game with star running back Le'Veon Bell, but if Notre Dame can take away Bell, Michigan State quarterback Andrew Maxwell – who has been shaky to this point in the season – has not shown that he can make a defense pay for loading up against the run. Maxwell is not likely to win this game for the Spartans. The Fighting Irish will gain a lot of leverage if they can contain Bell, particularly in short-yardage situations. Michigan State will have its hands full – that much seems likely.
Elsewhere in the league, Ohio State should defeat California, but the Buckeyes must be vigilant. The way California can win is for Ohio State to let down its guard. September is still a volatile month in the larger overall context of college football. The first month of the season is a time when rosters are still in flux and the chemistry of a team is not yet established. Teams that think they have it made after two weeks can and do (and will) step off the gas pedal. How much did Ohio State really learn about itself – and how much did the nation learn about Ohio State – from games against Miami (Ohio) and Central Florida? That's still very much an open question. A down day from the Buckeyes can give California the opening it needs. The Bears are hardly the best team in the Pac-12, but they're hardly the worst as well. Cal's best performance will be good enough to win on the road if Ohio State is distracted, complacent and disjointed this Saturday afternoon.
Northwestern needs to take care of business against Boston College, and Penn State will try to get its first win of the season at home against Navy.
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