Some things to watch in Week 3 in the Big Ten.
GAME OF THE WEEK
No. 3 Ohio State travels to No. 14 Oklahoma for a matchup of teams expected to challenge for spots in the College Football Playoff and the two most storied teams in the history of the Top 25. The Buckeyes have averaged 62.5 points through two games, their defense has yet to allow a touchdown and the program has won a nation-leading 18 straight road games. Time to see what the young Buckeyes can do in a hostile environment. The once-beaten Sooners probably can afford no more losses if they want to play in a national semifinal for the second year in a row. In his seven home games, Baker Mayfield has completed 69 percent of his passes and thrown for 20 TDs against two interceptions. This time he’ll be going against the highest-ranked team to visit Norman since 2008.
The Oregon offense against the Nebraska defense in a measuring-stick game for both teams. The Ducks’ offense has been extremely sharp, averaging 577 yards against overmatched opponents with new quarterback Dakota Prukop and running back Royce Freeman leading the way. Nebraska’s defense appears greatly improved from 2015 with its veteran linebackers and a Nate Gerry-led secondary that intercepted five passes last week against Wyoming. If the defensive line can be disruptive, Prukop and the Ducks could be in for a tussle in Lincoln.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Winless Northwestern, which hosts Duke, hasn’t started 0-3 since 1992. …North Dakota State, which visits Iowa , has won five in a row against FBS opponents since 2010 and is 8-3 all-time against teams from the top tier. … Penn State is 12-0-1 all-time at home against Temple. The Nittany Lions last year lost for the first time in 40 meetings with the Owls. … Rutgers, which hosts New Mexico, has outscored its first two opponents 27-0 in the fourth quarter and 48-14 in the second half. … Illinois is averaging four sacks a game, and Carroll Phillips is tied for the FBS lead with 6.5 tackles for loss. … Maryland’s Perry Hills enters his game at UCF completing a Big Ten-best 73 percent of his passes.
Michigan State visits Notre Dame for the 50th anniversary of the 1966 “Game of the Century” tie, and for the Spartans to win they must be much sharper than they were in a 28-13 season-opening victory over FCS Furman. The touchdown-underdog Spartans are coming off a rare early open date, and there’s been an all-Irish, all-the-time focus for two weeks. QB Tyler O’Connor shouldn’t be fazed by the stage. He started in Ohio Stadium for an injured Connor Cook last year and beat the Buckeyes. O’Connor gives the Spartans their best chance if he can take advantage of a vulnerable Notre Dame secondary.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Northwestern QB Clayton Thorson, if he can get some blocking from his offensive line, will determine whether the Wildcats bounce back from an 0-2 start or see their season spin out of control. Thorson’s late fumble cost the Wildcats in the opener Western Michigan, and he was just 17 of 41 in the embarrassing loss to FCS Illinois State. The onus on Thorson is even greater if star RB Justin Jackson is slow to come off his lower-body injury.