should be 4-0 heading into their Big Ten home opener and will be in position to
make a run at the conference title if they can pull off the upset. The game
falls at the end of a tough month for the Buckeyes, who play at Texas on Sept.
9 and will be coming off an emotional rematch with Penn State.
MICHIGAN AT PENN
The Nittany Lions
have had this date circled on the calendar for months. The only blemish on Penn
State's record last year came in Ann Arbor, a 27-25 last-play loss due in part
to the referee's controversial decision to put two seconds back on the clock
during the Wolverines' game-winning drive.
MICHIGAN AT OHIO
figures to take home the Big Ten title, and a berth in the BCS national
championship game could be on the line as well. This much is certain: The
Wolverines won't leave Columbus with a win if they can't stop Buckeyes
quarterback Troy Smith, who has burned Michigan each of the last two years.
basketball-on-grass attack at PURDUE had a Big Ten-low 10 touchdown passes last
fall, but that should change under new quarterbacks coach Ed Zaunbrecher, who
has tutored a raft of accomplished passers, including Florida's Chris Leak.
Zaunbrecher, who coached most recently at Illinois, should help sophomore
Curtis Painter master the deep throw.... INDIANA wideout JAMES HARDY, who quit
basketball last winter to focus on football, should have a big year. The
6'7", 220-pounder caught 61 passes for 893 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2005
as a redshirt freshman but struggled with leg injuries that carried over from
basketball season. He'll thrive in coach Terry Hoeppner's wide-open offense,
which rolled up 659 passing yards in the spring game.... MICHIGAN STATE has
struggled with consistency under fourth-year coach John L. Smith, and part of
the reason has been a lack of balance between the offense and the defense. Last
year the Spartans ranked fifth in the country in total offense but 87th in
defense. The defense should get a boost this year with the addition of strong
safety Nehemiah Warrick, a transfer from Hutchinson ( Kans.) Junior College and
a cousin of Seattle Seahawks wideout Peter Warrick. Nicknamed "Nemo,"
the 6'1" 204-pounder so delighted Smith in spring ball that he was promptly
named a starter.... Look for ILLINOIS freshman quarterback Isiah Williams to
push for playing time early on. The 6'2", 207-pound Williams has a superior
arm to that of senior starter Tim Brasic and is a much better all-around
contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]
HOW THEY'LL FINISH