At high noon The Big Ten Network will usher in the 2008 season. The conference's three best teams will all be on display with opening week tuneups, as BTN carries the games involving Ohio State, Wisconsin and Penn State.
Wisconsin's game with Akron is the most intriguging of the trio, simply because the Zips aren't that far removed from significant success. The program won the MAC title back in 2005 and returns a veteran offense. Head coach J.D. Brookhart studied under Mike Shanahan of the Denver Broncos and his team should be able to move the ball. It is unlikely his team plays enough defense to actually come out of Madison with a win, but this will be a good measuring stick for the Badger defense--have they improved sufficiently after a somewhat disappointing effort in 2007? Bret Bielama already made some lineup changes to the secondary, with strong safety Aubrey Pleasant being demoted in favor of Jay Valai. He'll know quickly if those changes bore fruit. Jeff Potrykus of The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has the book on Akron.
UW also made the most significant decision any of the contenders faced in preseason. They settled on a quarterback. As expected, senior southpaw Allan Evridge got the job. He will wear #4. It's fair to say that Evridge probably never guessed he'd end his career as the most beloved active quarterback wearing #4 in the state of Wisconsin.
Ohio State plays host to Youngstown State. These opening two games (Ohio is the other) aren't going to do a lot to get conversation in Columbus and about the Buckeyes generally off their worthiness to play in national championship games. They'll have to win at Southern Cal on September 13 to do that. In the meantime, Rob Oller of The Columbus Dispatch opines that SEC arrogance is getting tiresome.
Penn State will play Coastal Carolina. If you've never heard of the Chanticleers (did you even know they were called the Chanticleers?), you aren't alone. Coastal's lone contact with the Big Ten came back in 1991 when their basketball team nearly upset Bob Knight's #2 seed Indiana squad with Calbert Cheaney. Getting close enough for another near-miss against another Big Ten coaching legend is, to put it mildly, unlikely. Jeff Rice of The Centre Daily News features Maurice Evans, the best player on what is a very talented defensive line.
There are two other noon games that will be carried on BTN. Indiana hosts Western Kentucky, while Iowa welcomes Maine to the heartland.