A non-televised game in the Big Ten these days is a rarity. Only one of the games this week will not be shown anywhere. Ironically it's the one matchup that is probably the most consequential, at least among the few where the outcome can be reasonably thought in doubt prior to kickoff. Northwestern goes to Duke. Win here, and the Wildcats have smooth sailing to a 4-0 non-conference slate and are in position to play for a bowl. Lose here and they have to go 4-4 in the Big Ten to get a bid. While they are improved, that's not real likely.
The opponent this week is similar to NU's opener against Syracuse. They're playing a basketball school who was utterly woeful a year ago, but has enough weapons that you can't be ready to write them off, particularly when you have a lot of weaknesses yourself. The Dookies have a new coach, the highly regarded David Cutliffe, who was formerly offensive coordinator for Tennessee. He's got his quarterback back. Thaddeus Lewis oscillated between big plays and interceptions a year ago. All his top playmakers are back, as is most of the offensive line. Eight defensive starters return. So in addition to making contingency plans for Hurricane Hanna, Pat Fitzgerald does have to be prepared for a team that could surprise. Too bad nobody will be able to see it.
Minnesota plays Bowling Green in a 7 PM kick on the Big Ten Network. After BG upended #25 Pitt, the Gophers will not be expected to win this game. They need to see this as a opportunity. It isn't often that a Big Ten team gets to play a MAC program and have a win be seen as some kind of statement. Rick Brewster and his kids can't miss the opportunity. In spite of the program's utter collapse since 2006, athletic director Joel Maturi received a contract extension. Nice work if you can get it.
Indiana has another cupcake in its diet when it plays Murray State in another 7 PM kick on the Network. One of the challenges the Hoosiers face this season is replacing wide receiver James Hardy. Terry Hutchens of The Indianapolis Star writes of the favorable impression he had of freshman DaMarlo Belcher in the opener.