Of the games in the noon (EST) time slot on Saturday, the most compelling is going to be Iowa's visit to Pitt. With their strong defensive showing last week against Iowa State, the Hawkeyes have put themselves in position to sweep the non-conference schedule, something that would seemingly ensure they will get back into the bowl party after last year's miss. It will also provide an early look at how good the Hawks can be once Big Ten action starts.
The Panthers were expected to be a contender in the Big East this year. Dave Wannstedt is in his fourth season on the Allegheny and after their huge upset of West Virginia to end last season, it looked like Wanny had finally turned the corner. But those hopes were quickly dashed when they lost to Bowling Green in the season opener on their home field. The same Bowling Green team that was beaten decisively in Minnesota one week later. If Iowa is ready to be a true contender for an upper-crust bowl game, they win this with ease. If they struggle to a win, we don't know what to think. And if they lose...could be another long fall in Iowa City. Right now, the big question mark is at quarterback. Jake Christiansen has been given another chance to win or lose the job on his own according to Pat Harty at The Iowa Press-Citizen.
Another team looking to complete a 4-0 sweep of non-conference action that they badly need for bowl hopes is Northwestern. The Wildcasts host Ohio at noon (Big Ten Network). These are the same Bobcats who led at Columbus into the fourth quarter, and this is the same Northwestern that nearly lost at Duke, so there's no reason to think this one will be easy.
Northwestern, to put it mildly, is going to have an issue getting any mention in the Chicago press. They never have it easy, but now they're going up against the Cubs & White Sox possibly heading toward a Windy City Series, the Bears potential resurgence and Notre Dame coming off a badly needed win. And in the battle to crack that first string of storylines, they still have to deal with Illinois football. But this is a program at a significant point in its history and that of coach Pat Fitzgerald. A bowl game would be a big deal for them this year, and they probably need to beat the Bobcats to do it. Might be worth tuning in. Jim O'Donnell of The Chicago Sun-Times has a look at the contrasting styles that will take the field in Evanston.
Elsewhere in th early time slot, Ohio State begins the recovery process against Troy, while Penn State completes its romp through non-league play against Temple. Minnesota will host Florida Atlantic and Purdue has a home date with Central Michigan.