Aug. 31, 2007
ILLINOIS vs. Missouri
Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis, Mo.
2:30 p.m. CDT - ESPN2 - XM Radio 198
Illinois has compiled an all-time record of 74-38-5 in season openers, is 23-8-1 when opening the season on the road and 0-3 in neutral-site season openers.
- Overall: Missouri, 13-7
- Last Time Out: 2003 - Missouri, 22-15
- Noteworthy: Mizzou leads the series 3-1 in neutral-site games, all four being played in St. Louis. The Illini won the first game of the series, which was played in St. Louis in 1896, but the Tigers took victories in 1969, 2002 and 2003.
- Illinois returns 20 starters from a year ago, nine on each side of the ball and two specialists.
- For the past two years, Illinois has been one of the youngest teams in the country. In 2005, the Illini were the most youthful squad and last year they were in the top three.
- Last year's Illini squad led the Big Ten in rushing and ranked 10th in the country with an 188.8 average. It was the highest rushing average for an Illini team since the 1973 season.
- Defensively, senior J Leman returns as one of the top linebackers in the country, having led the Big Ten with 12.7 tackles per game in 2006, which earned him first-team All-Big Ten honors.
- Missouri, which was 8-5 last season, was selected as the Big 12's Preseason favorite to win the North Division.
IN HIS OWN WORDS
"We know we are playing a good opponent. But we have to play to the best of our ability. This is a great team, a great opportunity and a great challenge for us." - Illinois head coach Ron Zook
Indiana State at INDIANA
Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, Ind.
8 p.m. EDT - Big Ten Network (DIRECTV 218) - XM Radio 196
Indiana is 31-16 in home openers at Memorial Stadium and has won 22 of its last 25 home starts.
- Overall: Indiana, 2-0
- Last Time Out: 2003 - Indiana, 33-3
- Noteworthy: The only other contest between the two teams was back in 1925, with Indiana earning a 31-0 shutout victory in Bloomington.
- Indiana opens the season under first-year head coach Bill Lynch with heavy hearts, following the passing of head coach Terry Hoeppner, who died June 19 from complications from a brain tumor.
- Indiana returns 18 starters from last year, including eight on offense and nine on the defensive side of the ball.
- A promising offensive hookup will be that of dual-threat quarterback Kellen Lewis and All-Big Ten wideout James Hardy. Lewis amounted 2,662 yards of total offense last year, ranking fourth all-time in school history, while Hardy led the team with 51 receptions, 722 yards and the 10 TD tallies.
- One of the Hoosiers' main returners is just that - return specialist Marcus Thigpen. Last year Thigpen led the nation in yards per kickoff return (30.1) and his three touchdowns were tops in the country.
- Last season, Indiana State surrendered 44.8 points and allowed 503.5 yards of total offense per game and has managed just a 1-21 record the past two seasons.
IN HIS OWN WORDS
"I certainly think that Coach Hoeppner and his influence is all around this football program and has been since the day he came. There is so much of him that is still around here, from the sayings to the signs, and I'm sure our players are looking forward to it as well. How each guy reacts to it is hard to say, but it is certainly something we are looking forward to and not shying away from. It will be very meaningful, not only to the fans but to the players and coaches and staff as well." - Indiana head coach Bill Lynch
IOWA vs. Northern Illinois
Soldier Field, Chicago, Ill.
2:30 p.m. CDT - ESPNU - XM Radio 196
Iowa is 85-31-2 (.729) in season-opening games, including posting a 6-2 mark under Kirk Ferentz.
- Overall: Iowa, 6-0
- Last Time Out: 2006 - Iowa, 24-14
- Noteworthy: This is the first contest between the two teams that will have been played outside of Iowa City.
- The Hawkeyes return five starters on offense and eight on defense.
- Iowa returns three players who earned All-Big Ten honors a year ago in linebacker Mike Klinkenborg (2nd), defensive end Bryan Mattison (HM) and defensive back Adam Shada (HM).
- Jake Christensen will most likely take the first snap on Saturday, becoming Iowa's first new quarterback since 2004. Christensen replaces Drew Tate, who finished his career ranked second in passing yards (8,292), touchdown passes (61), completions (665), attempts (1,090) and total offense (8,427) and third in completion percentage (.610) at Iowa.
- Klinkenborg, mentioned above, ranked second in the Big Ten and eighth in the country in tackles per game (10.75). He led Iowa with 129 tackles, 29 more than second-ranked LB Edmond Miles (100).
- Northern Illinois returns 15 starters from a 7-6 team a year ago that finished third in the Mid-American West Division and was a participant in the Poinsettia Bowl.
IN HIS OWN WORDS
"You're looking at a team (Northern Illinois) that's hardly going to be impressed playing a Big Ten school. They played us tough last year for four quarters. They've played at Ohio State, they've played at Michigan. We know it's going to be a challenge. They have a very well-coached team and a very aggressive team. We know they're going to hustle and play hard." - Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz
Appalachian State at No. 5/5 MICHIGAN
Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Noon EDT - Big Ten Network (DIRECTV 220) - Sirius Radio 123
Michigan enters the season opener against Appalachian State with an impressive 106-18-3 record in their previous 127 openers. The Wolverines will play their 106th season opener at home this Saturday and hold a 90-13-2 mark in those games.
- Lloyd Carr will coach his 150th game as University of Michigan head coach in the opener against Appalachian State. He begins his 13th season as head coach at U-M and is the 12th Big Ten head coach to reach the 100-victory plateau, as he enters 2007 with a 113-36 overall record.
- Three offensive standouts -- senior tailback Mike Hart, senior quarterback Chad Henne and junior wide receiver Mario Manningham - are all preseason favorites for the 2007 Walter Camp Player of the Year award. The Wolverines trio is the most of any school in the nation.
- Providing protection for Michigan's top three offensive threats is offensive tackle and Outland Trophy and Rotary Lombardi Award candidate Jake Long. In 2006, Long was a consensus All-American, first-team All-Big Ten and the conference's Offensive Lineman of the Year.
- Defensively, Michigan will be lead by team captain Shawn Crable - a second-team All-Big Ten selection last year as well as the team's active career leader in tackles for loss (14.5) and sacks (8.5).
- Appalachian State is the two-time defending national champions in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision.
IN HIS OWN WORDS
"The thing when you look at (Appalachian State), the thing that immediately impresses is their team speed." - Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr
Alabama-Birmingham at MICHIGAN STATE
Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, Mich.
Noon EDT - ESPN2 - XM Radio 196
In its 110-year football history, Michigan State is 72-35-3 (.668) in season openers, including an 8-2 record (.800) in its last 10 games. The Spartans have won seven of their last eight season-opening games.
- Saturday's contest marks the first for Michigan State under head coach Mark Dantonio. The Spartans' first-year head coach previously served as an assistant coach at MSU from 1995-2000 and returned to East Lansing after serving as the head coach at Cincinnati for the last three seasons.
- Michigan State will face the Big Ten's toughest and the nation's fourth-most difficult schedule in 2007, according to rankings compiled by SI.com.
- Michigan State's (probable) starting lineup for the 2007 season opener against UAB features seven first-time starters, including two on the offensive side of the football, four on defense and one specialist.
- Look for junior running back Javon Ringer to return in the same form in which he started the 2006 season. Ringer ranked fourth in the Big Ten and No. 16 nationally in rushing through the first four games last year, averaging 108.0 yards per game. He suffered what was thought to be a season-ending knee injury against Illinois, but managed to return for the final few games of last season.
- UAB, under another first-year head coach in Neil Callaway, will play against its very first opponent from the Big Ten in Michigan State.
IN HIS OWN WORDS
"I've said all along that the first people we have to beat or the first win that we have to get is the win of respect. We have to get that back. I hope our players understand what I'm talking about. We've talked about that from day one here, and it was apparent from last night's practice that we were ready to play." - Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio
Bowling Green at MINNESOTA
Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, Minneapolis, Minn.
7 p.m. CDT - Big Ten Network (DIRECTV 220) - XM Radio 197
Minnesota is 86-31-6 (.724) all-time in season openers and has been the winner of the last five. It's the longest string of season-opening wins since the Gophers reeled off 12 in a row from 1976-87.
- Overall: Minnesota, 1-0
- Last Time Out: 1986 - Minnesota, 31-7
- Noteworthy: In the 1986 season opener, freshman (and later the Gophers' all-time rushing leader) Darrell Thompson rushed for 205 yards and scored four touchdowns in the head coaching debut of John Gutekunst. Tim Brewster makes his Minnesota debut on Saturday.
- Minnesota will again look to the ground for its offensive attack. Three starters return to an offensive line that has helped the Gophers earn over 150 rushing yards per game in each of the last four seasons, while ranking in the top five nationally in rushing three times (2003, 2004 and 2005).
- Behind that line is Amir Pinnix. With his 1,272 yards on the ground last season as a junior, the Gophers have produced a 1,000-yard rusher in a school-record eight consecutive seasons.
- Minnesota enters the 2007 season as the only team in the country to have both rushed and passed for over 2,000 yards in each of the past eight seasons (1999-2006).
- Junior defensive end Willie VanDeSteeg will help head up the defensive core after earning second-team All-Big Ten honors last season. VanDeSteeg tallied 40 tackles in 2006, with 14.5 coming behind the opponents' line of scrimmage.
- Bowling Green returns 53 letterwinners, including 14 starters, from last year's 4-8 club that finished tied for third in the Mid-American Conference's West Division.
IN HIS OWN WORDS
"In the National Football League for the past five years, I had four preseason games to get ready and see what we had. In college football, we've got no preseason games and you've got play against each other. We're all a little tired of playing against each other, and we're ready to go play a game." - Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster
Northeastern at NORTHWESTERN
Ryan Field, Evanston, Ill.
11 a.m. CDT - Big Ten Network (DIRECTV 219) - XM Radio 197
Northwestern is 71-44-4 (.613) in season-opening contests. In the last 12 years, the Wildcats are 8-4 (.667) in opening games.
- For the first time in 61 years, Northwestern will play seven games in a season at Ryan Field.
- Northwestern returns 16 starters from a year ago, seven on the offensive side of the ball and eight on defense.
- The Wildcats will look to running back Tyrell Sutton, who has amounted 2,474 career rushing yards, the most by any NU player prior to his junior season.
- Youth is served under center as junior quarterback C.J. Bachér is looking to make his sixth-straight career start this Saturday against Northeastern.
- Northeastern, which returns 16 starters from a 5-6 squad, is coming off a season in which the Sagarin Rankings rated its schedule as the toughest among FCS (formerly Division-I-AA) schools.
IN HIS OWN WORDS
"I will echo the sentiments of every football coach around the nation when I say this is the most exciting time of the year. The anticipation for the opener is great as you walk out of camp and have the opportunity to play another team." - Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald
Youngstown State at No. 11/10 OHIO STATE
Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
Noon EDT - Big Ten Network (DIRECTV 218) - Sirius Radio 126
The Buckeyes, with 11 returning starters from their 2006 team that played for the national championship, have won 28-consecutive home openers. The Buckeyes have an all-time opening day record of 101-12-4
- Todd Boeckman, who has thrown only 10 passes in his career, will begin the new Buckeye QB era, having replaced the departed Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith.
- Sophomore running back Chris Wells will most likely get the brunt of the carries, having gained 587 yards on 104 carries with seven TDs last year in a backup role behind Antonio Pittman.
- Defensively, junior linebacker James Laurinaitis will help lead the Buckeyes after registering 115 tackles and five interceptions in 2006, which earned him an All-Conference first-team selection.
- What happens if we get to 30? Someone is still going to have to lose. Heading into Saturday's matchup, YSU is a perfect 32-0 when scoring 30 or more points, while Ohio State is an undefeated 34-0 when reaching the mark.
- Youngstown State is the two-time defending Gateway Conference champion and has 12 starters back from its 11-3 squad.
IN HIS OWN WORDS
"Youngstown State is like home. Fifteen years when you're only 30, that's half your life. Of course I root for them 99.9 percent of the time, other than this Saturday. And then I hope they win it all. So, yeah, there's no question, Ellen graduated from there, I spent half my life there, it's a great place. - Ohio State head (and former YSU head) coach Jim Tressel
Florida International at No. 17/18 PENN STATE
Beaver Stadium, University Park, Pa.
Noon EDT - Big Ten Network (DIRECTV 221) - XM Radio 198
The Nittany Lions are seeking their 100th victory in a season opener, owning an impressive 99-19-2 (83.3) record in the first contest of the season, winning their last five and 14 of the last 16. The Nittany Lions are 41-7 in season openers under Joe Paterno and 107-12-1 in home openers overall.
- Penn State returns one of the nation's top defenses, which allowed 14.4 points per game last season and will again be led by All-Conference honorees senior linebacker Dan Connor, junior cornerback Justin King, and junior safety Anthony Scirrotto.
- The rushing attack will be one to keep the eyes on Saturday, as PSU posted a rushing average of 150.0 yards per game last year, while only allowing 87.5. FIU on the other hand rushed for 56.8 and allowed 153.2.
- Senior quarterback Anthony Morelli is coming off an impressive junior season where he broke school season records for pass completions (208) and attempts (386), while his 2,424 yards were third-highest.
- Penn State's Joe Paterno will begin his 42nd season at the helm of the Nittany Lions on Saturday with a home contest against Florida International, establishing an NCAA record for most years as the head coach at a single institution. Paterno breaks the previous record set by Amos Alonzo Stagg, who coached at then-Big Ten school Chicago for 41 seasons from 1892-1932.
- Florida International returns 17 starters and 45 letterwinners from last year's 0-12 squad that lost five games by five points or fewer, including two by one point and one in seven overtimes.
IN HIS OWN WORDS
"I plan to be on the sidelines unless someone runs over me tomorrow. I think everybody ought to just kind of play down my injury and worry more about the football team and our ability to handle an FIU team that's going to come up here with fire in their eyes and a lot of things that we really don't know what to expect and go from there." - Penn State head coach Joe Paterno
PURDUE at Toledo
Glass Bowl, Toledo, Ohio
7 p.m. EDT - ESPNU - XM Radio 198
The Boilermakers have a 69-44-6 record in season openers. Purdue is opening the season away from home for the fifth time under Joe Tiller and the first since 2001.
- Overall: Toledo, 2-1
- Last Time Out: 1997 - Toledo, 36-22
- Noteworthy: The Boilermakers trail in the head-to-head series with the Rockets, splitting the two games in West Lafayette and falling in the lone meeting in Toledo. The Purdue loss at Toledo in 1997 was the Purdue coaching debut of head coach Joe Tiller.
- Purdue returns a conference-high 20 starters from last year, including nine on each side of the ball along with two specialists.
- Purdue led the Big Ten in passing offense with 291.6 yards per game and in total offense with 415.7 yards per game last season. Those averages ranked sixth and 13th nationally.
- The Boilermakers' primary through-the-air connection is QB Curtis Painter and wideout Dorien Bryant, who led the Big Ten with 6.2 receptions and 76.3 receiving yards per game last year. In addition, Painter set the conference record with 3,985 passing yards during the 2006 season.
- Purdue will also look to be on the defensive again this year, having set a school record in 2006 for forced fumbles (23), 17 of which were recovered - a total that was fifth-best in the nation - and ranked fourth in the Big Ten last season with 31 sacks.
- Toledo, 5-7 last year, is coming off its first losing season since 1993, but returns 18 starters including four All-MAC standouts.
IN HIS OWN WORDS
"Last time we went over there, they didn't beat us, they spanked us real good. I think they'll play with a lot of confidence and highly energized." - Purdue head coach Joe Tiller
Washington State at No. 7/7 WISCONSIN
Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, Wis.
2:30 p.m. CDT - ABC (regional); ESPN (outer-market) - XM Radio 197
Wisconsin is 90-25-3 in 118 previous season-openers and has won nine straight season-openers.
- Overall: Wisconsin, 1-0
- Last Time Out: 1976 - Wisconsin, 35-26
- Noteworthy: In the lone meeting in Madison, the two teams combined for 771 yards of total offense. Wisconsin held a 262-56 edge in rushing yardage, while the Cougars outpassed UW by a 303-150 margin.
- Wisconsin is one of five programs in the nation with no more than one home loss since the start of the 2004 season. The Badgers are 18-1 at Camp Randall Stadium during that time.
- UW returns nine starters on an offense that averaged 29.2 points per game last season, which tied for second in the Big Ten with Michigan.
- Big Ten Freshman of the Year P.J. Hill returns to the ground after rushing for 1,569 yards and 15 touchdowns last season and will be asked to carry the load of the offense in the meantime while fifth-year senior quarterback Tyler Donovan settles into his new position.
- The Badger defense returns seven starters from a unit that ranked No. 1 in the nation last season in pass efficiency defense, No. 2 in scoring defense, No. 2 in passing yards allowed per game and No. 5 in total defense. UW led the Big Ten in all of those categories.
- Washington State takes to the field Saturday for its 999th game in school history. The Cougars are 19-25-2 when opening the season on the road, but 5-2 when opening the season against a current Big Ten school.
IN HIS OWN WORDS
"At Wisconsin, we have to play with a little chip on our shoulders. We have to go with a little different attitude, maybe more so than others, just because people don't know the level of success we've had." - Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema