Badgers are facing challenging opener against LSU
Some things to watch in the Big Ten during Week 1 of the season:
GAME OF THE WEEK: No. 14 Wisconsin vs. No. 13 LSU, Saturday, at Houston. Despite losing 13 starters from last year's 9-4 team, including eight on defense, the Badgers are a popular pick to win the Big Ten West. What better way to measure themselves than by playing one of the SEC's most consistent winners? Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen hadn't named a starting quarterback as of mid-week, though all indications pointed to converted safety-wide receiver Tanner McEvoy. LSU has won an FBS-record 45 straight regular-season non-conference games since 2002.
BEST MATCHUP: Navy's triple-option offense vs. Ohio State's defense. Chris Ash came from Arkansas to be co-defensive coordinator, and his charge is to improve the Buckeyes against the pass. But right out of the gate they face an opponent that runs on 4 of every 5 plays. Now consider Keenan Reynolds has been touted as the best Navy QB ever. The Buckeyes will get all they want, and maybe more, from this opener.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS: At 10 games, Michigan State has the second-longest win streak in the Bowl Subdivision. Florida State has won 16 straight. ... Nebraska's 28 straight wins in openers lead the nation. ... Minnesota is 14-12 under Jerry Kill. The Gophers were 6-20 in their previous 26 games. ... Northwestern QB Trevor Siemian has made only three starts, yet his 3,717 career passing yards rank third among projected Big Ten starters. ... Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah (1,690 yards) and Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon (1,609) are the nation's top two returning rushers.
LONG SHOT: Appalachian State at Michigan, Saturday. Remember what happened Sept. 1, 2007, when the Mountaineers last visited Michigan Stadium? Appalachian State was a 33 1/2-point underdog the afternoon it pulled an upset for the ages. The Mountaineers went on to win their third straight FCS championship. Seven years after that monumental 34-32 win, the Mountaineers go back to Ann Arbor as 34 1/2-point underdogs in their first game as a member of the FBS and Sun Belt Conference.
PLAYER TO WATCH: No player will be scrutinized more this week than Ohio State's J.T. Barrett. He'll be the first freshman since Art Schlichter in 1978 to start an opener at QB for Ohio State. Barrett has been pressed into duty because of the season-ending shoulder injury to Heisman Trophy front-runner Braxton Miller. If the fifth-ranked Buckeyes hope to make it to the inaugural College Football Playoff, they're going to need Barrett's best. He goes into the Navy game having not taken a game snap since he hurt his knee in high school in October 2012.