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August 30, 2007
Big Ten Breakdown: The first test
» MORE WEEK 1 BREAKDOWNS: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Pac-10 | SEC
Best matchup: A year ago, Washington State allowed 114 rushing yards per game to rank a very respectable 32nd nationally. Three starters return in the Cougars defensive line as well as linebacker Greg Trent, their second-leading tackler of 2006. That sets up an interesting confrontation with Wisconsin tailback P.J. Hill, who rushed for 1,569 yards a year ago. However, Hill failed to reach triple digits in each of the Badgers' final three games. Although Hill has four returning starters blocking for him on the offensive line, the absent one is All-America tackle Joe Thomas.
The pressure is on: New coaches Tim Brewster of Minnesota and Mark Dantonio of Michigan State have endeared themselves to their fans and boosters. They have done a good job generating enthusiasm in their respective states. Now, they have to prove all that offseason optimism is justified. Those love affairs with new coaches can come to screeching halts with a loss, especially to an opponent that is deemed inferior.
Newcomer who could have an impact: Five-star true freshman receiver Arrelious Benn should give the Illinois offense a boost it desperately needs. The Illini's leading receiver in 2006 only had 30 catches, so expect Benn to become Juice Williams' favorite target immediately. The last time a true freshman receiver started the season for Illinois was in 2003. In that game, Lonnie Hurst caught five passes for 76 yards in a loss to Missouri.
Key stat: Michigan quarterback Chad Henne has thrown 70 career touchdown passes and needs three more to break John Navarre's school record. Henne also needs 20 touchdown passes this season to equal the Big Ten career record of 90 held by former Purdue quarterback Drew Brees.
They said it: "Yeah, I plan to be on the sidelines unless somebody runs over me (in practice). I took (suspended tight end Andrew) Quarless when we had a little substitution practice the other day and said, 'Since you're not going to be in the ballgame I want you to walk right by me and take all the hits."
Injury update: Penn State defensive tackle Abe Koroma (broken foot) is out from three to five weeks and freshman defensive end Devon Still (torn ACL) is out … Indiana receiver James Hardy (broken finger) and defensive tackle Greg Brown (sprained shoulder) are expected to play … Iowa offensive tackle Dace Richardson (knee), receiver Paul Chaney (toe), offensive linemen Alex Kanellis (concussion) and defensive end Karl Klug (foot) are out. … Ohio State receiver Ray Small (ankle) will miss Saturday's game. … Michigan guard Alex Mitchell (knee) is out. Running back and return man Carlos Brown (hand) is questionable. … Michigan State offensive tackle Mike Gyetvai (shoulder) won't play this week. … Minnesota linebacker John Carlson (knee) has ended his career. … Purdue offensive tackle Garrett Miller (knee) and defensive end Mike McDonald (high ankle sprain) will miss the opener for the Boilermakers.
Worth noting: Minnesota players will wear a 35W patch on their uniforms to honor victims of the I-35W bridge collapse. The team also wears the initials "FK" in tribute to former compliance director Frank Kara, who died of cancer last month. … Penn State coach Joe Paterno suspended tight end Andrew Quarless and cornerback Willie Harriott for this week's game - and possibly longer - because of an underage drinking incident. … Illinois returns two of its top rushers from last year's offense, which led the Big Ten in rushing yardage. Running back Rashard Mendenhall averaged 53.3 yards per game and quarterback Juice Williams averaged 48 yards per contest. Williams set school records for single-season and career rushing yards by a quarterback with 576 yards. … Indiana receiver James Hardy needs three 100-yard games to set a school record with 11. …
Iowa receivers Dominique Douglas and Anthony Bowman have been suspended indefinitely after being charged with unauthorized use of a credit card. Also, Jake Christensen will be Iowa's first new starting quarterback since 2004, but last year he played against Northern Illinois and completed 19 of 30 passes for 256 yards and two touchdowns against the Huskies. … Michigan's Lloyd Carr is making his 150th appearance as a head coach in the opener against Appalachian State. Henne will join Navarre and Rick Leach as the only Michigan quarterback to start four openers. Michigan looks to extend its streak of 200 consecutive home games with at least 100,000 in attendance. … Michigan State is 9-1 in its last 10 home openers. Since 1990, the Spartans are 86-22-1 when scoring at least 24 points. …
Minnesota redshirt freshman Adam Weber is expected to start at quarterback, though junior Tony Mortensen may play, too. … The Gophers have a five-game win streak in season openers and have a seven-game win streak in home openers. However, the last two coaches – Glen Mason and Jim Wacker – lost their debuts. The last Gophers coach to win his first game was John Gutekunst, who in 1986 led the Gophers over Bowling Green. … Northwestern center Trevor Rees will miss the season-opener against Northeastern because he's sitting out a one-game suspension. … Pat Fitzgerald is aiming to become the first Northwestern coach to win his first two season openers since Pappy Waldorf in 1935-36. … The Penn State-Florida International game matches two coaches who have combined for 363 career victories. Of course, that's 363 for Joe Paterno and zero for first-year FIU coach Mario Cristobal. … Paterno has coached 22 father-son combinations, including seven sons that are on this year's roster. … Purdue opens its season in Toledo, which is Boilermakers coach Joe Tiller's home town. Purdue receiver Dorien Bryant has at least one catch in 28 consecutive games and in 36 of 37 career games. … Wisconsin has won nine consecutive season-openers and is 20-1 in its last 21 regular season nonconference games. … Badgers quarterback Tyler Donovan is making the third start of his career. … As anticipated, Todd Boeckman has been named Ohio State's starting quarterback, but backup Rob Schoenhoft is also expected to play.