5 players with the most on the line this weekend
It’s just Week 1, and that’s definitely not the time to overreact about anything, but there are a few players around the Big Ten who have a lot of pressure on them this weekend. They are key pieces on teams with big dreams, so it’s important that they play well right from the opening whistle.
Here are five guys (with a few add-ons) who will have all eyes on them this weekend around the conference:
Shea Patterson, Michigan quarterback
Ever since Shea Patterson transferred from Ole Miss and then won his argument with the NCAA to be able to play right away at Michigan, he’s been the most talked-about transfer in years. All that Michigan has lacked during Jim Harbaugh’s three years at his alma mater is high-level quarterback play, and he’s going to get that from Patterson. He’s that good.
But no one has a tougher opening week assignment than No. 14 Michigan, playing at No. 12 Notre Dame under the lights on primetime TV in South Bend. This is not a win-or-else game for Michigan’s playoff hopes, but it sure means a lot and a win will look great to the selection committee in December if a College Football Playoff spot is being debated.
Patterson started 10 games at QB for Ole Miss over two seasons, and the former five-star recruit had a ton of big games. Expect more of the same against Notre Dame.
Mark Kallenberger and Dalton Ferguson, Iowa tackles
We have placed Iowa on upset alert this weekend because they are playing a very good Northern Illinois team without its two starting offensive tackles. Tristin Wirfs and Alaric Jackson are both out with suspensions for one week and forced to step in are redshirt freshman Mark Kallenberger and senior Dalton Ferguson, neither of whom has started a college game before.
“Anytime you go in shorthanded at any position, it’s a concern,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “To have two guys out at one position is not ideal.”
Peyton Ramsey, Indiana quarterback
Peyton Ramsey beat out transfter Brandon Dawkins for the starting job at Indiana, and Dawkins promptly quit school and ended his football career. Why does that matter? Because winning the job and keeping it are two different things. IU and Purdue are always attached at the hip, so you don’t need to look past Thursday night to see why Ramsey needs to play well for the Hoosiers.
Across the state, Elijah Sindelar won the starting job at Purdue but threw three early interceptions and was yanked from the game. David Blough came in and played great, nearly pulling off a huge comeback win. Ramsey will have to be the guy for Indiana at Florida International. He’s need to be steady and, most of all, avoid the turnovers. IU needs an early win and Ramsey must lead the way.
A.J. Taylor and Kendric Pryor, Wisconsin wide receivers
Wisconsin star wide receiver Quintez Cephus has been suspended after felony sexual charges were filed against him and Danny Davis, his roommate, is suspended as well for his alleged involvement in the issue, even though no charges have been filed against Davis.
They are — or were — Wisconsin’s two best receivers, so someone else will have to step up and make plays for quarterback Alex Hornibrook in the season opener Friday night against Western Kentucky.
Junior A.J. Taylor (31 catches last year) and redshirt sophomore Kendric Pryor (13 catches) are the starters and they backed up by a pair of walk-ons, so depth has been an immediate concern for the Badgers.
Taylor Martinez, Nebraska quarterback
The Scott Frost era begins at Nebraska with true freshman Taylor Martinez winning the quarterback battle. Expectations at Nebraska are always high, so it’s going to be interesting to see if Martinez can handle the pressure on the biggest stage, especially with Tristan Gebbia quitting on the team after not winning the starting job.
Martinez had a great high school resume and was a Tennessee commit before flipping to Nebraska when Frost arrived. Akron is a middle-of-the-pack Mid-American Conference team and our last memory of them was a 50-3 loss to Florida Atlantic in a bowl game, so this is at least a comfortable starting-off point for Martinez. All eyes will be on him in Lincoln for sure.