B1G doesn't lack non-conference sleepers
Every year there’s at least one or two games in the non-conference slate that surprise everyone. I’m not talking about a stunner like Appalachian State/Michigan — too soon Wolverine fans? — but there are always early upsets that leave teams scratching their heads.
Here’s trying to nip those sleeper games in the bud.
BYU vs. Michigan
Just when the Wolverines think they’re finally out of the woods from a deceptively difficult non-conference slate, BYU comes to town. The nation’s 15th-ranked offense returns eight starters, including Taysom Hill. When healthy, the senior is one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in college football. One might assume the oft-injured signal-caller is unfamiliar with the big stage. Well, he wasn’t very rattled last year when he went to Austin and demolished Texas 41-7. The Big House won’t intimidate Hill and the Cougars, who will be making trips to Nebraska and UCLA before they meet Jim Harbaugh’s bunch. For all the expectations surrounding the maize and blue, their non-conference schedule could be a the perfect barometer for Big Ten play. And if they don’t end it by taking care of a talented BYU squad, the Harbaugh honeymoon phase will come to an abrupt end.
Western Kentucky vs. Indiana
When these two teams met last in 2010, Western Kentucky was home to the nation’s longest losing streak. That won’t have any impact on the 2015 game, but the Hilltoppers are no longer the doormat they once were, and that’s because of Brandon Doughty. Ironically, Doughty was probably the only one in uniform in that game that’ll also suit up in this year’s contest. One more piece of Doughty history bears mentioning. Nobody in the country threw for more yards than he did last year. The Hoosiers were 80th in the country against the pass last year and often struggled to generate a pass rush. Against a pocket passer like Doughty, pressure will be key. It’ll be the first time the Hoosier defense will be tested, and if it lets Doughty get comfortable, it’ll be a long day in Bloomington.
Penn State vs. Temple
It’s hard to say a Week 1 game is a sleeper. This is in no way hinting that James Franklin’s group is overlooking Temple. But the teams have squared off eight of the last nine years. Do you know who won every matchup? The team that gets 105,000 fans per home game, not that school down the road in Philadelphia. Temple can’t match the skill of the Lion defense, which was ranked seventh in the country. Which team was ranked fourth, you ask? That school down the road in Philadelphia. By the way, the Owls return all 11 starters on defense. Keep in mind that this was a one-possession game going into the fourth quarter in State College last year. Temple gets to host big brother this year. With all the hype around Christian Hackenberg and the improved offensive line, you can bet the Owls defense has had Sept. 5 circled on the calendar for a long time. Penn State would be wise not to look past it.