Players to watch in B1G openers
We already looked at which players will be the toughest matchup in non-conference play. This time, let’s just focus on the toughest matchup in each Big Ten team’s opener.
Southern Illinois vs. Indiana
Mark Ionnatti, QB
Indiana’s inexperienced secondary will have to slow down a senior quarterback that threw for 22 touchdown passes a year ago. IU’s 94th-ranked pass defense will be tested early and often.
Richmond vs. Maryland
Reggie Diggs, WR
A second-team preseason FCS All-American, Diggs racked up 85 catches and 1,157 receiving yards in 2014. He’ll get to line up opposite of William Likely or Sean Davis, either of whom will be his toughest matchup of the year.
Michigan vs. Utah
Hunter Dimick, DE
The Utah defensive end racked up 10 sacks last year for a defense that was one of the Pac 12’s best. A new UM starting quarterback will already have plenty of pressure coming into the opener, and likely more from Dimick.
Michigan State vs. Western Michigan
Corey Davis, WR
Michigan State’s unproven secondary will have to be up to the task to shut down Davis, who finished seventh in the nation in receiving yards. This could turn into a shootout if Shilique Calhoun and Co. have any struggles generating pressure.
Ohio State vs. Virginia Tech
Kendall Fuller, CB
There might not be a better corner in college football than Kendall Fuller. With suspensions to Dontre Wilson and Jalin Marshall, the Buckeyes will need young skillplayers to step up, especially if Fuller is draped all over Michael Thomas.
Penn State vs. Temple
Tyler Matakevich, LB
The Temple linebacker already showed up on our site as the best non-conference player Penn State will face. He and the stout Owl defense will reveal plenty about the maturation of Penn State’s offensive line.
Norfolk State vs. Rutgers
Deon King, LB
The outside linebacker is coming off a season in which he recorded 18 tackles for loss, including 7.5 sacks. First-year starter Hayden Rettig will have to be aware of King at all times.
Kent State vs. Illinois
Nate Holley, S
One of the best tackling defensive backs in the country, Holley racked up double-digit takedowns in eight games last year. Against a pass-heavy Illinois attack, his skills might be used best in preventing big plays.
Illinois State vs. Iowa
Tre Roberson, QB
The former Indiana quarterback nearly led the Redbirds to an FCS National Championship if not for a late comeback by North Dakota State. In his first year in Bloomington-Normal, Roberson set school records in nearly every major offensive category. And, he already has experience at Kinnick Stadium, where he got his first career start.
TCU vs. Minnesota
Trevone Boykin, QB
Speaking of special quarterbacks, the Heisman candidate might be the best player in America. The Gophers will get a second look at the senior after he racked up 350 yards of offense in a 30-7 rout in Fort Worth last year.
BYU vs. Nebraska
Taysom Hill, QB
Nebraska struggled with mobile quarterbacks last season, which is exactly what Hill is. With the exception of Connor Cook, the Huskers might not face a tougher signal-caller to stop all season.
Stanford vs. Northwestern
Kyle Murphy, OT
The 6-7, 305-pound senior won’t be fun for Pat Fitzgerald to gameplan for. David Shaw thrives on controlling the clock behind powerful offensive linemen like Murphy, which could make for a long day for Pat Fitzgerald’s defense.
Purdue vs. Marshall
Devon Johnson, RB
Nobody generates more thunder on the Herd than Johnson. The former linebacker/tight end bulldozed his way to 135.9 rushing yards per game, which was good for fifth in the country. Purdue’s 99th ranked defense won’t enjoy bringing down the 244-pound back.
Wisconsin vs. Alabama
A’Shawn Robinson, DT
Pick your poison with the Bama defense. The Wisconsin offensive line is dealing with a slew of injuries leading up to the opener, which could make for a big day from the preseason All-American.