The 2023 college football season is finally upon us, and the Big Ten has a full slate of games in Week 1 of the campaign.
Three conference matchups are included in that slate, including Nebraska and Minnesota as they kick off the season on Thursday night. Ohio State will take on Indiana in Bloomington, and Northwestern will cap off the weekend when they face Rutgers on Sunday.
Elsewhere, Illinois will open its season in Champaign against the reigning-MAC champion Toledo Rockets, and Purdue will hope to fend off a Fresno State squad that won 10 games last season.
Here is a full roundup of all this weekend’s action.
Nebraska at Minnesota
Kickoff: 7 p.m. TV: Fox
Betting Line: Minnesota -7, O/U: 43.5
The Huskers are looking to get the Matt Rhule era off to a strong start, but they’re facing a Minnesota team that’s loaded at wide receiver, while also working in a new permanent starting quarterback in Athan Kaliakmanis.
Jeff Sims threw for 1,115 yards and five touchdowns at Georgia Tech last season, but the Huskers’ transfer quarterback was also sacked on 19 occasions, which Minnesota hopes will continue.
Central Michigan at Michigan State
Kickoff: 6 p.m. TV: FS1
Betting Line: Michigan State -14, O/U: 45.5
Mel Tucker has declined to name a starting quarterback for Friday’s game, with redshirt junior Noah Kim and redshirt freshman Katin Houser competing for the job.
The Spartans do have running back Jalen Berger, who had 683 yards and six touchdowns a season ago, and wide receiver Tre Mosley, who had 35 catches for 359 yards and four touchdowns, back in the fold however, and hope that those two will provide sufficient punch for the offense.
East Carolina at Michigan
Kickoff: 11 a.m. TV: Peacock
Betting Line: Michigan -36, O/U: 51.5
The first of three games Michigan will play without Jim Harbaugh, this one is noteworthy not because Michigan is favored, but because of the questions that will begin to be addressed.
Is Blake Corum truly at 100% after an injury ended his 2022 season? Which Michigan wide receiver will stand out among the pack? Can the team’s defense replicate the pass-rushing prowess that has defined the program in recent years?
The Wolverines are heavily-favored in this game, but getting a first look at the offensive line and the running game will be worth watching.
Utah State at Iowa
Kickoff: 11 a.m. TV: FS1
Betting Line: Iowa -25, O/U: 45
The Hawkeyes were hoping to have a new-look offense on full display in their opener, but Cade McNamara’s status remains up in the air as he continues to work his way back from a leg injury he suffered on Aug. 13.
The defense will also have to cope with the loss of senior linebacker Noah Shannon, who is currently suspended pending appeal in a betting investigation. The Hawkeyes do have a talented secondary, along with numerous returning upperclassmen like Joe Evans and Logan Lee, but there are still some questions that need to be answered in Iowa City.
Fresno State at Purdue
Kickoff: 11 a.m. TV: Big Ten Network
Betting Line: Purdue -4, O/U: 48
Head coach Ryan Walters will make his debut against a Fresno State squad that won 10 games a season ago. While they did experience tons of turnover on offense, they did return some key players on defense, including leading tacklers Levelle Bailey and Malachi Langley.
For Purdue, they will hope that transfer quarterback Hudson Card will smoothly transition to Graham Harrell’s offense, and they’ll also look to talented redshirt sophomore running back Devin Mockobee to set the tone in the run game.
Finally, transfers like Jeffrey M’Ba and Malik Langham will be key players to watch on the defensive side of the football.
Ohio State at Indiana
Kickoff: 2:30 p.m. TV: CBS
Betting Line: Ohio State -30, O/U 59.5
The Buckeyes have dominated the headlines because of their quarterback competition, with Kyle Clifford getting the “start” and Devin Brown seeing some action against the Hoosiers.
The main thing to watch in this game will be the Buckeyes’ new-look offensive line, which features several new starters and a lot of question marks.
If Indiana has any hopes of success, it could lie in its running attack, powered by Josh Henderson, Jaylin Lucas and Christian Turner.
Buffalo at Wisconsin
Kickoff: 2:30 p.m. TV: FS1
Plenty of attention will be paid to the Badgers’ passing attack, considering that Phil Longo has been brought in specifically to beef up that area of the offense.
Even with a slew of talented wide receivers and transfer quarterback Tanner Mordecai, fans should certainly watch out for Braelon Allen, who fully intends to show that even in an air-rad offense, a running back can still put on a dazzling show.
Towson at Maryland
Kickoff: 2:30 p.m. TV: Big Ten Network
Michael Locksley will face his alma mater in the first game of the new season, and Maryland will have its full complement of offensive weapons on display with Taulia Tagovailoa at the center of it all.
The defense will need to show some improvement after losing several tight games last season, but players like Jordan Phillips and Ja’Quan Sheppard, both transfers, should help immensely.
West Virginia at Penn State
Kickoff: 6:30 p.m. TV: NBC
Betting Line: Penn State -20.5, O/U: 50
Is this the best shot Penn State has had in recent years to knock off Ohio State and Michigan? The quest to answer that question begins in Happy Valley on Saturday, as Drew Allar looks to put his stamp on the team’s offense.
The rushing attack of Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen is a force to be reckoned with, but fans will be wise to keep an eye on the wide receiver group to see who jumps off the page in the first game.
On defense, Chop Robinson and Adisa Isaac figure to cause headaches on the edges, and Kalen King may be the best cornerback in America, but can the team’s defensive tackles stop West Virginia’s potent rushing attack, led by CJ Donaldson?
Toledo at Illinois
Kickoff: 6:30 p.m. TV: Big Ten Network
Betting Line: Illinois -9.5, O/U: 46
Football fans may think that a Toledo-Illinois matchup should be a breeze for the Illini, but don’t sleep on the reigning MAC champions. The Rockets have quarterback Dequan Finn back under center, along with 2022 leading rusher Jacquez Stuart at running back and top-receiver Jerjuan Newton on the edges.
Leading-tackler Dallas Gant has also returned, giving the Illini plenty to gameplan for this Saturday.
On the flip side, Illinois is working in a new quarterback in Luke Altmyer and working with a secondary that’s aiming to replace first-round pick Devon Witherspoon, second-round pick Jartavius Martin and fifth-round pick Sydney Brown.
That being said, Illinois still has Johnny Newton and Keith Randolph up the middle to wreak havoc, and Tahveon Nicholson may be one of the most underrated cornerbacks in the nation.
Add to that the dominant Isaiah Williams at wide receiver, and there’s still plenty to be excited about in Champaign.
Northwestern at Rutgers
Kickoff: 11 a.m. TV: CBS
Betting Line: Rutgers -6.5, O/U: 39.5
Northwestern still hasn’t named a quarterback, with Ben Bryant and Brendan Sullivan competing for the role, but they do have a strong running back in Cam Porter and could control the pace of the game.
Gavin Wimsatt is hoping to build on his 2022 campaign with the Scarlet Knights, but the real strength of the Rutgers’ lineup could be their defense, as they return several key pieces, including linebacker Deion Jennings, and add in a few talented transfers, like safety Flip Dixon.