AIDAN CHAMPION PREVIEWS THE BIG TEN WEST

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Written by: Aidan Champion

 

Two teams in the Big Ten West already faced off in Week 0, but there is still a long road ahead before the division pans out.

 

Wisconsin

No. 12 Wisconsin and No. 19 Penn State will face off in Week 1 in a matchup that could reveal the true capability of either team right off the bat.

The most anticipation surrounding the Badgers will be in the backfield, as the program returns one of the most threatening QB-RB duos in the league in Graham Mertz and Jalen Berger. They will also be returning three starters on the offense line.

Wisconsin’s defense dominated the Big Ten last season, and fortunately for the Badgers, they will be returning eight starters on that side of the ball.

If all goes accordingly for Wisconsin, the team could very well find its way to the Big Ten title game.

 

Nebraska

Nebraska dropped its first game to Illinois by just an eight-point margin on Saturday. Cornhuskers quarterback and three-time captain Adrian Martinez had an impressive premiere outing, throwing for 232 yards, while also rushing for a team-best 111 yards.

Nebraska’s offense was stumped for the first half, only putting up nine points. It proved its resilience in the second half, though, as the team marched back, while keeping Illinois from ever scoring again. 

There were some high expectations for Nebraska heading into this game, and some people might be starting to write the Huskers too early. But if the team can learn from this contest, get its star rushers back on track and play how it did in its second-half comeback attempt, there could still be a lot to look forward to for Husker fans.

 

Northwestern

The Wildcats have a lot of spots to fill after losing a number of starters from last season’s Big Ten championship runner-up team. 

Not only that, but the program took a big hit when it lost star running back Cam Porter to a lower-body injury that will have him miss the season.

Northwestern enters the season as somewhat of a wildcard. Fortunately for the Wildcats, the area of most experience will be at the QB position, as fifth-year senior Hunter Johnson is set to start in Week 1 against Michigan State.

The matchup against the Spartans should be a solid telling of what to expect from this season’s Northwestern team.

 

Illinois

Illinois came out of Week 0 as victors of an upset over Nebraska while being led by its backup QB, Arthur Sitkowski. Starting QB Brandon Peters left the game in the first quarter after suffering a shoulder injury.

Despite the win, the Fighting Illini are still in a very unideal situation having lost its QB1 not even a full quarter into the season. 

Regardless, Illinois is sitting in a good spot as it starts the season 1-0 with new coach Bret Bielema at the helm. We’ll see what Peters’ status is going forward, but it is now known that the team is currently in good hands with Sitkowski behind center.

 

Purdue

Purdue football is entering this season with the pressure of getting the program back on the right track. 

The Boilermakers’ offense will likely be its biggest strength this season. Star receiver David Bell returns for his junior season, and the former Big Ten Freshman of the Year must be itching to showcase his talent for a full season after a shortened 2020 season. 

QB Jack Plummer will be leading the offense for his first start in a season opener. He, too, should be expected to take the field with a sense of eagerness, as he steps into a more solidified role this season. 

One unfortunate setback for the Boilermakers was on the defensive side of the ball, as just days prior to their opener against Oregon State, fifth-year linebacker Robert McWilliams entered the transfer portal. 

The implementation of a new 4-3 defense should allow other key defenders to shine, though. There is hope yet for the Boilermakers defense.

 

Minnesota

The brightest aspect of Minnesota’s squad is its experience on defense, as almost every starter is returning.

A Week 1 matchup with No. 4 Ohio State isn’t exactly the ideal matchup you would want to kick off the season, but a defense like Minnesota’s could help keep the game within reach. The Gophers also have a powerful offensive line that should allow its backs to perform at a high level.

 

Iowa

No. 18 Iowa comes into the season with few flaws on either side of the ball. It has one of the best running backs in the Big Ten in Tyler Goodson, who is a reigning First Team All-Big Ten member. 

The Hawkeyes also return Jack Campbell at linebacker as one of their best defensive weapons. There’s a lot of commotion surrounding Campbell, and we should expect to see why as he looks to have a huge year.

To put it simply, Iowa just has a very talented roster. This team is going to pose a big threat to the Big Ten and can be considered as a serious contender for the Big Ten title.

 

Written by: Aidan Champion

Aidan is an MSU Journalism Student and Spartan Football writer for: impact89fm.org

 

Photo Courtesy of nfldraftdiamonds.com

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