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Wisconsin’s Taylor to face stiff Iowa defense in B10 opener

September 20, 2018

Here’s what to watch in the Big Ten this week:

GAME OF THE WEEK

Wisconsin at Iowa

The 18th-ranked Badgers (2-1) haven’t been the dominant team everyone expected them to be and, following their home loss to BYU, are looking to reset the season in their Big Ten opener. Last year, the Badgers held Iowa to 66 total yards and sacked Nate Stanley four times in a 38-14 win. Iowa (3-0) has been one of the most dominant defensive teams in the nation, giving up 208 yards and 8.0 points a game. The key will be how Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor fares. He’s second in the nation with 171.7 yards per game. He’ll go against a defense that has allowed its last two opponents a combined 25 yards on the ground.

BEST MATCHUP

Nebraska running game vs. Michigan rush defense

The 18-point underdog Cornhuskers, averaging 258 yards per game on the ground, need their three-man rotation of Greg Bell, Maurice Washington and Devine Ozigbo to produce if they are going to pull the upset. It’ll be even better for Nebraska if QB Adrian Martinez plays, though coach Scott Frost might limit Martinez’s runs to protect his right knee. Michigan’s defense, which returned nine starters from the unit that ranked No. 3 in the nation last year, is allowing 3.1 yards per carry and an average of 121.7 rushing yards per game.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS

Penn State outscored its last two opponents, Pittsburgh and Kent State, 114-16 overall and 72-0 in the second half. ... Illinois, which hosts No. 10 Penn State on Friday, has lost 20 straight and 29 of 30 against teams ranked in The Associated Press poll. ... Rutgers blocked two field goals against Kansas last week and has 52 blocks since 2009, 10 more than any other program over that span. ... Ohio State has had 15 players score touchdowns through three games. Last year, 16 different players scored TDs the entire season. ... Nebraska’s six-game losing streak that started last season is the program’s longest since the 1957 team dropped seven in a row. A loss to Michigan would give the Cornhuskers their first 0-3 start since 1945. ... Minnesota has back-to-back 3-0 starts for the first time since 1896-97. ... Michigan State has held its first two opponents to a total of 69 yards rushing (Utah State 25, Arizona State 44). ... Maryland leads the Big Ten in third-down defense, holding opponents to a 28-percent conversion rate. Last year the Terrapins were last in the league, at 49 percent.

LONG SHOT

Purdue, 6 1/2-point underdog at home to Boston College

The winless Boilermakers have lost their three games by a total of eight points, with the last two defeats coming on field goals as time ran out. Talk about a team that’s due. The David Blough-led offense has not been the problem, but the defense has been abysmal. The Boilermakers will be playing a hot Boston College team that’s scored 40-plus points in three straight games and entered the Top 25 for the first time since 2008, at No. 23.

PLAYER TO WATCH

Indiana return specialist J-Shun Harris II, who returned this season after a third ACL injury, ran back a punt 86 yards against Ball State last week to tie a school record with his third career punt return for a TD. Since the start of 2017, he’s second nationally in punt return TDs (3) and sixth in punt return yardage (377). He’ll be going against a Michigan State punt coverage unit that has not given up a touchdown since 2015.

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