A measuring stick game for MSU, Big Ten, in Oregon

September 4, 2014

Some things to watch in the Big Ten during Week 2 of the season:

GAME OF THE WEEK: No. 7 Michigan State at No. 3 Oregon, Saturday. The Spartans are coming off a Rose Bowl victory, but in some ways a win in raucous Autzen Stadium in Week 2 of this season may grab even more attention. The high-flying Ducks have speed for days and will test the Spartans' stingy defense like no other opponent they face this season. Last year, Michigan state was second in the nation in total defense and third in scoring defense. Oregon was second in total offense and fourth in scoring offense.

BEST MATCHUP: Michigan at Notre Dame, one more time. Two of college football's winningest programs will end their long-running series after this meeting, with no renewal in sight. The Wolverines and Fighting Irish will play for the 42nd time, but Notre Dame's new scheduling agreement with the ACC prompted it to ask out of the series. Michigan might be unranked and Notre Dame at No. 16, but the history involved will make this game a must-watch.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS: Nebraska racked up 784 yards of offense against Florida Atlantic in the season opener, the most by a Big Ten school in a game since Minnesota had 832 way back in 1905. ... Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon's first 13 carries against LSU went for 139 yards and a touchdown. But he had just three carries for 1 yard over the final 29 minutes of the game as LSU rallied for the win. Gordon later said he had a hip injury. ... In an opening week that included plenty of overmatched opponents, Big Ten schools went 12-2 while averaging 37.5 points and 468.1 yards per game. ... $21 million: Amount of money Land O' Lakes donated this week to help Minnesota's sports facilities project, which includes a new facility for the football program.

LONG SHOT: Ball State at Iowa, Saturday. The Cardinals are 17-point underdogs to the Hawkeyes, but Iowa was less than impressive in an opening week win over Northern Iowa. Ball State has won 17 of its last 19 games, including 10 a year ago when they set a school record for points in a season. Running backs Horactio Banks and Jahwan Edwards will test Iowa's defense. Iowa had five sacks and two interceptions last week. The last time these teams met, Iowa rolled 45-0 in 2010, long before Ball State's renaissance.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Michigan State QB Connor Cook. Offense grabs headlines everywhere these days, except East Lansing. The Spartans defense gets all the attention, but Cook has quietly emerged as a dependable playmaker. He threw for 304 yards against Ohio State in the Big Ten title game, then went for 332 in the win over Stanford in the Rose Bowl. Cook was almost perfect in the season-opener against Jacksonville State, completing 12 of 13 passes for 285 yards and three TDs. Now he will be going toe-to-toe with Oregon Heisman favorite Marcus Mariota.