Penn St., Pitt renew their rivalry for first time since 2000
Some things to watch in the Big Ten on Saturday:
GAME OF THE WEEK
Penn State at Pittsburgh. Nittany Lions fans aren't satisfied with back-to-back 7-6 records, so this game could be a referendum on third-year coach James Franklin. Pitt is recognized as a program on the rise, and that chafes Penn State people who long for the days when their team was relevant for the right reasons. The Lions and Panthers are meeting for the first time since 2000, and the implications are obvious: recruiting edge in the state and bragging rights.
Illinois' run defense against North Carolina's rushing offense. The Illini, who allowed nearly 250 yards rushing in each of its last three games in 2015, are No. 1 nationally against the run this week after FCS Murray State netted minus-10 yards. Their home game against the Tar Heels will be an indicator of how much progress Illinois will make in Year 1 under the defensive-minded Lovie Smith. The Tar Heels ran for 254 yards while beating Illinois 48-14 last year, and they averaged 8.4 yards a carry in their season-opening loss to Georgia. Elijah Hood, who went for 129 yards against Illinois last year, is back. The Illini have a new stopper in grad transfer LB Hardy Nickerson.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Maryland, which visits FIU, has won three of its last four road openers, including victories at Temple, UConn and South Florida. ... UCF, which plays at No. 5 Michigan, is 2-2 in its last four games against ranked opponents, including wins over top-10 teams Louisville and Baylor in 2013. ... Markell Jones will try to become the first Purdue player to have back-to-back 100-yard rushing games since 2012 when the Boilermakers host Cincinnati. ... Rutgers, which plays FCS Howard at home, has won each of the previous four meetings with the Bison by a combined 165-39. ... Seventeen redshirt freshmen and nine true freshmen made their first appearances for Ohio State last week. ... Wisconsin is going for its 36th straight home non-conference win when it plays Akron. ... Indiana, which hosts Ball State, is trying for an eighth consecutive nonconference win.
Iowa State is a 15-point underdog heading into the Cy-Hawk Trophy game at Iowa and is coming off a loss to FCS Northern Iowa. But remember, the visiting team has won four straight in this series.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong Jr. threw a long touchdown pass against Fresno State last week but was just 5 of 10, and that led the Cornhuskers to rely heavily on the run. Coach Mike Riley is demanding more balance, so we'll see if Armstrong can deliver against Wyoming. He needs two TD passes to tie the school career record of 56 by Taylor Martinez.
AP college football website: http://collegefootball.ap.org