Big Ten Sees Early Hurdles

BY BEN ROSS | AUGUST 29, 2012 6:30 AM

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Michigan State may have scheduled itself into one of the best-hidden traps of a football game when it plays Boise State to open the college-football season on Friday.

Boise State has gone undefeated in its past three season-openers, all against nationally ranked opponents, all as underdogs.

In 2009, the Broncos defeated then-No. 16 Oregon in its opener. The following year, No. 10 Virginia Tech coughed it up to the blue-turf dwellers. Last season, No. 19 Georgia was beaten not far from home in Atlanta.

Mark Dantonio goes into his sixth year at the helm of the Spartan program, and he knows by now not to underestimate the skill on the Boise State roster —  going as far to joke he put 14 players on defense in practice just to account for the talent the Broncos bring to the table, or gridiron, rather.

“We’ve talked about Boise from A-Z,” Dantonio said. “But all these plans seem to change when you get to game time. At game time, the players tend take over. They’re extremely versatile. They do about everything. I’m impressed with how they do it — with how they play.”

Wolverines prepare for meeting with champs

The Spartans’ in-state rivals kick off their football season with an even tougher test: They will face reigning national champion Alabama.

The game will be played on national TV on Saturday in Dallas. And even though the Maize and Blue have a wealth of talent on their roster — including Denard Robinson, Fitzgerald Toussaint, and Roy Roundtree — Michigan still has the daunting task of toppling the crimson-colored goliath.

Head coach Brady Hoke said it’s always tough to prepare for the very first game of the season and even more so against a team such as the Crimson Tide. Hoke also said that playing such difficult games is a necessary evil when one wants to be seen as force in college football.

“You still go into every opener a little unsure of what you have in a football team, but playing the defending national champs, we’ll have our hands full,” he said.

“When you want to be the best and when you want to be champions, you need to play the best. You need to play those programs that are on a high level. I’m very comfortable with opening up with Alabama.”

‘Time to move forward’ for Nittany Lions

The last football game Bill O’Brien coached in was the Super Bowl.

Now, in his first year at the helm of Penn State, O’Brien faces a new challenge in resurrecting the tradition of Nittany Lion football.

Penn State will take the field in Happy Valley without its legendary head coach in Joe Paterno for the first time in 45 years. Stuck in ground zero of one of the greatest scandals in sports history, O’Brien said keeping his players focused for Saturday’s game against Ohio is his main task.

“This is a very focused football team,” O’Brien said. “We’ve got to do a great job of continuing coaching. We have to make sure once the ball is snapped, we’re playing football against a really good football team.”

O’Brien also said he was eager to put all the negative press about Penn State behind him, and he still sees unwavering support for the university despite the controversy.

“Support has been very positive,” he said. “I don’t know what to expect Saturday. I hope we have a great turnout. It’s time to turn the page and move forward.”

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