Top 25 Preview Capsules

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Wisconsin RB Montee Ball gets the chance to put his offseason troubles behind him. Ball, a Heisman Trophy finalist last season, was attacked on campus a month ago _ an incident that might have been related to a previous fight allegedly involving UW football players, although Ball insists he wasn’t involved in the earlier fight. Northern Iowa has consistently been a highly ranked FCS team under coach Mark Farley and has shown an ability to challenge FBS opponents.

KEY MATCHUP

Wisconsin’s running game vs. Northern Iowa’s defensive front. Sure, the Badgers have Ball and their typically mammoth offensive line _ but it doesn’t stop there, as running backs James White and Melvin Gordon also are expected to get their fair share of carries this season. Wisconsin averaged 235.57 yards rushing per game last season, 11th-best in the country.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Northern Iowa: RB David Johnson. As a redshirt freshman last season, Johnson had 179 carries for 822 yards and nine touchdowns with 33 receptions for 422 yards and three touchdowns.

Wisconsin: QB Danny O’Brien. A transfer from Maryland, O’Brien won the starting QB job in camp. He’s likely to face high expectations this season from Badgers fans who fondly recall the playmaking exploits of Russell Wilson last season, but coaches and teammates hope O’Brien will be given leeway to grow into the role.

FACTS & FIGURES

Entering his seventh season at Wisconsin, Bret Bielema (60-19) has led the Badgers to back-to-back Big Ten titles and two straight trips to the Rose Bowl. … Wisconsin scored 44.14 points per game last season, sixth-best in the nation. … The Badgers led the nation with a 54.71 third-down conversion percentage. … Northern Iowa head coach Mark Farley (99-40) is entering his 12th season. He has led the team to seven conference championships, seven playoff appearances, 10 top-25 final rankings, three national semifinal appearances and one national title game appearance. … Farley is 2-10 against FBS opponents with wins over Ball State (42-39, Sept. 22, 2001) and Iowa State (24-13, Sept. 8, 2007). Northern Iowa lost 20-19 at Iowa State last year, blowing a late lead. The Panthers lost 17-16 at Iowa in 2009 after having a pair of late field goal attempts blocked.

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No. 14 Clemson vs. Auburn at Atlanta, 7 p.m. (ESPN)

Line: Clemson by 3 1/2.

Series Record: Auburn leads 34-12-2

WHAT’S AT STAKE

This appears to be the only real test defending ACC champion Clemson faces ahead of the Sept. 22 game at No. 7 Florida State. It’s also a potential chance to build confidence for other offensive weapons without suspended wide receiver Sammy Watkins. Auburn has plenty to prove with a number of new starters and minus suspended center Reese Dismukes.

KEY MATCHUP

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