Welcome to the Big Ten Weekly Preview….I have been predicting the outcome of Big Ten football games ‘on the record’ since 2006…my record isn’t bad…but there is always room for improvement. Last year was the first time I had ever broken the 80 correct plateau as I finished the season 81-26…statistically, my best season yet…over the years I have put a 416-141 record together. Whether you care if I improve or not, it should be fun to see if I can maintain the nearly 75% clip I am currently on….so…let’s get to it…
Thursday, August 30th
Minnesota at UNLV 11:00pmET CBS Sports Network
The rebuilding process is underway in Las Vegas…3rd year coach Bobby Hauck has his work cut out for him. After posting identical 2-11 years in his first two season in Sin City, his recruits will be the majority on campus from here on out. But there are still issues…the Rebels have only 13 scholarship seniors and only 2 returning senior starters….a bright spot is HB Tim Cornett…he is a game-breaker. All this being said, if Minnesota coach Jerry Kill can keep his players focused, the Gophers should win this one…from what I hear, there are a few things to do in Las Vegas besides play football. Minnesota wins 42-24.
Friday, August 31st
#20 Boise State @ #17 Michigan State 8:00pm ESPN
The Spartans are opening their season vs a ranked opponent for the first time since the 1998 season…and those Michigan St fans who don’t believe that the Broncos pose a threat?…Boise has gone into much more hostile venues to begin a season and have come out on top…and recently too. Wins over Georgia in the Georgiadome last year and beating Oregon in Autzen in 2008 to name a couple…but this game will be won or lost by the play of the QB’s…MSU’s Andrew Maxwell is the second coming of Kirk Cousins from what I am hearing from Spartans everywhere….actually just one…standing in a farmers market on the west coast of Michigan last week who the felt the need to come over to me and express his thoughts on Spartan football…but the QB I want to see is Boise’s Joe Southwick who will probably get the start…should be a couch-burner on Friday night at the Smoke Stack. MSU’s defense wins on a late TO…31-26.
Saturday, September 1st
Miami University @ Ohio State Noon Big Ten Network
The Buckeye faithful believe they have found their savior….and it is Urban Meyer. His era gets underway with this cakewalk vs the Red Hawks at the Shoe. It will be very interesting to see how Meyer’s version of the spread offense takes hold in Columbus. That aside…I will be more interested in seeing how his defense plays….as good as the Urban Gators were..the offense had its playmakers, but it was an always underrated (in my opinion) defense that got stops when they had to and turnovers when they needed them. This will be a nice tune up for the next couple of weeks for the Bucks as things get slightly more challenging from here on out. Ohio State cruises in their opener 49-10.
Ohio @ Penn State Noon ESPN/ESPN 3D
I will be shocked if the Nittany Lions run away and hide from the Bobcats…I really would. Frank Solich is beginning his 8th season in Athens….wow, has it been 8 years since he left Nebraska…..anyways…he has racked up a 50-40 record so far but is really impressive within the MAC with a 36-20 record and three MAC east titles and last year got the Bobcats their first bowl win since 1968….if this were the 2nd home game of PSU’s season I would say that Ohio has a chance….but I can’t imagine what the scene will be like in Beaver Stadium on Saturday. The football game will be secondary…but when all the dust settles and the teams come out and get their first couple of drives out of the way…it could be a pretty entertaining game. I think Bill O’Brien will be a good coach, but man…what a job he has in front of him. I think the crowd and the emotion of returning to football Saturdays will be enough for the Nittany Lions to open the season with a W for the 11th straight season….nope…not observing the meaningless ‘vacated wins’…Penn State wins 27-17.
Northwestern @ Syracuse Noon ESPN2
Ohhhhh man I can’t wait to see Kyle Prater!….I bet NW coach Pat Fitzgerald can’t either….but I bet he wishes even more that he had a Prater-like recruit on his defense. I also can’t wait to see how much better his defense plays in 2012. All I heard about this offseason was how he is really challenging his defense and holding them accountable for last years 5 game skid. If the Wildcats can actually play better defense, they could be another team that possibly factors into the mix for the Legends title…but that’s WAY down the road….speaking of the road…Northwestern has won its last two road regular season games (Indiana and Nebraska) and looks to continue that in the vaunted Carrier Dome…Syracuse is getting better and winning there has always been tough for the Cats…NW is 1-3 in New York and has lost three straight…including a thriller in 2009…but I think Northwestern gets it done Saturday…this may be one of the better games of the day…NW wins it 29-25.
Western Michigan @ Illinois Noon ESPNU
Be careful Tim Beckman…This Bronco team is primed for the spotlight and ready to pull the upset…most people (me included) will tell you that WMU underachieved in 2011…and they want to prove it….they have the MAC’s leading returning passer in Alex Carder…but they also have to improve on the MAC’s worst defense…I think they will be better, but they need to prove it on the road in Champana. Illinois will be breaking in almost an entirely new coaching staff…but Tim Beckman is from the school of Tressel so he likes his defense…he has coached on the defensive side of the ball since his first gig with Elon in 1996…rising to coach in places like BGSU, Columbus and Stillwater…can his defense stop the most prolific offense in the MAC?…probably, but it should be fun to watch…too much Scheelhaase…Illini win 31-27.
Iowa vs Northern Illinois 3:30pm ESPNU at Soldier Field
What an opening weekend the Big Ten has in store for them…it’s weekends like this that, in my opinion, may give the Big Ten it’s bad reputation in comparison with the SEC….Illinois, Penn State, Iowa all playing teams that they could lose to…yes they are MAC teams, but they are certainly better opponents than teams like Louisiana-Lafayette and South Alabama…I digress…Kirk Ferentz better be sure of what he is doing in Iowa City…because a loss to open the season vs the Huskies would be really tough on the fan base. I like James Vandenberg to get the W here…but it will be tight throughout the afternoon. I like the Hawkeye defense to make a late stop to get win…but more questions may arise than answers heading into rivalry week vs the Cyclones next week. Iowa wins 26-20.
Southern Mississippi @ #12 Nebraska 3:30pm ABC
This is a big year for Bo Pelini…yeah, last year was big…being the 1st year in a new conference…but now he has to show that he can make some changements within his team and begin to adapt to a more power-based league. What does he need to do?…Nebraska was not a good run stopping team…they finished 8th in the Big Ten against the run and one of only 5 teams in the league that gave up over 4 yds/carry…and only three teams gave up more rushing TD’s than the Corn…so it begins here. Can they stop the Golden Eagles?….it seems like this is kind of a blah opener from a blind eye…but its also one of those W’s…if you can beat Southern Miss…that would help your ratings…the last time the Eagles finished a season under .500 was 1993…so they win…this was kind of a risky schedule for Pelini in my eyes…and so was next weeks game…but I love me some Rex Burkhead…the Corn wins 35-24.
Eastern Kentucky @ #25 Purdue 3:30pm Big Ten Network
Danny Hope was the head coach at Eastern Kentucky from 2003 to 2007…he is part of the reason that the Colonels have won more than twice the Ohio Valley Conference titles than the next highest school. EKU has won 21 titles including a share last year…Tennessee Tech is second with 10….the Colonels are favored once again to win the OVC in 2012…HB Matt Denham was the OVC’s leading rusher in 2011 and had four 200 yd rushing games…uh-oh. This will be a great test for Purdue…they’re defensive front will be primed and ready to show that they are one of the more underrated fronts in the Big Ten….I like Danny Hope and his team to lay it on EKU…42-22.
Northern Iowa @ #10 Wisconsin 3:30pm Big Ten Network
Well…can Danny O’Brien be this year’s Russell Wilson?….I don’t think so…the factor that only Russell Wilson had was if nobody was open…he could run it and that is what just kills defenses…and I’m not saying O’Brien can’t run..I’m just saying he can’t run like Wilson. Plus….the Badgers don’t have the depth at WR in 2012 that they enjoyed last season. So it becomes more important that O’Brien is accurate. We will see…Northern Iowa brings in a team that has won a conference title for five of the last six years including a 10-3 mark in 2011 …with the exception of last year, Wisconsin has a history of at least one nail-biter where they seem to lose interest or focus in a non-conference game…they rarely lose them, but they give their fans a heart condition…then again that may be all the cheese there…..Badgers win 45-14.
Indiana State @ Indiana 8:00pm Big Ten Network
5th year Indiana State coach Trent Miles got the Sycamores over .500 for the first time since the 1996 season in 2010…he repeated that record last season and he begins the quest for ISU to have three straight seasons of over .500 ball since the late 1960’s…whether he does is neither here nor there for Indiana fans…the Hoosiers would like to be .500…Bill Lynch got the Hoosiers to 7-6 in 2007, but IU hasn’t enjoyed another over .500 mark since 1994. Kevin Wilson has some tools to improve this year…and that begins with beating your non-conference foes…something they should be able to do the first three weeks…@ Navy in late October?…we’ll see. But for now…this is winnable….if Wilson can’t get his team up for this one and beat the Sycamores….than this may not be the gig for him. I like IU to put up big numbers though…Hoosiers roll 44-20.
#15 Michigan vs #2 Alabama 8:00pm ABC
The Crimson Tide begin the 2012 season as the defending National Champs. They sport a lot of guys coming back on what was widely regarded as one of the best defenses in the country.….but not a ton of returning starters…two to be exact. But the depth teams like this have is what makes them so very good. The offense also boasts one of the best lines in the country. They are led by a redshirt junior QB named AJ McCarron…last season he threw for 2400 yds and 16 TD’s and only 5 INT’s…Eddie Lacy is the HB to stop for Alabama…although the Elephants will probably play three or four different HB’s, Lacy will be the man…he also boasts a yds/carry average of over 7…Alabama is all about defense and not turning the ball over….but the key to this game is if Bama can stop Denard Robinson which is what their defense is focusing on…you put eight, nine maybe even ten guys in the box and tell Denard he is going to have to throw the ball often to beat us…I imagine Nick Saban can and will stop Robinson…So although I feel Michigan keeps it close for a half, they will score late and make the game look closer than it actually is and fall to the Tide…..Bama wins 27-19.
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