Welcome back…(and to those newcomers…welcome) to the 8th straight season I will be boldly going where many, many people go on a regular basis, and that is predicting the outcome of Big Ten football games.
Over the previous seven seasons, I have amassed a 489-172 (73.2%) record. It has dipped in the last few years, but that, just like many other things in the Big Ten, I will blame on Rich Rodriguez.
I kid, of course. (it’s really Jim Tressel’s fault…and he of course ‘has no idea’) But on we go to the first week of the 2013 season. You know what is very difficult for me to believe? Other than the fact that you keep coming back to read my stuff…is that Penn State joined the Big Ten 20 years ago. Yep, 1993 athletically. Now, let’s get off the ‘I feel so old train’ and get to the week one action.
Man I love this.
Thursday, August 29th
Indiana State @ Indiana 7pm Big Ten Network: The Sycamores have a new coach. I know most of you already knew that (unlikely). But in your infinite wisdom, were you also aware that said new coach, Mike Sanford was Urban Meyer’s offensive coordinator at Utah in the early 2000’s? (VERY unlikely) What does this have to do with the game Thursday night?
A little but not much. I am guessing you will see a lot of wacky formations, probably more turnovers than normal and you will also have a few more people on the Hoosier bandwagon after the night in Bloomtown is over. Hoosiers win their 2nd straight season opener with a big 42-14 defeat of their in-state rival.
UNLV @ Minnesota 7pm Big Ten Network: 3rd year coach Jerry Kill will be looking for his 10th win as the Gopher head coach. The Running Rebels are picked to finish at or near the bottom of the West Division of the Mountain West. That, along with the notion that they are playing their first game on the road doesn’t bode well for UNLV. Rebel head coach Bobby Hauck may be feeling the pressure a bit this season; in his 1st three years in Vegas, he has a 6-32 record. At Montana as a coach he racked up a 80-17 record, so I get the feeling that if he doesn’t finish above .500, he could be looking for a new gig next year. Kill gets it done with a resounding 35-17 victory.
Friday, August 30th
Western Michigan @ Michigan State 8pm Big Ten Network: The Spartans have never lost to Western Michigan (7-0, all games have been in East Lansing). The Broncos fired their longtime head coach Bill Cubit who coached in Kalamazoo from 2005 to last season after he amassed a 51-47 record. I think it was the season-ending loss to EMU that did it. Oh well, the new guy is named P.J. Fleck who was a grad assistant at OSU, played at Northern Illinois and a season for the 49ers in the NFL. What does this mean? A long, long season at Waldo. Spartans destroy WMU 48-0.
Saturday, August 31st
Buffalo @ Ohio State Noon ESPN2: This will be the first meeting between OSU and Buffalo…The Buckeyes own a 28-1 record vs MAC schools (the loss coming to Akron in 1894). It seems unlikely that the Bulls will stand a chance against the Urbanantor. Buffalo has finished over .500 once since 1986…couple that with the fact that since 1999, the Bulls have played 31 regular season games (and one postseason game) vs teams from BCS conferences and they have only won once…that’s right….1-31. Their W came way back in 2002 on the road vs Rutgers…26 straight losses…that streak will end soon…probably not this year….and certainly not on this day…Braxton Miller gets the Heisman hype machine cranked up and the Urban Buckeyes win 45-6.
Massachusetts @ Wisconsin Noon Big Ten Network: This could be a nail-biter in Madison…you have a perceived bad team coming in like the Minutemen are…with a decent QB in Mike Wegzyn (although he is young) and you, Wisconsin, are breaking in a new coach in Gary Andersen…I have seen things like this before…but I think even if the Badgers do struggle…mightily I still think they win. Don’t be surprised if you see a close halftime score…something like 17-13 or 14-10…but I doubt UMass has the stuff to hang for four quarters at the Mad House on the first week of the season….Badgers look shaky, but get the season opening W for the 16th straight year…34-17.
Southern Illinois @ Illinois Noon Big Ten Network: Illinois won the only meeting between the two schools 28-25 back in 1985. This is the perfect opportunity for Illini head coach Tim Beckman to get some momentum going his way early in 2013. The Salukis are picked to finish near the bottom of the Missouri Valley football conference for 2013…From the things I am hearing this is a pretty important season for Beckman…he has a QB returning who has been there for the last three seasons (even though he is coming off a little injury from earlier in the month) in Nathan Scheelhaase…a guy a new coach can lean on. Illinois has to be impressive on this day…and I think they will be. Illinois wins 38-10.
Purdue @ Cincinnati Noon ESPNU: Purdue has won the only meeting between the two schools…way back in 2001 the Boilers beat the Bearcats 19-14. This could be one of the more interesting games of the day….both squads are ushering in new coaches…Darrell Hazell for Purdue and Tommy Tubberville for Cincinnati (still scratching my head over that one). Hazell made quite an impression at the Big Ten media day in July for being very focused and sharp in his comments. Which of these teams has more talent?…tough to say but I think that Cincy may…but I am just not so sure the execution will be there right away for Tubberville. I get the feeling I will see him look very frustrated on the sidelines Saturday afternoon. I still see the Bearcats winning…probably in OT…32-25. Can’t wait to see the Hazell postgame presser.
Central Michigan @ Michigan 3:30pm Big Ten Network: Michigan leads the all-time series vs CMU 2-0. The Chippewas are thought by most to finish around the middle of the pack in the Mid-American Conference. The Wolverines have high expectations…and as of now I am not quite so sure why. They have a very young and inexperienced middle of the offensive line (three new starters). They also are going to have to rely on some unproven talent on the defensive line as well as some young linebackers. The WR corp is either small with experience (Jeremy Gallon and Drew Dileo) or big and unproven (Jeremy Jackson, Joe Reynolds and Jehu Chesson). There is enough talent to get by the Chips though. I think Michigan wins, but they win ugly…Wolverines get Brady his 15th straight home W with a 27-10 win.
Penn State vs Syracuse (at East Rutherford, NJ) 3:30pm ABC: Penn State leads the all-time series against Syracuse 42-23-5…the Nittany Lions have won the last four meetings and 20 of the last 22…including the only prior meeting in East Rutherford in 1979. PSU coach Bill O’Brien has come out and stated that his QB competition has been fantastic and should only make the position better in the long run. I am really liking what this guy has done for the PSU program…he has kept the program chugging along where it should be…well above .500 and competitive. He will be tested in the next couple of years though when the loss of scholarships really start to affect the number of quality of players. PSU gets a tough W and beats Syracuse 31-24.
Northern Illinois @ Iowa 3:30pm Big Ten Network: The Hawkeyes have never lost to the Huskies (including a knee-knocker last year) 8-0. I would not..would NOT want to be Kirk Ferentz this weekend. He has been firmly placed on the warmer-than-usual seat in Iowa City. The ramifications of this opener are huge…win it and the seat probably goes back to room temperature..at least until the trip to Ames. However, if Iowa loses to NIU…oh man…and it is entirely possible. The Huskies were a BCS bowl team last year, they bring back QB Jordan Lynch who broke Denard Robinson’s record for rushing yards by a QB in a single season in 2012. Granted NIU has a new coach in Rod Carey who has been on staff since 2011. I don’t think Carey will have the same amount of success that 2012 head coach Dave Doeren had. All of this makes this the game with the most on the line in the first week of the season…we will see how much Kirk wants to keep his job…I like Iowa to win…and win big…27-13.
Wyoming @ Nebraska 8:00pm Big Ten Network: The Corn leads the all-time series vs Wyoming 6-0…I remember watching Nebraska play at Wyoming in September of 2011..the crowd was jacked and it was the most anticipated game ever for the Cowboys program according to local media…and it was close…for about a quarter and a half…then Rex Burkhead went nuts. Watch for the combo of Cowboy QB Brett Smith and WR Robert Herron…they could be very dangerous. This will be a key matchup vs the experienced Husker secondary. I still like Nebraska to win and the annual September padding of stats by Corn QB Taylor Martinez will begin…his line will look something like this…11-15 203 yards passing 2 TD’s 1 INT….8 carries, 92 yards and another 2 TD’s….most of that will occur in the first half….Nebraska wins 45-7.
Northwestern @ California 10:30pm ESPN2: Northwestern won the only prior meeting between the two schools in the 1949 Rose Bowl 20-14. Ironic that Northwestern ended such a long winless bowl streak at the end of the 2012 season and they begin the 2013 season vs the team they had their 1st bowl victory against….maybe it’s just me..I think about these things a lot. There are a lot of people giving the Wildcats love this year…and rightfully so. I think it is always fun to watch these kinds of situations…where teams that are off the map get some success and have to deal with it. Now Cal has a new coach in 2013, Sonny Dykes who had his first head coaching gig at Louisiana Tech from 2010 to 2012 is now running things at Berkeley…but he has had a ton of assistant coaching jobs. This should be interesting and it will probably go down to the wire…but I love the weapons that Pat Fitzgerald has…I like the Cats to win a rare west coast game…NW wins a shootout 42-35.
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