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Big Ten week 1 (Where just $250,000 buys you an unbeaten start.)

Welcome back everyone! For those of you who enjoyed my season preview, tell your friends. If this is your first time here, feel free to sit back, have a cup of hot tea, and have a read of the opening entry here. I want to thank you for stopping by and I hope you come back soon.
Were less than 24 hours away from the kickoff of the college football season, and I wanted to take a look at the Big Ten as a whole by previewing each teams opener, then a more national perspective before things get started. And let me tell you, I can't wait for things to get started. I can already taste the first Boiler-rita of the season Saturday around noon at Ross-Ade.
All 11 Big Ten teams are in action this weekend, and to be honest, all 11 teams should probably be favored thanks to the NCAAs "Buy a win bonanza" that the 12th game has created. This is the weekend for the majority of those 12th games, so naturally, expect a lot of dominance over inferior opponents.

Aug. 31 Minnesota at Kent State The big question for the Gophers this year is, of course, what do they do to replace a depleted running game. Laurence Maroney is gone to the NFL and Gary Russell is academically ineligible. The Gophers tend to churn out 1,000 yard backs more easily than the Denver Broncos, and Amir Pennix looks to be the next one. Theres not a lot of depth after that, however. Expect another solid season on the ground, however, as the Gophers always runt he ball very well.
Bryan Cupito is a senior and is a decent game manager of a quarterback, and doesnt make too many mistakes, but he hasnt exactly torn up the Big Ten record books in his career. I think the Gophers will be good, but the rest of the Big Ten will be better. It wont matter in this one, however, as Kent State was one of the worst teams in Division 1-A last year, going 1-10 with that lone win being over 1-AA SE Missouri State. Ouch!
PREDICTION: Though a Big Ten team going to a MAC teams house is usually a landmine, not here. Minnesota 45, Kent State 10

Aug. 31 Northwestern at Miami (OH) How can you predict a game like this where emotion will be sloshing tangibly out of the stadium. It's the rare 'double cancer boy game,' as both teams will be honoring Randy Walkers untimely passing. He truly was a fantastic coach who always accomplished more with less at both schools. Add to the fact that he was a legend as a player at Miami before becoming a coach there and you have a host of storylines. Its almost like people are forgetting they will be playing a game.
Miami has had Northwestern's number in the series, and many people forget that the magical run of the purple to Pasadena in 1995 had a lone stumble against the Redhawks. Thats right, Northwestern run undefeated through the Big Ten, and had a season opening win over Notre Dame, but fell to Miami of Ohio. I think this will be a year where Northwestern rides emotion to a great season, or they will crash hard due to lack of experience at the quarterback position.
PREDICTION: I think this will be the closest game of the Big Ten weekend, but I give the edge to Northwestern. The Miami fans may remember Walker fondly, but the players never played for him like the Wildcats did. Thats enough to put them over the top, despite breaking in a new QB. Northwestern 28, Miami 24

Sep. 2 Montana at Iowa In my opinion, Iowa is the best team in the Big Ten this year. Drew Tate is one of the most solid, steady quarterbacks in the country and he has a very talented running back in Albert Young behind them. Iowas defense is never terrible, and tends to keep them in every game. They get Ohio State at home, no Penn State, and they arent afraid to go into the Big House and win at Michigan. Tate is not nearly getting the attention that Brady Quinn is, but he should because he is a more solid quarterback who has actually beaten a team that has done something, whereas Quinn has struggled outside of Weis "system".
All that is said basically to drive this point home: Montana is a solid 1-AA program, but they wont win in Iowa City, where very few teams other than the Hawkeyes do win. They will be a decent test for a team that needs to put some things together for what could be a very special season.
PREDICTION: The Grizzlies have some bark, but not enough to make a serious game of it. Iowa 45, Montana 16.

Sep. 2 Vanderbilt at Michigan This game is seriously a year late as I would love to have seen what Jay Cutler would have done against the Wolverines. Last years Vandy team was the best in years, and Cutler could soon be starting for the Broncos. If he had simply had the talent of almost any other team last year Vanderbilt would have been a threat to win the SEC.
That was then, and this is now, however. I think Michigan is one of the biggest mysteries in the Big Tent his season. Sure, they have a ton of talent and always recruit well, but they seem to be missing that intangible that makes everything click together. Simply put, they are not as frightening as Michigan teams of the past, and people know it. They are still very, very good and can play with any team in the country, but in turn they dont strike fear in lesser opponents as much anymore as evidenced by the way North Illinois hung around last year at the Big House. They were dangerously close to a 4-7 year last year with all that talent, getting narrow wins over Penn State (final play), Michigan State (OT), and Iowa (OT).
PREDICTION: The theme song for this season may be Mystery by Live, but for this game Hail to the Victors will play early and often. Michigan 52, Vanderbilt 10

Sep. 2 Idaho at Michigan State Dennis Erickson has two National Championships, numerous conference championships, and NFL experience as a head coach. While Sebastian the Ibis is happy with him, he comes to East Lansing with a team that is more like a tropical depression than his Hurricanes of old. Joe Vandal is a far cry away from the heights that Erickson reached with Sebastian at the University of Miami, as Idaho is one of the dregs of Division 1-A.
Michigan State is perhaps the most erratic team in the Big ten. So much so that Vegas needs to place odd on when it will have its annual meltdown. They can beat anyone, but can be beaten by anyone. While most of the college football world prays that the Spartans will continue their recent mastery of Notre Dame in order to quiet the incessant hype from South Bend, Spartan fans would rather just find a team that wont cave at the sight of a close loss.
PREDICTION: Erickson has won in the past at Idaho, but he wont today. Michigan State 48, Idaho 7

Sep. 2 Indiana State at Purdue I covered this in my previous preview, but I will make a few more comments. Of all the Big Ten games this weekend, I see this one as being the most lopsided. Seriously, cant we schedule someone else? I can understand getting a 1-AA team for an easy win, but the worst 1-AA team last season statistically? Was Butler unavailable? What do we have to learn from this?
Everyone plays early and often in this. I know I still have four years of eligibility, and aside from one season of intramural flag football at Purdue, I have never played a down of organized football in my life, but I fully expect a call to put on a uni in the third quarter or so. I have even seen posts on this week about how fast we get our first score, with Dorien Bryant returning the opening kick for a TD being the leading choice.
PREDICTION: The only way I see ISU even scoring is if Purdue turns the ball over inside the 20 or very late against some fourth stringers. If Purdue went first team all the way, theyd crack 100. Purdue 66, Indiana State 0

Sep. 2 Akron at Penn State The Nittany Lions had better take this game seriously as they will be breaking in several key new players and Akron returns a team that despite its struggles last year, still won the MAC. The Zips are not that bad, and moved the ball well against us last year, something that should have been a sign of things to come. They return some talent and may end up making a game of this.
Aside from being a dominating word in Scrabble if you could use proper names, Posluszny is a force to be reckoned with his linebacking mates, and the offense shouldnt be too bad this year. I dont think there will be quite the dramatic fall-off of past Penn State teams, but there will be some fall off. Morelli is the key for them at quarterback. If he steps in and lives up to his recruiting hype, they will be a tough team to beat each week.
PREDICTION: Akron hangs around for a half, maybe even three quarters, but they cant get the win. Penn State 34, Akron 17

Sep. 2 Northern Illinois at Ohio State Do not discount the Huskies. Garrett Wolfe and company played Michigan very tough to open the season last year at the Big House, and will certainly not be afraid of facing the #1 Buckeyes at home. Oho States defense will be in question from the start, and with Texas looming next week, they could get caught with their pants down if they dont come out sharp.
For the Buckeyes, I dont understand the infatuation with Ted Ginn Jr. Yes, he is fast and very dynamic when he has the ball, but I have seen him drop way too many passes, including a few that bounced off of him for INTs, to take him too seriously as a receiver. He is a scary talent when he has the ball, but he has to get it, first. The offense looks dominant. If the running game comes through, the loss of so much on defense may not even matter.
PREDICTION: I think this one will be much closer than people think. Ohio State wins, but they sweat just a little. Ohio State 38, Northern Illinois 24

Sep. 2 Western Michigan at Indiana I keep saying it and I hope people are listening: we need to take the Hoosiers seriously this year. Football is a game of momentum, and with a very winnable early slate of four games, IU could be 4-0 going into the Big Ten season. Granted, they arent exactly playing USC, Florida, Miami, and Texas, but 4-0 is 4-0, and for a program that has been down as long as they have, its a huge boost to know you need only two more wins in the last eight to reach a bowl.
The thing is, they could get those two. Powers is coming into his own and James Hardy is a top-notch target to throw to. The defense has to be better, as they couldnt get much worse last year, and if they get some semblance of a running game, things could come together. The Hoosiers always play Wisconsin well, and they come to Bloomington. Illinois and Minnesota could be winnable, and if Michigan State is melting down by October 28th, you just never know. They wont win the conference, but they wont be the worst team, either.
PREDICTION: I know almost nothing about Western Michigan, which means they probably wont make much noise this year. Big Ten teams shouldnt lose at home to MAC teams either (though I am aware it has happened before). Indiana 35, Western Michigan 17

Sep. 2 Wisconsin vs. Bowling Green at Cleveland Browns Stadium This is another Big Ten at a MAC team opener that has been dangerous so many times in the past. John Stocco is another one of those solid, game-manager quarterbacks that doesnt light you up, but doesnt make many mistakes either. They had the smoothest transition possible from outgoing coach to incoming coach, and the Badgers rarely disappoint when it comes to simply being competitive. Of all the teams in the Big Ten, this one seems to be making the least amount of noise.
This Bowling Green team is not the same Bowling Green team of years past that had a high-octane, score at will offense. They are very young, and with that youth they are sure to struggle, even opening with all the hype of "hosting" a Big Ten team. Then again, you never know what can happen, as one of the most successful Wisconsin teams ever with Ron Dayne went into lowly Cincinnati and lost.
PREDICTION: Wisconsin rolls fairly easily, as defense will be at a premium here like it was last year. Wisconsin 42, Bowling Green 27

Sep. 2 Eastern Illinois at Illinois This is our final "purchased" win of the week, and another case of what will we truly see from Illinois. Many are predicting Illinois to be the worst of the Big Ten this year, and I tend to agree. That doesnt not meant hey will be totally horrible, however, as I think this is one of the most evenly matched conferences in years. In my opinion, only Illinois, Indiana, and Northwestern are half a step below the rest of the league, and with all the purchase wins that a four game non-conference schedule allows, plus the wealth of various bowls, its not hard for any team to get to a bowl.
That said, much like the rest of the 1-AA games this week, we cant truly judge a team unless the game is horrifically close. If any of the 1-AA Big ten games are close into the second quarter this week, alumni will be panicking all over the Midwest.
PREDICTION: I hope the Illini have plenty of fireworks to shoot off. Illinois 52, Eastern Illinois 3

So I predict the Big Ten to go 11-0 this week, and they very well should, as each school should be the better school in each match-up, outside of maybe Northwestern-Miami. Id like to close with my:
NATIONAL GAME OF THE WEEK: Contrary to what the media wants us to think, it is Notre Dame against Georgia Tech simply because the all-powerful Irish are playing. Ill make a quick pick here: Georgia Tech 28, Notre Dame 27. The Yellow Jacket defense can hang with the Irish, and Touchdown Jesus cant save you in Hot-lanta, especially if the weather is bad as might be expected.
My real national game of the week is Florida State at Miami. These two teams simply do not like each other, and this week Florida State seems to be getting an inordinate amount of attention. The Seminoles still have to come into the Orange Bowl and win, something they have struggled to do mightily throughout this series.
This game shouldnt be as ugly as last years, but I am concerned about two things for the Hurricanes: 1. They are missing Tyrone Moss who is suspended, and with soggy weather like Miami has had recently they need a running game, and 2. They need an offensive line and time to throw the ball.
PREDICTION: In the end, I think the Seminoles are cursed in the orange Bowl, and last years special teams breakdown by the Canes was a fluke, and not payback for all the missed kicks. Miami 28, Florida State 26, as my wife dances in the living Monday night, playing our musical Sebastian and celebrating Wide Left II
NEXT UP: Week 1 reactions in a more humorous tone, because it's much easier to have a humorous reaction than try to be funny while guessing.