Finally, it is game week
It seems a little strange to get back into game mode after almost five months without an actual contest to write about. The first week of football season is a long one too because it seems like almost everything possible has been written about the first game. I did my Notre Dame preview a few months ago. They haven't played at all so there isn't a ton I can add to it. All we can really do is go out and finally play this thing. I am thankful there are games beginning on Thursday night because I don't know how much longer I can wait.
It's time to do some picks for week one in the Big Ten.
Marshall at #2 Ohio State
This is not the Marshall with Randy Moss, Chad Pennington, and Byron Leftwich. Instead, it is a mediocre Thundering Herd team that was 7-6 last year and won the Whatever-the-hell-they're-calling-it-now-Little-Caesar's Bowl in Detroit. They will find out there is a big difference in playing Ohio State as opposed to Ohio. It's about the same difference as Little Caeser's (crappy pizza) vs. Garcia's Pizza By the Slice. Ever since Garcia's closed to be replaced by first Pizza King, then Hot Box, I have been jonesing like a crack addict needing a fix. I am sure it is a similar response to many OSU fans wanting to see the Buckeyes play. I would be happily sated with some Garcia's right now, as will Ohio State fans after a convincing win.
Ohio State 31, Marshall 6
Towson at Indiana
No Big Ten team should ever lose to a 1-AA team under any circumstances. Should the Hoosiers lose this game Thursday night they will deserve a proper public shaming via the internet Friday morning.
And I will be here to deliver.
Indiana 45, Towson 10
Minnesota at Middle Tennessee State
With Dwight Dasher, Middle Tennessee was expected to be the best team in the Sun Belt. That would have made for an interesting game where the worst conference's best team would be facing one of the best conference's worst teams. Dasher is suspended though, likely ending a trendy upset pick for the opening weekend. I give Minnesota points for bravely going on the road in one of these games. Few teams would have such gumption. It is a big test for the Golden Gophers because a loss likely eliminates them from serious bowl consideration in week 1. I just don't see them qualifying with a loss there.
Minnesota 21, Middle Tennessee 17
Youngstown State at #19 Penn State
JoePa gets win number 395 under the above corollary for Indiana. The Nittany Lions could start Elizabeth Bolden, a 116 year old woman who died in 2006 at quarterback in place of true freshman Robert Bolden and still win easily. I guess this is where I make the joke that Bolden (Elizabeth, not Robert) was JoePa's homecoming date in college.
Penn State 52, Youngstown State 10
Eastern Illinois at #9 Iowa
Last year the Hawkeyes were pushed to the limit by Northern Iowa from the lesser division. They then went on a run and won the Orange Bowl. There are similar expectations in 2010, but don't expect them to be pushed by Eastern Illinois.
Iowa 38, Eastern Illinois 7
Western Michigan at Michigan State
Has anyone had a bigger downfall than Tim Hiller? A few years ago he was the next big MAC quarterback. I had high hopes for him last year, but the whole team sucked and now he can't beat out Curtis Painter for a roster spot with the Colts. He's gone, and Western Michigan probably still sucks. It is still taboo for a Big Ten team to lose to the MAC, but both Purdue and MSU were victims last year. That probably means the Spartans won't be again.
Michigan State 42, Western Michigan 14
Illinois vs. Missouri at St. Louis
The Fighting Illini are 0-3 in this neutral site series heading into the last game. Each year seems to have gotten progressively worse. Nathan Scheelhaase is another first-time starter in the conference at quarterback, although unlike Bolden he at least has a redshirt year. As we've seen through the past decade of Illinois football we don't know what to expect. If they're good, it is BCS good. If they are bad, we're talking worst team in the conference bad. Who needs middle ground? For the record, I think this is the beginning of the end for the Zooker. I know, not exactly a stretch there.
Missouri 31, Illinois 21
Connecticut at Michigan
Things do not look good for the Wolverines right now. The Troy Woolfolk injury cost them the best player of a bad unit. They might be starting a quarterback in Denard Robinson that hasn't proven he can actually throw the ball yet. Rich Rodriguez looked like a harpy in the audience screamed "SHOW ME THE FEAR IN YOUR EYES!" at the Big Ten kickoff luncheon. I have never seen a coach with such a terrified countenance. Now they have to open the season against a good Connecticut team. Michigan will be able to run the ball, but can they pass? Can they stop anyone? I think they lose and the voices become even louder in Ann Arbor. There is blood in the water.
Connecticut 27, Michigan 24
Purdue at Notre Dame
I know I am probably jinxing myself by saying this, but I have had an increasingly good feeling about this game over the past few weeks. How good? I have had a feeling this is going to turn out like the 2004 game. I know it is probably wishful thinking, but what kind of a statement would Purdue make with a similar performance? Purdue has the better pass rush with Ryan Kerrigan and Gerald Gooden. They can get to the quarterback and take the pressure off of a young secondary. The ballyhooed Notre Dame no huddle doesn't mean much if it can't get in sync. If Purdue can disrupt their flow early and use its receivers to move the chains this game could quickly go in their favor.
Purdue 35, Notre Dame 31
Northwestern at Vanderbilt
Can we have the teams match SAT scores and declare a winner? This should be a fun game between a pair of teams that probably need this win for bowl consideration. It is also one of the few Big Ten vs. SEC games of the regular season. Even though it is between the lowest profiled schools in each conference we still need to stand up for conference pride.
Northwestern 24, Vanderbilt 20
#12 Wisconsin at UNLV
Why can't we ever play in Vegas? The Cheeseheads get the last conference game of the weekend with a late night kickoff in sin city. John Clay should have plenty of room to run, too. Too bad you can't actually bet on UNLV games in Vegas. I would take the over.
Wisconsin 38, UNLV 10