If you missed part one with the first seven of 14 picks, it can be found here. Part 2 begins with our own game against Western Michigan.
Western Michigan (0-0) at Purdue (0-0) Noon, ESPNU
Purdue has the second longest losing streak in the country at the FBS level. Miami (OH) hosts Marshall on Saturday having lost 16 in a row. Purdue and California have each lost 10 in a row and struggled mightily under first-year head coaches last season. We'll see Cal a little later in this preview, as they are traveling to Northwestern, but Purdue opens against possibly its weakest opponent of the season.
Honestly, if we can't beat Western Michigan we're going to be in for a very long year. They are a bad team in the midst of a complete rebuild with a ton of first year players. They are nowhere close to the rest of the Big Ten. We have to see marked improvement against a team that even last year's team would have been able to beat. If Purdue struggles, or even loses, It is a very bad sign for the rest of the season.
I don't think there will be struggles. I think the ground game has a big day and we see marked improvement from a defense that has some nice pieces in it. Purdue 30, Western Michigan 14
No. 5 Ohio State (0-0) at Navy (0-0) Baltimore, MD, Noon, CBS Sports Network
Navy is always a difficult team to prepare for. Their triple option has a way of speeding games up as they milk the clock with lengthy drives. They also are hell on the knees of defenders. You know they are going to run the ball on almost every play, but it is still difficult to stop. Navy is fresh off of a sweep of a Big Ten team in winning a home-and-home against Indiana and they did challenge the Buckeyes in Columbus a few years ago.
Ohio State is going with J.T. Barrett, who will take over at quarterback after losing Braxton Miller for the season. There are definitely some questions on offense now, but this is still Ohio State. They are blessed with having a program where most backups would start just about anywhere else. That should be enough to secure a comfortable win over Navy. Ohio State 38, Navy 21
Youngstown State (0-0) at Illinois (0-0) 12:05pm, BTN
Another ranked FCS team will take on a Big Ten opponent this week, as No. 21 Youngstown State will face Illinois, the only team that might be as bad as Purdue (at least in the preseason). There is no question that this is a must win for the Fighting Illini. They struggled with Southern Illinois from the FCS last year and with a trip to Washington in a few weeks the Illini cannot afford a non-conference loss to a patsy if it is going to make a bowl game.
The preview linked above states that YSU lost quite a bit from last year, but they have beaten Pitt in the past for an FCS-over-FBS pelt. They also have Jim Tressell... as their university President. That's not quite as intimidating as the last time Illinois had to deal with YSU. This is probably a game that Illinois should win by quite a bit. Illinois 45, Youngstown State 14
James Madison (0-0) at Maryland (0-0) 3:30pm, BTN
Maryland's first game as a member of the Big Ten comes against one of our founding fathers and one of only three FCS schools that has ever beaten a ranked FBS team. James Madison stunned Virginia Tech a few seasons ago and it was probably a bigger upset because at least Appy State was a three-time FCS national champion. James Madison was a middling .500 team and this year they are not ranked either.
An interesting note: JMU's new head coach is the former defensive coordinator at Ohio State. That, plus eight returning starters on the defense, could make this interesting. More likely, this will be another of many FBS blood-lettings over an overmatched FCS foe. Maryland 52, James Madison 10
Florida Atlantic (0-0) at No. 22 Nebraska 3:30pm, BTN
Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini was supposed to be facing his younger brother Carl in this one, but Carl resigned last season amid allegations of drug use and FAU went 4-0 afterward. They were one of the few 6-6 teams in the country that did not get a bowl invite, but that is probably because their last three opponents of Southern Miss, New Mexico State, and FIU made our final three games of 2012 look like we faced Alabama, Florida State, and Oregon.
This is a paycheck game and Nebraska should roll with ease. FAU is far from a good team. They have a decent amount of talent at the start, but it is still the Sun Belt, which is basically MAC-south. The Cornhuskers can probably pick the final score here.
California (0-0) at Northwestern (0-0) 3:30pm ABC/ESPN2
Finally, a Big Ten team decides to open with a power conference team. Well, as much as California is after going 1-11 and losing their final 10 games in 2013. The Wildcats won last year in Berkley before their season completely fell apart and they will face a team that likes to play fast, much like Indiana and Oregon.
Cal is also going to throw the football. A lot. It did not work last year, but it was an experience-building year for a team that, like Purdue, is hoped to take a big step forward this year. InsideNU has a great piece on advanced statistics and why they matter, mostly because Cal put up a lot of offensive numbers last season without really doing anything. As long as they continue to not have a defense Northwestern should be fine. Northwestern 34, California 21
No. 14 Wisconsin (0-0) vs. No. 13 LSU (0-0) at Houston, TX 9pm, ESPN
This is clearly the best game of the week, and a critical one in the early race for one of the four College Football Playoff spots. I haven't written a lot about the new Playoff because Purdue is so far from it right now it would take a minor miracle to even be considered. Since strength of schedule is now a factor in it, teams like LSU and Wisconsin will probably play some games like this in the non-conference season more regularly.
The winner certainly gets a leg up early on, and LSU has already made the mistake of trying to play two quarterbacks at the same time. Wisconsin has no such dilemma. They are going to be the same "pound the rock" football team and Melvin Gordon is already being touted as a Heisman candidate. Getting a victory would be a very nice feather in the cap of the entire Big Ten. Wisconsin 20, LSU 17