Big Ten Football Predictions for Week 1
With the season kicking off this Thursday, August 30th, it's time to look ahead at the schedule for this opening week of games.
Minnesota will be the first Big Ten team to battle on the gridiron, as they play Thursday evening. Michigan State plays Friday night, while the remaining 10 schools will be playing at some point on Saturday, September 1st.
Five Big Ten teams start the season ranked in the nation's top 18 spots, but both Michigan and Michigan State will be tested early as they take on Boise State and Alabama this weekend. While the Big Ten is not at the same level as the SEC as an entire conference, a Wolverine victory over the Crimson Tide could look very good for the conference.
Without further adieu, here is my game by game prediction for Week 1 of the college football season for B1G teams. Let the games begin!
Minnesota @ UNLV
After a 3-9 campaign in 2011, the Golden Gophers are hopeful that they can reach the six win mark and get back to a bowl game in 2012. Minnesota should get that first win this upcoming Wednesday as they travel to Las Vegas to take on the Rebels, who were 2-10 a year ago.
Quarterback MarQueis Gray returns to Minneapolis and should have more time in the pocket this season with a now more experienced offensive line. The Gophers return to Minneapolis for three straight games after this contest.
Minnesota 28 UNLV 17
Boise State @ Michigan State
The Spartans open their season on ESPN Friday night against a hungry Boise State Bronco squad that simply doesn't lose against power conference opponents. Both Michigan State and Boise State will be utilizing new quarterbacks and Friday will be our first night to look at each.
Andrew Maxwell takes over Kirk Cousins role and despite a prior prediction giving the Broncos the edge, my mind has changed. Although Michigan State's defense should be impressive as a whole in 2012, I can see a shootout occurring on Friday, even with two new QB's.
Michigan State 38 Boise State 34
Northwestern @ Syracuse
While losing Dan Persa to graduation is certainly not a good thing, the Wildcats should have faith in Kain Colter as he took plenty of snaps a year ago. The Wildcats lose a good bulk of their receiving core from last year, but will need running back Mike Trumpy to stay healthy this season.
The Wildcats finished 2011 with a 6-7 record, while the Orange ended 5-7. Northwestern's first half of the season contains all winnable games, while Syracuse plays USC in Week 2. Colter led the 'Cats to a road win at Boston College last year at this time and I don't see that changing this season.
Northwestern 24 Syracuse 17
Miami (OH) @ Ohio State
Urban Meyer's debut as the Buckeyes head coach comes against a Miami (OH) team that only won four games in 2011. The Buckeyes did struggle in 2011, only winning on six occasions, but expectations are much higher this season.
Ohio State opens the season with four straight games in Columbus, which should help Braxton Miller ease into Big Ten play. With expectations through the roof with the addition of Meyer, expect this game to get ugly quickly.
Ohio State 31 Miami (OH) 10
Ohio @ Penn State
Despite everything surrounding the Nittany Lion football program, Penn State certainly has a chance at a winning record in 2012 even if it cannot participate in either the Big Ten Championship or a postseason bowl game.
Matt McGloin returns at quarterback, although Silas Redd decided to transfer to USC. While I see this game coming down to the wire, I believe that the football gods will be looking upon the players on the home team and grace them with a win.
Penn State 20 Ohio 14
Western Michigan @ Illinois
In 2011, the Fighting Illini defeated the Broncos 23-20 in a game that was also played in Champagne. Saturday will mark the start of Tim Beckman's tenure as the Illinois head coach, after Ron Zook was fired following last season's collapse.
Illinois returns Nathan Scheelhaase behind center, although his favorite target AJ Jenkins is now a member of the 49er's. The Fighting Illini do bring back plenty of talent on defense, including Terry Hawthorne, who is pictured here, and who has the ability to play on both sides of the ball.
Illinois 24 Western Michigan 14
Southern Miss @ Nebraska
Nebraska opens the 2012 season at home against a Southern Miss team that finished 2011 with a 12-2 record, beating both Houston in the Conference USA Championship and Nevada in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.
Taylor Martinez needs a better junior season for the Cornhuskers to compete for a Big Ten title, while also improving their overall team defense. Expect this game to be closer than the experts' predictions may suggest.
Nebraska 33 Southern Miss 24
Northern Iowa @ Wisconsin
Northern Iowa faces both the Badgers and Iowa Hawkeyes in 2012, despite being a Division I-AA team. Regardless of Montee Ball's impact in this one, expect the Badgers and transfer quarterback Danny O'Brien to run away with it.
O'Brien comes from Maryland and replaces Russell Wilson, who transferred from fellow ACC school North Carolina State the previous year. Don't be surprised to see the Badgers running the score up, although UNI is a top tier team at their level.
Wisconsin 41 Northern Iowa 17
Iowa vs. Northern Illinois
Kirk Ferentz is one of the best head coaches in the business, so despite some offseason distractions, it would be silly to predict anything other than a Hawkeye win this Saturday at Soldier Field. It should be noted that Iowa's first road game isn't until October 13th.
James Vandenberg returns as Iowa's quarterback and the Hawkeyes should boast a strong defense as usual. Northern Illinois will remain competitive through the first half of this one, but I just don't see the upset happening.
Iowa 30 Northern Illinois 20
Eastern Kentucky @ Purdue
The Boilermakers made a bowl game in 2011, which may have set a precedent for Danny Hope's squad in the future. Caleb TerBush returns at quarterback, but Robert Marve will be there to back TerBush up if necessary.
Eastern Kentucky, like Northern Iowa, is not part of the FBS, formerly known as Division-I. Anything other than a Boilermaker win by at least a couple touchdowns would and should be a disappointing start to the year.
Purdue 27 Eastern Kentucky 10
Indiana State @ Indiana
Indiana State rounds out the opponents of Big Ten teams in Week 1 that are not part of the FBS, although IU should take any win they can get at this point. Coach Kevin Wilson's Hoosiers should get that win this week, though.
While making a bowl game may seem like a reasonable goal for Indiana in 2012, I simply don't see it happening given their schedule this season. Improving on a one-win campaign in 2011 would be a good start.
Indiana 28 Indiana State 14
Alabama vs. Michigan
Alabama vs. Michigan will not only be the game to watch this weekend for Big Ten fans, but it will be the game to watch for any casual college football fan as two of the nation's most storied programs face off in a battle for conference supremacy.
Despite picking Michigan to win the Big Ten Championship in 2012, beating Alabama this weekend would be an even bigger feat. The defending national champion Crimson Tide will pull away late from the Wolverines, despite a big game from Denard Robinson on 'Bama's stout defense.
Alabama 27 Michigan 17