Well, it's under way. College football is officially here.
Via LeGarrette Blount, Thursday night was not without its moments, but the coming holiday weekend will certainly measure up with several marquee Top 25 matchups on the schedule.
The Arch Rivalry game between Missouri and Illinois doesn't necessarily deserve the hype as, say, an Oklahoma State-Georgia or Alabama-Virginia Tech, but the recent history between these two teams suggests Saturday afternoon at the Edward Jones Dome will be anything but lame.
Is another shootout between the Tigers and Illini imminent? Or will a pair of seemingly pedestrian defenses rise up to the occasion?
Since us sportswriters know everything, we'll never shy away from giving a prediction on any game, topping it off with a final score and reasons as to why we're right.
Here is just a diverse sampling of that, as it relates to Saturday's matchup between Missouri and Illinois:
When these teams met last season, it was one of the biggest opening-week games. This season, no one really is mentioning it. But this game has a lot of intrigue. For Mizzou, the question is whether the Tigers can keep it going without QB Chase Daniel, WR Jeremy Maclin, et. al. For the Illini, the question is whether new offensive coordinator Mike Schultz (who was hired away from TCU) can rev up the rushing attack and take some pressure off QB Juice Williams. Pick: Illinois, 35-30
— Mike Huguenin, Rivals.com college football editor
The script will be flipped. It past games it was Missouri who set the pace with the Illini needing to furiously rally to come back. This year, Illinois will jump out early as Missouri tries to settle in, but the gap will be closed with a huge second half from [Blaine] Gabbert. It won't be enough. Pick: Illinois, 45-31
— Staff, College Football News
A must-win for the Illini, who have the speed and talent to play with the Big Ten elite but lack the confidence after last year's step back. Illinois simply can't afford to lose yet again to rebuilding Mizzou. Pick: Illinois, 24-16
— Matt Hayes, Sporting News college football writer
The Illini are looking to turn the tables after losing four straight against the Tigers in the annual Arch Rivalry since it returned to St. Louis in 2002. Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert will make his first career start, only a few long touchdowns passes from his old high school in the St. Louis area. Missouri linebacker Sean Weatherspoon has played big against the Illini in previous seasons with two interceptions last season. He’s promised to “squeeze the pulp” out of Illinois quarterback Juice Williams again this season. But in the end, Williams’ experience and play-making abilities will prove to be a little much for the Tigers to overcome. Pick: Illinois, 35-31
— Tim Griffin, ESPN.com Big 12 blogger
Many are calling for Ron Zook and Illinois' first win in the Arch Rivalry series
The Illinois-Missouri matchup usually oozes offense, and this year will be no exception. But Juice Williams gets the final say against Sean Weatherspoon and the Tigers, as he finds four different receivers for touchdowns. Sophomore running backs Jason Ford and Mikel LeShoure both show improvement as a dynamic Illini offense secures a big win in the Edward Jones Dome. Pick: Illinois, 44-38
— Adam Rittenberg, ESPN.com Big Ten blogger
Missouri has more on offense than most believe. Even if the passing game sputters, the running game shouldn’t. Pick: Missouri, 35-28
— Mike DeArmond, Kansas City Star MU beat writer
The Illini have been on the short end of the stick in this game the past two season, but this year might be different. Gone are Chase Daniel and Jeremy Maclin, as well as their other offensive threat Chase Coffman. Enter Blaine Gabbert as the new quarterback at Missouri with Jared Perry and Danario Alexander being his new weapons. The Illini return Juice Williams at quarterback and Arrelious Benn at wide receiver. Illinois has a new defensive coordinator who held the same position at TCU, and we know that the Horned Frogs have had one of the best defenses in the nation the past few years. I applaud Big Head's optimism, but I think this is the year for the Illini to extract some revenge on the Tigers. Illinois 34-20
Last year, Missouri came away with a 52-42 victory in an entertaining shootout that produced 1,081 total yards of offense. Expect a different outcome this time around. First, while there will be enough points to keep fans excited, it won't be a 90-plus-point shootout like last year's contest. Secondly, Illinois' superior experience at the skill positions will allow it to pull away from a Missouri team that is looking to establish its offensive identity. Pick: Illinois, 35-24
— Scouts, Inc. (ESPN Insider subscription needed)
The more I think about Illinois, the more I believe that this game will come down to line play. Whoever wins there, wins. Naturally, because I'm a Missouri fan I like Missouri's chances, but I also know that an outsider could make the case that Missouri fans are completely underestimating their own personnel losses, and that we could be in for a very rude awakening on Saturday. So I'm leaning on the numbers for now. The projections say that Missouri isn't going to fall off nearly as much as everybody thought, or put another way, the numbers say that Missouri was high enough above most teams that a fall-off should still result in a good season. They say Mizzou wins by 10, so I'll fill in the points. Pick: Missouri, 38-28
I think there’s just the right amount of pressure on the Illini coaches, who know the fans will be restless if they fail to win this game, this time. And yet not so much pressure that they need to be panicky. Pick: Illinois, 34-24
— Mark Tupper, Herald & Review writer
Despite losing so many stars and both coordinators, the Tigers have a foundation for success now. But that will be more evident by season’s end than at its start. More-experienced Illini are due for first win over MU in STL since 1896. Pick: Illinois, 27-21
— Vahe Gregorian, St. Louis Post-Dispatch writer
Correction: In The Bleachers incorrectly identified Illinois' Mike Schultz as the team's defensive coordinator; he is the offensive coordinator, a position he formerly held at TCU.
Two other notes worth mentioning on this gameday eve:
- Condolences go out to the family of legendary Missouri basketball coach Norm Stewart, whose granddaughter recently passed away. Jennifer Stewart, 29, died in a one-car accident in Columbia on the morning of Aug. 30.
- Oklahoma All-American tight end Jermaine Gresham is guaranteed to miss Saturday's season opener against BYU with damaged cartilage in his right knee, but it's possible the injury could prove more detrimental than originally thought, according to at least one medical professional. "If it's just a question of going in and cleaning out his knee, then often times you can get those kids back in 2-4 weeks," Ryan Pitts, a doctor of osteopathy at Eastern Oklahoma Orthopedic Center, told the Tulsa World. "If they go in and repair it, he's pretty much done for most of, if not all, the season."
Photo courtesy of the State Journal-Register