I am back for another year of predicting Big Ten games. Each Friday I’ll have a brief summary of what I think the key points are in the games, along with my predictions. Last year I had a good record, getting 80 percent of the games right, so let’s see if I can continue the trend this season.
Youngstown State at Ohio State (Big Ten Network, 12 pm)
The Penguins face a tough task playing against the Buckeyes in Columbus. Ohio State has not lost to a team in Ohio since the 1920s, and I have no doubt in my mind that will extend another year.
As I said before on the blog, I believe Ohio State is the best team in the Big Ten, and they will blow Youngstown State out of the water. What I am most looking forward to is seeing some highlights of Terrelle Pryor.
Ohio State, 60-6
Coastal Carolina at Penn State (Big Ten Network, 12 pm)
Penn State made a lot of news this offseason off the field, but now it is time for them to make it on the field. Joe Paterno named Daryll Clark the starter, but we will also see Pat Devlin play in this game with the first team. I am interested in seeing how the defense looks without linebacker Sean Lee and the defensive line getting thinner and thinner by the moment.
The most interesting storyline is that the starting quarterback for Coastal Carolina is the brother of former Penn State quarterback Wally Richardson.
Penn State, 57-7
Maine at Iowa (Big Ten Network, 12 pm)
The Hawkeyes need at least a winning season if they want to save coach Kirk Ferentz’s job for another year. No one in Iowa City really knows what to expect of this team. It can go anywhere from three wins up to eight wins.
Iowa had a lot of off the field issues that they had to deal with, and no one knows what to expect each time Jake Christensen steps on the field. If this team struggles against Maine, buckle up Hawkeye fans—but I don’t think they will.
Akron at Wisconsin (Big Ten Network, 12 pm)
The Badgers are notorious for making cupcake games hard. Look at last year against UNLV and two years earlier against Bowling Green. Wisconsin is loaded on offense with running back P.J. Hill and one of the best tight ends in the country, Travis Beckum. It’ll be on quarterback Allan Evridge’s shoulders as to how far this team really does go.
Akron is probably the worst team in the MAC East, so the Badgers should dispose of them quite early.
Western Kentucky at Indiana (Big Ten Network, 12 pm)
This is the second year for the Hilltoppers playing in a FBS conference, the Sun Belt. They were 7-5 last year but still played a lot of FCS opponents. The Hoosiers made a bowl game for the first time in a long time, but they lost star wide receiver James Hardy to the NFL.
Kellen Lewis is back starting at quarterback, even after all of the off the field issues in the spring. Indiana will not be as good as they were in 2007, but they are good enough to beat Western Kentucky, although it might be a bit of a struggle.
Syracuse at Northwestern (ESPN2, 12 pm)
This is going to be an interesting game because it will set the tone for each of these teams for the rest of the year. The Orange desperately need to win this one to cool off Greg Robinson’s hot seat, while Northwestern wants to climb back up into the bowl picture after missing it last season
C.J. Bacher is back at quarterback for the Wildcats, and Tyrell Sutton hopes to regain his freshman year form as a senior. The Orange have to rely a lot on Andrew Robinson, and with his favorite target Mike Williams gone for the year, it is going to be tough. I like the Wildcats in this one.
Utah at Michigan (ABC, 3:30 pm)
This is one of our games of the week. We’ve heard it all about Michigan and how this is going to be a down year because of their offense, but with most of their defense returning, they could carry the team until the offense clicks.
Utah is one of the best teams in the WAC, led by quarterback Brian Johnson, who has been a bit injury-prone. Running back Darrell Mack is the star of the Utes offense.
Between Nick Sheridan and Steven Threet, Michigan has to find a quarterback. Keep an eye on true freshman Sam McGuffie. I predict he makes a highlight reel play in his first game in the Big House.
Michigan avenges their loss to ASU last year, and their defense wins the game for them in a low-scoring matchup.
Northern Illinois at Minnesota (Big Ten Network, 7 pm)
These teams had a total of three wins between them last season. The Huskies are breaking in new coach Jerry Kill, while in Gopherland it is the second year for Tim Brewster.
The Gophers have some nice talent in their system, but it is real young. Adam Weber, the quarterback for Minnesota, can do damage with his arm and his legs—he led the team in both rushing and passing last year. His favorite target is Eric Decker.
I think this game will be close for a while, but overall the Gophers have too much talent for the Huskies.
Michigan State at California (ABC, 8 pm)
These last two games are huge for the overall view of the Big Ten. The Spartans are one team that I think can surprise the ranks of the Big Ten. I like Brian Hoyer at quarterback, and I also think Javon Ringer can pick up where he left off last year running the ball.
The psyches for both the Bears and the Spartans are very fragile. They can fall from grace at the drop of a hat. The Bears named Kevin Riley their starting QB, but they lost talent at both wide receiver and running back.
Cal will be able to tame the Spartans with their tough corners, but I think Sparty grinds away a victory on the ground.
Michigan State, 31-27
Illinois at Missouri (ESPN, 8:30 pm)
The Missouri Tigers have national title dreams, while Illinois is hoping to repeat last season's success and go back to a BCS Bowl game. The Tigers are stacked offensively with Chase Daniel at quarterback and Jeremy Maclin at wide receiver. Maclin is going to cause fits in the Illini secondary.
Juice Williams will be the quarterback for the Illini. Ron Zook is hoping that Juice not only protects the ball better, but also improves his completion percentage above the 50 percent mark. Arrelious Benn will be the main guy for the Juice to throw to, and he could be a factor in the return game.
Remember last year—Eddie McGee replaced Juice Williams and almost led the Illini to a comeback victory, but fell just short on fourth down. This year will not be the same. Missouri will step on the gas from the start, and Illinois will be left in the dust.
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