It's here. Week No. 1 of Big Ten football has finally arrived. And with it comes the rich tradition of predicting the outcome of the key football games.
Sparty, the Michigan State mascot, has been giving me his insights regarding the upcoming gridiron contests. ( I am not too proud to ask for help.)
Each week I will provide you with the:
Big Ten College Football Game of the Week (CFGotW)
Chillers (sometimes called the "Trap" games)
Snooze-rs (games you couldn't get me to watch)
Big Ten Player to Watch
Let's go to the predictions.
Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa is back for his senior year. Persa is healthy and he will be the difference maker in the Big Ten's first showdown game of the season.
Word is that Boston College head coach Frank Spaziani may be on the "hot seat" as Eagle fans look for something more than another 7-6 season. BC has one of the better defenses in the ACC going into the season opener, but it's been their offense that has stirred the biggest debate.
Players to Watch
Persa, of course, will lead Northwestern with his passing and running ability. He KNOWS the Wildcat offensive playbook, reads defenses well and motivates his teammates to reach for something extra. He's like a player/coach for head coach Pat Fitzgerald. Persa is also a preseason favorite for Big Ten Player of the Year.
Boston College has one of the nation's best running backs in Montel Harris. Harris has run for 3,600 yards in three years. He should break the school rushing record of 4,602 yards set by Ted Brown in 1978.
Northwestern 24, Boston College 20.
The "I's" have it in week No. 1, Illinois and Indiana are featured in the "Chiller" games.
A "Chiller" is any football game that gives you the chills when you think about it. Some football writers and commentators call it a "trap" game where the favorite is vulnerable to losing for one or more of the following reasons:
They over-estimated their talent
They under-estimated the opponent
They are dealing with injuries to key players that weaken their team
Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase (in the slide picture) better be ready to show the flash and dash he displayed last year, because Arkansas State seems well positioned for an upset win in Champaign, Illinois. Bleacher Reports featured columnist Joe Penkala has the state college of Arkansas rated No. 99 in the nation and Illinois is locked in at No. 68.
It is a home game for the Fighting Illini, but it may be a closer game than some people have predicted. Illinois 24, Arkansas State 21.
The Indiana Hoosiers begin their season playing at Lucas Oil Stadium. The key question is: does Hoosier coach Kevin Wilson have his team well enough prepared to play a lesser opponent and beat them convincingly?
I expect Indiana to win in their home state, but Ball State will not succumb easily. Indiana 16, Ball State 14.
I am left-handed and would rather watch Phil Mickelson play golf than watch the home openers for Nebraska, Iowa and Penn State.
Take a moment and consider the opponents for these highly respected and talented Big Ten teams. Iowa plays Tennessee Tech. Nebraska plays the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga and Penn State plays Larry Bird's basketball school, Indiana State.
Unfortunately, this is typical of week 1 schedules in college football. Maybe I'll mow the lawn or take my wife out to lunch.
Iowa 45, Tennessee Tech 3.
Nebraska 72, UT-Chattanooga 7.
Penn State 37, Indiana State 6. (The Sycamores nail two three-point baskets.)
Can Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson perform better than last year using the offense of new head coach Brady Hoke?
Fans don't know if Robinson will find it more difficult, more limiting or just impossible to function properly as Michigan attempts to rebuild its college football reputation.
We'll see how far the Wolverine offense and defense have progressed as they play the pass-happy Western Michigan Broncos in that humongous stadium in Ann Arbor.
Michigan 28, Western Michigan 21.
Wisconsin is primed to compete for the Leaders Division and Big Ten titles and running back Montee Ball (see picture) should excel at running the ball against UNLV in week 1.
In what I call the "Etc." (et cetera) games, the only Big Ten team that starts 0-1 is Minnesota.
Michigan State 24, Youngstown State 10.
USC 23, Minnesota 13.
Ohio State 21, Akron 7.
Purdue 20, Middle Tennessee State 10.
Wisconsin 31, UNLV 20.