Thursday, August 30th
Minnesota at UNLV
Jerry Kill takes the Gophers on the road in need of a win and some season-starting momentum. UNLV finished 2-10 last season and shouldn’t see improvement enough to bang with a team from a superior conference. Marqueis Gray will take hold of his senior year and put together some highlights that will make you notice him.
Minnesota 31, UNLV 21
Friday, August 31st
#24 Boise State at #13 Michigan State
What a glorious start to the college football year. Michigan and Alabama will get all the press, but this game deserves plenty of hype as well. As far as pure unadulterated football is concerned, this game is going to be a gem. Christ Peterson and Mike Dantonio are two of the best coaches in the country, and both have plenty of reinventing to do. Boise State lost two first-round draft picks and their all-time winningest quarterback; Michigan State lost an all-everything quarterback, receiver and defensive tackle. I think Boise State had to replace too much from their defensive line, is playing on the road at night, and Michigan State will physically be able to win at the line of scrimmage. With every football fan tuning in Leveon Bell will rush for over 150 yards and Michigan State will win a close one.
Michigan State 27, Boise State 25
Saturday, September 1st
Northwestern at Syracuse
Syracuse better not be peaking ahead to their home game with no. 1 USC the following week, because the Wildcats will come prepared and are coming off a disappointing 6-7 season. Kain Colter leads the Northwestern offense and should have a veritable dance party eluding defenders on the Carrier Dome’s fast track. Ryan Nassib is an underrated quarterback for Syracuse and should be able to take advantage of Northwestern’s suspect secondary, especially over the top to Alec Lemon. I have a feeling I should pick Syracuse, but Northwestern is farther along as a program right now and should be better prepared for a first-week matchup.
Northwestern 34, Syracuse 27
Miami (OH) at Ohio State
Urban Meyer’s debut at Ohio State should go as smoothly as possible. Miami has had good teams and bad teams in recent years but no matter what they bring back in 2012, Ohio State’s defense will be suffocated by an outclassed offense. Ohio State also won’t have the athletes to chase around Braxton Miller. John Simon and Johnathan Hankins will cause havoc along the Miami defensive front and remind some players why they weren’t given bigger scholarship offers.
Ohio State 36, Miami (OH) 7
Ohio at Penn State
Penn State’s first home game this year was enough of a draw to get primetime on ESPN. Will this be a fun game to watch? Probably not. Penn State has little to no talent on offense, and despite being handled by a staff under the median age of 75 they will not be pretty to watch. Ohio will be better than expected against a physically imposing Penn State front-7 due to the ability to spread the ball around to different weapons through the air. The spread on this opened at 10.5 and is down to 6 in favor of Penn State, but this contest could set the tone for a verydepressing decade in Happy Valley.
Penn State 21, Ohio 19
Western Michigan at Illinois
Last year Western Michigan played Illinois close, losing 23-20 in a game that went to the wire in the fourth quarter. Alex Carder returns to lead the Bronco offense but they lost the nation’s leading receiver Jordan White to graduation. Illinois will be operating with a new offense but returns two-year starter Nathan Scheelhaase at quarterback and budding stars in Donovann Young and Josh Ferguson at tailback. Illinois, unlike last season, also has the advantage of a coach who can chew gum and walk at the same time in Tim Beckman.
Illinois 34, Western Michigan 17
Southern Mississippi at Nebraska
Southern Mississippi still owns the mantra “Anyone, Anywhere” but they won’t pull an upset in Lincoln. Nebraska will be a dominant force in the ground game and should impose their will on Southern Miss., who went 12-2 last season under the guidance of departed coach Larry Fedora and will be adapting to a new head coach. For their sake, I hope they rally around him when Rex Burkhead and Taylor Martinez are running wild for Nebraska.
Nebraska 38, Southern Miss. 17
Northern Iowa at Wisconsin
Northern Iowa is privy to the best seats in the house for a good ol’ fashioned Badger beatdown. Bret Bielema will flex his muscles by throwing a halfback toss pass up 35 in the fourth quarter.
Wisconsin 48, Northern Iowa 10
Iowa at Northern Illinois
After leading Northern Illinois in passing and rushing Chandler Harnish graduated and took the hopes of another 11-3 season with him, as well as the chance of beating Iowa in the opener. It’s rare that Iowa would travel to a such a ripe pit of upset as Chicago, Illinois, but they will sneak out a close one. Northern Illinois students and fans have plenty of friends that are Iowa alumni, so the crowd should be awesome for opening day. James Vandenberg is experienced behind center for Iowa and shouldn’t be rattled.
Iowa 26, Northern Illinois 21
Eastern Kentucky at Purdue
Purdue wants to get back to a bowl game, this gimme will help in December. Purdue will rest its starters at the end of the third quarter, looking forward to next week’s upset pick in South Bend.
Purdue 45, Eastern Kentucky 9
Indiana St. at Indiana
Indiana lost to Ball State last season, so getting stymied against in-state lesser opponents is not impossible for the Hoosiers. But Indiana St. is considerably worse than Ball State and Indiana should get off to a good start. Having a duel-threat quarterback against an athletically inferior opponent can gain a team multiple third-down conversions.
Indiana 34, Indiana St. 20
Big Ten & National Headliner
#8 Michigan vs. #2 Alabama – Dallas, TX
Oh baby, here we go. The singular event that is dictating my Labor Day Weekend. Many questions will be answered, including ”How well has Nick Saban reloaded?” and ”Is Michigan truly back?” I think the answer to both is a resounding yes, but I think Michigan is not quite back back when it comes to competing for a National Championship. Denard Robinson has the speed to give Bama’s revamped defense fits, but does the offense as a whole have enough big plays to put 28+ on Alabama? I just don’t think so. Last year Michigan put 40 points on a very good Ohio State defense, but Alabama is a different animal. In that same game against Ohio State, Michigan allowed 34 points to a poor Buckeye offense, so it works both ways. Junior quarterback AJ McCarron and monster tailback Eddie Lacy can pace Alabama behind the nation’s best offensive line.
Alabama 31, Michigan 24
#14 Clemson at Auburn
Clemson always seems to receive preseason hype, and although the voters are finally starting to get pensive we won’t have to wait long to watch 2012’s blunder. Clemson is playing without their best player, wide receiver Sammy Watkins, which severely hurts returning quarterback Tajh Boyd, who has put up big numbers but routinely forces big plays. Without Watkins, big plays won’t be as easy to come by. At the same time, Auburn was very young last year and still managed to go 8-5 while braving a perilous SEC. Auburn is very underrated this year; Gene Chizik is a much better coach then people give him credit for and newly named starting quarterback Kiehl Frazier can be deadly in a similar role to Cam Newton. Auburn is also hosting this contest at night, so how many extra beers will the War Eagle crowd consume while waiting to disturb Clemson?
Auburn 34, Clemson 31