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Big Ten Preview: Week One

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Each of the Big Ten conference openers in bloggerific preview.

Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

Football, guys and gals.  We're talking about actual soon-to-be-played football games.  Let's get to it.

Eastern Illinois at Minnesota

When: Thursday, 7:30pm ET

Line: OFF

Over/Under: OFF

Eastern Illinois went 12-2 last season, ranked 4th in the FCS (I-AA) final poll.  They knocked off an FBS team (San Diego State) while they were at it.  But they lost their superstar QB Jimmy Garopolo to the NFL Draft (NE Patriots, 2nd round, #62 overall), and will be breaking in a new guy in week one on the road.  The Panthers land at  #24 in FCS pre-season polls.

Mitch Leidner is the new Gopher QB.  He's listed as a sturdy 6'4", 237lbs.  The sophomore completed just 55% of his passes last year while sharing duties with face-punter Phil Nelson.  Of note, Leidner gave up 13 sacks in just 78 drop backs, underscoring the fact that he didn't know what to do with the ball last season.  If Goldy wants to contend in the BigTen West, that must change.

The Gophers also lost DT Rasheed Hageman.  Despite that, Jerry Kill thinks the front seven could be better.  We'll see - if the prairie rodents do not dominate both lines of scrimmage in this contest, then we'll know they're more likely headed for a Pizza Bowl (at best) than a Florida bowl.

Prediction: Minnesota by 17

Big Ten Powerhouse Rutgers at Washington State in Seattle, WA

When: Thursday, 10pm ET

Line: Wazzu -8

Over/Under: 61.5

Big Ten Powerhouse Rutgers (BTPR) starts the year by traveling across the country to Seattle, because Pullman is even more difficult to reach than Happy Valley.  Waiting for them there will be Mike Leach's band of Apache-Pirate hybrid renegades with their Air Raid offense.

In case you didn't watch BTPR last year - and, of course you didn't - the Scarlet Knights of Piscataway finished the season ranked 122nd (out of 125 teams) in pass defense.  So this would appear to be a bad matchup for BTPR.  Unless, that is, they can play keep away, and control the ball.

Probably they can not play keep away.  BTPR finished 102rd in FBS rushing offense, and their returning QB completed 54% of his passes with enough interceptions to make your eyes bleed.  More than likely, BTPR kicks off the year with some embarrassing slapdick hi-jinx, which the Merry Band of Morons at ESPN use to proclaim how gawdawful the entire Big Ten conference must be by extension.

Prediction: ESPN "lolz Delany" mentions thru Sunday?  26.5

Jacksonville State at #8 Michigan State

When: Friday, 7:30pm ET

Line: OFF

Over/Under: OFF

Jacksonville State is pre-season #4 in the FCS (I-AA) poll.  That matters not a bit.  The only thing to watch out of this game is to count how many stupid things Connor Cook does.  Yes, Cook appeared to turn the corner last year, throwing for more than 300 yards against Ohio State and Stanford in his last two games.  Less often mentioned is this: he threw one pick that counted versus Stanford, plus two or three more that did not.  Has Cook cleaned up his game?  Or might we still see the Connor Cook who was pulled in favor of Andrew Maxwell, a guy who could not complete a pass?  Sparty's season hinges in large part on the answer to this question.

Prediction: Sparty in a walk

Indiana State at Indiana

When: Saturday, Noon ET

Line: OFF

Over/Under: OFF

Last year this matchup was a blow out, with the Hoosiers winning 73-35.  This year figures to be more of the same - the Hoosiers are supposed to be better; the Sycamores are supposed to be worse.  The only thing worth watching in this game  - scratch that.  The only thing worth looking for in the post game box score is rushing yards allowed by the Hoosiers.  Last year they gave up 135 on the ground to Indiana State.  Cut that in half and I might take notice.

Prediction: the Hoosiers allow more than 100 yards on the ground


Northern Iowa at Iowa

When: Saturday, Noon ET

Line: OFF

Over/Under: OFF

Northern Iowa finished last season 7-5, unranked in the FCS poll.  This year they land at pre-season #9.  I'm not going to b.s. you - I have no idea why, nor do I have any interest in googling the answer.  More than likely, they return some starters. Hooray.

In 2009, when Iowa was predicted to contend for the Big Ten title, the UNI Panthers missed a game winning field goal at the buzzer, and lost 17-16 at Kinnick.  I'd be surprised if they came anywhere close to that this season.  It'll be a close game, because all Kirk Ferentz games are close.  But the outcome won't be in doubt.

Prediction: Iowa cruises

Youngstown State at Illinois

When: Saturday, Noon ET

Line: OFF

Over/Under: OFF

Youngstown State is pre-season #24 in FCS (I-AA).

Start Rant.  How many times do I have to write "FCS (I-AA)" in this preview?  Come on, Big Ten.  I thought everyone agreed a year ago to cut this crap out?    End Rant.

Illinois has a new quarterback, Wes Lunt.  Illinois has a bunch of new, young receivers.  Somehow, Tim Beckman is still the coach.  Hooray for that.

Prediction: In a 60 minute game, Beckman spends 57 minutes with his mouth open.  A man's gotta breathe.

#5 Ohio State at Navy

When: Saturday, Noon ET

Line: Ohio State -14

Over/Under: 55.5

Hey, did you hear that Braxton Miller is lost for the season due to a shoulder injury?  Yeah, apparently a redshirt freshman named JT Barrett will start in Miller's place.

The Buckeyes, even with their new O-line, should overpower the Middies, rendering an evaluation of Barrett moo.  However, there's a slim chance that we might be able to evaluate the Bucks' young linebacking corp.  Can the eight 5-star defensive linemen and three 5-star linebackers play assignment football?  That's about the only interesting aspect to this game.

Prediction: Ohio State in a breeze

Western Michigan at Purdue

When: Saturday, Noon ET

Line: Purdue -10.5

Over/Under: 53.5

Purdue was one of the worst Big Ten teams of the last 40 years.  Fortunately, Western Michigan is even worse.  So, there's a decent chance that Darrell Hazell gets off on a good foot in year two.

Prediction: TV ratings below 0.0002

Appalachian State at Michigan

When: Saturday, Noon ET

Line: Michigan -34.5

Over/Under: 53.5

Sadly, this is not your older brother's Appalachian State team, which did this on their last visit to Ann Arbor.

Michigan-app-state-upset-o_medium

That App State team had some NFL talent.  This one has none.  Consequently, there's nothing to watch in this game, other than reveling in the 600 pre-game show cut aways to the gif above.

Prediction: Michigan by a lot, but not quite 34.5

Cal at Northwestern

When: Saturday, 3:30pm ET

Line: Northwestern -11

Over/Under: 61

Northwestern lost its two best offensive weapons in camp.  They're still favored by 11 points.  That should tell you volumes about just how horrible this Cal Bears squad is expected to be in 2014.

Expect the Bears to score some points on offense.  Expect the Bears to barely tickle the Cats on defense.

Prediction: Northwestern evens the Big Ten vs. Pac 12 record at 1 each

Florida Atlantic at #22 Nebraska

When: Saturday, 3:30pm ET

Line: Nebraska -23

Over/Under: 51

This was supposed to be the Pelini Bowl.  But little bro Carl got the axe at FAU for some weird pot smoking allegations, admission, retraction, I-don't-know-what-you-call-it.

Whatever - FAU won their last four games in 2013 to finish 6-6, and become Bowl eligible.  They didn't earn an invitation, though.  So that just about wraps up our FAU - Nebraska preview, except for this nugget: watch Ameer Abdullah run for 6,000 yards this season.

Prediction: Husker red balloons early

James Madison at Maryland

When: Saturday, 3:30pm ET

Line: OFF

Over/Under: OFF

James Madison is yet another FCS team.  This one, though, is so awful as to not receive a single pre-season vote in the FCS (I-AA) poll.  Do you know what we might learn from this game?  Nothing.

Prediction: less than 50,000 attendance at Byrd Stadium despite perfect weather

#14 Wisconsin at #13 LSU in Houston, TX

When: Saturday, 9pm ET

Line: LSU -4.5

Over/Under: 50

It only took previewing 12 other games, but we've finally hit the mother lode.

The shorthand version is this: both squads have unknowns.  LSU is young, with a new QB and a new RB and new WRs.  The Badgers are breaking in nearly an entirely new front seven from a year ago.  Also, though they return 19-game starter Joel Stave, he'll be watching from the sidelines, having lost his job in camp to last year's 4-game starter at safety, Tanner McEvoy.  Everyone who watched Wisconsin on offense last year is not much surprised.

The game's at Houston's Reliant Stadium.  Expect LSU to swagger their way to an early lead.  But if Bucky can withstand the opening blows, hold on to the football, and make a couple of plays, there's a chance that Wisconsin could score a huge win for the conference (though I'm not putting money on it).

Prediction: LSU by a field goal

When Away Home Favorite O/U
Thurs, 7pm Eastern Illinois Minnesota OFF OFF
Thurs, 10pmET Rutgers Washington St Wazzu - 8 61.5
Fri, 7:30pm Jacksonville St Michigan State OFF OFF
Sat, 8:30am Penn State UCF UCF -1.5 48
Sat, Noon Indiana State Indiana OFF OFF
Sat, Noon Northern Iowa Iowa OFF OFF
Sat, Noon Youngstown St Illinois OFF OFF
Sat, Noon Ohio State Navy OSU -14 55.5
Sat, Noon Western Michigan Purdue PUR -10.5 53.5
Sat, Noon Appalachian St Michigan MICH -34.5 53.5
Sat, 3:30pm Cal Northwestern jNW -11 61
Sat, 3:30pm Florida Atlantic Nebraska NU -23 51
Sat, 3:30pm James Madison Maryland OFF OFF
Sat, 9pm Wisconsin LSU LSU - 4.5 50