The Illini General's Football Picks

The Illini General's Football Picks are back for a second year. The college game is back in full swing with all eleven Big Ten teams in action. Who can beat the spread and who can cover? Click here for all the details.

Florida A&M Rattlers (0-0) vs. Illinois Fighting Illini (0-0)
Memorial Stadium, Champaign, IL
Saturday, September 4, 2004
5:00 PM CT (No TV)
No line anywhere to be found

Ron Turner and the Fighting Illini look to get back on track in 2004. Following a season where everything that could have possibly gone wrong did go wrong (every player to even consider attending Illinois got injured), the Illini hope to have a few things go right this season.

The biggest thing in favor of Illinois this year is the schedule. The Illini won't leave Chambana until October. Four straight September home games, including the first three that are very winnable. If the Illini can build momentum and start 3-0, beating Purdue at home is not out of the question.

But, let's not get ahead of ourselves. When you're coming off a 1-win season, with no wins against Division 1 teams, there's a chance for a loss in every game.

With all the problems that have faced the Illini (injuries and bar fights), it is nothing compared to the saga of the Rattlers. FAMU had planned to play this season as a Division 1 team. As Lee Corso would say, "Not so fast, my friend!" School administration said the program was not ready for the jump to Division 1, so that move was postponed.

Then, due to approximately 7,534 academic violations, the program is facing probation and had their 2000 and 2001 MEAC championships stripped from them. It looks like Florida State isn't the only school in Tallahassee that has problems following the rules.

The Rattlers could be dangerous due to their Gulf Coast spread offense and the troubles Illinois has had on defense. FAMU senior QB Ben Dougherty is a double threat that can pass and run. Last season, Dougherty passed for 2,502 yards and ran for 674 yards.

Much like the Illini, Florida A&M's strength is not defense. The Rattlers were shaky on defense last year and graduated their four leading tacklers. I hope the Memorial Stadium scoreboard operator is ready and the bulbs in the board are brand new. The scoreboard could get lit up like Christmas on Saturday night.

In the end, Illinois should win by a decent sized number of points, but they might give up more points than most fans want. But, if you're a fan of Illinois football, you're probably used to that by now.

Illinois 44, Florida A&M 20. If you're a fan of bruising defenses like the '85 Bears of '00 Ravens, stay at home. If you're a fan of high-powered offenses like the Steve Spurrier Florida teams, go to the game. If you're a fan of the movie "Drumline," stick around for halftime.

Northwestern Wildcats (0-0) vs. Texas Christian Horned Frogs (0-0)
TCU by 7

Apparently the Big Eleven football fans did something to anger the folks at ESPN2. We've been waiting patiently since last January for a game to watch and the first game from our conference involves Northwestern, a team picked by many to slug it out with Illinois and Indiana for last place in the league. What did we do to deserve this? Don't look for another 11-win season out of TCU, but they'll have enough to get by the Wildcats.

TCU 28, Northwestern 20. Northwestern would have better luck against the Ol' Tex Horny Toads, from the Anthony Michael Hall film, "Johnny B. Good." That was the first ever reference to Anthony Michael Hall in these picks.

Miami of Ohio RedHawks (1-0) vs. (#7) Michigan Wolverines (0-0)
Michigan by 14.5

Game #1 of the Big 11-MAC Challenge takes place Saturday in Ann Arbor. Both teams are replacing departed quarterbacks, but something tells me Michigan will have an easier time replacing John Navarre than the RedHawks will have trying to replace first-round draft pick Ben Roethlisberger. Since the Steelers took Roethlisberger, maybe Pittsburgh will send Kurt Kittner to Miami for one game. He beat Michigan in Ann Arbor once.

Michigan 38, Miami of Ohio 10. The Steelers could send their whole team and they might not win at the Big House.

Cincinnati Bearcats (0-0) vs. (#9) Ohio State Buckeyes (0-0)
Ohio State by 15.5

Inside the Horseshoe will not be the place to be for this game, because it shouldn't be very close. Everyone who is anyone will be outside the stadium at The Bob Huggins Reinstatement Tailgate. Keg stands and beer bongs all around! However, keep an eye on Coach Huggins. He'll try to vomit in your car as a joke. What a rascal!

Ohio State 28, Cincinnati 12. Do you think Craig Krenzel's success at Ohio State could rub off on the Bears? Yeah, me neither.

Central Florida Golden Knights (0-0) vs. (#22) Wisconsin Badgers (0-0)
Wisconsin by 23

Central Florida takes the field at Camp Randall for their first game under their new heart-attack prone, resume padding head coach George O'Leary. As many of you know, O'Leary was hired to be the head coach at Notre Dame, but left after his resume was found to have some false information. O'Leary spent two years with the Minnesota Vikings and was hired in the off-season to turn Orlando into a football hotbed. The last coach that was given that task was when Hayden Fox was hired to lead the expansion Orlando Breakers. We all remember how that turned out: "Coach" was cancelled.

Wisconsin 31, Central Florida 13. Central Florida could pull off the upset if O'Leary brought UCF alum Daunte Culpepper back to campus and he somehow found some remaining eligibility.

Kent State Golden Flashes (0-0) vs. (#13) Iowa Hawkeyes (0-0)
Iowa by 29.5

This is a very colorful week for Big Eleven opponents: RedHawks, Golden Knights, Golden Flashes, Scarlet Knights and the Orange. Because of all these colors, I'm about to let loose with some terrible puns. I'm afraid that the Golden Flashes will be black and blue after this one. Kent State players will be seeing black and gold flashes when the Iowa players run by them on the way to the endzone.

Iowa 48, Kent State 14. Look for Iowa to shower points on the Golden Flashes.

Michigan State Spartans (0-0) vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (0-0)
Michigan State by 6

I saw an article on the Internet the other day that said Rutgers is poised to have one of the best seasons in school history. I'm not sure, but I think if they go 3-8 that would be the best record in the history of the State University of New Jersey. The Spartans must replace starting QB and campus party legend Jeff Smoker. Plus, they have to avoid the temptation of going to Jersey and not stopping at The Bada-Bing.

Michigan State 27, Rutgers 24. The Scarlet Knights don't win and they let Bruce Springsteen, Tony Soprano, Bon Jovi and the rest of New Jersey down.

Akron Zips (0-0) vs. Penn State Nittany Lions (0-0)
Penn State by 15.5

Joe Paterno begins his 218th season as head coach of the Nittany Lions on Saturday. Last season, I made fun of Paterno's age every week in the picks section. This year, I vow not to do that, with the exception of the joke I already made. I don't know what I'm going to make fun of Penn State for this year. Maybe I'll just constantly point out that PSU plays their home games at Beaver Stadium.

Penn State 28, Akron 9. I wish that I had the faith in Penn State to shut their opponent out so that I could have predicted Penn State 28, Akron zip.

Central Michigan Chippewas (0-0) vs. Indiana Hoosiers (0-0)
Indiana by 14

I have nothing to say about this game other than the fact that fans should be glad that football isn't like baseball and these two don't have to play each other three or four games in a row.

Indiana 24, Central Michigan 14. This game is the MAC's best chance to pick up a game in the Big Eleven-MAC Challenge.

Toledo Rockets (0-0) vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers (0-0)
Minnesota by 11.5

The Gophers steady diet of MAC conference opponents continues this season. I kid the Gophers about their non-conference schedule, but this year they aren't playing three teams from the MAC. They're playing Illinois State from the Gateway Conference instead. However, in a bid to improve their status across the country, the Gophers will play on the road at Colorado State. I checked the record books and this will be the first Minnesota road-non-conference game since 1939.

Minnesota 36, Toledo 17. The Gophers improve their defensive line by signing former Gopher and WWE wrestler and recently cut Minnesota Viking, Brock Lesnar. After missing a tackle, Lesnar snaps and pile drives the Toledo quarterback.

Syracuse Orange (0-0) vs. (#25) Purdue Boilermakers (0-0)
Purdue by 12.5

Get ready for the NFL by watching college football on a Sunday. Consider this game a test run for your NFL viewing habits. A lot of people are picking Purdue to be a surprise contender for the Big Eleven title. A lot of people don't care about the Big East since Miami and Virginia Tech left. Count me in as one of the people for both those statements.

Purdue 35, Syracuse 20. A national viewing audience will watch as Kyle Orton turns into Drew Brees 2K4. College Drew Brees, not NFL Drew Brees. NFL Drew Brees isn't very good.

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