We have learned some new things about some of the teams in the league, while some still look the same way they did a few months back.
So as we continue to count down the days until September 2nd, here my look at how I see the Big Ten shaping out, week by week. I really don't know if my magazine picks I made back in June will be the same or not…some things have changed, as I said.
I will update my league standings after each game week predictions, with the final offering coming on Friday, September 1st.
Michigan vs Vanderbilt: Not exactly a mega intersectional game. Vandy was 5-6 last year in the SEC and returns six starters on both sides of the ball. Michigan should have too much for the Commodores at home. MICHIGAN
Michigan State vs Idaho: Do you know what Idaho's nickname is? It's not the Potatoes. I will answer that question at the bottom of this item. Think about it. Idaho returns 9 starters on offense and seven on defense. That is the good news. The bad news is that they went just 2-9 last year in the WAC. Dennis Erickson is coaching his alma mater, but don't expect any miracles. MICHIGAN STATE
Minnesota at Kent State: The Gophers open up with two on the road. We will get to their tough game against Cal tomorrow, but they should not have many problems against Kent State. The Golden Flashes were 1-10 last year but return nine starters on both sides of the ball, including nearly every skill player on offense. It won't matter, as the Gophers fatten up in the pre-conference season yet again. MINNESOTA
Northwestern at Miami (OH): Now this is what I am talking about. A strong team from a decent conference in the Redhawks. They went 7-4 last year, but they return just two defensive starters and five on offense, and QB Josh Betts, who threw for more than 3,100 yards, is not back this year. The Pat Fitzgerald era opens with a win for the Wildcats. NORTHWESTERN
Ohio State vs Northern Illinois: The Hawkeyes will entertain the Huskies in late October, so it will be good to see how they handle the #1 ranked team in the nation right out of the chute. NIU returns RB Garrett Wolfe, who ran for more than 1,500 yards last year and QB Phil Horvath. This team has the best offense and defense in the MAC, and should not be taken lightly. Ohio State will have too much for them in the Horseshoe, but playing this team later in the year like Iowa will should have Kirk Ferentz and the coaching staff telling their team to not take the Huskies lightly. OHIO STATE
Penn State vs Akron: Zips QB Luke Zetsky threw for nearly 3,500 yards last year and 23 touchdowns. 1200 yard rusher Brett Biggs has moved on, however, but they do return 8 starters on offense and 9 on defense. I am not calling for an upset here, but the line for this one might be worth looking into if you are into that sort of thing. Penn State might not be sharp coming out of the gates, but their defense and home field advantage will win the day. PENN STATE
Purdue vs Indiana State: D-1A vs D-1AA. PURDUE
Wisconsin vs Bowling Green at Cleveland: Last year, the Green Falcons put up over 40 points at Madison. The problem was that they gave up over 50. QB Omar Jacobs won't be around this year, so the Badgers should have little problem in this game, even though they return just three starters on offense and John Stocco's availability is in question. Wisky's defense should prove to be too tough. Were Bowling Green returning more skill position players, I might like this one as an upset special. WISCONSIN
Illinois vs Eastern Illinois: The good news for EIU is that it will be a short road trip. The Fighting Zooker's start out 1-0. ILLINOIS
Indiana vs Western Michigan: The Broncos have 15 returning starters and 11 fifth year seniors coming back this year. That could present a problem for Indiana. But we want to see the Big Ten go perfect in the opening week. INDIANA
Iowa vs Montana: I just like that I get to say ‘The Grizz' several times over the course of the next 10 days. Don't fear the Grizz, even though they are one of the best in the D1-AA ranks. IOWA
That appears to be a perfect 11-0 start for the members of the Big Ten. When I break down week two for Big Ten teams tomorrow, don't expect perfection. I may call for as many as four losses.