Thursday, September 2, 2010
Big Ten predictions: Week 1
By Adam Rittenberg
Let's get picky.
My Year 2 record dipped a little -- 69-26 (.726) -- but I vow to do better this fall. Every Thursday during the season, I'll identify a Game of the Week and explain my selection in a video blog post later in the day.
All 11 Big Ten teams make their season debuts this week, and here's how I see things shaking out.
Minnesota 26, Middle Tennessee 20: My pick changed when Middle Tennessee star quarterback Dwight Dasher was ruled out for the game. Dasher made MTSU a lot more dangerous. The Gophers get a boost from Duane Bennett in the run game and keep their new-look defense off of the field just long enough to escape Murfreesboro with a big win.
Ohio State 37, Marshall 7: Terrelle Pryor and the Buckeyes' offense deliver an efficient performance in the opener, jumping out to a 24-0 lead. Marshall struggles to move the ball against the Buckeyes' stout defense, which gets big performances from linebacker Brian Rolle and defensive lineman John Simon.
Indiana 31, Towson 14: Even without All-Big Ten selection Tandon Doss, Indiana flexes its muscles in the passing game against an FCS foe. Quarterback Ben Chappell and receiver Damarlo Belcher hook up for two touchdown passes as the Hoosiers roll.
Michigan State 41, Western Michigan 17: There will be no MAC disaster this year in East Lansing. Quarterback Kirk Cousins lights up Western Michigan and finds Keshawn Martin for several big plays as the Spartans roll to an impressive opening victory.
Penn State 30, Youngstown State 6: Evan Royster and the Penn State run game take the pressure off of true freshman quarterback Robert Bolden, who wows the crowd on several throws in his first career game (and start). Penn State plays all three quarterbacks and gets solid play from Devon Still and the defensive front seven in a win.
Iowa 34, Eastern Illinois 9: The Hawkeyes learn from last season and refuse to let an opponent hang around. Ricky Stanzi turns in a clean performance and tosses a pair of touchdown passes, one to Marvin McNutt. Adrian Clayborn and the Iowa defense make it a rough day for the visiting Panthers.
Missouri 35, Illinois 23: It's tough to beat Missouri with a healthy secondary, much less one as banged up as the Illini's. Illinois holds its own for two and a half quarters, but Blaine Gabbert proves to be too much and fires three touchdown passes. Redshirt freshman Nathan Scheelhaase shows some promise in his first career start, but it's not enough.
Michigan 28, Connecticut 27: The first game in the renovated Big House should be a great one. This certainly could go either way, but Michigan wins the game at the line of scrimmage with its size and athleticism. An improved offensive line creates enough room for its talented ball-carriers to make plays. Denard Robinson leads the winning touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter.
Notre Dame 31, Purdue 27: This is my Game of the Week. Check the blog later for a video breaking down my selection.
Northwestern 23, Vanderbilt 17: It'll be tough for Pat Fitzgerald's crew, but the defense comes up big against a Vanderbilt team that won't have star Warren Norman at 100 percent even if he plays. Northwestern's run game doesn't do much, but new starting quarterback Dan Persa earns his stripes in the second half to secure win No. 1.
Wisconsin 41, UNLV 17: I could see the Rebels starting fast as they open the Bobby Hauck era, but Wisconsin is simply too strong and too balanced on offense. The Badgers mix in Montee Ball and James White with starting running back John Clay and wear down UNLV in the second and third quarters. Defensive end J.J. Watt has a big night for Wiscy.