Thursday, August 29, 2013
Big Ten predictions: Week 1
By Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett
Stop whatcha doin', 'cause we're about to ruin ... your prediction pool.
Yes, folks, it's that time again. The 2013 college football season kicks off Thursday night -- in Big Ten land, the curtain rises in Minneapolis and Bloomington, Ind., -- and it means we're ready to give you our game predictions. These will come your way every Thursday at 9 a.m. ET during the season. We pick the winners straight up (no point spreads allowed in this space), give you our scores and a short explanation, and wait for the haters to start hatin'.
Last year, Adam pulled away in the predictions race to beat Brian by a St. Louis Cardinals-like five games. As a result, Adam dined on Brian's dime at St. Elmo in Indianapolis before the Big Ten championship.
FINAL 2012 REGULAR-SEASON RECORDS
Adam Rittenberg: 76-20 (.791)
Brian Bennett: 71-25 (.740)
The stakes -- or steaks? -- are the same this year. We're also trying something new this year, letting one fan/loyal reader try his or her hand at outsmarting us each week (it's really not very hard). We sadly don't have prizes to offer, but you can tell all your friends that you know the league better than us (as if you don't already).
If interested, contact us here and here. Include your full name (real names, please) and hometown and a brief description why you should be that week's guest picker. Please also include "GUEST PICKS" in all caps somewhere in your email so we can find them easily.
Without further ado, it's time to
pad our stats pick the Week 1 games!
Indiana State at Indiana
Brian Bennett: The Hoosiers had to hold off Indiana State 24-17 last year, but this should be a better, more mature Indiana squad. Tre Roberson starts at quarterback, but Nate Sudfeld plays a lot and Indiana makes easy work of the Sycamores. ... Indiana 38, Indiana State 14
Adam Rittenberg: I really like the way coach Kevin Wilson has approached the offseason, and I expect Indiana to deliver in the opener. I expect to see all three quarterbacks -- Roberson, Sudfeld and Cameron Coffman -- but running backs Stephen Houston and Tevin Coleman combine for three scores as the Hoosiers pull away in the third quarter. ... Indiana 42, Indiana State 20
UNLV at Minnesota
Adam Rittenberg: This was a long and ugly game last year in Las Vegas. Minnesota delivers a more polished performance, and like last year, it gets some key takeaways as junior college linebacker Damien Wilson records an interception. Philip Nelson fires two second-half touchdown passes as Minnesota starts 1-0. ... Minnesota 27, UNLV 14
Brian Bennett: I'm buying the confident vibes out of Minneapolis this summer and think the Gophers will come out of the gates strong. Donnell Kirkwood rushes for 120 yards and Philip Nelson connects on a long touchdown pass to Derrick Engel to break things open. ... Minnesota 31, UNLV 16
Western Michigan at Michigan State
Brian Bennett: The Spartans' defense will make this a long night for WMU, but all anybody will want to talk about afterward -- again -- is the quarterback battle, as Andrew Maxwell and Connor Cook don't settle the issue on the field. But Jeremy Langford scores twice and the defense gets back to forcing turnovers with a pair of takeaways. ... Michigan State 28, Western Michigan 6
Adam Rittenberg: I expect a stronger opening performance from Maxwell, who connects with Bennie Fowler and Aaron Burbridge for first-half touchdown passes. A Spartans cornerback records a pick-six as Michigan State suffocates the Broncos in coach P.J. Fleck's debut. ... Michigan State 31, Western Michigan 10
Buffalo at No. 2 Ohio State
Adam Rittenberg: Braxton Miller will sit back and watch his improved supporting cast shred Buffalo's defense as Ohio State's offense shows how far it has come during the offseason. Senior Corey Brown and dynamic freshman Dontre Wilson both record long touchdowns in the first half. The Buckeyes get sacks from Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington and Ryan Shazier, and Miller turns the offense over to Kenny Guiton in the fourth quarter. ... Ohio State 49, Buffalo 13
Brian Bennett: No Bradley Roby, no Carlos Hyde, no Rod Smith, no problem. Miller enjoys the new toys he has to play with, especially Wilson, who bursts onto the scene with a catch-and-run 80-yard touchdown reception. The young defense gives up some early big plays but then settles in. ... Ohio State 42, Buffalo 14
Massachusetts at No. 23 Wisconsin
Brian Bennett: The UW mass is way too much for UMass, as the Gary Andersen era starts out looking much like the days of Bret Bielema and Barry Alvarez. James White and Melvin Gordon power a 275-yard rushing day for the Badgers, who start Joel Stave at quarterback but don't really need him. ... Wisconsin 38, UMass 7
Adam Rittenberg: Wisconsin might not be dominant on offense this season, but it will look the part against the overmatched Minutemen at Camp Randall Stadium. White and Gordon combine for three rushing scores, and freshman Corey Clement adds a 50-yarder in the fourth quarter. Stave connects with Jared Abbrederis for two touchdowns as the Badgers roll. ... Wisconsin 48, UMass 10
Southern Illinois at Illinois
Adam Rittenberg: After a shaky start, Illinois shows it has a real offensive identity behind coordinator Bill Cubit. I like the run game to get going with Donovonn Young and Josh Ferguson, and a key third-quarter takeaway gives the Illini some breathing room. ... Illinois 27, Southern Illinois 17
Brian Bennett: Tougher times are likely ahead for the Illini, but not this week. They show off the new Cubit offense with 35 pass attempts, and Nathan Scheelhaase throws for three scores. ... Illinois 31, Southern Illinois 13
Purdue at Cincinnati
Brian Bennett: I suspect this ends up as the closest game of the weekend. Two new head coaches make for some uncertainty, but Cincinnati is coming off a stronger 2012 and is at home. Purdue plays well and gets a pair of touchdown runs from Akeem Hunt, but Munchie Legaux burns the Boilers with a last-minute score. Or maybe that's just because I like saying Munchie Legaux. ... Cincinnati 28, Purdue 27
Adam Rittenberg: Who doesn't like saying Munchie Legaux? I actually expect Brendon Kay to play more and fire two second-half touchdown passes to key a come-from-behind win for Cincinnati. Boilers quarterback Rob Henry makes some plays in the passing game but commits a costly turnover in the fourth quarter. ... Cincinnati 27, Purdue 24
Central Michigan at No. 17 Michigan
Adam Rittenberg: Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner picks up where he left off numberswise and fires three touchdown passes, two to senior receiver Jeremy Gallon. The Wolverines' defense forces two second-half turnovers as Brady Hoke's crew pulls away. ... Michigan 38, Central Michigan 14
Brian Bennett: The Chippewas keep this one close for a half, but Michigan exerts its will in the third quarter. Fitzgerald Toussaint makes a nice comeback with 95 yards rushing, while Gardner accounts for three scores. ... Michigan 35, Central Michigan 17
Syracuse vs. Penn State (at East Rutherford, N.J.)
Brian Bennett: Both teams have refused to name a starting quarterback for this one, but we'll get to know Christian Hackenberg quickly. Expect a tight game throughout, but Syracuse has more holes to fill than Penn State. The Hackenberg era starts with a narrow victory. ... Penn State 27, Syracuse 23
Adam Rittenberg: There's definitely some mystery around this game, and I expect both teams to make some early mistakes before settling down. Ultimately, Penn State's offensive line and run game make the difference as Zach Zwinak and Bill Belton both find the end zone in the second half. ... Penn State 24, Syracuse 21
Northern Illinois at Iowa
Adam Rittenberg: I've gone back and forth on this game quite a bit, as I have a ton of respect for Northern Illinois and quarterback Jordan Lynch. I also saw how much the Huskies' offensive line struggled against a bigger, more physical defensive front in the Orange Bowl. I'm not saying Iowa is Florida State, but I expect Carl Davis and the Hawkeyes to slow down Lynch just enough. Hawkeyes running back Mark Weisman delivers a big performance (150 yards, 2 TDs) as Iowa rallies for a big win. ... Iowa 24, Northern Illinois 23
Brian Bennett: It's still a little surprising that Iowa beat the Huskies last year, but that was Lynch's first game. Now he's the veteran, and Jake Rudock is the first-time starting quarterback. There are bound to be some mistakes in the Hawkeyes' passing game, which wasn't that hot to begin with. Northern Illinois turns the tables from last year on a late Lynch touchdown run. ... Northern Illinois 23, Iowa 21
Wyoming at No. 18 Nebraska
Brian Bennett: Wyoming was one of the worst teams in the country at stopping the run last year, and Nebraska has one of the best rushing attacks around. Taylor Martinez and Ameer Abdullah combine for five scores before getting early breathers, and the Huskers' defense works through some hiccups. ... Nebraska 49, Wyoming 21.
Adam Rittenberg: Nebraska has far too much firepower for the Cowboys and will attack first on the ground and then through the air, as Martinez finds Quincy Enunwa for two touchdowns. The Huskers' pass rush surges behind Randy Gregory and Avery Moss in an easy opening win. ... Nebraska 52, Wyoming 17
No. 22 Northwestern at California
Adam Rittenberg: The late kickoff and Cal's up-tempo offense pose some challenges for Northwestern, but Pat Fitzgerald's crew is more talented and more experienced. Cal won't slow down Venric Mark and Kain Colter, who combine for four touchdowns. Trevor Siemian finds Dan Vitale for another score and Northwestern capitalizes on Cal's youth to remain perfect in openers under Fitzgerald. ... Northwestern 33, Cal 24
Brian Bennett: I'll indulge in plenty of caffeine Saturday afternoon, because this one is worth staying awake until the wee hours. A shootout is possible, given Cal coach Sonny Dykes' wide-open style, but Northwestern's experience, especially against a true freshman quarterback, will win the day. The Wildcats give up some big plays but also come up with a pair of timely interceptions to win in Berkeley. ... Northwestern 30, Cal 24.
Now to our Week 1 guest picker, Ryan Stitt of Litchfield, Ill. Here's some of Ryan's reasoning for why he should be our first fan prognosticator/challenger:
"This is my passion. College football, especially Big Ten college football, is my life. Being from a small town right in the middle of Big Ten country, this is what I grew up on. I study these teams like it's my job. My family was originally from Penn State, so I have my roots and my soul attached to the Nittany Lions. I have also been known to travel great distances just to see most of these Big Ten schools compete. When I saw that you guys are looking for a guest picker, my jaw dropped. I have been following your articles for a while now and love comparing my picks to both of you. I think it is time to let a young gun, fresh out of college and right in the heart of Big Ten Country let his voice be heard. Let me show you 'old folk' that a voice from the same age group as the players taking the field knows best what these teams will do on a weekly basis."
Ryan's Week 1 picks:
Indiana 21, Indiana State 13
UNLV 21, Minnesota 17
Michigan State 28, Western Michigan 17
Ohio State 45, Buffalo 13
Wisconsin 38, UMass 14
Southern Illinois 20, Illinois 17
Cincinnati 27, Purdue 21
Michigan 28, Central Michigan 17
Penn State 28, Syracuse 23
Iowa 24, Northern Illinois 13
Nebraska 27, Wyoming 16
Northwestern 24, California 21