Nothing happened yet, so…………………………………………….
LET’S GET IT STARTED
What’re we waitin’ for? Let’s kick it off!
The opening of the season is always met with anticipation as we finally get to see this year’s edition of Big Ten teams in action under “game” conditions. The first and subsequent weeks prior to conference play are the most difficult to track as there are more games to keep an eye on. And some are relegated to obscure TV channels that I can’t access. But according to the TV schedule I have, it looks like I’ll get to see enough games this weekend to keep me plenty occupied. Only got time for Saturdays so I may not get to stay fully tuned to the Minnesota or Michigan game on Thursday. Will have to see how it goes. Same goes for Purdue on Sunday and Ohio St. on Labor Day. Definitely won’t see Michigan St. or Illinois on Friday.
Usually one of the downsides to this portion of the season is the mismatches as many teams like to schedule “cupcake” opponents at home in order to “tune up” and pad their overall record. But this is the best opening week schedule I’ve seen in a long time, particularly the games that I’ll have access to. So good, in fact, that I’m gonna rank ‘em in the order of the matchups I find most intriguing:
1)- Texas at Notre Dame Sept 5, 6:30 pm NBC
My beloved Irish open the season with a new QB and a much needed fresh start after last season’s horrendous finish. ND has a lot of players coming back and by most accounts the new QB is great. He would have to be to send Everett Golson packing. I liked that kid. And I like HC Brian Kelly. The Irish are highly ranked by most publications, but given the ND love-hate dichotomy among college football fans, that could be for the purpose of driving up sales. The schedule isn’t as brutal as usual but still one of the toughest in the country. My optimism is guarded.
2)- Michigan at Utah Sept 3, 7:30 pm FS1
I’ve been in the minority during the offseason in saying that Michigan HC Jim Harbaugh turns it around in his first season. We’ll get a good read from this game. Many, including the oddsmakers, have this one penciled in as a loss for the Wolves.
3)- BYU at Nebraska Sept 5, 2:30 pm ABC
I’m calling for a subpar season for the ‘Huskers. I think this game will be one of five Nebraska losses and it’s not because I think BYU is particularly good. Once again, I’m in the minority so I’m curious to see if I’m right.
4)- TCU at Minnesota Sept 3, 8:00 pm ESPN
I’m so engrossed in Big Ten that I’m honestly not in tune with the rest of the country so I really don’t know much about TCU other than they’re coming off a great season with a highly regarded returning QB. I think Minnesota is on the rise, but I don’t think they’ll be so good that they’re beyond occasionally stumbling against weaker opponents. But by all accounts, this isn’t a weaker opponent by any stretch. Most are predicting a TCU blowout, and I did mark this one as a loss for the Gophers, but I’ve got a premonition Minnesota will have a chance to win this one and might even pull off the upset.
5)- Wisconsin vs Alabama Sept 5, 7:00 pm ABC
I’m guessing this is considered the marquee matchup by most and I wouldn’t argue given that the Tide is involved against one of the Big Ten’s better programs in recent history. But aside from an interest in having a look at Alabama and learning about the Badgers, I’m not quite as intrigued as most. I think Wisconsin will get pummeled. I hope I’m wrong, though.
6)- Stanford at Northwestern Sept 5, 11:00 am ESPN
This game starts off on the Main TV to kick off the first college football Saturday of the season. I don’t figure ‘em to win, but we’ll learn a lot about Northwestern from this one.
7)- Ohio St. at Virginia Tech Sept 7, 7:00 pm ESPN
I’m not sure why I don’t have this one ranked higher. It certainly has a great storyline. Defending national champs. Rematch against the only team to beat the Buckeyes last season. And the answer to the months old question as to who will start at QB for the Buckeyes and more importantly, how he performs. I dunno, I just think Ohio St. is gonna win easily.
8)- Purdue at Marshall Sept 6, 2:00 pm FS1
I could almost rank this one a spot higher. I’m interested in Purdue because I think they’re going to be dramatically improved. More of a hunch than anything, so I could be way off. This game is on the road and Marshall is supposed to be pretty good so I didn’t pencil this one in as a win for the Boilermakers. But I’m expecting them to be competitive. We’ll see.
9)- Penn St. at Temple Sept 5, 2:30 pm ESPN
Penn St. is another team that I don’t foresee performing as well as most seem to think they will. I don’t think Temple is the best barometer, but there’s always something to be learned from watching a team play a game.
10)- Illinois St. at Iowa Sept 5, 11:00 pm BTN
I usually disdain matchups against FCS opponents but I think the Hawkeyes are in danger here. Former Indiana QB Tre Roberson brings an Illinois St. team to Iowa City that last season made it to the FCS championship game.
11)- Kent St. at Illinois Sept 4, 8:00 pm BTN
I have a nephew who plays QB for the local High School team so Friday nights are for High School football. I might get to catch the tail end of this one. Kent St. has been pretty bad lately but then, so has Illinois. So who knows, this one might still be close late in the game.
12)- Michigan St. at Western Michigan Sept 4, 6:00 pm ESPNU
I don’t have access to ESPNU so I couldn’t watch this one even if I wasn’t committed to my nephew’s High School game. Doesn’t matter. This is one of the “cupcake” opponents I mentioned in above in my write-up.
13)- Southern Illinois at Indiana Sept 5, 3:00 pm ESPN News
ESPN News? ‘Da hell is that? I don’t even know if I get that channel. No matter, I’m not very interested in matchups against FCS opponents. I don’t like it, but this game will be one of the reasons I think Indiana will worm their way into a bowl game this season.
14)- Richmond at Maryland Sept 5, 11:00 am ESPNU
Each season more games are landing on the “U”. I hope it’s not a trend. I couldn’t pick a better game to get shut out of though. A non-FBS opponent against a mediocre conference newcomer. Who cares?
15)- Norfolk St at Rutgers Sept 5, 11:00 am ESPN News
There’s that ESPN News thing again. I stand corrected. Turns out I CAN pick a better game to get shut out of. For the same reasons.
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