During last year's countdown feature, I typically spent Saturdays predicting the Big Ten college football games. While we predominantly cover basketball, the reality is that most of you are also huge fans of Big Ten football as well, and we all know you're going to spend your Saturdays for the next several months watching the conference play football anyways. So let's get back to it and see if I can manage to not embarrass myself with this year's predictions, something I managed to avoid last year thankfully.
Will any Big Ten teams fall to a FCS opponent?
The Big Ten will be avoiding the FCS in the near future, so will any teams this week suffer a setback against the lower division this weekend? Well, probably not, but crazier things have happened. As much maligned Rutgers football team is right now, it's hard to see them losing to a bad Norfolk State program. Then you have an Indiana team that should have a legitimate offense now that Nate Sudfeld is back, so the Hoosiers should be fine. The one game that stands out, though, is the Iowa and Illinois State game at noon on BTN.
Iowa is typically a frustrating team to figure out. When they're supposed to be bad, Kirk Ferentz usually has a pretty good season. When Iowa is projected to finish towards the top of the Big Ten, they typically crash and burn. Either way, this Iowa team barely beat FCS foe Northern Iowa last year, snuck past Ball State 17-13 and lost to terrible Iowa State at home. Now they're breaking in C.J. Beathard (who played a decent amount last year in place of Jake Rudock) and draw an Illinois State team that finished last year as the FCS national runner-up, losing to a North Dakota State team that has won four straight titles. The Redbirds enter 2015 as one of the top ranked FCS teams in the nation, return former Indiana quarterback Tre Roberson and have former Purdue DC Brock Spack as head coach. The team has the firepower to knock off Iowa, so if a FCS opponent does land a upset, it's likely going to be Illinois State.
What's the most entertaining game this weekend?
From a competitive level it might be the Nebraska and Brigham Young game. The Cornhuskers, for some reason, got sick of winning nine games every year and moved on from Bo Pelini. They draw a BYU team that is definitely a worthy opponent and will provide Mike Riley a major test in his first game in Lincoln. While the Wisconsin and Alabama game has the more marquee spot later tonight, it's going to be hard to see Wisconsin beating Bama, even if we have no idea who the Tide's quarterback will be. And of course Monday's revenge showdown between Ohio State and Virginia Tech is going to have a colossal amount of hype (and could have national title implications, if an upset were to occur), it's really hard to see Ohio State losing here. It's not like JT Barrett is going to go 9 of 29 and throw three interceptions again, will he? Of course if he struggles that heavily we'd likely see Cardale Jones, one of the most entertaining players in college football right now (even if he doesn't play much this year, his social media game was on point this summer).
Can Northwestern and Purdue save face?
When it comes to Big Ten teams playing FBS opponents in less than appealing match-ups, there's three games remaining this holiday weekend. While Penn State faces Temple, the Nittany Lions should be just fine. As for Purdue and Northwestern, both teams aren't favorites and losing wouldn't surprise anyone. The question is if either of these teams can pull off the surprise and start the season 1-0.
While on the road, Stanford is a top 25 team that should be able to take care of a Northwestern team that has struggled considerably since losing to Ohio State when GameDay came to town. As for Purdue, their best bet is to take advantage of a Marshall team breaking in a new quarterback (and being successful last season mainly due to an atrocious schedule). But it's Purdue, and as a Boilermaker fan, the team typically finds ways to lose these games.
Anyways, on to predictions:
|12:00||BTN||Illinois State at Iowa||Iowa 31 Illinois State 23|
|ESPN News||Norfolk State at Rutgers||Rutgers 31 Norfolk State 7|
|ESPNU||Richmond at Maryland||Maryland 27 Richmond 10|
|ESPN||Stanford at Northwestern||Stanford 27 Northwestern 13|
|12:30||ABC||Brigham Young at Nebraska||Nebraska 24 Brigham Young 20|
|3:30||ESPN||Penn State at Temple||Penn State 27 Temple 17|
|4:00||ESPN News||S. Illinois at Indiana||Indiana 41 S. Illinois 20|
|8:00||ABC||Wisconsin at Alabama||Alabama 28 Wisconsin 17|
|3:00 (Su)||FS1||Purdue at Marshall||Marshall 38 Purdue 24|
|8:00 (Mo)||ESPN||Ohio State at Virginia Tech||Ohio State 31 Virginia Tech 17|