If you did not know by my Twitter handle (@IPlayedD1), I played ball at Northwestern University. With my five years of experience there, if there is one thing I at least somewhat know when it comes to college football, it’s the Big Ten. I’ve played in front of 4,000 people at 11:00 am in West Lafayette, Indiana when its 37 degrees, overcast and windy, while the 15 students that actually came to the game haplessly chant ‘Boiler Up’ as we stomp them by 30.
I’ve also played in the Big House in front of 120,000 fans where we got stomped by 30 and it was so loud I couldn’t hear myself think, let alone hear a snap count. Goddamnit, the Big Ten is special. So, throughout the year I will be giving you my picks and previews for the Conference. However, with the Big Ten still not in conference play yet, I really do not feel compelled to give you a pick for the Wisconsin/New Mexico game (or other shit games like it). So instead, I will just give you the games I actually like for the time being. So, put your big boy pants on, drop your SEC bias and let’s talk some Big Ten football.
Duke vs. Northwestern , 9/8 12:00 pm CT
The play: Northwestern -3
Full transparency here: I am going to bet on Northwestern every week. While I hate seeing the public all over the Cats (70% of tickets), as we typically fair better in the underdog role, this line indicates that these teams would be a pick-em on a neutral field. I do not believe this to be an accurate assessment of these two teams. The two biggest questions coming into the season for NU were the health of Clayton Thorson and who was going to replace the production of RB Justin Jackson.
Well, in week 1, Clayton looked phenomenal in his limited role, which will only increase week to week, and Jeremy Larkin went for 143 yards and 2 TD’s on 26 carries in his debut as the starting RB. Additionally, everyone knows that 11:00 am, in Evanston, Illinois, is the hardest place to play in college football. You’ll get grey skies, a lot of punts, kids studying in stands and an away team that is asleep at the wheel. In what was by far their most disappointing result of the season, Northwestern got rolled by Duke, give me the Cats, all day, at home, in this revenge spot.
Western Michigan vs. Michigan, 9/8 12:00 pm CT
The play: Western Michigan +28
I have been on the Harbaugh is a fraud train since day 1:
Am I scared this is a ‘get right game’ for Michigan?
Yes. No, not at all. I think we see Michigan unravel this year, not meet expectations and real pressure gets put on Michigan leadership to decide the fate of the Harbaugh. His khaki-wearing, milk-drinking, sleepover-having shtick is all fun and cute at first, but once you fail to meet expectations for a couple years in a row, people grow pretty tired, pretty quick, The Michigan offense has real problems, especially up-front, problems that make it really hard to cover a 28 point spread against a decent Western Michigan team.
Couple that with what appears to be a potent WMU offense, QB John Wassink threw for 379 yards and 3 touchdowns last week and the Broncos put up 42 points, and that should be enough to score a TD or two and cover the spread here. I see a 31-14 final. Take WMU and the points.
Colorado vs. Nebraska, 9/9 3:30 pm ET
The play: Nebraska -3.5
Nebraska’s week 1 game was canceled. Colorado curb stomped their rival Colorado State 45 – 13. Advantage CU, no? I would like to put forward two counterpoints. 1. Colorado State stinks 2. Not playing week 1 is not necessarily a huge disadvantage. Nebraska will be fresh and, most importantly, Memorial Stadium will be rocking for Scott Frost’s debut against a historic rival in Colorado. I think this line is reacting way too much to a strong week 1 performance by CU and is penalizing Nebraska for not playing. I am a Scott Frost believer and think Nebraska wins by 10.
Iowa St. vs. Iowa, 9/9 5:00 pm ET
The play: Iowa St. +4
Like Colorado, Iowa State also did not complete a game during week 1 due to inclement weather. On the other side, Iowa beat a respectable Northern Illinois team 33-7. Iowa only giving 4 points at Kinnick sure sounds nice, but this is gambling and sometimes you just have to go, contrarian.
I love that Iowa St is only getting 35% bets in a rivalry game, RB David Montgomery is an absolute stud and Matt Campbell has quietly built a really solid program in Ames. That pink locker room loses a bit of its mystique after you’ve been there a few times (trust me, I’ve been in it twice) and winning in Iowa City is less of a tall task for a team like Iowa St. Give me the Cyclones catching 4 points.
Michigan St. vs. Arizona State, 9/9 10:45 pm ET
The play: Michigan St. -6
The Sun Devils rolled UTSA in week 1 and everyone wants to hop on the Herm Edwards bandwagon. I am not one of those people. Although Michigan State looked rather pedestrian in their week 1 victory over Utah State, I am still pretty high on MSU. They returned 19 starters from last years 10 win team and have a solid QB/RB duo in Brian Lewarke and LJ Scott. But, what is important here is the coaching mismatch.
There are few instances that coaching shines through more than in going from week 1 to week 2. Mark Dantonio, not great at reporting doctors sexually abusing student athletes, very good at coaching football, and he’s going against a guy who hadn’t coached college football before last week since the 80’s. Whatever lull the Spartans may have experienced in week 1 will be ironed out going into week 2, Sparty rolls.