Week 1 Fearless Predictions - Big Ten, Part 1

Posted Aug 28, 2013

Week 1 Fearless Predictions & Analysis - Big Ten, Part 1

Week 1

- Northwestern at California
- Thursday & Friday - UNLV at Minn. & More
- Part 1, Buffalo at Ohio State & More
- Part 2, NIU at Iowa, Wyoming at Nebraska & More

Buffalo (0-0) at Ohio State (0-0) Aug. 31, 12:00, ESPN2

Why You Should Give A Hoot: And now it matters. Ohio State is eligible again for a bowl game, the Big Ten championship, and the BCS title, but that means it has to play like each game counts, because it does. It's not going to be enough for the Buckeyes to merely win; they have to come out and destroy Buffalo to prove to the world that yeah, this is the No. 2 team in the country, and yeah, it might be worthy of not only playing for the national title, but winning it. The spotlight is on, and anything less than total dominance will open the door for Oregon, Stanford and others to start making the claim to being the second best team in the land – of course, that's assuming you believe Alabama is No. 1.

Buffalo isn't all that bad. The Bulls got hot at the end of last season and ended things on a high note, but they finished 4-8. However, there's talent to Ohio State to worry about. It's quite possible UB has the best running back in the game in Branden Oliver, and Khalil Mack really and truly might be the best linebacker on either side, but more importantly, there's a decent defense to test the OSU offense and a veteran offense that could provide a bit of a push. Even so, if Ohio State is really No. 2 in the nation, it should win without sweating.

Why Buffalo Might Win: It's a team full of veterans. The entire two-deep in the secondary is back and the pass rush should be phenomenal. It's possible the UB linebackers can keep Braxton Miller in the pocket and not let him loose, while the offense has just enough playmakers to challenge a Buckeye defensive front that has to replace six of seven starters.
Why Ohio State Might Win: Yeah, Buffalo might be experienced, but not on the defensive front. The Buckeyes will have a hard time for a little while with the UB linebackers, but getting a shove for the power ground game shouldn't be a problem. The Buffalo offense doesn't have the firepower to make any sort of a comeback if it gets down early.

Who To Watch Out For: Yes, Ohio State fans, Ryan Shazier is special, but the NFL eyes are on UB's Khalil Mack, one of the nation's best all-around linebackers and one of the most productive with a team-leading 94 tackles with eight sacks, 21 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles last season. With 41.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks over the last two seasons, he's a devastating pass rusher who makes big things happen whenever he's sent flying into the backfield. At 6-3 and 245 pounds he has good size and is a guided missile when he gets a beat on a ball carrier.
- The most important thing to watch out for is the playing time of Braxton Miller. Watch to see if the coaching staff does more to make him a pocket passer in a game like this. Everyone knows he can run, and the less he does, the better.

- The last Buffalo win over an FBS team outside of the MAC? September 5, 2009, the season opener against UTEP. Ohio State's last loss to a non-BCS team was a 1990 Liberty Bowl loss to Air Force.

- The Ohio State depth chart at running back – Jordan Hall, Brionte Dunn and Warren Ball. This is Hall's big chance to take the job by the horns with Carlos Hyde suspended. Out for the first three games, Hyde has to sit back and watch while the other Buckeye backs roll.

What Will Happen: Okay, enough. Yes, Buffalo has talent and experience, but the Buckeyes will come out sharp and effective. The lines have a little something to prove, and they'll dominate as OSU blows up.
Prediction: Ohio State 49 … Buffalo 10
Line: Ohio State -35 o/u: 56
Must See Rating: (5 Hard Knocks – 1 ‘N Sync on the VMAs) … 2

Massachusetts (0-0) at Wisconsin (0-0) Aug. 31, 12:00, BTN

Why You Should Give A Hoot: Last season Wisconsin almost gagged away a layup to Northern Iowa in the opener, then couldn't generate any offense in the loss to Oregon State, and then came the close call against new head coach Gary Andersen's Utah State team. Massachusetts should be improved in the second season under Charley Molnar, but after an ugly 1-11 season and with plenty of work still to do, it'll be panic time early for Andersen if the Badgers don't come up with a blowout win in dominant fashion.
Why Massachusetts Might Win: It all depends on how much tinkering the Badgers are doing. If the Minutemen can hold up defensively for the first half, all of a sudden Wisconsin might try to press a little bit and will get away from what it'll be able to do best. The less the Badgers are running the ball, the better. UMass has a decent-looking linebacking corps that could be able to hold its own for a few drives. However …
Why Wisconsin Might Win: UMass won't be able to stop the run. It couldn't last season, and while it's a new year, the woefully undersized defensive tackle situation could be a gigantic problem. There's little to no developed depth to rely on once the Badger ground game gets rolling. As rough as the Minutemen defense should be, the offense could have even more problems with a line that won't have any prayer of generating a push.

Who To Watch Out For: The Wisconsin coaching staff still can't decide on the starting quarterback. Sophomore Joel Stave has received the most work with the first team, but senior Curt Phillips is listed as the co-No. 1. Expect both to play no matter what.
- The Badgers are switching up to a 3-4 defense, and while the spotlight will be on the depleted secondary. This is hardly a big test against a woeful passing team, but with Arizona State coming up in two weeks, any big plays allowed will be a concern.

- Will a No. 2 receiver emerge for the Badgers? The passing game relied way too much on Jared Abbrederis to come up with the key play, but the midrange passing game under Andersen should spread the ball around a little bit more.

- Turnover margin, turnover margin, turnover margin. The Minutemen were disastrous in turnover margin with 28 giveaways and 19 takeaways, but more importantly to watch out for is what Wisconsin does to take the ball away. The Badgers came up forced a mere 12 turnovers last season.

What Will Happen: Statement time. Massachusetts should have a nasty time moving the ball against the aggressive Badger defensive front seven, while the Bucky running game should break the game open right away. This isn't going to be pretty.
Prediction: Wisconsin 52 … Massachusetts 6
Line: Wisconsin -44 o/u: 52.5
Must See Rating: (5 Hard Knocks – 1 ‘N Sync on the VMAs) … 1.5

Southern Illinois (0-0) at Illinois (0-0) Aug. 31, Noon, BTN

Why You Should Give A Hoot: Illinois needs to show some improvement from last season if Tim Beckman wants to keep his job. The Fighting Illini's season will hinge on the success of the new offense from new coordinator Bill Cubit and this game is the first time we will see the new dynamic attack in action.

Why Illinois Might Win: The Fighting Illini have a four-year starter under center in Nathan Scheelhaase and three returning starters on the offensive line. The offense will showcase Illinois' athleticism while keep its young, inexperienced defense off the field.
Why Southern Illinois Might Win: The Saluki offense returns seven starters from last season including three of their top-five receivers from a year ago. Southern Illinois also had a top-20 defense last season and despite losing seven starters, returns a lot of players with in-game experience.

Who To Watch Out For: Corey Lewis is in his sixth-year of eligibility, but after five surgeries on his right knee since the spring of 2010, he finally gets a chance to start a football game this year. The inspirational story is a good football player who will help keep Scheelhaase clean this season and bring some stability to the worst offensive line in the Big Ten last season.

MyCole Pruitt is a dangerous threat at tight end, catching 92 passes for 1,139 yards in his first two seasons on the field. The redshirt junior is quarterback Kory Faulkner's favorite target and will exploit some of the weaker areas of the Illinois defense.

What Will Happen: Illinois comes out guns blazing using last season as motivation and Bill Cubit's offense keeps pounding the Salukis. The defense holds Southern Illinois to a few field goals as Tim Beckman starts year two off the right way.
Prediction: Illinois 40 … Southern Illinois 21
Line: Illinois -17
Must See Rating: (5 Hard Knocks – 1 ‘N Sync on the VMAs) … 1