Week 1 Fearless Predictions - Big Ten Thu/Fri

Posted Aug 28, 2013

Week 1 Fearless Predictions & Analysis - Big Ten, Thursday and Friday

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

Indiana State (0-0) at Indiana (0-0) Aug. 29, 7:00, BTN

Why You Should Give A Hoot: Is Indiana ready to be good? The Hoosiers return a dangerous offense, an improved defense, and the potential to come up with a nice start to the season despite tests from Navy and Bowling Green coming up the next two weeks. However, this might be more than just a pushover against an FCSer after struggling in a big way against the Sycamores in last season's 24-17 opener. ISU played IU evenly, but couldn't come up with a scoring drive in the fourth quarter to get over the hump.
Why Indiana State Might Win: New head coach Mike Sanford is loading up with several ready-made players from the JUCO ranks. The defense that was among the best in the FCS last season loses a ton of talent, but there's still enough in place to keep the IU attack from exploding. The ground game should be good enough to control the clock for long stretches.
Why Indiana Might Win: The Sycamores lose a ton of talent from the team that went 7-4. ISU won with defense and isn't equipped to get involved in a shootout. While the running game is solid, if the Hoosiers can get up early and make ISU start to push the ball down the field, there will be big problems. A little bit of a lead should be enough to hold on to the win.

Who To Watch Out For: Indiana State senior running back Shakir Bell. A fringe NFL prospect, the 5-8, 185-pound All-American is the focal point of the attack after running for 1,475 yards and 11 scores. His best game of last year was in the opener, gashing IU for 192 yards and a score. He's a workhorse who can make big things happen in the open field.

- And the Indiana starting quarterback will be … ? It doesn't really matter. Head coach Kevin Wilson might give Tre Roberson, Cameron Coffman and Nate Sudfield a try with Roberson the most dangerous on the lot.

- If Coffman doesn't see time early on this season, watch out for him to redshirt. Roberson redshirted last season to preserve his eligibility, and Coffman was given the shot to do it this season but chose not to.

- Is the Hoosier defensive front any stronger? It was horrendous against the run last season and has to key on Bell early on. Getting behind the line wasn't a problem, but the key will be whether or not this group gets roughed up early. The coaching staff will come up with a good rotation to keep everyone fresh.

What Will Happen: Indiana's offense will come out roaring. ISU will have a decent first quarter but won't be able to keep up the pace. Don't expect a repeat of 2012.
Prediction: Indiana 38 … Indiana State 14
Line: Indiana -24.5
Must See Rating: (5 Hard Knocks – 1 ‘N Sync on the VMAs) … 1.5

UNLV (0-0) at Minnesota (0-0) Aug. 29, 7:00, BTN

Why You Should Give A Hoot: It was one of the best games of last season that no one really paid attention to. Minnesota survived a three overtime thriller in Las Vegas despite UNLV coming up with just 275 yards of total offense. It turned out to be one of the high points in a miserable season for the Rebels, while the Gophers turned out to desperately need the Opening Night win as a part of the six to get to a bowl game. Jerry Kill's team has improved, but it still can't afford to blow a relatively easy home game if it wants to get back to the post-season. For Bobby Hauck's Rebels, a victory would be the biggest in his miserable era and a sign that things are finally turning around.
Why UNLV Might Win: Can the Gophers handle the Rebel ground game? All the pieces are there for the UNLV offense to be far better after years of building to this point, but the attack has to be far more consistent and more explosive. Minnesota should be stout up front, but the linebackers still have to prove they can be consistent – they're the X factor. UNLV should have its most potent ground attack yet under Hauck. UNLV might be loaded with veterans on defense, but …
Why Minnesota Might Win: It's not like the Rebels stopped anyone from doing much of anything last season. There's experience on the D, but not a lot of proven talent. The Gophers are expected to step up their power ground game, and UNLV isn't built to handle it. The Rebels allowed 29 rushing touchdowns last year and 208 yards per game, and while it's a new team and a new season, the line is hardly going to be a brick wall. Minnesota should be able to run with strength.

Who To Watch Out For: UNLV senior running back Tim Cornett should be one of the best backs the Gopher defense has to face all season long. A good, tough runner with a lot of flash, he can make big plays from anywhere on the field. With an improved line and good-looking passing game, he should have even more room to move. Last year he started off the season with a big 127-yard, two score day in the loss.
- At 6-32 for his career at UNLV, Hauck needs something really, really big and splashy. He hasn't had any luck so far, and the program seems like it's in constant rebuilding mode, but a win over the Gophers would do wonders with Arizona coming into town next week.

- Minnesota hasn't been good enough over the years to take anything for granted, but with New Mexico State and Western Illinois up next, and home dates with San Jose State and Iowa, this has to be the start of a big first half of the season. This needs to be a tune-up game and not a dogfight.

- Philip Nelson needs to prove right out of the gate that he's ready to be the face of the Minnesota program. The young quarterback had a rough overall season, but he showed upside with good mobility and playmaking skills. The pressure is on.

What Will Happen: UNLV really is better, but Minnesota will come out tough, efficient and effective on the way to a strong first win. Forget about the drama of last year's game.
Prediction: Minnesota 37 … UNLV 17
Line: Minnesota -14 o/u: 51
Must See Rating: (5 Hard Knocks – 1 ‘N Sync on the VMAs) … 2.5

Western Michigan (0-0) at Michigan State (0-0) Aug. 30, 8:00, BTN

Why You Should Give A Hoot: It's a tone-setter for a Spartan team that should come out hot, but the Broncos could be sneaky-dangerous if the offense comes together right away. Is Michigan State for real? The Spartans should have the Big Ten's best defense, and the pieces are there on offense to get by, but the team that lost close game after close game needs to come out and stomp on a revamped Western Michigan squad that's starting over with young head coach P.J. Fleck. The Broncos were a disappointing 4-8 last season winning just one of the final six games, but the offense worked and the defense wasn't nearly as bad as the overall record might indicate. Can Fleck make the offense more effective and the defense more disruptive? Can Michigan State jump-start the passing attack and get the receivers to start holding on to the ball? Both teams have lots to prove.
Why Western Michigan Might Win: Bombs away. The Spartan secondary should be solid, but the pass rush wasn't consistent last season. If WMU gets time to let the passing attack work, there could be just enough completions to keep the chains moving. It's not crazy to suggest that the Broncos have the best quarterback and receivers in this game.
Why Michigan State Might Win: This isn't the defense to go against if you're trying to figure out the offense. Western Michigan has talent and upside, but it's trying to get everything on track. The Broncos aren't going to change too much, but they're going to need a few tune-up games before the offensive line starts to work. Basically, forget about WMU running the ball against a brick wall of a Spartan front seven.

Who To Watch Out For: The quarterbacks. Western Michigan senior Tyler Van Tubbergen is a good veteran who makes a few too many errors but has the skill and moxie to not be fazed by the big game atmosphere. Michigan State just decided on Andrew Maxwell as its starter, but Connor Cook will see time in the rotation. The Spartan coaching staff will use this game to definitively decide – maybe - on the main man the rest of the way.
- The Spartans have South Florida at home next week as part of a three-game home start before Notre Dame, while the Broncos get a nice layup against Nicholls State before continuing the Big Ten tour at Northwestern and Iowa.

- 1998. That's the last time Western Michigan won a season opener over an FBS team beating Northern Illinois 37-23. Michigan State has won seven of its last eight home openers.

- East Lansing and Kalamazoo are just 79 miles apart, but this is just the seventh meeting between MSU and WMU. The Spartans have never lost.

What Will Happen: The Spartan defense will make up for a mediocre day from the offense. However, after all the focus this offseason, Maxwell and the passing game will be efficient and effective.
Prediction: Michigan State 41 … Western Michigan 10
Line: Michigan State -28 o/u: 44.5
Must See Rating: (5 Hard Knocks – 1 ‘N Sync on the VMAs) … 2