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Big Ten Football Week 1 Preview: Picks & The Points

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Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

College football is back starting tonight, can you believe it? Each week, I plan to pick the winner of each Big Ten school's game and pick how they will fare against the spread.  You know, in case you are in Nevada or you are able to bet legally in some shape or form.  I'll save my Rutgers pick for our staff predictions post every Friday.  Let's have fun taking a look at the rest of the Big Ten schools and their week 1 match-ups this weekend.

Tonight

Michigan at Utah (Fox Sports 1 8:30)

Line: Utah -5.5

The Jim Harbaugh era begins tonight in the former stomping grounds of arch-rival Urban Meyer.  Will the Harbaugh hype train carry the Wolverines to victory? Who will play quarterback, Shane Morris or Iowa transfer Jake Ruddock? Will Jabrill Peppers make it through the game healthy?  Lots of questions, tonight we will have answers.  It's a tough first game for Michigan after the disaster of last season.  Harbaugh is a good coach.  We will find out how good this season.  Michigan struggles offensively all game and loses late.

Prediction: Utah covers 27-21

#2 TCU at Minnesota (ESPN 9:00)

Line: TCU -14.5

Minnesota has a heck of an opener against Big 12 power TCU.  I like Jerry Kill and think he does a great job for the Gophers.  They have starting quarterback Mitch Leidner back and could contend for the B1G West title.  Tonight they play a possible Championship four team who can score relentlessly with Trevone Boykin at quarterback.  Too much for the Gopher defense, but they keep it close at home.

Prediction: TCU does not cover but wins 42-34

Friday

#5 Michigan State at Western Michigan (ESPNU 7:30)

Line: Michigan State -18.5

Western Michigan played in the MAC championship game last season and virtually return their entire offense.  I think the 1st half will be closer than expected.  However, former Rutgers assistant PJ Fleck runs out of options and Sparty wins convincingly on the road.

Prediction: Michigan State covers 45-21

Kent State at Illinois (BTN 9:00)

Line: Illinois -14.5

Illinois will play their first game with interim head coach Bill Cubit, the former offensive coordinator of Rutgers.  I expect them to be motivated and take care of business at home.  Quarterback Wes Lunt is very good and primed for a great season.

Prediction: Illinois covers 34-17

Saturday

#21 Stanford at Northwestern (ESPN 12:00)

Line: Stanford -12

In a matchup of two smart schools, Northwestern faces a stiff test in the opener.  Stanford returns a lot on offense led by the senior duo of quarterback Kevin Hogan and  wide receiver Devin Cajuste.  Northwestern has question marks on offense and should struggle against Stanford's traditionally stout D.

Prediction: Stanford covers 38-17

Illinois State at Iowa (BTN 12:00)

No Line (FCS opponent)

Iowa should have no trouble with this FCS team, although they seem to love to make easy games on paper more difficult.  Head coach Kirk Ferentz needs a big season from his team.  I think they will be slightly better but nothing Hawkeye fans will get too excited about.  8-4 seems about right.

Prediction: Iowa 38-10

Richmond at Maryland (ESPNU 12:00)

No Line (FCS opponent)

Dwayne Haskins has a strong debut for Maryla...oh sorry, I was pretending to be a Maryland fan.  This season should be ugly and they will all be dreaming of the top QB recruit starting next year.  Richmond will not pose a threat in the opener and Maryland should win their first three games.  After that a possible seven game losing streak is possible.

Prediction: Maryland 35-17

TTFP at Temple (ESPN 3:30)

Line: TTFP -6.5

The prevailing thought is TTFP is going to start 6-0 with a home schedule of cupcakes and just one road game in Philly against Temple.  However, the Owls have a strong defense returning and this game should be a low scoring and ugly affair.  Cause for concern will spread within the valley formerly known as happy, as the offensive line looks worse and Hackenberg gets sacked six times in the opener.

Prediction: TTFP fails to cover and loses outright 17-14

BYU at Nebraska  (ABC 3:30)

*UPSET PICK OF THE WEEK*

Line: Nebraska -6

BYU quarterback Taysom Hill returns after his junior season was cut short with a knee injury.  He was on fire last season and this year BYU needs a similar performance. After Nebraska they have games against Boise State, Michigan and UCLA.  Nebraska is missing their best wide receiver in De'Mornay Pierson-El.  Mike Riley has changed systems and has players suspended for this game, as does BYU.  However, I think Nebraska struggles to find their new identity and the Cougars pull the upset in Lincoln.  Corn nation yearns for Bo Pelini.

Prediction: Nebraska fails to cover and loses Mike Riley's debut 38-31

Southern Illinois at Indiana (ESPNEWS 4:00)

No Line (FCS opponent)

The return of Nate Sudfield keeps hoosier country happy and hopeful in the season opener.  The game for Rutgers in Bloomington will be more difficult than some realize.

Prediction: Indiana wins 45-17

#20 Wisconsin v #3 Alabama (ABC 8:00)

Line: Alabama -10

Wisconsin is favored to win the B1G West title but start the season with a doozy in Dallas against SEC power Alabama.  It will be interesting to see the identity of Wisconsin under new coach Paul Chryst.  They should look similar to your typical Badger team and I expect they will play Alabama tough for most of the game.  The almighty Nick Saban pulls his troops ahead to stay in the 4th quarter.  Disappointing but the talk of Wisconsin taking a step back this season quiets down.

Prediction: Alabama pushes against Paul Chryst in his debut at Wisconsin, winning 37-27

Sunday

Purdue at Marshall (Fox Sports 1 3:00)

Line: Marshall -7.5

Purdue won three games last season and former Rutgers assistant Darren Hazell needs to improve this year.  Marshall won eleven games last season and are talented on offense.  Their offense produces scores in bunches and Purdue does not have what you would call a good defense.  It will be painful for the conference to see the results of this contest.

Prediction: Sadly, C-USA member Marshall covers and defeats Purdue 42-28

Monday

#1 Ohio State at Virginia Tech (ESPN 8:00)

Line: Ohio State -10.5

Honestly Urban Meyer is an evil genius.  What a way to motivate your defending national champion team, than to bark at them the entire off-season about the need for payback against the only team they lost to last season.  Blacksburg, Virginia will be a hostile environment but it's not enough for a loaded Buckeye squad.  Ezekiel Elliot and all three QB's (Jones, Barrett and receiver convert Miller) run wild and Meyer gets his revenge, sending cold pizza to Frank Beamer.

Prediction: OSU covers and gets revenge, winning big 52-28