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Cappin’ the B1G: Week 1 Predictions and Picks Against the Spread

Includes full conference schedule and how to watch each game.

Illinois v Rutgers Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Hello everyone and welcome to my 2017 Week 1 Cappin’ the B1G picks. If you missed my picks for each B1G teams 2017 regular season win total, you can find that here. If you’re new and unfamiliar with how this works, I will be breaking down each conference game from a handicapping perspective to try and pick which team will cover the point spread and whether the final score will go over or under the posted totals that oddsmakers create. I will be using for all of my lines. I will keep track of my “betting” this season by wagering imaginary units on each game, ranging from 0-5 units per game depending on how confident I am in the pick. At the beginning of each weekly article, I will post my record of overall picks, wagered picks that I put units on, and then I will tally up how many units I’m up or down for the season.

Last year I didn’t do so hot and it ended with a nice 5 unit max play loss in the Big Ten championship game when I made Wisconsin my play of the year. Ouch. Overall in 2016 I went 86-87-3 with a 44-58-3 record in wagered games and I managed to lose 20 units on the season. I plan on doing much better this year after learning a lot last year after writing this weekly article for the first time.

Without further ado, let’s get to the winners!

Washington Huskies at Rutgers Scarlet Knights

  • Friday, September 1st, 8 PM EST
  • TV: Fox Sports 1
  • Point Spread: Washington -27.5
  • Total: 52

For the second straight year, our Rutgers Scarlet Knights will face a dangerous Washington Huskies team to open up the season. As we all know, last season got ugly very quickly before Rutgers put some points up late for a 48-13 final in Seattle. Rutgers would go on to finish the season at 2-10 while Washington found themselves in the College Football Playoff. Many experts claim that this year’s Washington team could be even better than the 2016 version so Rutgers needs to bring their A-game if they want to keep this one respectable. The Rutgers offense should be much improved this season although that isn’t saying much after the complete atrocity that was the 2016 season. Former Louisville starting quarterback Kyle Bolin will step in to take control of an offense that features tons of young yet unproven talent at the receiver position. Washington will be without All-American LB Azeem Victor in this game so Rutgers could be able to put some drives together to keep their defense fresh and keep this game interesting for a while. On offense, Washington is led by QB Jake Browning who will have a boatload of talented weapons to get the ball to despite losing some playmakers to the NFL Draft. Rutgers secondary needs to step up big time to keep the Huskies from marching the ball down the field at will and hopefully they are up for the challenge.

I can’t help but believe that this year’s Rutgers squad will take a huge leap forward from where they were a year ago. They have bought in a bevy of graduate transfer talent with Bolin being the crown jewel to lead Jerry Kill’s offensive attack. I truly feel that Rutgers will be able to move the ball a bit in this one and keep it competitive for a while before Washington pulls away late. Four touchdowns is very tempting and I’m going to fall for it here and say Rutgers loses by 24.

  • Projected Score: Washington 41 – Rutgers 17
  • Spread Pick: Rutgers +27.5 (1 unit)
  • Total Pick: OVER 52 (0 units)

Buffalo Bulls at Minnesota Golden Gophers

  • Thursday, August 31st 7PM
  • TV: BTN
  • Point Spread: Minnesota -26
  • Total: 50

The PJ Fleck era starts up at Minnesota in what should be an easy win for the Gophers when the dumpster fire Buffalo Bulls roll into TCF Bank Stadium. Buffalo will have a serviceable MAC-level defense to go along with an experienced offensive line protecting a promising young QB in 6’7” Tyree Jackson but that’s about all they can boast in 2017. Jackson started 9 games for the Bulls last season, throwing for 1,772 yards and picking up another 459 on the ground. The problem for Buffalo in this game is going to be how they pick up chunks of yardage against what will be a very tough Golden Gophers defense that returns some huge pieces in 2017. On offense, Minnesota will go with a two QB system to start the year until one of Conor Rhoda or Demry Croft can take a firm grasp of leading the offense. Until the QB situation sorts itself out, Minnesota will be able to rely on their two headed rushing attack to move the ball down the field at will against a Buffalo defense that won’t have the talent or depth to stop the Gophers in this one.

This spread and total feels about right to me. Until I see both of these teams play I can’t make a definitive prediction one way or another when it comes to the point spread here. Minnesota has more talent and better coaching but 26 is a huge amount of points to be laying when you don’t have much in the way of a passing threat on offense. Buffalo’s mobile QB can make things interesting so I’m just going to stay away from this one altogether.

  • Projected Score: Buffalo 13 – Minnesota 38
  • Spread Pick: Buffalo +26 (0 units)
  • Total Pick: OVER 50 (0 units)

Ohio State Buckeyes at Indiana Hoosiers

  • Thursday, August 31st 8 PM EST
  • TV: ESPN
  • Point Spread: Ohio State -21.5
  • Total: 58

In a very rare weeknight Big Ten game to open up the year, The Buckeyes of Ohio State hit the road to take on an Indiana Hoosiers team that is on the rise. Ohio State is looking for another national title and the Hoosiers are looking to shock the world to kick off the 2017 season. Heisman trophy contender JT Barrett will be the triggerman for former Indiana Head Coach Kevin Wilson’s new offense at Ohio State. Barrett and RB Mike Weber will be one of the best rushing combo’s in the country this year behind a monstrous offensive line that will pave the way all season long. Ohio State may struggle to move the ball downfield via the passing game as they go against a sneaky good Indiana defense that returns nine starters from a season ago including every member of their secondary. On offense, Indiana will be led by returning starting QB Richard Lagow who will have a bevy of options to throw to in the receiving game, including top WR Nick Westrbook. Indiana will struggle to run the ball after the departure of RB Devine Redding against this Ohio State defensive front seven. The Buckeyes have allowed just 15 points per game over the past two seasons and will be just as tough to score against in 2017.

Fun fact: Indiana has covered the spread in their last five straight against the Buckeyes. A spread of more than three touchdowns at home in a division game means nobody is giving Indiana much of a chance to win this game. I’m going to fall into the trap it seems like an take the home dog here with the much improved defense. I think this is a low scoring grind of a game with Ohio State eventually securing it late.

  • Projected Score: Ohio State 34 – Indiana 17
  • Spread Pick: Indiana +21.5 (1 unit)
  • Total Pick: UNDER 58 (2 units)

Utah State Aggies at Wisconsin Badgers

  • Friday, September 1st 9PM EST
  • TV: ESPN
  • Point Spread: Wisconsin -28.5
  • Total: 52

The expectations are sky high in Madison this season as the Wisconsin Badgers host the Utah State Aggies to open up the season in what should be an easy win for Paul Chryst’s team. Wisconsin isn’t going to shock anybody with how they play, they’re just going to run the ball behind their monstrous offensive line with a collection of RB’s for four quarters. Once the opposing defense overcommits themselves, Badgers QB Alex Hornibrook will be able to use the play action to fire a few passes downfield to keep the chains moving against a weak Utah State defense. The Aggies have a glaring weakness along their defensive line so it’s going to be a long night up against the massive offensive line of the Badgers. On offense, Utah State will be led by experienced senior quarterback Kent Myers against a Wisconsin defense that will be without stud LB Jack Cichy for the entire season. The Aggies averaged just under 24 points per game last year so they have the ability to find the endzone, I just don’t know if they’ll be able to do it enough in Madison to make this anything but a bloodbath.

Wisconsin could be without versatile WR Jazz Peavy as he is questionable for this game. Peavy is a key component in the Wisconsin rushing attack as he is the main target on their jet sweep plays. Even without Peavy, Wisconsin should find a way to control this game fairly easily as they wear down the Aggies defense as the game progresses. 28.5 seems like the right number here as well as the 52 point total so I’m going to stay away from this one altogether.

  • Projected Score: Utah State 13 – Wisconsin 40
  • Spread Pick: Utah State +28.5 (0 units)
  • Total Pick: OVER 52 (0 units)

Akron Zips at Penn State Nittany Lions

  • Saturday, September 2nd 12PM EST
  • TV: ABC
  • Point Spread: Penn State -30.5
  • Total: 66

After watching the Nittany Lions absolutely destroy my hopes, dreams, and wallet in the Big Ten Championship Game last season, I am a firm believer in the Penn State offense. There is no doubt that Penn State will be able to put up bucket loads of points in 2017 behind the arm of QB Trace McSorley and the legs of RB Saquon Barkley. The big question mark for this Penn State team will be the defense which most of the experts believe is going to take a big step forward this season. Akron is coming to Happy Valley as a huge underdog but they were able to eek their way to a 5-7 record a year ago and they return an experienced squad in 2017. Zips QB Thomas Woodson is underrated and can get things going on offense that could make this game interesting early on. Penn State has a revenge game with Pitt on deck that they could be looking ahead to and the Zips could catch them sleeping a little bit to make this a fight in the first half until the Nittany Lions kick it into gear.

If Akron was getting just a few more points I would consider taking them here but I’m honestly scared of picking against Penn State after doing it all of 2016 and getting punished for doing so. I want to see what this year’s Nittany Lions squad looks like before I start picking them so I’m going to lay off of this game completely.

  • Projected Score: Akron 17 – Penn State 49
  • Spread Pick: Penn State -30.5 (0 units)
  • Total Pick: OVER 66 (0 units)

Maryland Terrapins at Texas Longhorns

  • Saturday, September 2nd, 12 PM EST
  • TV: Fox Sports 1
  • Point Spread: Texas -18.5
  • Total: 56

Maryland Head Coach DJ Durkin opens up his second season on the road in hostile territory against the prodigal son in Tom Herman’s debut as the Texas Longhorn’s Head Coach. Unfortunately for the Terps, stud QB recruit Kasim Hill wasn’t deemed ready to take over the offense just yet and with North Carolina transfer Caleb Henderson hurt, Durkin will turn to incumbent starter Tyrell Pigrome to lead the offense. Pigrome got some experience last season, passing for two touchdowns but he is more of a threat with his legs than he is with his arm. The strength of the Terps offense lies in their running game and experienced offensive line where they will return three starters from a year ago. Look for the Terps dynamic backfield of Ty Johnson and Lorenzo Harrison to get plenty of work in this game against a Texas defense that was dreadful last year but should be improved in 2017 under Herman. On offense, Texas will be led by Sophomore QB Shane Buechele who threw for just under 3,000 yards with 21 touchdowns as a freshman in 2016. Texas had no issues putting up points in 2016, averaging 31.9 points per game with 239.3 yards rushing per game. The Terps defense was dreadful against the run last season, allowing 214.8 yards per game on the ground to rank 99th in the nation so it could be a very long afternoon against the Longhorns rushing attack.

Both of these teams offensive strengths play directly into their opponents defensive weaknesses so I have a hard time imagining that this isn’t a high scoring affair. Herman should have Texas coached up enough on defense to focus on stopping the Terps rushing attack and make Pigrome beat them using his arm. I’m leaning towards taking Texas here purely based on their talent and coaching edge here combined with the fact that it’s the beginning of a new era in Austin and the crowd should be rocking.

  • Projected Score: Maryland 21 – Texas 41
  • Spread Pick: Texas -18.5 (1 unit)
  • Total Pick: OVER 56 (1 unit)

Ball State Cardinals at Illinois Fighting Illini

  • Saturday, September 2nd 12 PM EST
  • TV: BTN
  • Point Spread: Illinois -6.5
  • Total: 56.5

Year two of the Lovie Smith era gets underway on Saturday when the Fighting Illini host Ball State in Champaign. This is going to be a true test of whether or not Illinois has taken a step forward from last season as they’re a small home favorite against a decent MAC team. Illinois will go with QB Chayce Crouch in this one and he has some above average weapons in the receiving game led by oft-injured Mike Dudek. Ball State gave up some big yards through the air last season against good passing attacks so the Illini can get on track on offense here with a big game from Crouch. The Fighting Illini defense is going to have their hands full because Ball State has a bonafide weapon at RB in James Gilbert. Gilbert rushed for 1,332 yards and 12 touchdowns a year ago and will look to pick up right where he left off against an Illinois defense that has to replace all four starters along their defensive line.

With Western Kentucky and a road game against USF up after this one, Illinois needs to grab a home win in week one versus Ball State if 2017 is going to be a positive season in Champaign. Crouch has to take the reins of this offense and put up a bunch of points against a defense that allowed 30.1 points per game in 2016. I’m not very confident in Lovie Smith’s ability to inspire his team here and the line almost seems like it’s begging you to take Illinois. I need to see more from Illinois before I start wagering on their games so I’m taking a pass here.

  • Projected Score: Ball State 24 – Illinois 30
  • Spread Pick: Ball State +6.5 (0 units)
  • Total Pick: UNDER 56.5 (0 units)

Wyoming Cowboys at Iowa Hawkeyes

  • Saturday, September 2nd 12 PM EST
  • TV: BTN
  • Point Spread: -11.5
  • Total: 52.5

Kirk Ferentz is entering his 56th season at Iowa and he has 21 years left on the contract extension that he signed last year and the big question is just how good Iowa will be in 2017. I believe that they have a pretty underwhelming year due to the complete absence of a downfield passing game. I know that when Wyoming comes to town, the Iowa defense is going to be tested heavily because the Cowboys can sling it around the field like nobody’s business. Iowa will once again rely on their ground game and returning stud RB Akrum Wadley but to have success this year they need to establish a downfield passing threat. Nathan Stanley will be starting at QB for the Hawkeyes and he goes against a sneakily good Wyoming secondary in this one. The good news is the Wyoming front seven isn’t particularly good so Stanley might not be called upon to win the game with his arm in this one. Wyoming QB Josh Allen is a legitimate first round NFL talent and he will look to prove himself against a very tough Iowa defense led by LB Josey Jewell. Wyoming returns four out of five starters along the offensive line which should buy Allen some time but the lack of weapons in the rushing or receiving game will be a major hindrance for Wyoming in this one.

Last year, Iowa dropped their opener to 1-AA North Dakota State last season and they have a rivalry game against Iowa State the following week that they could be looking forward to. I’m a big fan of what Josh Allen can do but I’m having reservations about his lack of weapons to get the ball to. I’m going to say that Iowa comes out sleep walking a bit here and Wyoming takes advantage and makes this a close game that Iowa pulls off in the end. Give me the points.

  • Projected Score: Wyoming 24 – Iowa 28
  • Spread Pick: Wyoming +11.5 (2 units)
  • Total Pick: UNDER 52.5 (0 units)

Bowling Green Falcons at Michigan State Spartans

  • Saturday, September 2nd, 12 PM EST
  • Point Spread: Michigan State -17.5
  • Total: 56.5

Mark Dantonio opens up 2017 with what appears to be a winnable game versus Bowling Green at home to get the bitter taste of 2016 out of his mouth. The Spartans gameplan on offense is going to be to run the ball with LJ Scott a bunch against a soft Bowling Green rushing defense. The concern however is the fact that Michigan State is only returning two starting offensive linemen but the new big boys should have a relatively easy time against an undersized Falcons front seven that allowed a whopping 191 rushing yards per game last season. If Michigan State can’t find success on the ground for some reason, this could be a long afternoon as their QB situation is a mess with Brian Lewerke taking over with just over 50 career passing attempts. Bowling Green’s offense comes into this season after ending 2016 with 420 and 346 yards on the ground in their final two games. The Falcons also have QB James Morgan back for his sophomore year after a promising freshman campaign that saw him toss 17 touchdowns. Michigan State had major issues pressuring opposing quarterbacks last season, tallying a putrid 11 sacks in 12 games. Bowling Green has the talent offensively to make this a ball game so Michigan State’s defense really needs to step up here.

This is an intriguing week one matchup as there are a lot of unknowns for the Spartans, mainly whether their new quarterback can gel quickly with an unproven wide receiver group. We already know that Sparty can run the ball with LJ Scott which should help Lewerke a bit but if Bowling Green’s defense can be somewhat serviceable this could be a very close ball game late. Getting three scores here is too tempting for me so I’m rolling with the dog.

  • Projected Score: Bowling Green 21 – Michigan State 35
  • Spread Pick: Bowling Green +17.5 (1 unit)
  • Total Pick: UNDER 56.5 (0 units)

Michigan Wolverines vs. Florida Gators (Arlington, TX)

  • Saturday, September 2nd 3:30 PM EST
  • TV: ABC
  • Point Spread: Michigan -4
  • Total: 44.5

Aside from Florida State versus Alabama, this game has to be considered the best of the opening weekend of college football with two marquee teams going head to head at Jerry’s World in Arlington, TX. This game probably won’t have much implication on the College Football Playoff but it will be interesting to see these two teams face one another to open the season. Michigan has a brutal schedule this year, opening here with Florida before having to take on Penn State and Wisconsin on the road so the playoff is very ambitious for Jim Harbaugh in 2017. Michigan’s offense will have its hands full against an unbelievably tough Florida defense led by Defensive Coordinator Randy Shannon. Florida’s defensive strength will be their front seven so it will be up to Michigan QB Wilton Speight to find some success throwing the ball to a whole new collection of offensive weapons because the Michigan rushing attack will have its work cut out for them against Florida’s defensive line and linebackers. Florida’s offense will also be looking to get going after finishing 116th in the nation last year in total offense. It remains to be seen who will take the snaps at QB versus Michigan for the Gators but they will also have to find success passing the ball downfield as the Wolverine’s front seven will be the strength of their team as well.

This game has all the makings of a classic offensive struggle where both defenses do their best to win the battle of field position and bend but don’t break. This game will all come down to which offense makes the most costly mistakes and I think it’s a game that either team can win so I’m comfortable taking the points here.

  • Projected Score: Michigan 21 – Florida 24
  • Spread Pick: Florida +4 (2 units)
  • Total Pick: OVER 44.5 (0 units)

Nevada Wolf Pack at Northwestern Wildcats

  • Saturday, September 2nd 3:30 PM EST
  • TV: BTN
  • Point Spread: Northwestern -24
  • Total: 60.5

Northwestern enters 2017 with all the makings of a team that can make a serious run at a Big Ten title. After dropping their first two games of 2016, the Wildcats will look to start strong here against a weak Nevada team in Evanston. The Wolf Pack have a new head coach in Jay Norvell and he will be installing a new Air Raid attack on offense for Nevada. The Wolf Pack haven’t yet revealed who will start at QB but it looks like it could be former Alabama QB David Cornwell slinging it around to a bevy of playmaking WR’s including Wyatt Demps and Andrew Celis. Northwestern is going to need to find a way to pressure the QB and the secondary will have to step up to face this new, unknown Air Raid attack. On the flip side, Northwestern has a dynamic offense of their own led by QB Clayton Thorson who was solid in 2016. The Wildcats also boast a dynamic ground attack led by RB Justin Jackson who will have a field day against a very weak Wolf Pack front seven. The Northwestern balanced offensive attack should shred this weak Nevada defense all afternoon and put up plenty of points.

Pat Fitzgerald is a very good head coach and I have faith in his ability to come up with a gameplan to stop the Air Raid attack of Nevada and ensure that his team does all of the little things right. The Wolf Pack will definitely light up some scoreboards in 2017, but it’s nothing compared to what the Northwestern offense is capable of. This is a lot of points to be giving so I’m just going to stay away from the spread and put a little bit on the over here.

  • Projected Score: Nevada 24 – Northwestern 45
  • Spread Pick: Nevada +24 (0 units)
  • Total Pick: OVER 60.5 (2 units)

Louisville Cardinals vs. Purdue Boilermakers (Indianapolis, IN)

  • Saturday, September 2nd 7:30 PM EST
  • TV: FOX
  • Point Spread: Louisville -24.5
  • Total: 68.5

The Jeff Brohm era at Purdue will kick off on national television at Lucas Oil Stadium where he will get to show off his new passing attack that he’s bringing to the Big Ten. Oh, yeah, and did I mention Lamar Jackson? Fresh off his 2016 Heisman trophy win, Jackson will look for some payback after a rather lackluster ending to the season which included getting absolutely steamrolled in their bowl game. This game has all the makings of a shootout in the early goings and it should be exciting to watch until the Alabama and Florida State game starts. Purdue will definitely be able to put up some points this season under Brohm’s new offense and solid QB David Blough leading the way but it will take time to get acclimated to the new system and this will be a tough test for the Boilermakers. Louisville’s defense wasn’t great to end last year but they are returning eight starters and the secondary will look to slow down Blough enough to let Jackson do his thing on offense. On defense, Purdue should actually be surprisingly solid under new defensive coordinator Nick Holt who has a great group of LB’s led by Markus Bailey. The LB unit will definitely need to keep their eyes on Jackson’s dual threat abilities if they want to keep this one close.

I think this game will be very entertaining for the first half with both teams putting points on the scoreboard but eventually Purdue will wear down from lack of talent and depth. Blough was way too prone to interceptions last season and I think a few poorly timed picks in this one will be Purdue’s downfall as they ultimately fall short as Lamar Jackson starts his 2017 Heisman campaign off with a win in Indy.

  • Projected Score: Louisville 45 – Purdue 24
  • Spread Pick: Purdue +24.5 (1 unit)
  • Total Pick: OVER 68.5 (0 units)

Arkansas State Red Wolves at Nebraska Cornhuskers

  • Saturday, September 2nd 8 PM EST
  • TV: BTN
  • Point Spread: Nebraska -15.5
  • Total: 46.5

The Tommy Armstrong era is over in Lincoln, Nebraska and when he left it seems as if excitement about to programs hopes this season left with him. Nebraska is expected to fall behind quite a few teams in the Big Ten West this season with the rise of Northwestern and Minnesota seeming to be imminent. Arkansas State comes to town with a pretty experienced team with a few solid pieces on both sides of the ball in what should be a good test for Mike Riley’s Cornhuskers. Taking the reins at QB for the Huskers will be transfer Tanner Lee who had an impressive showing at the Manning QB Camp during the offseason. Lee is going to have his hands full against an Arkansas State defense that has a very good defensive front, led by Ja’Von Rolland-Jones coming off the edge to pressure Lee all game long. It could be a long night for the Huskers against the slept-on Red Wolves defense. On defense, the Nebraska defensive front should be able to have an absolute field day against a totally inexperienced Arkansas State offensive line. Bob Diaco is the new defensive coordinator in Lincoln and although he failed miserably as a head coach, Diaco is a defensive mastermind. Arkansas State is going to have to move the ball downfield via the pass to have a chance to put up enough points to keep them in this game with an opportunity to win.

With a matchup coming against Oregon the week after this game, this could be a potential sleep-walk spot for the Cornhuskers against a sneaky talented Arkansas State squad. If Tanner Lee can find his rhythm early on and find success against the Red Wolves secondary, then Nebraska should have no issues getting an easy win here. I’m having my doubts however about just how much Lee will be able to take immediate control of this offense. What I don’t doubt is that the Nebraska defense will be able to hold Arkansas State’s offense at bay enough to get the Huskers a comfortable week one win. I won’t be touching the spread but I like the under a bit here.

  • Projected Score: Arkansas State 13 – Nebraska 31
  • Spread Pick: Nebraska -15.5 (0 units)
  • Total Pick: UNDER 46.5 (1 unit)

Weekly picks recap in order of units wagered:

  1. Ohio State/Indiana UNDER 58 (2 units)
  2. Wyoming +11.5 (2 units)
  3. Florida +4 (2 units)
  4. Nevada/Northwestern OVER 60.5 (2 units)
  5. Rutgers +27.5 (1 unit)
  6. Indiana +21.5 (1 unit)
  7. Texas -18.5 (1 unit)
  8. Maryland/Texas OVER 56 (1 unit)
  9. Bowling Green +17.5 (1 unit)
  10. Purdue +24.5 (1 unit)
  11. Arkansas State/Nebraska UNDER 46.5 (1 unit)