Thursday, August 30, 2012

Week One with BIG

Its time to get those sweatpants productive again. Its time to light the lights.

The curtain is about to open on the 2012 season. The B1G is glad to be back to football after an off-season that, frankly, we all could have done without.

In my beloved Big Ten, one title game participant has already been selected. Congratulations Wisconsin! Oh what, you think Illinois or Purdue is going to put up a fight…I think not. A great job balancing those divisions by Jim Delaney and the corporate boys.

In this week’s preview, we get a look at the top two teams to face the Badgers: Michigan and Michigan State. As well as some intriguing matchups in week one. So lets get to it.

GAME OF THE WEEK: #8 Michigan v #2 Alabama* (Saturday, 7 p.m. ABC)
The Jerry Jones Bowl.  Two of the marquee programs in college football clash in Dallas. Both start the season in the top 10 and both have championships dancing in their head.

Denard Robinson returns for Brady Hoke’s Wolverines. (Side note: is it me or is he 50 lbs away from being NJ Gov. Chris Christie’s twin?) He will be the key to the M offense. The defense finally returned to Ann Arbor after taking several seasons off. Yet, the bar is exceptionally high after an 11-2 season and Sugar Bowl win. Will the expectations sink the boys in winged helmets?

Alabama is exactly who you think they are. They will run the ball and play defense. Nick Saban will have a well-prepared football team. Cliché, Cliché, Cliché. The problem is, its true. There is nothing flashy, just good football players on both sides of the ball.

Useless Information: Alabama and Michigan have 1,709 wins and 25 national championships between them.

The Line: Alabama by 14.

The Pick: I like Alabama, but I don’t like the line. I’ll pick the Tide to roll with a 21-17 victory.

No. 9 South Carolina at Vanderbilt (Thursday, 7 p.m. ESPN)
Lets start with the very first game of the season on Thursday night. You know why the SEC is the best conference in the country? Because they make their teams open with conference games.

South Carolina is coming off an 11-2 season with the expectations of a cow in heat. The Cocks (I can say that, because they have hats that say it) are ranked in the Top Ten and have RB Marcus Lattimore back healthy.

The Gamecock Defense is good. The Commodore defense is not. Still its opening night in Nashville.  They’ll make a ball game of it.

Useless information: The Cocks won 21-3 one year ago in Columbia.

The Line: South Carolina by 6.5

The Pick: An upset is not out of the question, but I’ll stay conservative with a 17-10 South Carolina win.

#24 Boise State and #13 Michigan State. (Friday, 7 p.m.  ESPN)
I oppose college teams playing on Friday night. That’s high school football; didn’t you people watch Friday Night Lights? That being said, this is a good one for opening week.

Running back Le’veon Bell is back. Big DE Will Gholston will provide plenty of pass rush up front. Kirk Cousins is replaced by Andrew Maxwell and he’ll have new targets to throw too. Michigan State’s strength is in both lines.

The Broncos return 7 total starters from last year’s 12-1 team. The defense lost all four defensive linemen and the best three linebackers. That’s not going to work out well for them.

Useless Information: Boise State has won all 6 of its openers under Peterson.

The Line: Michigan State by 7.

The Pick: The Spartans will take immediate advantage of the Broncos youth upfront. Big game for Bell. MSU 28-7.

#14 Clemson v. Auburn* (Saturday, 6 p.m. ESPN)
This is the third straight year these two have hooked up. Each has won once. The Georgia Dome is the host, making it a neutral game. Way too much orange under one dome not located in New York.

Clemson expects big things.  QB Tajh Boyd threw for 3,800 yards last years. Yowzers. The last time we saw the Clemson defense, West Virginia scored at will in a 70-point debacle. Hopefully they’ve cleaned that up.

The Auburn Tigers provide some help by starting a new QB and by suspending their top rusher from a year ago, Michael Dyer, indefinitely.  Gene Chizik has a couple of new coordinators on both sides of the ball.  Still the Tiger should have talent.

Useless Information: Clemson coach Dabo Sweeney played for the 1992 Alabama national championship team. He takes the Auburn game very seriously.

The Line: Clemson by 3.5 points.

The Pick: We could also have an upset here. But with Dyer out and with the new coordinators for Auburn, I’ll pick Clemson. 35-30.

Iowa Hawkeyes vs. Northern Illinois Huskies. (Saturday, 2:30 p.m. ESPNU)
Oh shut up. When you get a reviewing job you can do whatever you want, too.

Iowa returns QB James Vandenberg and once again is searching for a running back. The offensive line is an all-Iowa affair. The Defensive line is a question mark. For the first time in the 14-year Kirk Ferentz-era, Iowa has two new coordinators.

Northern Illinois was very good a year ago. They finished 11-3. Unfortunately they lost 4 of 5 offensive line starters and their starting QB and RB.  However, rumor has it that the Huskies are going to give it a go anyway in Chicago.

Useless Information: Northern Illinois has the nation’s longest win steak at 9 games.

The Line: Iowa by 6.5.

The Pick: MAC teams haven’t been great for B1G teams in the past. NIU, though, might be rebuilding a little too much to pull it off. Iowa 24 NIU 13.

Enjoy the opening kickoff. We’ll see you right back here next week.

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