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The Obligatory Predictions Competition - Week 1


It's back.  After almost eight months in hibernation, it's finally time to roll out the red carpet on the third annual installment of the Obligatory Predictions Competition.  For those of you new around these parts, each year we host a season-long predictions contest in-house.  Each week, Graham and I select five games of interest on the conference and national radar, and fearlessly forecast the winners.  Then you weigh in.

We'll tally the results over the next fourteen weeks and send the winner some cool team merchandise.

New "Simple" Scoring:

Those of you who played with us in 2008 and 2009 will recall that we used a multiple incentive scoring system that gave bonus points for picking a team's margin of victory within a touchdown.  Although this gave participants the chance to run up the score, Graham and I were concerned that it also created the potential for players to win based on luck, rather than skill.  For example, a contestant that picked less games correctly could beat an opponent who got more games right if he or she stumbled on perfect margin(s) of victory.

Because the number of games picked correctly should be directly proportional to one's success, we've dumbed down the scoring for 2010.  From here on out points will be assigned as follows:

  • Contestants will receive one point for correctly picking the outcome of a game;
  • Contestants will receive an additional point for correctly predicting an upset, defined as both an unranked team defeating a team ranked in the AP Top 25 (BCS Top 25 once available) or a ranked team defeating a team of higher rank.

We understand that picking margins gave people a reason to watch otherwise anticlimactic games (i.e. blowouts), but ultimately decided that a simpler scoring system would give us better final results.  On a practical note, i spent way too much time last season scoring the game by hand, and the new rules should significantly cut down on that effort.

Here's How to Play:

1. Keep an eye out for the Obligatory Predictions Competition post around the middle of each week of the season;

2. Read our predictions

3. Enter your own in the comment's section at least one hour before the start of the earliest game on the list (You only need to give us the names of the teams you think will win, although analysis is always welcome).

Good Luck!

1. ILLINOIS vs. MISSOURI, 12:30 p.m. EST (9/4)

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Since I doubt we’ll be picking many Illinois games this year, let me take this opportunity to say that I met a young lady this weekend and she loves the Illini and that she was very upset upon learning that I picked her old school to go 3-9. Unfortunately, I have good reasons. No depth, no experience, no history of success usually dooms teams. It will doom the Illini against a surprisingly physical and veteran-laden Mizzou team. I’ve never really like the Tigers offense with its slow developing runs and constant screens. But it seems like all they have to do is show up, put pressure on the untested Illini quarterback, score a couple TD’s…and walk home with an easy w.


The Illini have given up 35 points or more to Mighty Mizzou in each of their last three openers leading at least one comentator to ask why they even bother to play.  But wait, you protest.  Illinois is due to win the Arch Rivalry.  Not this year they aren't.  Figure A is Blaine Gabbert shredding the Illini secondary for another 300 yard, 3 touchdown performance. Figure B is Illinois' young offense stalling like the Cubs in the playoffs while the Tigers jump out to a 14 point lead.  Figure C is a failed late fourth quarter comeback.  Figure D is Ron Zook staring at the ground.

2. PURDUE at NOTRE DAME, 3:30 p.m. EST (9/4), NBC



Notre Dame, along with Michigan, is a "mystery team" with the potential to spoil a lot of Big Ten dreams. Will their plethora of highly rated athletes mesh with the historically successfully offensive system of B Kelly? Will they show one iota of defensive toughness, which would be one iota more than they showed last year? I love the undersized Purdue Boilermakers, I love their coach…But I don’t love a new QB in a new system in South Bend.


Don't get me wrong, Purdue is a highly underrated program.  They've got a serious destroyer of worlds on the defensive line in Ryan Kerrigan, and a potential gunslinger in Robert Marve.  The problem is they're not complete enough to win a game of this magnitude out of the gate. The Boilers are out three starters from last year's offensive line as well as last year's leading rusher (Ralph Bolden).  Further, despite an impressive front seven they're thin where it hurts: in the secondary.  Dayne Crist delivers a win in Brian Kelly's home debut.

3. CONNECTICUT at MICHIGAN, 3:30 p.m. EST (9/4), ABC



This is UConn week here in Michigan Land and yet it seems there is a broader focus among Wolverine fans. Because no matter if UConn is defeated, next week is ND week, and MSU week is rolling right up soon. But as Rich said on OTE earlier this week: "We’re just worried about getting that first first down against UConn." And I think they’ll get that first down…and enough first downs to show that Denard Robinson will be the playmaker for this offense.


It's a stiffer challenge than he'd like, but Rich Rodriguez gets the job done in Week 1 against a familiar Huskies squad. Inexperienced secondaries on both sides of the ball give up a plethora of pass yardage, but the Wolverines talent advantage, and Denard Robinson's legs, gives them a slight edge.  Up by a touchdown, I see a Michigan defense that makes a surprising fourth quarter stand, quelling any hopes at a Connecticut comeback.

4. NORTHWESTERN at VANDERBILT, 7:30 p.m. EST (9/4), ESPN 3



Patsy v. former patsy. The magic of Northwestern is that their offense constantly gives them a chance to win games. One of the legendary football coaches from my high school was famous for his adaptation methods, year to year. He always said: "When I don’t have talent across the board and I lack offensive size, I run the shotgun pass spread." Ditto Northwestern. Iowa makes fun of the Wildcat’s receivers for looking like a solid flag football squad from Beta Theta Pi…but NW and its two consecutive bowl appearances will be decent again this year.


Despite Vandy's SEC caliber defense and formidable ground game I think Northwestern puts together a complete effort and grabs a win in Nashville.  After the Wildcats stop Warren Norman, the Commodores will be forced to throw -- something they don't do well.  A good but not great night from Dan Persa will be enough to propel the Wildcats past this opening roadblock.

5. No. 3 BOISE STATE vs. No. 10 VIRGINIA TECH, 8:00 p.m. EST (9/6), ESPN



This will be the kicker, the highly hyped opener. I love all the skill that Boise State posseses at…skill…positions, but I love the defensive stars that permeate Blacksburg year after year. I also love that lofty #3 ranking bestowed onto BSU’s program. Home game for the Hokies? No problem.


Last year Boise State went out on opening night and embarrassed an overmatched Oregon team.  This year the joke's on them.  The luck of the Broncos runs out against a stout and disciplined Virginia Tech team. Strangely, it won't be Bud Foster's defense that gives Chris Petersen fits -- it will be Tyrod Taylor and the Hokie offense. Virginia Tech positively outclasses the Broncos on national television, leading some outspoken critics to claim "we told you so."