"Good morning, my loyal B1G subjects. This Saturday, we reclaim college football dominance from those mouth-breathing heathens in the South. Show no mercy. Burn your non-conference opponents to the ground, and then salt the earth of the Jerry-Dome/Carrier Dome/Soldier Field." -- Quote from the Mental Telepathy that Jim Delany is Beaming Into All B1G Teams and Coaches this Morning, because he clearly has that power a la Professor X.
It's Saturday morning (or, for drunken Mike Jones in Chicago, it's still Friday night! How's the drinking at the Hangge Uppe or Big Shitty tonight, Mike?!?....and yes, I'm stereotyping you as an Iowa fan by assuming that's where you ended up this evening). Plenty of time to throw together one last kickass Potluck before the season starts for the 10 Big Ten teams (get it?) that haven't played yet. (Congrats Minnesota for not causing Ted Glover to test a bleach and vodka cocktail at 4 a.m. And to paraphrase Hilary Lee: "Le'Veon Bell is a GROWN MAN!")
Follow us below the jump for a brunch potluck (all links to real, Food Network recipes!) full of surprises....surprise players, surprise teams, surprise games. And how your OTE writers spend their gamedays....(AUTHOR'S NOTE -- These questions were written last Sunday, and all responses save Graham's were received before Thursday's game.....Graham's came in pre-MSU's game on Friday).
Le'Veon Bell is tastefully named....and now Boise State knows how his ass tastes.
1. Brunch Pizza with Scrambled Eggs and Smoked Salmon: The long national nightmare is over -- college football is back. Almost snuck up on you and surprised you, didn't it? Speaking of surprises, let's kick this potluck with your "bold surprising team prediction" of 2012. What team is going to surprise in 2012? It can be a positive surprise (a team surpassing all expectations) or negative surprise (a team falling flat on its face)...and to be clear, you don't necessarily have to think this will happen, just that it COULD happen and it would be very surprising. Here's mine: Michigan State will play in the National Championship Game, on the strength of its fierce defense, an aggressive running attack with Leveon Bell, and Andrew Maxwell (who will make fans say "Kirk who?"). What's your surprising team?
Ted Glover: Well, if you say COULD happen, not necessarily WILL happen, I'll go out on a limb. In the Legends division, I really like the vibe coming from Minnesota this year. So here we go: The Golden Gophers win 8 games. I was on The Daily Gopher podcast last week with Jeffrick and JDMill, and they thought I was nuts, but hear me out: Very manageable non-con, so 4-0 is very conceivable. They open at Iowa City, and this is the weakest Iowa team on paper in a few years. Is a win out of the question? No. 5-0. Could they also beat Northwestern, Illinois, and Purdue? Yes. 8 wins. Maybe that's a bit too bold, but I firmly believe Minnesota will pull a stunning upset at some point this season.
On the flip side, everyone, including me, has ceded the Leaders division to Wisconsin. But let's look at a worst case scenario for Bucky unfold: Montee Ball can't get untracked because defenses are stacking the box on him, and the Danny O'Brien the Badgers have to deal with is the 2011 version, not the 2010 version. They lose on the road in a stunning upset to Oregon State, and it just goes downhill from there. They lose their B1G opener in Lincoln, and three weeks later are stunned when Minnesots walks out of Camp Randall with the Axe. A reeling Badgers squad isn't ready for Michigan State, loses to OSU, and struggles to beat PSU. When the dust settles, they're 7-5 and not going to Indianapolis.
Jesse Collins: I don't know... Michigan sucks? Hehehehe. Just kidding. Like Chad says, this is all about those audacious claims to something that could happen. My surprising team: Illinois. This is a team chuck full of talent and ready to prove all the doubters wrong. In what is a three-team race to Indy, Illinois has a fairly smooth route to the CCG so long as they play to their potential. I think Scheelhaase has potential to be a beast in a more wide open game and with a coach who pays attention to the game, and that defense should continue to be salty. In fact, I'm going to take this up a notch and say that not only will Illinois make the CCG, they're going to go to the Rose Bowl. I feel like the every few year roller coaster that is Illinois football makes this prediction safe.
JDMill: I really want to predict that the Badgers are going to have a tough go of it because I can't see Danny O'Brien having a stellar season, passing game suffers, closes up the run game, yada yada. But the Badgers schedule is just so damn favorable it actually makes me a little sick. Wisconsin has only 1 real test on the road, @Nebraska, the rest of their road games are ridiculously winnable (@Oregon St, @IND, @PUR, @PSU), and they really only have two other tough games, both at home, playing MSU and OSU.
My (maybe-not-so) bold prediction is that Penn State is going to be awful. I think with all of the controversy around the program, the coaching staff changes and all of the defections, the team is going to struggle much more than anyone anticipates. PSU drops 2 non-con games (Virginia & Navy), and only manages 1 B1G win (sorry Indiana).
Jonathan Franz: I think you're on the right track that Michigan State is primed to have a special season. Their defense is truly legit, and they've got enough offensive muscle to follow Jim Tressel's tried and true path to the BCS. Having said that, I think their ceiling is the Rose Bowl, not the MNC. They'll drop a game somewhere (almost certainly at Michigan) and they'll be too many 1-loss teams from sexier conferences for the Spartans to sneak into the title game. As far as surprise teams go, although I pessimistically picked the Illini to go 6-6 (3-5 in conference), I think they're more than capable of wildly exceeding expectations and earning a Leader's Division title. Look at it this way, with the exception of Ohio State, the Illini have as much talent as anyone in the east, and new coach Tim Beckman knows how to get the most out of his guys. As far as disappointing teams go, I think Michigan fans should at least be prepared for the possibility that this is a four loss squad. Brady Hoke's club has a dangerously green defensive line, and I suspect that Alabama's NFL-caliber offensive front is going to cut through it like a hot knife through butter. If they couldn't move the ball consistently against Virginia Tech, how are they going to do it against a Nick Saban defense? Oh yeah, Notre Dame (with its schedule from hell) is also in for a rude awakening.
Graham Filler: Ohio State will be murderous at home. Remember how they used to be all unbeatable and such in C Bus? That returns in 2012.
Take a look at the schedule - You'll see something very positive for OSU's home record. Not a single team they play has a cohesive, strong passing game. Not one team.
The closest we find is Michigan. So that means, third and 7, rush three or four vicious Buckeye linemen and then drop everyone else. No one is going to be able to score in the fourth quarter if playing from behind. That looks like an undefeated home slate to me.
We asked Tre Roberson to strike a Heisman pose. This is what he did. Indiana football, ladies and gentlemen!
2. Oven Home Fries with Peppers and Onions: How about surprising players? There's certainly a lot of individual talent in the B1G -- Denard Robinson, Montee Ball, Rex Burkhead, William Gholston. But who is going to come out of nowhere and have the rest of the conference saying "DAMN!"? Who's that "diamond in the rough" talent-wise in the conference? My pick(s): for Northwestern, Venric Mark is going to turn a LOT of heads as a running back -- he's small, but he's hella-fast. And to pick a non-Northwestern player -- Stephen Houston blows up for Indiana this year. Kevin Wilson is an excellent offensive coach, and as the pass game improves, Houston will get a lot more opportunities to break off big runs.
Ted Glover: On offense, Tre Roberson, Indiana quarterback. The Hoosiers are going to have to outscore people to win, and Roberson is the guy that can do it. Good arm, athletic, and can make guys miss when he runs the ball. He's not going to get a lot of attention, because the Hoosiers are still going to lose a lot of games, but that kid is going to be fun to watch.
On defense, I'm going to stick with the home team and go with OSU LB Ryan Shazier. He should've played a lot earlier last year as a freshman, and had a mini coming out party against Florida In The Shitfest Bowl. He's only a sophomore, the coaching staff has absolutely been raving about his dedication in the off-season, and he's put on almost 20 pounds of sheer muscle. There's a reason everyone in Columbus is calling him Ryan Damn Shazier.
Jesse Collins: Gotta pick one homer pick first: Imani Cross. While none of you in Huskerland think this is that unique, I've been hearing just ridiculous things about this Freshman Running Back. He is 6' 1" 225 lbs, and looks the part of a NFL-bound kid. He is fast, strong, and coaches say he works extremely hard to be better. He may be only 18, but I think he's going to make some noise this year and give Nebraska another weapon on the ground to keep defenses honest against Burkhead and Martinez. I mentioned this in a comment the other day, but he also can do 41 (not 42 like I had thought on the fly) chin-ups, which is crazy. Seriously people, I would be lucky to do three and I weigh significantly less than him. As for a non-homer pick? I am going to go with Keenan Davis WR for Iowa. I know a lot of Hawkeye fans want to punch him for dropping passes like crazy, but the upside to Greg Davis is that he harps on the passing game and for Davis, that means opportunities. I think this year will be big for him and Vandenberg is the right guy to be throwing it to him.
JDMill: Of course I'm going with a homerish pick here, but I think that Gopher RB Donnell Kirkwood is going to make people take notice. He's not blazing fast, but he's the kind of bowling ball back that does well in the B1G. Although sidelined by injuries in the past, he's shown glimpses of being a yard-muncher for the Gophers. The Minnesota o-line is going to be much better than anyone thinks, meaning Kirkwood is going to be further down field when he has to drop his shoulder on his first defender than he has been in the past.
This Carly Rae Jepsen Picture is JDMill's fault. Just look how his response below begins. Also, I'm still bitter Purdue Pete and Willie the Wildcat got left out of the "Call Me Maybe" Mascot Video fun....but if the B1G Championship game ends up being Northwestern v. Purdue, we have the making of the most hysterical curse in all of sports.....
3. Scrambled Egg Chiliquiles with Roasted Tomatillo Sauce: The Game. The Battle for Floyd of Rosedale. Michigan-Alabama. Nebraska-Wisconsin. We know these are going to be big games, and likely very entertaining games. Ignore them (i.e. no rivalry games, no games between preseason conference favorites, no non-conference matchups between top 25 teams), and give me your pick for the most entertaining/crazy/surprisingly awesome game of the season in the B1G. For me? I think Northwestern at Michigan is going to be an offensive barnburner (remember -- Northwestern led last year after the first half), and I've also got my eye on Wisconsin's visit to Purdue (which I picked as an upset in our preseason predictions). What about you?
Ted Glover: Nov 17th, Purdue at Illinois. If Wisconsin falters, like they might, this game will be for all the Indianapolis Greyhound bus tickets. We've had fun at the expense of Purdue ACL's over the last couple years, but if they can finally stay healthy, they have a decent shot of staying with some teams. Illinois has always had talent, but not a lot of good coaching. In Tim Beckman, I feel they have that now, too, and if the chips fall the right way this game will decide the Leaders division champion. The other main storylines for that game, if it's for all the marbles: Will Illinois actually sell out Memorial Stadium? Will anyone in the state of Illinois outside Chambana care? Will Tim Beckman still be trying to recruit Penn State Players? Can Danny Hope's moustache count for 4 points on the road? Will Purdue quarterback Cabert TerMarveBush III be able to lead Purdue to a win? WE WILL BE DYING TO KNOW THE ASNWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS.
Jesse Collins: Minnesota-Northwestern screams entertaining to me. I think that the Gophers are on an upswing and I am not convinced Northwestern has the defense in place yet to put teams away for sure. I am pretty sure that Minnesota has no defense still as well... That leaves two entertaining offenses, two mediocre defenses, and a lot of pride on the line. Both teams need this win if they want to go bowling at the end of the season and I have no doubt both head coaches think this is a winnable game. Perfect mid-October game to kick back and relax watching while Nebraska has a bye week.
JDMill: Call me crazy (you wouldn't be the first), but I'm going with PSU @ Illinois on Sept 29. It will be the first B1G battle for each team, the first B1G game for each new coach, and I think each team walks into this game with a 2-2 record and a hunger to show that they are better than their non-con record suggests. I think we see a physical but fairly mistake-laden game in which Illinois manages to come out on top.
Jonathan Franz: Illinois at Wisconsin. The Leaders' Division crown will be very much in play, and I think this one comes down to the final minute.
Yes, these goofy looking toothy gentlemen are the founders of Off-Tackle Empire. Graham looks forward to spending his college football Saturdays having an emotional heart-to-heart with Jonathan. Jonathan only gives a shit about steak, beer, and cigars. This will end badly.
4. Baked French Toast Casserole with Maple Syrup and Praline Topping: (An aside -- I've made this recipe for tailgates. It's frankly amazing. Cook it, immediately. Ignore the diabetes you will get from this Paula Deen special.) Finally, game week is here. In that spirit, give me your ideal gameday itinerary. When are you getting up? What's your pregame show du jour? What's your pregame rituals? What are you eating/drinking before kickoff? At kickoff? After the game? Any fun traditions for you and your friends/family? In general, what do you do to make gameday special, and how do you spend your gameday from morning until the late-night Pac12 west-coast games are over?
Ted Glover: Probably going to get up around 8'ish, make a pot of coffee, fry up some bacon and eggs, and look for that new Erin Andrews pre-game show on Fox. If that isn't on, I'll watch College Gameday until the B1G network preview show starts. I have a couple of buddies who are OSU fans, and we're gathering at someone's house to watch OSU-Miami around 10'ish. I'll have Strongbow and Lenenkugel's Sunset Wheat in tow, and I'll drink those before, during, and after the game. I'll be in and out of the OTE game threads, as those can be a lot of fun, so stop in and say hello if you're near a computer. We'll probably order Imo's Pizza, which is a local St. Louis tradition. After the game, I'll probably have to head home and build up some credit with the wife and do my penance at the mall or something similar, so I'll probably just catch the highlights of the afternoon and evening games.
Jesse Collins: Food: Grilled Stuff and lots of it. Shows: Gameday (begrudgingly) before the early games. The rest: Football until bedtime.
JDMill: Opening weekend will be a bit strange for me with the Gophers playing in the wee hours of Thurday night/Friday morning, but when Saturday roles around... boy howdy will I be ready for more college football. I will send my wife shopping mid-morning on Saturday, leaving my afternoon wide open. I will be sure to wash a dish or two and probably cut the grass at some point during the afternoon games so that I have reason to express a need to watch football in the evening. To prepare for potentially needing to cut the grass or some other outdoor activity I will have a TV and a cooler with cold beer just in case. Weather (and bugs) permitting, I will be watching the 2nd half of Michigan/Alabama under the stars with a Maker's Mark on the rocks in my hand and a smile on my face.
Jonathan Franz: One of the (few) drawbacks of living in California is having to watch football on Pacific Standard Time. The B1G slate kicks off at 9:00 a.m., so there's hardly ever time to participate in pre-game festivities. In a perfect world, I'd catch the 6:30 p.m. from LAX to Columbus on Friday night each week, but the next best thing is camping out at the BW3s or one of the many Buckeye bars in Hollywood for the morning/afternoon slate, and heading back home for Saturday Night Football. I like to pick up a dry-aged 18 ounce New York Strip from McCall's on the way, coat it in a generous amount of sea salt and Stonehouse olive oil, and drop it on a 650 degree grill until the outside is charred but the inside is still cold. To wash it down, I usually do a Sam Adam's Octoberfest -- but I'm also a huge Stone Brewing Company fan, and the Stone Smoked Porter is subliminally self-righteous (see what I did there?) After the evening slate of games winds down, I usually retire on the porch with a thick Padron cigar.
Graham Filler: Wake up time: 8:30am (if I went to sleep the night before at a reasonable time)...9:30am (if I went to sleep the night before at an unreasonable time)
Morning TV Watching: I'll be typically watching a game from the week before off my DVR. That gets me prepped for the day, gets me thinking about B1G football.
My favorite part: Don't make me get verklempt, but my favorite part of the CFB Saturday is the phone calls from Jon Franz. Typically he calls after a particularly controversial or exciting game. We recap the game, talk about the games' impact, and then trade barbs about whatever.