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Big Ten Week 1 Picks, Predictions

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A gang of 21 pickers gives you their hottest takes on the opening weekend of Big Ten football—including at least one upset pick for each of NIU-Iowa, Akron-Nebraska, and Appalachian State-Penn State.

Maryland v Texas Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Football is back, and with that comes a chance for the OTE writers to prove how little they actually know by trying—and failing, generally—to pick the games. I have compiled that below.

I also cannot wait until conference play kicks off full-time and I don’t have to make-compile like, 13 of these images and copy-and-paste all the picks.

The Games

All times CT.

Thursday, August 30

Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. New Mexico State Aggies

6pm | BTN | MN -18

Straight-Up: Minnesota, 21-0
Against the Spread: Minnesota, 11-10

WSR: New Mexico State looked worse than putrid Saturday night against Wyoming, and while we know nothing about how good or bad the Cowboys will be, it’s enough for me to think we’ll have no trouble beating the Aggies and covering. (Tune in at about 1:30 AM Friday morning for my special recap after we only win by 7 and I put an IV of Jameson into myself before writing.)

87townie: Minnesota wins, but I don’t see them pulling out a +18 point game.

Aaron Yorke: The Aggies couldn’t do much of anything against Wyoming in their opener, so Minnesota might not even have to touch 30 to cover the number. Minnesota 31, New Mexico State 10

Thumpasaurus: Minnesota would be best served handing the ball off a lot. Just get the win. No need to be cute about it. Minnesota covers.

GoForThree: Even Minnie can’t F this up…right? Goofers.

Dead Read: NMSU is still NMSU. If Minny cannot cover this spread at home, it tells me they are in trouble. It also might just mean they are starting a true freshman quarterback.

Andrew Kraszewski: If you think this Goofer offense is going to look good with that personnel in week 1, you wrong, friendo. Give me the points.

Creighton M: Gophers by 18? Hard pass.

Stewmonkey13: MN looks terrible, but not getting kicked out of the WAC terrible. MN wins, covers, but fans complain. More comparisons to Brewster ensue. WSR goes nuts on some local media guy, I laugh.

MNW: Zach Annexstad is making his first start as a non-scholarship freshman. The “non-scholarship” bit doesn’t really matter [he’s effectively not one], but the freshman part does. Then again, Tyler Vander Waal eviscerated the Aggies last week, too. Rodney Smith and Kobe McCrary the other non-Smith running back combine for 300 yards and 3 scores, but the Aggies get one of their own. Minnesota, 21-7.

Northwestern Wildcats at Purdue Boilermakers

7pm | ESPN | Purdue -2.5 | O/U 52.5

Straight-Up: Northwestern, 11-10
Against the Spread: Northwestern, 12-9

WSR: If I were a gambling man, my money would already be in the hands of an old family friend with a last name of someone that sounds like his genealogy includes many people whose diet relied on potatoes. Wait…I am, and it is. Purple Cats win easily, and I use my winnings on something stupid. Like more alcohol. Or some potatoes.

87townie: I predict Purdue to be a surprise in the West. This win over the nerds is just the start. Boiler Up!

AY: A pivotal Big Ten West match-up right out of the gate! What more could you want? I’ll take the home team with the quarterback that I’m more excited about. Purdue 24, Northwestern 20

Thump: September Northwestern loses this game, but at the same time I think Purdue’s defense is in disarray and the Cats can run right over them without much trouble. Northwestern wins.

GF3: Purdue can’t quite get there. Cats.

DR: This is an actual INTERESTING game! I believe that NW will win this straight up. It should be a good showcase of what the B1G West has to contend with this season.

AK: I know we’re all high on Purdue and NW is normally trash in September, but I’m determined to never learn so give me NW to cover.

CM: The Tarp Kitties were pretty good last year, so the Fitzgerald Sine Wave Principle states that they’ll regress enough to give MNW some mild liver damage. Roll Damn Boilers.

Stew: There’s simply no answer for Brohm, no one is on his level. Or, ya know, jNW doesn’t have a QB and derps this game away. PU wins and covers.

MNW: At least Fitz and Co. didn’t make the Dan Persa hype machine mistake with Clayton Thorson in the off-season. I like Jeremy Larkin against the Purdue front seven, but Purdue’s two-QB thing scares me. We know what September Northwestern is, but who knows what August Northwestern can do? Probably lose, too. Purdue, 24-20.

Friday, August 31

#11 Michigan State Spartans vs. Utah State Aggies

6pm | BTN | MSU -23.5 | O/U 50.5

Straight-Up: MSU, 21-0
Against the Spread: MSU, 14-7

WSR: I don’t think this should be much trouble for Sparty, but I’ve made mistakes with them in openers in the past.

87townie: Michigan State will be a good team this year. However, I don’t see them running up a 23-point victory, even over Utah State. Expect them to get conservative and let Utah State get a score or two late to beat the spread.

AY: Brian Lewerke, Felton Davis III, and LJ Scott are all coming back, so I’m expecting big things from the Spartan offense this season. Michigan State 45, Utah State 13

Thump: Michigan State is poised to continue annoying its fans by refusing to put away Utah State all game. Aggies cover.

GF3: Sparty toys with, shames USU and covers.

DR: Sparty should roll.

AK: Three scores is a lot to expect from a staff that seems to view a double-digit lead as disrespectful, so give me the points here.

CM: Listen, if MSU beats the Aggies too easily, it won’t be as hilarious when they beat the Wolverines later in the year.

Stew: MSU wins an incredibly bland game something like 33-10.

MNW: If Utah State cracks double-digits, I’ll be mildly surprised. Sparty, 31-3.

#4 wisconsin badgers vs. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

8pm | ESPN | wi -34.5 | O/U 52

Straight-Up: wisconsin, 21-0
Against the Spread: Western Kentucky, 13-8

WSR: What a joke.

87townie: Wisconsin will be a good team this year. But like Sparty, I don’t see them running up a 35-point victory, even over WKU. Expect them to get conservative and burn clock with the running game. Western Kentucky gets a score or two late to beat the spread.

AY: Just like with Michigan State, lots of talent on offense returning to the Badgers. They ought to roll. Wisconsin 56, Western Kentucky 17

Thump: WKU lost to 2017 Illinois last year. Wisconsin covers.

GF3: With Cephus out they only win by 30.

DR: I am picking Wiscy to win comfortably and WKU against the spread. I am wary of big spreads in the first game.

AK: No one would accuse even the best WKU teams of late of being strong defensively. I’d expect wisco to try and prove they don’t need a passing game to remain potent offensively, baggers cover.

CM: God the season hasn’t even started and I’m already sick of wisconsin.

Stew: Air goes out of the ball, wi throws the ball 10 times, and Hornibrook only throws 2 ints. wisconsin wins, but fails to cover for lack of time.

MNW: Yes, Alex Hornibrook shouldn’t have to throw much. Western is undersized on both lines and Jonathan Taylor is announcing a Heisman campaign. Between that and the badgers’ desire not to get overlooked again in the College Football Playoff discussions, we’re going to see even more rolling of shitty non-conference teams than normal—badgers, 45-3.

Saturday, September 1

#5 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Oregon State Beavers

11am | ABC | OSU -37

Straight-Up: OSU, 21-0
Against the Spread: OSU, 12-9

WSR: Oregon State is the cure for everything bad with your football team. I hope to see at least one “Who needs Urban Meyer when you’ve got Ryan Day” piece after this vivisection.

87townie: Ohio State wins. Oregon State covers. See also Sparty and Wiscy.

AY: Oregon State is perhaps the worst Power Five team in the country. Ohio State 49, Oregon State 7

Thump: How can Urban Meyer be redeemed by winning the Big Ten unless the team looks less sharp in his absence? Beavers cover.

GF3: OSU covers. See what I did there?

DR: Buckeyes win convincingly. The spread is too big with someone other than Meyer on the sideline.

AK: Buckeyes shouldn’t really need a coaching staff here at all and will probably cover that line by halftime against likely the worst P5 team this season.

CM: Is this even legal?

Stew: OSU sends a message. And that message is that they don’t give a shit about domestic violence. Oregon State leaves with a black eye.

MNW: No. No no no. Ohio State, 55-7.

Maryland Terrapins vs. #23 Texas Longhorns

11am | FS1 | TX -13.5 | O/U 53
Game played at FedEx Field, Landover, MD

Straight-Up: Texas, 19-2
Against the Spread: Texas, 14-7

WSR: If there were no distractions or stupid crap going on, I think Maryland could be a better team than last year. But there’s a lot of shit swirling around this team, and I think Texas is going to make a big jump towards being not a dumb team in the 2nd year under Tom Herman. We’ll see, but I don’t think it goes well for the Turtles.

87townie: Maryland gets it together for the first game to run Texas out of town. Turtles win outright.

AY: This game is being played at FedEx Field, which should make it easier for Texas fans to get tickets and make a Washington D.C. vacation out of the holiday weekend. I’m sure they’d love it if their team doesn’t get embarrassed by the Terps again. Texas 28, Maryland 20

Thump: I have no idea what Maryland or Texas will actually be like this year, let alone this game. Texas covers?

GF3: Texas romper-stomps the walking carcass of Maryland.

DR: Murrland gonna get beat. Badly. They’d lose without the dysfunction. With the dysfunction, I don’t see how they keep it close.

AK: Color me completely unsure of what to expect. I think Maryland beats this line, as it’s not like Matt Canada is some grad assistant, but if anyone tells you they know what to expect here they’re full of it.

CM: I think we all understand just how bad this year is going to be for the Terps, but don’t you dare underestimate the Longhorns’ ability to lose in hilarious fashion.

Stew: Does Maryland rally in the midst of the chaos that’s currently surrounding the program? No. No, they do not. TX wins, queue the hype.

MNW: I’m excited to see what Kasim Hill does running the Maryland offense. I’m less excited to see how the Texas offense gashes what’s supposed to be Maryland’s strength under DJ Durkin. Texas, 42-20.

Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Kent State Golden Flashes

11am | BTN | IL -16 | O/U 55.5

Straight-Up: Illinois, 20-1
Against the Spread: Kent State, 14-7

WSR: Don’t screw this up, Illinois. I really want you to have a good year and get to 2 wins, and you can’t do that if you lose to Kent State.

87townie: Oh god Illinois. Kent State is going to be the first of many ugly games this season. Illinois lets the two+ score spread go to their head. They get beat early and often. Flashes win.

AY: The Illini won’t have too many chances like this one, so hopefully they take advantage against one of the worst teams in the FBS. Illinois 27, Kent State 10

Thump: Kent state covers because Illinois has no offense and makes defensive mistakes. PROVE ME WRONG BOYS.

GF3: Gross. Who cares. KSU covers in a loss.

DR: Better win games like this one, Lovie. Illinois wins but doesn’t cover.

AK: Not ready to give Illinois that kind of margin, even against a turbobad Kent State squad, I’ll take the points.

CM: Illini will play well enough to give false hopes to some of their younger fans. Don’t fall for it.

Stew: I want no part of this game. IL wins and covers.

MNW: I remember learning that Kent State has like 5 QBs and an RB playing WR, but they also have a good punter! Derek Adams! So that’s something. Illinois, 27-17.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights vs. Texas State Bobcats

11am | BTN | RU -16.5 | O/U 47

Straight-Up: Rutgers, 21-0
Against the Spread: Rutgers, 17-4

WSR: I refuse to comment on this game on the grounds of the 8th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America.

87townie: Rutger starts off vs a 2-10 Sunbelt Texas State squad. Even Rutgers mediocre offense proves to be too much. However, the Bobcats get a score in garbage time to cover the spread.

AY: The result of this game probably isn’t as important as the play of Artur Sitkowski. If he looks comfortable under center, the freshman quarterback will become a beacon of hope for the Piscataway faithful. Rutgers 37, Texas State 14

Thump: Texas State is bad enough that The Gers might be able to beat up on them. Don’t try too hard...Rootjars covers.

GF3: Buttgers covers. LOL.

DR: Rutgers covers. Barely. It could be a long season in Jersey.

AK: Likewise, prove to me first that you can score 17 points and then I’ll entertain this sort of line even against a body bag. Points.

CM: rutger covers, which means legally we aren’t allowed to call what happens on the field that day “football”.

Stew: Ok, fine, I’ll watch Kent St. and Illinois.

MNW: Rutgers should have the athletes to contain QB Willie Jones III, who just got named the Bobcats’ starter. He is not a great passer, but he can run and maybe there’s something there? Sure, why not. Rutgers, 35-21.

#10 Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Appalachian St. Mountaineers

2:30pm | BTN | PSU -23 | O/U 54

Straight-Up: Penn State, 20-1
Against the Spread: Penn State, 16-5

WSR: Hopefully this one isn’t HOT! HOT! HOT! and I don’t get to start making jokes about how Moorhead is the only reason Franklin still has a job this early in the season. I’d like to wait until October for that.

87townie: PSU has something to prove. They don’t take the foot off the gas until the victory bell rings. App State eats turf all day. The Lions win and cover.

AY: The Mountaineers aren’t your typical tomato can, and I think they’ll hang around in this one due to their experience on defense. Penn State 31, Appalachian State 14

Thump: I would definitely take Penn State to cover -46.

GF3: Penn State gets shocked early but wins by 28.

DR: I love App State, but PSU has too much talent for them.

AK: I’m high on PSU’s shiny new skill players, so I’ll take the cover here.

Stew: Certainly nothing bad could happen scheduling a plucky underdog known for upsets, right? I doubt it, but there’s a few moments of real tension in this. App St. covers.

MNW: New QB in Zac Thomas but proven RB in Jalin Moore? If the Mountaineers can come out and hit the Lions in the mouth, they could last past halftime. Expect a lot of loaded boxes and Trace McSorley YOLOing up a couple nice ones. Lions, 41-14.

Iowa Hawkeyes vs. Northern Illinois Huskies

2:30pm | BTN | Iowa -10 | O/U 48.5

Straight-Up: Iowa, 18-3
Against the Spread: NIU, 12-9

WSR: Something about this game just has me nervous. I have no idea what it is, but I just don’t like Iowa’s chances. I’m sure I’m wrong and they’ll be just fine, but between the tackles being suspended and me not being convinced that Iowa’s offense is…good, I just don’t like this game.

87townie: Iowa gets a decent MACrifice to start the season. While N. Illinois hangs tough for a while, Iowa has too much talent. The Hawks win and cover.

AY: Last year the Huskies were very competitive against the Power Five schools they played... until they were wiped out by Duke in the Quick Lane Bowl. Iowa 24, Northern Illinois 10

Thump: NIU straight up. If Iowa can’t play offense, what can they do in this game?

GF3: Iowa x 2. Gross.

DR: I pick Iowa to cover. I want to be wrong.

AK: Already called the Husky upset on the podcast so I suppose I should stick to that (I see you Artoo).

CM: Sutton Smith might be the best pass rusher in the country, and he’ll be playing against a backup tackle. Hawks I love you, but you aren’t going to cover.

Stew: Iowa a double digit favorite? Iowa’s facing Sutton Smith without either starting OT? I still think Iowa wins, but there’s no way I’m laying 10 points.

MNW: Iowa radio today was very wary of Northern, which they were careful to point out has a 4-1 record against the Big Ten under Rod Carey. The former Indiana center has yet to win a bowl but has maintained a powerhouse in Dekalb since taking the job in 2013, but...let’s look at those wins:

  • 2013: W, 30-27 at Iowa (8-5, 5-3 B1G)
  • 2013: W, 55-24 at Purdue (1-11, 0-8 B1G)
  • 2014: W, 23-15 at Northwestern (5-7, 3-5 B1G)
  • 2015: L, 20-13 at #1 Ohio State (12-1, 7-1 B1G)
  • 2017: W, 21-17 at Nebraska (4-8, 3-6 B1G)

So...I mean, the Iowa win and Ohio State loss were moderately impressive, but let’s not kid ourselves. The Huskies and Carey have gained this rep by beating bad Big Ten teams. Sutton Smith will make some hay and the Iowa offense is replacing a lot at running back, but Nate Stanley will be OK and if a green linebacking corps can contain dual-threat QB Marcus Childers, this will be another slow strangulation in Iowa City. Not a comfortable one, though. Iowa, 20-13.

Indiana Hoosiers at FIU Sunblazers

6pm | CBSSN | IU -10.5 | O/U 56.5

Straight-Up: Indiana, 19-2
Against the Spread: Indiana, 13-8

WSR: Boring, easy win for Indiana. Somebody make sure to tell us what happened, because nobody will watch it.

87townie: Indiana is chippy about its place in the B1G East. Butch Davis is a fraud. Indiana punches the FIU Panthers in the mouth, wins and covers.

AY: It’s not crazy to think that Indiana could win eight games this year if it gets some magic out of new quarterback Brandon Dawkins. Indiana 38, Florida International 21

Thump: Indiana covers. FIU is still recovering from the Ron Turner error.

GF3: fIU upsets aIU.

DR: Meh. For the good of the conference, I hope the Hoosiers cover.

AK: I think IU hangs on for this one, not by that many though.

CM: Wait why are they playing *at* FIU? Whatever, Hoosiers cover.

Stew: Wait, Indiana is really playing AT FIU? And Butch Davis is the coach at FIU, now? Well, shit. I’m a bit tempted to pick FIU. Gimme the middle here.

MNW: There should be midday rain in Miami, which is about all that you’d need to make this game just batshit stupid. Which, to be honest, is really what Indiana at FIU needs. Regain CHAOSTEAM status, Hoosiers. Butch Davis hasn’t told us which of Green Bay native and Bowling Green transfer James Morgan or Christian Alexander will start, but he has given us this super-weird photo with his buddies, the QBs, and the promise that they’d both probably play. So maybe, just maybe, we get weird on CBSSN. Indiana, 26-22.

#14 Michigan Wolverines at #12 Notre Dame Fighting Irish

6:30pm | NBC | ND -1* | O/U 46.5

*Note: The line I used on Sunday when making our picks spreadsheet had Michigan -2. Since the line has swung or I just can’t read, I’ve opted to make it a pick’em.
**Note 2: People who take the points on a 2-point line are the literal worst.

Straight-Up: Notre Dame, 14-7

god it is disgusting just looking at this graphic

WSR: I get the impression that people who enjoy schadenfreude will absolutely love this game. Sadly, someone will need to win and I just think it’ll be Notre Dame. Michigan will be fine long-term this season, but they’re not going to be happy with whichever stupid way they pick to lose this one.

87townie: Harbaugh gonna get got. Chip Kelly has something to prove. The UM game is a referendum on his tenure at Notre Dame. Expect him to come out swinging and not letting up at all. This is a BIG GAME at home. Notre Dame wins by two scores.

AY: I don’t care whether Shea Patterson is good or not. The Wolverines should have a stacked enough defense to handle a Notre Dame attack that struggles to move the ball through the air. Michigan 17, Notre Dame 10

Thump: Notre Dame wins. Just wait til Harbaugh gets his guys in his system.

GF3: Notre Dame wins at home.

DR: Notre Dame straight up. God is testing our faith.

CM: I’m one of the few people here that doesn’t care if Notre Dame beats Michigan. It’s never not hilarious to watch Harbaugh consistently faceplant against rivals. Irish win, cover easily.

Stew: Fuck ND. Shea Patterson wins September Heisman.

MNW: This definitely has the September Heisman feel to it—Stew’s right. But when the Irish defense stifles Patterson, this turns into just running Karan Higdon and Chris Evans over and over and over. There’s a late breakthrough. Michigan, 13-10.

Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Akron Zips

7pm | FOX | UNL -23.5 | O/U 54.5

Straight-Up: Nebraska, 20-1
Against the Spread: Nebraska, 12-9

WSR: Akron is not good, and the result of this game will lead to more than one “NEBRASKA’S BACK!” being written. This is fool’s gold, but it will make for wonderful content later in the season when it’s a decent percentage of Nebraska’s total wins.

87townie: Akron is a solid MAC team. Terry Bowden is not a fraud. New Nebraska HC Scott Frost needs this one bad…and he gets it. But Akron covers.

AY: It should be a great chance for Scott Frost to show off the offense, but the new coach still has plenty of building to do. Nebraska 35, Akron 20

Thump: Akron covers. That’s a big spread and Akron’s a decent MAC team. Just prepare yourselves emotionally for this to be a contest, Husker fans.

GF3: Nebraska does UCF things and softens Akron up for PSU.

DR: I think Nebby will find enough speed to cover this. It will be fun to see what Frost has cooked up.

CM: Texas and Nebraska should open with each other every year just so we can declare one of them to be “back”. Huskers cover and are BACK (at least for the rest of the week).

Stew: UNL is starting a true freshman at QB, and has a shitty OL. Yeah, sure, they win, but no, they don’t cover.

MNW: Yeah, I’ll believe Adrian Martinez when I see him. In the meantime, Akron is coming off a lucky, weird 7-7 season but is well-coached and should keep this one uncomfortably close while FOX licks Scott Frost’s grundle and preaches patience. O/U on pictures of Frost in his playing days/running scout team QB at UCF is set at 3.5. Nebraska, 31-20.


There you go. Like, 3800 words on Week 1 of Big Ten football. Vote in polls, give your picks in comments, and so on. FOOTBALL IS BACK, Y’ALL.

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