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Big Ten Football Week 1 Picks, Predictions, Previews

The last true season of college football kicks off. How do Big10 teams come out of the gate? Your “writers” chime in.

Northwestern v Rutgers
Game of the year?
Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images

And we’re off! The 2023 Big10 football season begins tonight and your “writers” are here to provide “insight” and “wit”, predicting what we will see this weekend.

We have three big10 games in week 1, with one of those on Thursday, and another on Sunday. It’s an intensely stupid schedule, but at least it still has divisions and doesn’t have Oregon’s uniforms. So there’s that, I guess.

This year we’ll be keeping standings so you can see over the season which writers are smart (lucky) and which are not (me).

The Picks

(all times CT)

Thursday, August 31 for some goddamn reason

Nebraska Cornhuskers @ Minnesota Golden Gophers

7:00pm | FOX | Minnesota -7 | O/U 43

Straight-Up: Minnesota 12-4
Against the Spread: jNebby 9-7

Buffkomodo: I think there’s too much meh in this game to not have a split here. Minnesota wins, and Nebraska covers in a way that feels too familiar to many of you in Big Red Nation.

BoilerUp89: Fleck shows that he’s not quite ready to give up his perennial status as decent B1G West team to the newcomers.

HWAHSQB: I will be at this game. I don’t care who wins, but I want it to be hilarious. Entertain me!!

RUReady4Brazil: I will not be at this game, but Nebraska will come out firing while PJ Fleck will try to run the ball, run the ball, run the ball, but not have the success they had last year. I really like Nebraska in this game unless Athan Kaliakmanis is just too good and can overcome all the other stuff. Matt Rhule can fire up non-professionals ... wait are they pros now?

BRT: I refuse to pick Nebraska in a theoretically winnable conference season opener until they prove that they can win such a game. They have not proven that in some time, thus, it’s Gophers for me.

Thumpasaurus: Take away all of the names and what you have here is a team entering year 7 of its coach’s tenure with a lot of returning production in the trenches at home against a team in the first year of a head coach known for tearing it down to the studs. It’s hard for me to see Nebraska winning this, although I don’t believe Nebraska will hit the depths Rhule plumbed in year 1 at Baylor.

Dead Read: Thump makes salient points. I am picking Nebraska anyway.

Kind of...: Thump makes salient points. I am picking Minnesota.

Dead Read: Well played. We shall see who is right, and who is....well, me.

RockyMtnBlue: Kind of... makes salient points.

misdreavus79: I wanted to pick Nebraska, but I don’t think Minnesota’s going to fall off a cliff just yet and it might take the Huskers a few games to get used to the new regime. It’ll be close, though, as things tend to be in the West. Nebraska 24, Minnesota 31


An important divisional matchup in week 1. These new TV deals sure are great!

This poll is closed

  • 40%
    Matt’ll need some time. Fight Flecks to cover.
    (81 votes)
  • 47%
    Coach doesn’t matter. Losing a close game is Nebraska’s schtick and they’re not gonna give it up without a fight.
    (94 votes)
  • 12%
    Matt Rhules! (see what I did there?)
    (24 votes)
199 votes total Vote Now

Friday, September 1

Central Michigan Chippewas @ Michigan State Spartans

6:00pm | FS1 | Michigan State -14 | O/U 45

Straight-Up: All Sparty
Against the Spread: MSU 11-5

Buffkomodo: Michigan State wins and wins big, but definitely don’t expect to hear that much this season.

BoilerUp89: Michigan State wins but shows cracks in the system.

RUReady4Brazil: First off, I’m happy it’s local rather than a G5 opponent from the other side of the country. Lindy’s even did us the favor of having the previews in their Big Ten preview magazine adjacent to one another. Central Michigan has a decent coaching staff, but their reliance on the QB run won’t work against the Spartans.

Thumpasaurus: Michigan State wins big and it has nothing to do with Michigan State. Central is so bleak right now. Their star quarterback transferred to FAU only to get portal-recruited over within weeks of joining the team. There doesn’t seem to be much fire in these chips.

Dead Read: MSU needs to win this one convincingly. I think they will.

Kind of...: Look for Sparty to pull away late and cover. It won’t mean MSU is good.

RockyMtnBlue: Sparty rolls. I’m not sure they’re good but they have some players. I am completely sure Central is not good.

misdreavus79: Starting with a team that tied you for the worst win differential in the country (-6) is about as good as it gets for Michigan State. Spartans should, in theory, have no trouble putting away Jim McElwain’s crew, but if they can’t, this might spell trouble for the rest of the season. Central Michigan 14, Michigan State 31


The battle of US-127

This poll is closed

  • 58%
    State to cover. Ewww.
    (117 votes)
  • 32%
    Central keeps it inside a couple touchdowns, but just don’t have the horses to pull off the upset.
    (64 votes)
  • 9%
    Chippewas party like it’s 1992
    (18 votes)
199 votes total Vote Now

Saturday, September 2

East Carolina Pirates @ (2) Michigan Wolverines

11:00am | Peacock | Michigan -36 | O/U 51.5

Straight-Up: All Michigan
Against the Spread: Michigan 9-7

Buffkomodo: Wolverines win but fumble a little late and ECU with the backdoor cover on a 36 point spread.

BoilerUP89: Michigan opens the season as a top 5 team against an unranked and overlooked team from the state of North Carolina. They also become the first Big Ten football on a new video service. I’ve seen this movie before. Nevertheless, I’ll take the suspended Harbaughs to win and cover.

RUReady4Brazil: This is not worth watching unless you are a Michigan fan. At least we don’t have to watch Cade McNamara outplay J.J. McCarthy this season and then be told McCarthy “won the job.”

BRT: I don’t expect Michigan to have any trouble here, but that spread seems very large for a defense-first team in a first game without an HC.

Thumpasaurus: who cares

Dead Read: Michigan flexes on the Pirates. I will only watch this one if it becomes hilarious.

Kind of...: Fully expect the Wolverines to be very vanilla during Harbz’ suspension. They might cover anyway, but 45-10 wouldn’t do it, and that looks about right to me.

RockyMtnBlue: I have no idea what the absence of Harbaugh will mean. Maybe it’ll be fewer inexplicable offensive calls and Michigan covers. I’m betting it just means Michigan sits their starters earlier and they don’t.

misdreavus79: 36 points was a lot before we knew Jim Harbaugh was going to be out for this game. Now that both him and Sherrone Moore are going to be out, I’m taking East Carolina to score. East Carolina 14, Michigan 49


Peacock WANTED this game?

This poll is closed

  • 43%
    The Harbaugh-less Fighting Harbaugh’s cover. No one is impressed.
    (95 votes)
  • 48%
    Michigan wins, but that 36pt spread is too much.
    (104 votes)
  • 7%
    Small team from North Carolina does it again!
    (17 votes)
216 votes total Vote Now

Fresno State Bulldogs @ Purdue Boilermakers

11:00am | BTN | Purdue -3.5 | O/U 47.5

Straight-Up: Purdue 10-6
Against the Spread: Fresno St 9-7

Buffkomodo: Fresno State rolls because why not.

BoilerUp89: Way too many people think this is a gimme for the Boilers. Fresno State won the Mountain West last year. They finished in the top 25. They didn’t lose their head coach. The survival pool sees a large amount of participants eliminated in week 1.

RUReady4Brazil: As mentioned in Purdue season predictions, I would definitely be picking Fresno State if this was out in the farm country / desert. I went to the Rutgers opener there in 2013 and it was the most ridiculous game I have ever attended. Since this game is taking place in Big Ten country, Purdue should come through. This FSU is on a 9 game win streak, but Jake Haener is now with the New Orleans Saints and even in 2022 they struggled early in the year.

Thumpasaurus: Fresno is no joke, and if you think they’re a pushover because they lost Jake Haener, you must not be familiar with Jeff Tedford’s quarterback history.

Dead Read: This could be a sneakily good game. Picking the Boilers, but an upset would not surprise me.

Kind of...: I’m picking Fresno State. But seeing everybody above warn about Fresno State makes me think Purdue is being overlooked. I’ll stick with the Bulldogs, but I could easily see the Sunday headline being something about Purdue not giving up the West crown so easily.

BRT: I often pick Purdue on vibes, and it often doesn’t work out for me. But I’m doing it again anyway.

RockyMtnBlue: The thought of “Purdue with a Ryan Walters Defense” is too intriguing for me not to take them against a team from the great state of Fresno.

misdreavus79: I’m not a coward. I’m not splitting a 3.5 point spread. Fresno State 20, Purdue 17


An actual interesting game!

This poll is closed

  • 33%
    Purdue covers. Ryan Walters is the man.
    (67 votes)
  • 18%
    I like to live dangerously, and by that I mean I’m middling a 3.5pt spread.
    (38 votes)
  • 48%
    I remember what Purdue looked like the last time they played without Jeff Brohm. They’re doomed.
    (97 votes)
202 votes total Vote Now

Utah State Aggies @ Iowa Hawkeyes

11:00am | FS1 | Iowa -25 | O/U 45.5

Straight-Up: All Iowa
Against the Spread: Utah State 12-4

Buffkomodo: Iowa wins but I don’t know if I could ever choose them to cover a 25 point spread unless they were playing an FCS opponent...

BoilerUp89: Iowa wins but I’m not picking Brian Ferentz to score 25 points until it happens.

HWAHSQB: I took iowa. I think they get two defensive TDs, a safety, and a special teams TD and win 29-3. Kirk then talks about Brian’s excellent performance postgame.

RUReady4Brazil: Utah State is a pretty good program, but they are not an offensive juggernaut, so Iowa should get the job done now that McNamara is expected to start.

Thumpasaurus: The 25-point spread here is hilarious. Vegas, we see what you did there.

Dead Read: A game best appreciated through the medium of Braille. I will watch it, of course.

Kind of...: 38-7 Iowa. 24 for the offense to show off McNamara; 14 for the defense. No word on whether the Iowa players are betting on themselves to cover.

BRT: Iowa should be fine here, but I of course hope that they won’t be. I have a hard time seeing that spread early in the season from this particular team in question.

RockyMtnBlue: New-look Iowa steps on Utah State. Unlike Buffkomodo, I’d only be concerned about it being close if they were playing an FCS opponent.

misdreavus79: Is Cade McNamara going to play in this game? Do they need him to? Utah State 7, Iowa 31


A game that will happen, no matter what we want.

This poll is closed

  • 12%
    Iowa covers. Cade McNamara is the answer!
    (26 votes)
  • 82%
    Brian Ferentz is still there, right? No cover.
    (169 votes)
  • 5%
    Aggies with the upset in Iowa City!
    (11 votes)
206 votes total Vote Now

Buffalo Bulls @ (19) Wisconsin Badgers

2:30pm | FS1 | Wisconsin -27.5 | O/U 54

Straight-Up: All Wiscy
Against the Spread: Tied 8-8

Buffkomodo: Wisconsin rolls.

BoilerUp89: Buffalo wasn’t an awful MAC team last year and the Badgers are implementing a new offensive and defensive scheme. It takes them awhile to get going. They win semi-comfortably, but don’t cover.

HWAHSQB: That is a big spread for a team implementing new systems on both sides of the ball.

RUReady4Brazil: Phil Longo doesn’t mess around, so even though Cole Snyder is the quarterback at Buffalo that Rutgers always thought he would be, Badgers roll. I really wonder if Rutgers could have secured Longo as their OC if they wanted him.

Thumpasaurus: Buffalo doesn’t have the horses in the secondary to whittle down the Badgers playbook. Just wait though.

Dead Read: I do not know how this first year will go, but I do know that Wisconsin has much better players than Buffalo.

Kind of...: Expecting a couple of glitches. And a 41-17 win to just miss the cover.

BRT: A slow Badger start to get us chuckling and hoping, but the final score ends up looking completely non-dramatic.

RockyMtnBlue: New system. New coach. Whatever. It’s Wisconsin in September against a MacSnack. We’ve seen this dozens of times. Wiscy by a million.

misdreavus79: This Buffalo team is a far cry from the ones Lance Leipold was fielding a few seasons ago, but I don’t know that I trust a newly retooled Wisconsin offense to cover four touchdowns. Buffalo 10, Wisconsin 31


What happens in Fickell’s debut?

This poll is closed

  • 45%
    Wisconsin trucks a middling MAC team. Some things never change.
    (87 votes)
  • 48%
    Growing pains in the new system. Wiscy is fine, but doesn’t cover.
    (94 votes)
  • 5%
    Buffalo wins. Wisconsin-nation melts down and petitions for Fickell to be fired.
    (11 votes)
192 votes total Vote Now

(3) Ohio State Buckeyes @ Indiana Hoosiers

2:30pm | CBS/Paramount+ | Death Star -30 | O/U 59

Straight-Up: All Death Star
Against the Spread: Death Star 13-3

Life doesn’t suck enough for Indy fans? They have to start like this?

Buffkomodo: For those of you curious, Indiana in the Buff will be moved to a reactionary piece, so here’s my thoughts on this game. I would not choose the Death Star in a 30 point spread at this point. The Bucks are dealing with their own brand of regime change at the QB position, in the ranks among the OC and DC’s, and just having lost a really crappy way in the CFP last year. Indiana comes into this thing as a complete unknown at this point. Who’s playing QB? Who’s kicking (I shit you not Allen said he won’t say who’s kicking until gametime on Saturday)? How’s the line gonna look? Everyone I’ve listened to has had confidence that Indiana has added enough talent to be...something better than they were. To me, this all mixes together to say that I think a 30 point spread is too much. Were it 21, I’d take OSU. But 30 is a bridge too far for a team that will be playing it’s starters all game.

BoilerUp89: Buff’s recap after the game: I felt a great disturbance in the Hoosier football fanbase. As if dozens of voices suddenly cried out in terror and turned off the TV. I fear something terrible has happened.

HWAHSQB: I know picking a 30 point favorite and the Under at 59 seem like a bad combination, but I’m going to for that here. Something like 41-10 seems about right.

RUReady4Brazil: Ohio State is going to come in focused. Indiana’s pace early in the season presents problems for most opponents, but not the Buckeyes.

Thumpasaurus: I have no idea what Indiana is going to look like on offense, but it probably won’t matter here.

Dead Read: I am not even going to pretend I am going to watch this one.

Kind of...: Indiana scores early, and OSU gets bored late. A most unimpressive cover for the Hoosiers.

RockyMtnBlue: What the hell did Indiana do to deserve this opener? I’ll believe OSU doesn’t cover against bad teams when I see it. I’ll believe Indiana isn’t bad when I see it. Please let me see it!

misdreavus79: This is the second time Indiana’s had the misfortune of opening the season with Ohio State in recent memory. And this time is going to be no different (read: worse) than the last one. Indiana 14, Ohio State 48


This was a huge game just three years ago.

This poll is closed

  • 67%
    Death Star gonna death star.
    (136 votes)
  • 25%
    30 is too much. Indinia with signs of life!
    (51 votes)
  • 7%
    2020 IS AVENGED!
    (15 votes)
202 votes total Vote Now

Towson Tigers @ Maryland Terrapins

2:30pm | BTN | No Line | No O/U

Straight-Up: All Terps
Against the Spread: No spread in time to collect picks

Buffkomodo: Maryland because.

BoilerUp89: Turtles

RUReady4Brazil: As mentioned with MSU, at least this is a local opponent. Unless you are worried about NW or Rutgers not winning another game all season, this is a logical survivor pick.

Dead Read: Gross. Over/under is 2.5 on Terp season-ending injuries.

Kind of...: Commence September Maryland.

RockyMtnBlue: Say what you want about Michigan’s non-con schedule (and you can say plenty). None of them are Division II

misdreavus79: Words. Towson 0, Maryland 66


No line, Just pick who wins.

This poll is closed

  • 89%
    Maryland because obviously.
    (170 votes)
  • 10%
    Towson. Maryland without the flag helmets is like Batman without his belt.
    (21 votes)
191 votes total Vote Now

Toledo Rockets @ Illinois Fighting Illini

6:30pm | BTN | Illinois -9.5 | O/U 45.5

Straight-Up: Illinois 15-1
Against the Spread: Tied 8-8

Buffkomodo: I split this because I respect Toledo and I guess I don’t know how Illinois is going to do with losing the talent and coaching they did. Who knows though, they could be completely fine.

BoilerUp89: Illinois has started seasons slowly under Bert. This year is no different but they eke out a win against the Rockets.

HWAHSQB: My prediction is that my date Saturday night goes poorly as I try unsuccessfully to surreptitiously check the Illinois score on my phone. Oh, and Illinois wins but barely.

RUReady4Brazil: If Art Sitkowski was under center, this would be a loss. Toledo is good, with a solid defense, offensive line, and quarterback. Bert seems to be better though than the other Big Ten West stubborn coaches in knowing how to adjust in game and avoid catastrophe. Will his QBs be able to get it done though?

Thumpasaurus: You gotta be shitting me, I’m gonna be playing a gig when this thing kicks off!

Hmm...I wonder how many games I’ve missed in that specific fashion?

The one that comes to mind first is the 2015 Nebraska game, which Illinois had no right winning and which was a very early sign that Mike Riley might not be the man to lead the Huskers back to glory.

Good news is I’ll probably be done playing before the fourth quarter. Bad news is...there’s still gonna be plenty of game to watch. I’m nervous about this one, but the tone is going to be set on Toledo’s first unscripted offensive drive. If the Illini defense can keep DeQuan Finn in the pocket, the Rockets’ offense will have a hard time sustaining drives. That’s no small task, but Gabe Jacas and Seth Coleman have the speed on the edge to get it done. I expect Illinois to win this one but make no mistake, there’s a reason Toledo is getting more votes in the AP poll than the Illini right now.

Kind of...: Bert is not one to play with his food (I meant that figuratively, but...), and he can point to AP votes and keep the Illini focused. Probably also wants to prove that they can survive the loss of Walters. Expect Illinois to want to show something.

RockyMtnBlue: I have no idea if Toledo is any good and I can’t be bothered to find out. I do kinda believe in Bert, though. Illinois rolls.

misdreavus79: I’m sure Illinois will be just fine even with their losses. But, allegedly, Toledo is supposed to be good this season, so I’ll hedge my bets. Toledo 17, Illinois 24


I’ve run out of things to put here, and there are still two more of these to go

This poll is closed

  • 43%
    Illinois announces its candidacy for the final West crown with a smackdown of the Rockets.
    (83 votes)
  • 40%
    Toledo’s not bad. They keep it close.
    (77 votes)
  • 15%
    RMB’s safety school (about a million years ago) pulls the upset!
    (30 votes)
190 votes total Vote Now

West Virginia Mountaineers @ (7) Penn State Nittany Lions

6:30pm | NBC/Peacock | Penn State -20.5 | O/U 50.5

Straight-Up: All PSU
Against the Spread: PSU 11-5

Buffkomodo: Penn State and by a lot.

BoilerUp89: There is a reason this game isn’t hidden behind a Peacock paywall. Nobody would subscribe to watch except true sickos and a handful of Penn State fans.

RUReady4Brazil: At least this is a short bus ride. Credit to Penn State for at least scheduling a Power Five opponent.

Thumpasaurus: West Virginia isn’t completely in disarray but I wouldn’t call them good.

Kind of...: I’m predicting Drew Allar to struggle and this to be competitive for a half. So, when it’s 49-0 early in the third, realize that I am a fool.

RockyMtnBlue: I don’t know if Allar is as good as PSU fans have told me he is. But I know PSU’s defense is good. PSU’s defense against middling teams is really good. PSU covers.

misdreavus79: In which, if I drank, I’d already be hungover by the third quarter. Penn State 56, West Virginia 17


The Nits begin their quest to finish better than 3rd in the division

This poll is closed

  • 65%
    Drew Allar is a stud. Penn State by 3+ TDs
    (135 votes)
  • 29%
    West Virginia is game, but come on. They ain’t winning in Happy Valley
    (62 votes)
  • 4%
    West Virginia DOES win in Happy Valley. Seventeen current and future Big10 fanbases point and laugh.
    (10 votes)
207 votes total Vote Now

Sunday(!), September 3

Northwestern Wildcats @ Rutgers Scarlet Knights

11:00am | CBS/Paramount+ | Rutgers -6.5 | O/U 40.5

Straight-Up: Rutgers 12-4
Against the Spread: Rutgers 10-6

Buffkomodo: This is dumb, and I’m picking Rutgers to win, and I’d even go up to a 13.5 spread and take the ‘gers to cover.

BoilerUp89: But why?

HWAHSQB: This game needs a clever moniker, like Illinutgers had, in order for me to feign interest.

Thumpasaurus: Buttwestern? How’s that work?

I can’t believe this is the Sunday game. The one day this weekend I have nothing going on and it’s Buttwestern Day. What a hideous game.

RUReady4Brazil: Northwestern could come out firing or just be happy to be playing a game, no idea. I already had a dream that Rutgers got smacked in this game, then saw the EA Sports simulation that went down almost exactly like my nightmare did. The main thing is that Northwestern has a proven QB in Bryant, so if he can be protected, they will move the ball. Greg Schiano has a good record in bowl games, openers, and off byes with the extra time to prepare, but his team will surely be WAY overconfident and might not be able to throw the ball AT ALL. The main area for concern for the visitors is that NW was down to two scholarship defensive tackles during spring and Rutgers only has one area on offense that is not a weakness, running up the middle. I almost picked Northwestern as an emotional hedge in the survivor pool and am still considering changing my pick to that. If The ‘Cats do shock everyone other than Rutgers (and some of their own) fans, the RU motto will be appropriate, “Sun of righteousness, shine upon the West also.”

Dead Read: As a connoisseur of dreadful football, this game has my complete attention. Rutgers should win this fairly comfortably, but even so —I have a feeling it will a demonstration of offensive futility. Rock fight!

Kind of...: Northwestern vs. North Jersey. Fine, Buttwestern is better. And, on the field, Rutgers is better.

BRT: This game is hilarious in every way. 11 am on a Sunday. Two very bad teams. Am I into this? I think I might be. I also think Rutgers will win, but I’m hoping that they both live up to all the idiocy this game promises to be capable of.

RockyMtnBlue: What the actual fuck? Of all the games in the entire Big10 season, I’m looking forward to this one maybe most of all, and I’m going to have a dead Sunday game thread for it? Every year, Rutgers against the Big10 West’s worst team is must-see TV. Fuck you, Kevin Warren. Oh yeah. Rutgers covers. (I’m not sure I’ve ever predicted Rutgers to cover as a favorite before).

misdreavus79: The most hilarious result here would be, of course, for Rutgers to fall victim to an “us against the world” mentality, but I don’t know that Northwestern was going to be that good this season even without recent discoveries and subsequent consequences. Northwestern 10, Rutgers 17


Sickos special

This poll is closed

  • 56%
    Rutgers covers as a favorite in a Big10 game! Northwestern considers shuttering it’s entire athletics department.
    (128 votes)
  • 25%
    Rutgers wins a close one in some god-awful stupid way. Final score is probably something like 5-3.
    (58 votes)
  • 17%
    Northwestern with the "upset". You get no credit for "upset win", Northwestern, when the opponent is Rutgers.
    (40 votes)
226 votes total Vote Now