Bold predictions for every B1G game in Week 1
Congratulations, B1G fans, you made it! Week 1 of the season has officially arrived.
The first week of the college football season is always unpredictable and enjoyable, but it’s magnified in a year where there are no nonconference matchups and there’s absolutely no room for error. From the opening kickoff, the pressure is on.
With Week 1 finally here, I’ve made some bold — and in some cases, not so bold — predictions for the opening weekend of the B1G season.
Illinois vs. #14 Wisconsin (Friday, Oct. 23 — 8 p.m., Big Ten Network)
Bold prediction: Graham Mertz looks really good and never relinquishes the starting job.
I’ll admit it, I was surprised in 2019 when Mertz didn’t beat out Jack Coan for the starting job. The former 4-star prospect could make all the throws and looked like he could stretch the field for Wisconsin, something the team as lacked at the QB position in recent years.
Mertz gets his shot Week 1 in a favorable matchup against Illinois. Yes, this might be the most experienced Fighting Illini team has had under Lovie Smith, but I still like Wisconsin’s offensive line, running back room and the guy under center. The redshirt freshman may not rack up 300 yards of offense, but he’ll have a solid showing, stretch the defense and solidify himself as the QB of the future for the Badgers.
Nebraska vs. #5 Ohio State (12 p.m., FOX)
Bold prediction: Nebraska looks really good…for about a half.
Remember the bond Nebraska and Ohio State formed during the offseason? It was certainly conversation worthy, considering both programs were instrumental in restoring football in the B1G this fall. But the honeymoon will be over when these two teams kick things off in Columbus on Saturday. And, unfortunately for the Huskers, it could get ugly.
Because of all the heat Nebraska took in the offseason, labeled (incorrectly) as “whiners” by many at ESPN and other media outlets, this young team will have plenty to prove on the field. And for that reason, I expect Nebraska to hang tough with the Buckeyes through the first 30 minutes.
That’s about it, though. Ohio State has too much talent and too much depth for Nebraska to hang around in this one. It may not be quite as bad as the 48-7 blowout last year in Lincoln, but this will probably end up being a four-touchdown game when it’s all said and done.
Rutgers vs. Michigan State (12 p.m., Big Ten Network)
Bold prediction: The Mel Tucker era at Michigan State starts off with a big win.
Is expecting Rutgers to lose really a “bold” prediction? No, not really. But there is an added element of interest in this one considering both teams are going through a coaching change and neither staff has had much face-to-face time with their players.
But I can’t get over the fact that Schiano said before fall camp that Rutgers had not blocked or tackled anyone since November. That’s really not good for a program that hasn’t won a single B1G game in two years. This isn’t so much a prediction that the Scarlet Knights lose so much as it is the Spartans just completely dominate the game.
That should give Michigan State some major confidence heading into a Halloween showdown against in-state rival Michigan.
#8 Penn State vs. Indiana (3:30 p.m., FS1)
Bold prediction: Michael Penix Jr. throws for 400 yards against Penn State’s defense
Penix and the Hoosiers have a chip on their shoulders. In a recent interview, the quarterback said that Indiana was ready to “shock the world,” and it will get a chance right out of the gate against a Penn State that lost top defensive player Micah Parsons, opting out for the 2021 NFL Draft.
Even with Nick Sheridan being a first-time offensive coordinator, enough of Kalen DeBoer’s system is still in place and Indiana has a plethora of weapons at receiver and in the backfield to cause problems for the Penn State defense. And, don’t forget,t he Nittany Lions struggled defending the pass a year ago, allowing 251.5 yards per game through the air — ranking 13th in the B1G.
We’ll see Penix throw the ball all over the field on Saturday, racking up plenty of yards and touchdowns. Will it be enough for the Hoosiers to get the upset? I’m not so sure that will actually be the case, which means we’ll have a shootout on our hands.
Iowa vs. Purdue (3:30 p.m., Big Ten Network)
Bold prediction: The Boilermakers upset the Hawkeyes even without Jeff Brohm.
Brohm won’t be in attendance on Saturday, testing positive for COVID-19 last weekend. That means the Boilers will have a new member of the family — co-offensive coordinator Brian Brohm — calling the shots in the opener against Iowa. Maybe he’ll after better luck in Week 1 games than his brother, who is 0-3 in West Lafayette to start the season.
Considering how much Iowa relies on the fundamentals, I think not having much spring practice and a limited amount of time in pads over the last few months is going to be costly for the Hawkeyes. Yes, Ferentz typically has his teams ready to play on the first weekend, with an 18-3 record in Week 1 games in his 21 seasons at Iowa, but this year is much, much different.
Purdue gets an upset to open the season.
Maryland vs. Northwestern (7:30 p.m., Big Ten Network)
Bold prediction: Even with an influx of 4- and 5-star talent, Maryland’s offense still doesn’t look good
There’s really a lot to like about Maryland’s skill position players on paper. The Terrapins brought in 5-star wide receiver Rakim Jarrett and have a quarterback battle between Alabama transfer Taulia Tagovailoa and former 4-star prospect Lance LeGendre. Peny Boone was a highly-recruited running back and experienced players like Jake Funk (RB) and Jeshaun Jones (WR) are back.
But that offensive line that Maryland will trot onto the field in Evanston? There’s just not going to be much protection there.
Maryland looked atrocious offensively at times during the 2019 season. It may not be quite that bad this year, but against a Northwestern defense that brings a lot of fight to the field, I think the Terrapins are going to look awfully young offensively. Even with the influx of talent, don’t expect many points from the Terps this weekend.
#18 Michigan vs. #21 Minnesota (7:30 p.m., ABC)
Bold prediction: Zach Charbonnet sets his career high in rushing yards against Minnesota
Watch Charbonnet tote the rock and you might not consider this a bold prediction against a Minnesota defense with some question marks. Michigan is welcoming in almost an entirely new offensive line, though, so running the football could potentially be an issue for the Wolverines this weekend.
Even with an inexperienced front line, I think Michigan has enough depth up front to move some bodies along Minnesota’s defensive line and open holes for Charbonnet. And if the Wolverines are dedicated to establishing the run, the sophomore will see plenty of carries.
Charbonnet’s career high was 116 yards, setting the mark as a freshman last year. He’s capable of churning out 125 yards or more on the ground against the Golden Gophers, but he’ll need help from the offensive line.