One way-too-early thought about each B1G team's season opener
Three months is a long time.
Presidencies and marriages haven’t lasted that long. I’m pretty sure you’re supposed to go through water filters in less time than three months.
But while that might seem like a long time, you know these next three months of summer will fly by and opening weekend will be here in no time.
With that in mind, I took it upon myself to get ahead of the curve and offer up one way-too-early thought about each B1G team’s season opener:
Season opener — vs. Kent State
Way-too-early thought — It’s a good thing that Illinois opens the season against a 2-10 MAC team with a first-year head coach. Given how many offensive question marks the Illini have, facing the team that finished No. 111 in scoring defense might be just what the doctor ordered.
Season opener — at Florida International
Way-too-early thought — Indiana dodged a bit of a bullet by not having to face FIU last year. Why? Butch Davis has that thing rolling in the right direction. Davis led the Panthers to an 8-win season in Year 1. But there’s good news for Indiana. Despite that being a tricky way to start the season, FIU ranks No. 126 of 130 teams in percentage of returning production.
Season opener — vs. Northern Illinois
Way-too-early thought — Jordan Lynch might not be leading the Huskies anymore, but that’s not any reason for them to be overlooked. Remember Nebraska last year? Iowa can avoid that type of embarrassment — Nebraska fired athletic director Shawn Eichorst after that — by avoiding multiple pick-sixes. Iowa and NIU were actually both in the top 10 nationally in that category last year. Nathan Stanley’s overthrows need to be kept to a minimum.
Season opener — vs. Texas
Way-too-early thought — I definitely think the Terps will be significant underdogs despite the fact that they went into Austin and dropped 51 last year. I’m not a gambling man, but I’d love the idea of Maryland being a touchdown underdog at home. I think injuries and a brutal schedule hurt Maryland last year. That Texas opener was a good reminder of what the Terps were capable of offensively when healthy (though that’s not a given).
Season opener — at Notre Dame
Way-too-early thought — I know we’re going to make sweeping generalizations about Michigan based on this outcome. Win in South Bend and suddenly the talk will be about if the Wolverines can win a national title. Lose and suddenly people are back to questioning if Jim Harbaugh is really the long-term fit to turn Michigan into a powerhouse.
I’d pump the breaks on that talk in either direction. But if Shea Patterson debuts by lighting up the defense with the most returning production in college football, well, I told you so.
Season opener — vs. Utah State
Way-too-early thought — For whatever reason, MSU has had a recent tendency to not completely dominate Group of 5 schools in non-conference play. Look at these margins of victory vs. Group of 5/FCS schools since 2015:
- 2015 — at Western Michigan, +13
- 2015 — vs. Air Force, +14
- 2015 — vs. Central Michigan +20
- 2016 — vs. Furman, +15
- 2016 — vs. BYU, -17
- 2017 — vs. Bowling Green, +25
- 2017 — vs. Western Michigan, +14
And if you recall, that Bowling Green game was 7-3 until an MSU touchdown with nine seconds left in the first half. For whatever reason, the Spartans never really pound teams in non-conference play. Despite all the returning production MSU has, I wouldn’t expect this opener to look like Utah State’s opener in 2017, when it was trucked 59-10 by Wisconsin.
Season opener — vs. New Mexico State
Way-too-early thought — So this actually isn’t New Mexico State’s opener. In an odd scheduling moves, the Aggies open the season five days earlier vs. Wyoming. That’s an awfully quick turnaround for a team from a game-planning and recovery standpoint. There’s no excuse for Minnesota to come out flatter than New Mexico State.
Season opener — vs. Akron
Way-too-early thought — Akron played a B1G team each of the last two seasons. It didn’t work out well. The Zips were outscored 116-10 in those matchups. Yes, it’s only Akron, but can you imagine the hype for the Scott Frost era if the Huskers became the latest B1G team to smoke the Zips? Keep in mind that the Husker faithful had to sweat through a last-second Hail Mary attempt in the 2017 opener vs. Arkansas State and then it had to witness the Northern Illinois debacle. A non-conference laugher would be welcomed with open arms.
Season opener — at Purdue
Way-too-early thought — I. Love. It. Just like Ohio State and Indiana last year, another B1G matchup to kick off the season is almost like a headliner non-conference matchup. A pair of bowl teams that finished the season well are both trying to contend with Wisconsin for a West title. Perhaps this game will be the battle of “which quarterback with a torn ACL at the end of 2017 makes a quick recovery and leads his team to victory?”
Season opener — vs. Oregon State
Way-too-early thought — I’m not saying that Oregon State was bad last year, but let’s just say that going winless against FBS teams isn’t very good. This won’t feel like a Power 5 matchup for the Buckeyes, which could mean that we’ll get to see plenty of Tate Martell. That alone is a reason for the Horseshoe to stay filled until the clock hits zero.
Season opener — vs. Appalachian State
Way-too-early thought — This is the part where I point out how Appalachian State is familiar with shocking a B1G team with high preseason expectations. The Michigan stunner was already 11 years ago — a crazy thought — but there’s a different reason why the Lions won’t be looking ahead to the Pitt game. The last two seasons, the Mountaineers opened with trips to Georgia and Tennessee, and managed to hang around with both of them (they pushed the Vols into overtime in 2016). Surely James Franklin will have mentioned that once or twice that once or twice.
Season opener — vs. Northwestern
Way-too-early thought — Again, I love the idea of opening with a conference game. I’m a bit worried about Elijah Sindelar being ready to return for this one. Maybe David Blough starts. Either way, I’d bet on some razzle-dazzle from Jeff Brohm. He’ll try and do whatever he can to spark the offense after last year’s 13-point clunker in Evanston.
Season opener — vs. Texas State
Way-too-early thought — The good news is that Chris Ash finally doesn’t have to kick off his season with Washington. Instead, he gets to face a team that finished last in the Sun Belt. I’m interested to see if Rutgers can finally put together an offense. If the Scarlet Knights can’t put up points on a team as bad as Texas State, that’s not exactly an encouraging sign that Year 3 of the Ash era will finally yield an average offense.
Season opener — vs. Western Kentucky
Way-too-early thought — If you think non-conference games aren’t important, clearly you didn’t see when the Badgers were being picked apart as an undefeated team. The same could happen this year, especially with just a matchup vs. BYU at home as Wisconsin’s top non-conference game. That’s all the more reason for the Badgers to keep their foot on the gas and not mess around with one of those 27-14 games against the Hilltoppers. Wisconsin can’t change its schedule, but it can blow its “soft” non-conference slate out of the water beginning with what should be a favorable matchup against a 6-win WKU squad.