Each week of the 2009 football season, I will be examining all of the games that a Big Ten team plays in. All kickoff times are ET. Week 1 is as follows:
Indiana vs. Eastern Kentucky
Starting off the Big Ten season, Indiana hosts Eastern Kentucky in the earliest game for any Big Ten team. The Hoosiers, who have been struggling in the past few season and posted a 3-9 record last year, are facing off against the Colonels, who were 8-4 last season. While Indiana does play against a stronger conference, and is a FBS school (unlike EKU, an FCS team), I think that the Colonels have the edge in this game. Indiana 21, EKU 28. This game will be televised on BTN at 8 p.m. Thursday.
Michigan State vs. Montana State
MSU is back and looking to try and capture the Big Ten title this year. The team is strong, returning several starters, and looking to become a major player. Though the team finished 9-4 last season, most of their losses were in close games to good opponents. Montana State, on the other hand, had a 7-5 season last year, but really didn’t look to good. I expect the Spartans to easily win this game. MSU 52, Montana State 3. This game will be televised on BTN at 12 p.m. Saturday.
Northwestern vs. Towson
Northwestern is a football team that has long struggled to get an identity. Though they have been improving over the last few years, they are still struggling overall. Last year, they posted a 9-4 record after losing to Missouri in the Alamo Bowl in overtime. Towson, who was 3-9 last year, really has no football program at all. Even worse, they are playing against the Wildcats just one night after playing against Morgan State. The Tigers have no chance in this game, as they are a much worse team, and they will be plain worn out. Northwestern 44, Towson 0. This game will be televised on BTN at 12 p.m. Saturday.
#9 Penn State vs. Akron
Penn State is one of the best teams in the Big Ten, and is always in the running for the conference title. Penn State posted an 11-2 season last year, though they did lose in the Rose Bowl to USC. Akron posted a 5-7 season last year, and they look to be the beat-up team for larger schools this year. I expect the Nittany Lions to come out hard and strong for this game, and to beat the stuffing out of the Zips. PSU 62, Akron 0. This game will be televised on BTN at 12 p.m. Saturday.
#6 The Ohio State University vs. Navy
This is, in my opinion, the game of the week for the Big Ten. The team that dominates this conference is The Ohio State Buckeyes and they are expected to do fairly well this season. Though they lost three games last year, they are coming back a better team, led by the much matured Terrelle Pryor. Navy, however, is not the pushover that OSU is used to for the first game. The Midshipmen posted an 8-5 record last year, including wins over some good teams, and a close loss to Notre Dame. Furthermore, Navy runs a triple option offense that should give the Buckeyes some problems, but not enough to win the game for them. OSU 28, Navy 21. This game will be televised on ESPN at 12 p.m. Saturday.
If you are going to this game, please make sure to honor the Navy players properly – stand up and cheer!
Purdue vs. Toledo
Purdue is one of those Universities that just shouldn’t field a football team. Last year, they were a dismal 4-8, and they don’t look to be getting any better this season. Toledo also looks horrendous, at 3-9 last year. That said, however, the Rockets beat the University of Michigan last year, and they are looking for Big Ten blood again this year. I expect this to be a close game, with the Rockets winning in OT. Purdue 7, Toledo 10 in overtime. This game will be televised on BTN at 12 p.m. Saturday.
Illinois @ Missouri
Illinois is one of the teams in the Big Ten that will show up one year, and then fade to the background for the next few seasons. One year after beating OSU and heading to the Rose Bowl, the Fighting Illini went just 5-7. Missouri, on the other hand, is a team that keeps on raising some hell in the Big Twelve conference. Last season, they went 10-4 and won their bowl game in overtime. As this is a major rivalry game (the Arch Rivalry), expect both teams to play their hardest. Missouri just has too much talent and skill for Illinois, and the 14-7 record of the Arch Rivalry is lopsided in their direction for this reason. Illinois 14, Missouri 28. This game will be televised on ESPN at 3:40 p.m. Saturday.
#22 Iowa vs. Northern Iowa
Iowa is an up-and-coming team in the Big Ten. They were the only school to beat Penn State in the regular season last year, and the only Big Ten team to win a bowl game. We can expect them to better their record this year, and give us a great season. Northern Iowa also had a great year last season, posting a 12-3 record. I expect this game to be quick, fast, and hard hitting, but the Iowa drive will win in the end. Iowa 28, Northern Iowa 17. This game will be televised on BTN at 12:05 p.m. Saturday.
Michigan vs. Western Michigan
When it rains, it pours – for the Wolverines of Michigan, there is a hurricane afoot. The team was 3-9 last season (which was the most losses in a season ever), missed a bowl game for the first time in eons, and is simply not a factor in anything at all. They have lost their opening game for the last two years. The Broncos of Western Michigan are a strong team, posting a 9-4 record last season. Though they lost to Rice in their bowl game, they received votes in both the AP and coaches polls, and are looking to dominate again this season. The Broncos should easily handle the sinking Wolverines on Saturday. UM 3, Western Michigan 28. This game will be televised on ABC and ESPN2 at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
Minnesota @ Syracuse
Minnesota is a team who went from a 1-11 season to a 7-6 season in one year. Though they lost in their bowl game, they were a great team throughout the season, and they are clearly looking to continue that this year. Syracuse is a team who has been loosing a lot lately, and they went 3-9 last year. Though they have some talent, they really have no ability to move the football, and they don’t have a good defense. The only hope that Syracuse has is that this is on their home turf – it won’t be enough. Minnesota 31, Syracuse 7. This game will be televised on ESPN2 at 12 p.m. Saturday.
Wisconsin vs. Northern Illinois
Our final game of Week 1 places the Wisconsin Badgers up against the Northern Illinois Huskies. The Badgers are a decent team, and went 7-5 last season. They have several of their starters back, and are looking to make a dent in the Big Ten. The Huskies went 6-7 last season, though several of their losses were extremely close games. Northern Illinois is looking for a great start this season, and I don’t think that Wisconsin will be expecting it. Wisconsin 24, Northern Illinois 27 in overtime. This game will be televised on BTN at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Overall, I expect that it will be a good week for the Big Ten, with a combined score of Big Ten 314, Other Teams 169. Frankly, the only surprise of Week 1 will be EKU beating Indiana, as everything else looks straight forward. Though there will be some close wins, and some close losses, I expect the conference to go 7-4 with two overtime games.