Written By T.J. Inman (@TJHoosierHuddle)
B1G Viewing Guide – Week 1
The college football season officially kicks off Thursday evening with a great slate of games. We have decided to give our viewers a guide to each of the games being played in the Big Ten in Week 1. We have provided the game time and network that the game will appear on, plus a little background on each match-up. College football is finally back!
Thursday, September 3
Michigan at Utah – 8:30 on Fox Sports 1
The debut of Jim Harbaugh as the head coach for the University of Michigan makes this one of the marquee games of the opening week. The Wolverines travel to Salt Lake City as underdogs as they take on a Utes squad that won nine games in 2014. Last season, Utah hammered Michigan in the Big House by a score of 26-10 but that matchup tells us little about what to expect in this opener. The Michigan offense (reminder, the Wolverines still aren’t sure who the starting QB is) is likely to struggle against Utah in a raucous Rice-Eccles Stadium so their defense will need to on it’s best to keep Michigan in the game against 6’7” Travis Wilson. The Utes have a better roster and have home-field advantage but it’s Jim Harbaugh’s first game at Michigan, who knows what could happen?
(2) TCU at Minnesota – 9:00 on ESPN
TCU enters the 2015 season as a favorite to win the Big 12 and make their first College Football Playoff. The Horned Frogs quarterback, Trevone Boykin, begins the season as a frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy. Expectations are sky high in Fort Worth for Gary Patterson’s squad and they begin the season with a trip to Minneapolis to take on Jerry Kill’s Golden Gophers. Minnesota has to replace a lot of star power from last season’s surprising team but they return QB Mitch Leidner, a strong offensive line and a defense that figures to be strong. However, they are expected to lose this opener by more than two touchdowns. TCU should have an incredible offense but they do have some question marks on defense, mainly at linebacker where they return zero starts (the only team in college football with that distinction).
Friday, September 4
(5) Michigan State at Western Michigan – 7:00 on ESPNU
The Michigan State Spartans open the season with lofty goals and a top five ranking. They also open the season with a tougher than you think road trip to Western Michigan. Under on-the-rise head coach PJ Fleck, the Broncos came within a half of winning the MAC West last season. They now return most of that 8-5 squad and a MAC West title is the expectation. This will be Michigan State’s first game in a long-time without former defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi calling shots for the defense. They are also replacing a lot of production at running back and wide receiver and a couple of stars on defense. Michigan State is favored to win this one by nearly three touchdowns and a loss would be stunning but I think this one should be entertaining and closer than most think.
Kent State at Illinois – 9:00 on BTN
The Illini have certainly had an eventful offseason. They begin the 2015 season without Tim Beckman after he was fired last week and without many expectations. The Golden Flashes are looking to rebound from a disappointing 2-9 season that saw a slew of injuries and some bad luck send them near the bottom of the MAC. Kent State has some reason for optimism as running back Trayion Durham returns after missing 2014 with injury along with quarterback Colin Reardon, four offensive line starters and the majority of the first team defense. The Illini will be relying on the offensive duo of running back Josh Ferguson and quarterback Wes Lunt. Illinois is expected to win this one by a pair of touchdowns but the recent coaching turmoil certainly casts some uncertainty over this opening contest.
Saturday, September 5
(21) Stanford at Northwestern – Noon on ESPN
The Northwestern Wildcats open the season at home against one of the more physical programs in college football as the Stanford Cardinal invade Evanston. The Wildcats will start redshirt freshman Clayton Thorson against what figures to be a stout Stanford defense. Thorson is an exciting prospect that Northwestern expects a lot from but this will be baptism by fire. On the other side of the ball, Stanford’s Kevin Hogan has had an inconsistent career but there has been a lot of good buzz around his progression this offseason. He’ll be aided by a strong offensive line and the return of exciting playmaker Christian McCaffrey. Stanford is a double-digit favorite in this one and a playoff pick of Hoosier Huddle Nick Holmes so it will be interesting to see how they deal with this early road-trip.
Illinois State at Iowa – Noon on BTN
The Hawkeyes open the season against the Redbirds of Illinois State. The 2014 FCS runners-up head to Iowa City as the preseason #3 team in the FCS rankings and are led by former Purdue coordinator Brock Spack and former IU quarterback Tre Roberson. Running back Marshaun Coprich led the FCS in rushing yards in 2014 and has been reinstated to the team after an offseason suspension for marijuana possession. Iowa will be looking to see how CJ Beathard does as the full-time starter but they’d be wise to not overlook the Redbirds. At least one B1G team routinely struggles against FCS competition in the opening weeks of the season, consider the Hawkeyes on “upset alert”.
Richmond at Maryland – Noon on ESPNU
The Richmond Spiders are a consistent program in the powerful Colonial Athletic Association (one of the strongest FCS conferences). Their season was ended by Coastal Carolina in the 2014 FCS Playoffs and they return their top two running backs and wide receivers. However, the Spiders graduated 23 seniors including quarterback Michael Strauss. The Terrapins have a lot of questions but they should have more than enough talent to squash the Spiders.
Norfolk State at Rutgers – Noon on ESPN News
Head coach Kyle Flood is being investigated by the school for impermissible contact with a faculty member regarding the eligibility of one of his players. In addition, star wide receiver Leonte Carroo and quarterback Chris Laviano (along with three others) have been suspended for the first half of this game. LSU transfer Hayden Rettig is going to start at quarterback for the Scarlet Knights and they should be just fine, even without Carroo, against the Spartans of Norfolk State, an FCS opponent that won only four games in 2014.
Penn State at Temple – 3:30 on ESPN
The Penn State Nittany Lions enter the second season under head coach James Franklin surrounded by optimism for the future (recruiting continues to go quite well) and mild hope about what could be a nine win season. They won’t have an easy go of it in Week 1 though as they head to Temple for what is one of the more underrated games of the opening week. The Owls improved dramatically in 2014 (from 2-10 to 6-6) and are expecting to challenge for the AAC title this season. Temple returns all 11 starters and most of the second-string on a top-20 defense along with the starting quarterback and some decent offensive weapons. Penn State has one of the best defenses in the country but a questionable offensive line. If you like defensive battles, this could be your game!
BYU at Nebraska – 3:30 on ABC
While Jim Harbaugh has gotten the majority of the publicity, he’s not the only new coach in the conference. Mike Riley made the jump from Oregon State to Nebraska and he’ll man the sidelines for the first time in Lincoln as the Huskers take on the Cougars of BYU. Brigham Young returns electric quarterback Taysom Hill from injury along with their top running back and 3 of the top 4 wide receivers. The entire starting defensive line returns so the run defense should be a strength once again. The Cougars will be susceptible against the pass so Tommy Armstrong will need to have a strong opening game if the Huskers are too avoid the upset. New coach Mike Riley will be trying to orchestrate an offense that must replace the dynamic Ameer Abdullah. Nebraska is favored by a touchdown and this should be one of the more interesting Week 1 contests.
Southern Illinois at Indiana – 4:00 on ESPN News
The Hoosiers kick off the 2015 season against the Salukis of Southern Illinois. We’ll have extensive coverage of this matchup all week so keep coming back to Hoosier Huddle!
(20) Wisconsin vs. (3) Alabama – 8:00 on ABC
This is one of the marquee games of the opening weekend as the Wisconsin Badgers kick off the Paul Chryst era with a clash against the current gold standard of college football programs, the Alabama Crimson Tide. The Tide, as always, have to replace a lot of star power on both sides of the ball but there is little doubt that the depth of one of the best recruiting programs will introduce us to new standout players as Bama rolls to a stellar season. The biggest question marks surround the passing game as a quarterback competition continues to play out and they search for a playmaker to fill the spot left by Amari Cooper’s departure to the NFL. Wisconsin will look to run the ball with Corey Clement and their offensive line but the line is introducing some new bodies and Alabama probably has the best front seven in college football. Alabama is expected to win this one by double digits and whichever team can establish the running game will be content to ground the opposition into ground and leave Arlington, Texas at 1-0.
Sunday, September 6
Purdue at Marshall – 3:30 on Fox Sports 1
This is a big year for Purdue head coach Darrell Hazell. His Boilers need to show some progress to justify keeping him in charge in West Lafayette. The 2015 season begins for Purdue with a difficult road trip to Huntington, West Virginia to take on Marshall. The Thundering Herd appear to be a team in transition as star quarterback Rakeem Cato and dynamic slot receiver Tommy Shuler have both graduated. Marshall still has plenty of weapons on offense (a unit that ranked in the top 10 last season) and Gunnar Holcombe, a former 3-star recruit, has had two years in the system and should be able to distribute the ball well enough to keep the offense humming. On defense, Marshall was weak against the run and now must replace three starters on the line. Purdue will look to use their large offensive line to push Marshall’s defensive line around and control the ball (and the clock). Marshall is expected to win this game and this is just the start of a fairly difficult schedule for Purdue. Finding a way to steal one in Huntington would be a great start to a pivotal campaign for Hazell.
Monday, September 7
(1) Ohio State at Virginia Tech – 8:00 on ESPN
The Ohio State Buckeyes, the defending National Champions, open the quest for a repeat at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg. The Buckeyes will be without a few key players for this game as Jalin Marshall, Corey Smith, Dontre Wilson and defensive star Joey Bosa are suspended for violating athletics department policy. The Buckeyes will also be without potential breakout wide receiver Noah Brown who suffered a season-ending broken leg injury last week. Ohio State still has a ton of talent and they are favored by double-digits at Virginia Tech. The Buckeyes will have to rely on Ezekiel Elliott and will probably end up needing more production than originally anticipated from converted H-back Braxton Miller. The Hokies haven’t been able to consistently generate offense during the past handful of seasons and that struggle is expected to continue in 2015. However, the Hokies knocked off Ohio State last season in the Horseshoe and they will take the field in front of a primed crowd thinking they have a chance to do it again. I expect Ohio State to take care of business but this is a fun way to end Week 1, what else are you going to be doing on a Monday night?