12:00 PM | Indiana @ Purdue (ESPN2)
In this battle of two 3-8 teams, I think Purdue will come out on top to send Joe Tiller out with a victory. Both of these teams have been inconsistent all season long, and this really is quite evenly matched. However, with this being Joe Tiller’s final game as the coach of Purdue, I have a feeling the Boilermakers will step it up to take back the Old Oaken Bucket.
Prediction: Purdue wins a close one
3:30 PM | #15 Michigan State @ #8 Penn State (ABC)
Something is fishy with the line for this game. Penn State is a 15.5-point favorite, which is very large for a game like this. I understand that MSU hasn’t won at Penn State since 1965, which was the year before Joe Paterno became the head coach, but it still seems like an awfully big spread. There have been rumors, just like every year, that this will be Joe Paterno’s final regular season game at PSU. It doesn’t seem like the day that Paterno retires will ever come, but perhaps the folks in Las Vegas know something.
Regardless of the spread, Penn State is playing for a trip to the Rose Bowl. All they have to do is win and the Big Ten title is theirs. If Ohio State wins as well, PSU would have to share the title with the Buckeyes, but the Nittany Lions would win the tiebreaker to clinch a Rose Bowl berth. For Michigan State, a win would make them Big Ten champions as well, but they need Michigan to beat Ohio State to go to the Rose Bowl. Either way, it would be a huge accomplishment to win the Big Ten in only Mark Dantonio’s second season as head coach.
When it comes down to it, I see this as being a game that is fairly close throughout all four quarters. In the end, though, I believe Penn State will pull away to win the game by a touchdown or so. I don’t think they will cover the spread, but I do believe the Nittany Lions will be on their way to Pasadena thanks to a win over the Spartans.
Prediction: Penn State wins a close one
3:30 PM | Cal Poly @ Wisconsin (BTN)
This is certainly a strange time to play a team like Cal Poly, especially since Cal Poly is pretty good. They are ranked 3rd in the FCS, beat San Diego State at the start of the season, and have scored at least 42 points in the last seven games. Even so, Wisconsin should still win this game, but I don’t think it will be in blowout fashion.
Prediction: Wisconsin wins comfortably
3:30 PM | Illinois @ Northwestern (BTN)
Illinois’ bowl hopes are on life support, as they have to beat Northwestern to become eligible for the postseason. A win for the Wildcats would better their position in the standings, possibly leading to a better bowl game. Although this game is at Northwestern, I think Illinois will remember how to play good football again and will get the much needed victory.
Prediction: Illinois wins a close one
7:00 PM | Iowa @ Minnesota (BTN)
The Golden Gophers need to stop the bleeding, as they have dropped three straight games. They went from having a shot at playing in a New Year’s Day bowl to potentially looking at a trip to Detroit in a matter of a few weeks. Unfortunately for them, they have to welcome an Iowa team to town that has played well lately. Their game with Purdue was closer than I expected, but they still won, and that’s all that matters. I think we’ll see a similar result Saturday night in the Metrodome. Shonn Greene will have another big day and will lead the Hawkeyes to victory.
Prediction: Iowa wins a close one
Last week: 4-1
12:00 PM | #22 Northwestern @ Indiana (BTN)
Indiana has lost five games in a row and shows no signs of getting better anytime soon. Northwestern, on the other hand, has been pretty good all season long except in the Michigan State game. I don’t think this one will even be close. IU is that bad.
Prediction: Northwestern wins in a blowout
12:00 PM | #24 Minnesota @ Purdue (ESPN Classic)
Speaking of a team that is bad, Purdue has lost five out of its last six and also shows no signs of getting better. Minnesota is another team that has had a great season. It’s hard to believe they went 1-11 last season considering they are currently 6-1. With a schedule that features no guaranteed losses the rest of the way, there’s a very good chance that Minnesota will be playing in a New Year’s Day bowl game, which would flat out shock me. What wouldn’t shock me, though, is if Minnesota beats Purdue by a pretty big margin, because that is what I expect to happen tomorrow in West Lafayette.
Prediction: Minnesota wins comfortably
12:00 PM | Illinois @ Wisconsin (ESPN2)
Wisconsin probably is this season’s most disappointing team in the Big Ten. They started Big Ten play by choking to Michigan and have lost three more games since then. An 0-4 start certainly was unexpected, but I do think they will beat Illinois. The game is being played at Wisconsin, and they are more than desperate for a win right now.
Prediction: Wisconsin wins a close one
8:00 PM | #3 Penn State @ #9 Ohio State (ABC)
A win for Penn State in this game would put them in position to run the table and play in the national title game. This is their only tough game left on the schedule, and there’s a great chance that Texas and/or Alabama will suffer at least one loss, meaning the Nittany Lions would be ready to move up to #1 or #2.
I would actually love to see Penn State win and make it to the national title game because I am a big Joe Paterno fan. However, I have a feeling that Ohio State will win this game. If this was in Happy Valley, my prediction likely would be different. Since the game is in Columbus, I think Terrelle Pryor will lead the Buckeyes to victory in a game that sadly vaults Ohio State back into the national title picture. (They shouldn’t be in the same sentence as “national title game,” but ESPN is already talking them up again.)
Prediction: Ohio State wins a close one
Last week: 2-3
12:00 PM | Troy @ #13 Ohio State (BTN)
Although Ohio State will again be without running back Beanie Wells, they should win this game by a decent margin. It is expected that Terrelle Pryor will get at least 50% of the snaps at quarterback, which could be a sign that it’s only a matter of time until he becomes the full-time starter if Todd Boeckman doesn’t start playing better. I do think OSU will get off to a slow start in this game, but I expect them to pull away by halftime.
Prediction: Ohio State wins comfortably
12:00 PM | Temple @ #16 Penn State (BTN)
The only thing about this game that should concern Penn State is the health of Joe Paterno. He may have to be in the press box for the game as his right leg is bothering him. Other than that, this should be another worry-free game for the Nittany Lions.
Prediction: Penn State wins in a blowout
12:00 PM | Florida Atlantic @ Minnesota (BTN)
I was very tempted to pick FAU in this game considering they did beat Minnesota last year, but I think the Golden Gophers will edge out the Owls to start 4-0. If that does happen then Minnesota may have a perfect record, but we still won’t know much about them until Big Ten play begins. That’s when the real challenge will start for them.
Prediction: Minnesota wins in a close one
12:00 PM | Iowa @ Pittsburgh (ESPN2)
I have very little confidence in Iowa, but I do think they’re a better team than Pittsburgh. As long as the Hawkeyes can contain LeSean McCoy and limit their own mistakes, then they should hand the Wannstache another loss.
Prediction: Iowa wins comfortably
12:00 PM | Central Michigan @ Purdue (BTN)
This is the third meeting between these two teams in the last year. Purdue beat CMU in the regular season a year ago and also edged them in the Motor City Bowl. I do think the Chippewas have the ability to pull off the upset, but I don’t think that’ll happen. Purdue is coming off of a heartbreaking loss to Oregon, but I think that’ll just motivate them more to win this week.
Prediction: Purdue wins comfortably
12:00 PM | Ohio @ Northwestern (BTN)
The Bobcats did give Ohio State a run for their money a couple weeks ago, but I think Northwestern wins this one. The OSU game seems like a fluke to me as Ohio is still winless, although their other two losses were only by a combined 4 points. Even so, I like Northwestern at home, which would cap off a perfect non-conference schedule for the Wildcats.
Prediction: Northwestern wins comfortably
3:30 PM | Notre Dame @ Michigan State (ABC)
Notre Dame is coming into this game fresh off a big win over Michigan. I think their confidence will be high, but they are about to get a reality check. The thing about the Michigan game is that they weren’t the better team. Michigan beat itself with 6 turnovers, and the ones that had the biggest effect on the game were created by Michigan mistakes, not something Notre Dame did.
Considering that, I think Michigan State will take care of Notre Dame thanks to another big game from Javon Ringer. I’m sure a couple interceptions by Brian Hoyer will keep the Irish in the game, but in the end I expect the Spartans to win by double digits. Although I would love to see a repeat of the 2006 meltdown so we can hear another rant by Mike Valenti, I don’t expect that to happen.
Prediction: Michigan State wins comfortably
7:00 PM | Ball State @ Indiana (BTN)
My lone upset pick this week is Ball State over Indiana. Ball State has a knack for coming close to upsetting BCS conference teams (Michigan in ’06 and Nebraska in ’07), and this year I think they finally will do it. IU hasn’t played anyone yet this season, and I think they’ll fail in their first real test of 2008.
Prediction: Ball State wins in a close one
Last week: 9-1
Ohio State – 43 :: Youngstown State – 0
The Buckeyes rolled against YSU in dominating fashion. Terrelle Pryor actually got into the game early on and much to the dismay of Michigan fans, he played quite well. OSU does have to be concerned with the status of Beanie Wells, who left the game injured in the 3rd quarter. He was carted off the field and could be out only a couple weeks or it could be much longer than that. Right now it isn’t known how severe his injury is.
Wisconsin – 38 :: Akron – 17
P.J. Hill’s 210 rushing yards led the way for Wisconsin in their win over the Zips. The Badgers were only up by a touchdown at the half, but pulled away thanks to a pair of third quarter touchdowns.
Penn State – 66 :: Coastal Carolina – 10
Joe Paterno tied Bobby Bowden for the most wins in major college football history as his Nittany Lions destroyed Coastal Carolina. Penn State put up 59 points through three quarters en route to their big blowout.
Northwestern – 30 :: Syracuse – 10
The Wildcats got off to a slow start and only held a 9-3 lead at the half, but they quickly padded their lead in the third quarter with two touchdowns before going on to win 30-10. C.J. Bacher threw for 215 yards in the win and Tyrell Sutton added 215 on the ground.
Indiana – 31 :: Western Kentucky – 13
The Hoosiers were never really threatened in this game and won comfortably. Kellen Lewis broke the all-time Indiana career passing touchdowns record and led IU to a 1-0 start.
Iowa – 46 :: Maine – 3
Iowa’s balanced attack got them out to a big lead before putting the game way out of reach with three 4th quarter TDs.
Minnesota – 31 :: Northern Illinois – 27
The Golden Gophers equaled their win total from a year ago after only one game. Their match-up with NIU was close throughout all four quarters and Minnesota only pulled ahead to win the game with 22 seconds left when Duane Bennett scored on a 1-yard TD run.
Prediction: Sort of correct; Minnesota didn’t win comfortably
California – 38 :: Michigan State – 31
MSU began their season with yet another loss by only 7 points. Every loss since Dantonio took over as their head coach has come by 7 or less points, which is both disappointing and encouraging at the same time. Either way, they did have a chance to beat Cal in this game, but couldn’t overcome a bad defensive effort (sans Otis Wiley) and another not so good game from Brian Hoyer. Wide receiver Mark Dell did play outstanding as he had 9 catches for 202 yards, so perhaps he could be this year’s Devin Thomas for the Spartans.
Missouri – 52 :: Illinois – 42
This was definitely the wildest Big Ten game in the season’s first week. Illinois made a nice comeback attempt, but still fell 10 points short of winning. Although their defense and special teams didn’t play well, their offense was tremendous. Juice Williams, who is not known as a good passer, threw for 451 yards and 5 touchdowns. That was very surprising as Williams never had that kind of success last season. Hopefully it was only a onetime thing.
Prediction: Correct (Although the final margin was only 10 points, Illinois scored a touchdown on the final play of the game to cut the lead down)
Overall I went 9-1 with my picks this week. The only game I got wrong Michigan’s loss to Utah. I predicted a win and we all know how that turned out.
- The Big Ten Network has uploaded a couple videos from their practice special that was shown on Monday night. A passing drill featuring Michigan’s quarterbacks and receivers can be seen here, and an interview with Rich Rodriguez can be seen below.
- Also from the BTN is a new commercial featuring all of the Big Ten’s football coaches making recruiting pitches. Some of the lines from the commercial are pretty funny, and then there’s Joe Paterno, who came off as a cross between creepy and downright hilarious. Rich Rodriguez’s pitch was that “our helmets’ got wings.” He also mentioned that Michigan is the winningest program in college football history, so it wasn’t all comical. Then again, Paterno was so creepy in a funny way that you won’t even remember what the other coaches said. Take a look (via Awful Announcing):
- The Hoover Street Rag found the designs of the new adidas hockey jerseys in a recently released M-Den catalog. The jerseys mix a traditional and modern look that, in my opinion, resulted in a very nice set of new uniforms.
- Angelique Chengelis updated us on which players are candidates to return kicks and punts.
- Marques Slocum’s “F**k Lion” is a candidate for the Deadspin Hall of Fame. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, go here and begin to understand why it took so long for Slocum to qualify for Michigan in the first place. (He is no longer on the team, by the way.)
- Earlier this week I mentioned that police found Kevin Grady passed out behind the wheel of his car before he was arrested for driving while intoxicated. What I forgot to mention is how messed up Grady sounded during his sobriety tests, which really shouldn’t come as a surprise considering he did blow a .281.
The officer also wrote that Grady was off-balance and unable to recite the alphabet, with Thompson quoting Grady as saying “O, R, S, J, L, P.” Thompson said he asked for a number between 12 and 14, and Grady answered “15.” And when asked whether Mickey Mouse is a dog or a cat, he answered “dog.”
- Michael Phelps and his eight newest gold medals are on this week’s cover of Sports Illustrated.
- The Free Press profiled Mike Barwis.
- The BTN compiled a list of people from the Big Ten that qualified for the Olympics. Michigan had the most by far with 28 qualifiers.
- Ball State head coach and former Michigan assistant Brady Hoke thinks Toledo “will do great” when they play at U-M on October 11.
- Jake Long got some punches thrown at him by Phillip Merling after Merling was being dominated by Long.
- Pete Fiutak previews Michigan.
- Andrew Carter, an offensive lineman recruit that Michigan was going after, committed to Illinois.
- West Virginia is expecting to receive a $2.5 million check from Michigan to take care of part of Rich Rodriguez’s buyout.
- ESPN’s Mark Schlabach has Michigan 6th on his list of the most hated teams in the country.
- A Big Ten official that missed a crucial call in last year’s Ohio State-Illinois game reportedly didn’t have his contract renewed for this coming season.
- Two Penn State defensive tackles were kicked off the team by Joe Paterno.
- Central Michigan quarterback Dan LeFevour will be featured on a giant Joey Harrington-like billboard on the back of Comerica Park’s scoreboard.
- Charles Woodson is going to endow a four-year scholarship for a student that goes into kinesiology at Michigan. Also, he has been thinking about eventually getting his degree from Michigan now that his mother has her doctorate, which puts the pressure on him according to Woodson.
- Michael Phelps and Peter Vanderkaay finished first and second, respectively, in the 200-meter freestyle during the U.S. Olympic trials yesterday.
- Penn State recruits are reportedly being told that Joe Paterno’s successor will be someone already on the coaching staff. That would surprise me, especially since Greg Schiano is such a heavy favorite to get the job, but I’m all for it. An in-house hire would be much better than Schiano or someone outside of the program as it would mean very little would change with Penn State. Considering Michigan has dominated the Nittany Lions for so long now, little change from them would be much appreciated by the Wolverines in the future.
The college football season begins in less than two weeks, meaning that all preseason polls are out in full effect. All of the major magazines have released their college football previews, and Michigan Sports Center is following suit this week. I will be previewing each conference for the next 4 days, but am getting things started by going through my own top 25.
It was actually pretty tough for me to rank the teams after I got through the first 10 or so spots. After getting all of the elite teams that are undoubtedly top 10-worthy out of the way, it was a toss up for the remaining spots. That’s an obvious problem with a preseason poll considering you are guessing with a lot of teams, but I was pretty happy with the overall rankings after all was said and done.
Here is my preseason top 25 and a small breakdown of why I chose to rank each team where I did:
1. Southern Cal - Without a doubt the top team in the nation. After whooping Michigan in the Rose Bowl, USC has the talent and coaching to take home another national title.
2. LSU - Les Miles is fielding a team in 2007 that could hold its own with someone like USC. I see LSU tripping up once during the always tough SEC schedule, but ending up in the BCS title game in what will be a home crowd.
3. Texas - Colt McCoy comes back with a year of experience under his belt and will be a top QB. He’s got weapons all around that will help the Longhorns be a top team. The Oklahoma game will be Texas’ biggest test, but at the same time, they can’t be surprised with an upset.
4. Michigan - Putting all personal feelings aside, I felt that this was the best spot for U-M. Any higher would be going a little too high, but any lower would put them behind teams that I feel aren’t as talented. Of course, you have to factor in the losses on defense and what always seems to be bad coaching in pressure situations, but you can’t argue the talent Michigan has.
5. West Virginia – Steve Slaton and Pat White are both going to contend for postseason awards if they stay healthy. At the same time, West Virginia will be highly ranked if both are healthy. In the end, I see the Mountaineers stumbling once or twice in the Big East, but hanging on to play in a BCS bowl.
6. Oklahoma - Just as with Texas, the annual showdown in Dallas will be the biggest game of the year for the Sooners. Of course, avoid upsets along the way, but if OU wins all the games that they should, then an undefeated season may not be out of the question.
7. Virginia Tech - The Hokies are a team to watch out for in ’07. People are already playing up the story of the football team bring Hokie Nation together after the tragic shootings back in April, but focus on the actual football team. I wouldn’t be shocked to see them get close to an undefeated season. Once the season ends, I really don’t believe Virginia Tech will be playing in New Orleans for a BCS title, but they will definitely be in a BCS bowl.
8. Florida - The defending national champs lost nearly the entire defense from last season, making it hard for me to rank them any higher. Tim Tebow will step in at QB to keep the hype machine rolling, but I see the Gators losing 3 games this season. There will be some stumbles along the way in the SEC, but Florida fans really can’t complain after winning 3 national championships in football and basketball in the last two years.
9. Wisconsin - To be honest, no homerism included, I’m not sold on the Badgers just yet. Sure, they had an unbelievable season in 2006, but the schedule wasn’t very tough. I’ll give them all the credit in the world for losing only once and beating Arkansas in the Capital One Bowl, but let’s not go and declare them a top 5 team just yet in 2007. That November 10th match-up with Michigan could determine the Big Ten champ, and I could easily see the Badgers come out on top, but they need to worry about the rest of the schedule first.
10. Georgia - I was slightly hesitant at ranking the Dawgs this high, but I really have a good feeling about them this season. Georgia comes back without the question of who the starting QB will be and can focus only on winning. I have UGA getting to the SEC title game before losing to LSU, but this will be a great season for the Dawgs nonetheless.
11. Louisville - Brian Brohm. Do I need to say any more? Although Bobby Petrino left for the NFL, this team still has a ton of talent that will put it at the top of the Big East. Games against West Virginia and Rutgers won’t be easy, but another trip to the BCS isn’t out of the question at all.
12. Ohio State – After a disappointing loss in the national championship game, the Buckeyes will come back in 2007 with a lot of questions. The loss of players like Troy Smith, Ted Ginn, and Anthony Gonzalez will hurt, but still look for OSU to be near the top of the Big Ten again.
13. California - The Bears face the problem of playing in the same conference as USC, so that is problem #1 from the start. Although Cal does get USC at home in ’07, it would still have to be an upset to take down the Trojans. I’ll put Cal up at the top of the Pac-10, but with a few obstacles on the schedule in the way.
14. Tennessee - This where things started to get tough ranking-wise. From here on you could rearrange the remaining teams and still have a decent looking poll. Regardless, I decided to put the Vols here because I think they will end up with a very good record despite being in the SEC. Like I said, it’s a toss up, but this is just where UT ended up.
15. Penn State – Joe Paterno was 1 second away from going perfect in 2005, and if things go perfect in 2007, the same thing could be said, but without the last-second touchdown to Mario Manningham. I said last year for Michigan that the outcome of the Notre Dame game would help determine what kind of season ’06 would be. For Penn State in ’07, that is the same thinking I’m using with the Michigan game in Ann Arbor. Will the ownage finally stop? I hope not, but we’ll see.
16. Auburn - Although I don’t have them finishing above Arkansas or Alabama in the SEC standings, I think Auburn is a better team. That might not make sense, but that’s the beauty of a preseason poll. Basically, this is strictly which teams I think are better than the others, and I think the Tigers are exactly what I just described.
17. Arkansas – Darren McFadden is one of the nation’s top players. I get that. I’m still not sold on the Razorbacks just yet. They have the ability to be a great team, but unfortunately for them, McFadden can’t play every single position.
18. Nebraska - Sam Keller steps in as the Huskies starting QB this season and will lead them to a Big 12 North title. The division isn’t as good as the South as usual, but Missouri and Kansas State will provide good competition. A BCS bowl might be a reach with Texas or Oklahoma in the way in the title game, but it certainly isn’t completely out of the question.
19. Rutgers – I really wanted to rank Rutgers higher after having such a great season last year, but I just couldn’t. Ray Rice will help lead the Scarlet Knights to another successful campaign in 2007, but with both West Virginia and Louisville and a sleeper in South Florida in the way, there are just too many chances to lose to put Rutgers any higher.
20. UCLA – For a brief amount of time last year I was thanking the Bruins for putting Michigan in the national championship game until Arkansas choked away the SEC title to Florida. Oh well, it was a great win regardless. Although many UCLA fans don’t care all that much for their head coach, he is poised to put together a pretty strong season. I see 3 losses in UCLA’s future, which may not exactly be up to Bruins fans standards, but a solid season anyways.
21. Texas A&M – With both Texas and Oklahoma getting so much love in this poll, the Aggies are sort of an afterthought. I wouldn’t sleep on them though. A&M has to ability to upset the Longhorns again at the end of the season, plus they didn’t take Sam McGuffie away from Michigan, so I have to throw out some love to them.
22. Florida State – Bobby Bowden shook up his coaching staff after last season, which trust me, was a good thing. The Seminoles can get back to their winning ways in 2007, but I really would be surprised if they did any better than 8-4. There are a few tough games and of course, the rivalry with Miami, which thankfully is no longer on Labor Day weekend.
23. South Carolina – Steve Spurrier hasn’t quit yet due to academic standards being too high at South Carolina, so Gamecock nation can rest easy. In all seriousness, I see the other USC contending for an SEC East title with Georgia. It’ll be a close finish, with the Dawgs just narrowly coming out on top, but change the outcome of a one or two games and the standings could easily change.
24. Oregon - The Ducks are a team that could seemingly be great or average. I’ve seen some previews putting them near the top 10 and others leaving them at dismal 6-6. Personally, I have Oregon finishing with Cal behind USC. And since they play Michigan, I might as well hype up the competition. Right?
25. Hawaii - Those occasional Hawaii games that come on at midnight here in Michigan will be worth watching as Colt Brennan chases his own touchdown record. The competition may be lacking, but it’ll still be a fun sight to see. This spot was pretty much reserved for either Hawaii or Boise State, depending on who won the WAC in my preseason predictions. I had the Warriors coming out on top of the Broncos in the end, and who knows, Hawaii could be this year’s Boise State. The BCS is definitely in the picture, but I don’t expect another Cinderella story like we saw last year with BSU.
There you have it, MSC’s preseason top 25. Leave your own comments and thoughts regarding my rankings or your own. Throughout the season I’ll probably come out with a top 25 each week, so this will be my starting point.
Speaking of rankings, the Associated Press poll came out yesterday, and Michigan was ranked 5th. That is the same spot where Michigan ended up in the USA Today poll, but this time didn’t pick up any first-place votes. The entire poll can be seen here.
Look for the conference-by-conference previews to begin tomorrow on MSC. Until then, thanks for reading and Go Blue.
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