A couple Big Ten games kicked off on Thursday night which MC&J split, with Oregon State covering against Minnesota but Indiana ended up running away from Florida International in the second half.
Last year ATS: 108-105-4 (51-48-3 National, 57-57-1 B1G)
Hawaii v. No. 7 Michigan (-40.5) - 12:00 PM EST ESPN
I wouldn’t blame Hawaii if they don’t have any idea where they are at noon on Saturday. Last Friday night they were in Australia to take on California, and now they make the trek to Ann Arbor to face the Wolverines. Nick Rolovich’s team didn’t show much to think they’ll be all that competitive against Michigan, but stranger things have happened in Michigan season openers. At least the 31 points Hawaii scored against Cal was their most against an FBS opponent since 2014, but they likely won’t come close to that against Jim Harbaugh’s squad
With 14 starters returning this year, expectations are high for the Wolverines. A starting quarterback hasn’t been named by Harbaugh for this contest, but it’s likely both Wilton Speight and John O’Korn will see time. Hawaii may be exhausted after all of the travel, but the spread still seems a touch high.
Michigan 45, Hawaii 17
Western Michigan v. Northwestern (-5) - 12:00 PM EST - ESPNU
After slumping to 5-7 records in 2013 and 2014, Northwestern got back on track last year as they tied a school record with 10 wins. The Wildcats got their season off to a strong start with a 16-6 win over Stanford in the season opener behind a defense that played lights out for most of the year. This year Northwestern starts the year against Western Michigan, and while the Broncos aren’t in the same class as Stanford, the Wildcats can’t afford to sleep on P.J. Fleck’s team.
The most notable return for Northwestern is running back Justin Jackson, who has rushed for 2,605 yards the past two seasons. Clayton Thorson was serviceable at quarterback as a redshirt freshman, but it was the defense who powered the Wildcats. Last year Northwestern only allowed five passing touchdowns, but they’ll be tested early by Western Michigan quarterback Zach Terrell and his favorite Corey Davis, who caught 90 passes for 1,446 yards last year.
Northwestern will need their defense to stand up in this one, because if Western Michigan can get their offense going they very well could pull the upset here. Luckily for Northwestern they have Pat Fitzgerald as their head coach so he’ll have the Wildcat defense ready. It might be tight most of the way, but Northwestern covers in the end.
Northwestern 28, Western Michigan 20
Rutgers v. No. 14 Washington (-26.5) - 2:00 PM EST - Pac-12 Network
Even with Chris Ash taking over as head coach, Rutgers is going to be so bad this year. Can Ash turn the Scarlet Knights around? I wouldn’t put it past him, but it’s going to take time. A trip to Seattle certainly doesn’t help things early on.
Washington found their stride at the end of the year, scoring at least 44 points in their last three games. After throwing 16 touchdowns last year, Jake Browning returns at quarterback for the Huskies, and so does Myles Gaskin, who ran for 1,302 yards last season.
With all the Washington touchdowns that are likely to happen, at least Janarion Grant will get to pad his career stats. Grant comes into the season with 2,411 kickoff return yards and two kickoff returns for touchdowns.
Washington 55, Rutgers 21
No. 5 LSU (-10.5) v. Wisconsin - 3:30 PM EST - ABC
A couple years ago these two teams squared off to open the season in Houston, and had it not been for Melvin Gordon disappearing in the second half, the Badgers might have taken down LSU. This year the scene will be Lambeau Field in Green Bay, but the contest might not be quite as close as the 28-24 game from 2014.
Not only does LSU have Leonard Fournette to hand the football off to, but during the offseason they hired Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Aranda to the same position. After seeing what Aranda did with the Badgers, it’s scary to imagine what he might be able to do with the talent LSU has on defense.
Fifth-year senior Bart Houston will be taking the snaps for the Badgers in the opener, but he’ll probably be under hefty pressure from the Tigers. I don’t think the Badgers are a bad team at all, but I think LSU is a couple notches above Wisconsin. It’s not a blowout, but LSU covers the number.
LSU 31, Wisconsin 17
Kent State v. Penn State (-22) - 3:30 PM EST - Big Ten Network
Bless your heart if you’re watching this game at 3:30 on Saturday afternoon, you’re most twisted than me. If there is any reason to watch this game it is to see if Saquon Barkley can do things like he did in his freshman year, where he ran for 1,076 yards and seven touchdowns.
Kent State finished third in the MAC in defense last season, but their offense was non-existent. I don’t trust them to magically find their offense this year against what should be a stout Nittany Lion defense. New Penn State offensive coordinator will favor a no-huddle offense so I could see this one getting out of hand.
Penn State 44, Kent State 13
Miami (OH) v. No. 17 Iowa (-27.5) - 3:30 PM EST - ESPNU
Last year Iowa had a season for the ages, completing the regular season undefeated and narrowly missing a spot in the College Football Playoff after suffering a loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game. With a lot of talent coming back, as well as a manageable Big Ten schedule, I wouldn’t put it past Iowa to approach that level again this year.
Last year the RedHawks struggled to a 3-9 record, but at least head coach Chuck Martin has 10 starters returning on offense, so they’ll definitely be better this year than in Martin’s first two seasons, but that’s not saying much. Even with the returning starters, I’m not confident the RedHawks can crack Desmond King and Iowa’s tough defense. The high number does scare me a little bit but in this matchup I could see Iowa blowing out the RedHawks more than I see Miami keep it closer with the Hawkeyes.
Iowa 41, Miami (OH) 10
Fresno State v. Nebraska (-28.5) - 8:00 PM EST - Big Ten Network
The honeymoon could very well be over for Tim DeRuyter at Fresno State. After amassing a 20-6 record in his first two years with the school, the Bulldogs have seen their record plummet to 9-17 the last two years. The 3-9 record for the Bulldogs last year was their worst since 1973.
What a strange first season at Nebraska it was for Mike Riley. The Cornhuskers beat Michigan State and topped UCLA in their bowl game, but still finished 6-7, which was only their third losing season since 1962. Six of the seven Nebraska were by eight points or less, which made Riley’s first year even that more difficult. Riley does have Tommy Armstrong Jr, Jordan Westerkamp, and Tyrell Newby returning so brighter days could soon be ahead for Riley and the Cornhuskers. Nebraska gets off to a strong start this season with a matchup with Oregon looming in a couple weeks.
Nebraska 52, Fresno State 20
Bowling Green v. No. 6 Ohio State (-28) - 12:00 PM EST - Big Ten Network
Finally the moment we all have been waiting for. How will Ohio State’s season opener play out? With only six starters returning from last year’s team that question isn’t as easily answered as in past years. At least the Buckeyes don’t have any questions to answer at quarterback with J.T. Barrett taking the snaps for the Buckeyes. What remains to be seen is if any of the wide receivers will be able to make a name for themselves early on and become Barrett’s favorite target.
Bowling Green has plenty to replace from last year’s offense that put up the third-most points in the FBS. Matt Johnson is gone after throwing 46 touchdowns last year, but James Knapke does have experience at quarterback, as he started 13 games for the Falcons when Johnson was injured in 2014. Bowling Green also loses their leading rusher and four of their top receivers from last year.
Can Ohio State cover this number? Certainly. I just don’t have much confidence in them doing so. They are definitely the better team than Bowling Green, but I could see a bit of a sluggish start due to the volume of new starters. With the way Bowling Green can move the football, even with the amount they lost on offense, I could see the Falcons putting together a couple late touchdowns to secure the cover if the Buckeyes have a big lead.
Ohio State 43, Bowling Green 24