I’ve lost count on how many years this makes for Money, Cash, & Joe’s, but I’m happy to be returning for whatever year it is. It seems like each year we have some up and downs but by the end of the year we finish at right around .500. Hopefully this year can show a little more progress on the positive side.
In the following weeks on Thursday we’ll post the national picks for the week and on Fridays we will give the Big Ten picks for the week. For the opening week things were just shifted a little bit due to Ohio State and Minnesota playing on Thursday night.
Last season ATS: 103-107-6 (52-54-2 National, 51-53-4 B1G)
B1G games (all games Saturday unless otherwise noted):
No. 2 Ohio State (-21.5) v. Indiana - Thursday 8/31 8:00 p.m. EST - ESPN
As if starting the season on a Thursday night wasn’t weird enough, the Buckeyes are doing so on the road against a Big Ten opponent. Tonight’s game against the Hoosiers marks the first time the Buckeyes have opened the season on the road against a Big Ten foe since 1975, when they traveled to East Lansing to take on Michigan State. Ohio State will be hoping to make a statement early after the shutout loss to Clemson in the College Football Playoff.
The addition of Kevin Wilson will have a couple benefits for Ohio State in this matchup. Obviously with his six years as Indiana’s head coach, he is familiar with what the Hoosiers have to offer. Wilson will also bring more of an up-tempo attack to the Ohio State offense, something that J.T. Barrett should be thrilled with since he thrived under a similar attack under Tom Herman.
If there was ever a time for Indiana to pull an upset on Ohio State, this would be the year. The Hoosiers have plenty of starters returning on both sides of the football, and for once there should be an electric atmosphere in Bloomington as College Gameday will be in town for the first time ever.
While there isn’t any question about what should be expected from the Ohio State defense, the same can’t be said for the Ohio State offense. Last year the passing attack really struggled, and Barrett will need his wide receivers to step up this year if he has any shot of not only leading Ohio State back to the College Football Playoff, but keeping himself in the Heisman Trophy race as well.
Indiana won’t earn their first win over Ohio State since 1988, but they continue their recent tradition of giving the Buckeyes a tough time in Bloomington. The Hoosiers played Ohio State close in 2012 and 2015, and while tonight’s game might not be quite as close as those two, I do see it staying within the number.
Ohio State 38, Indiana 24
Buffalo v. Minnesota (-24) - Thursday 8/31 7:00 p.m. EST - Big Ten Network
Aside from P.J. Fleck’s debut with the Golden Gophers, this isn’t much of a reason to watch this game besides trying to kill time before Ohio State’s kicks off. At least Minnesota should bring a little more excitement to the table under Fleck than they did under Jerry Kill and Tracy Claeys.
With Minnesota still trying to find the heir apparent to Mitch Leidner at quarterback, the Golden Gophers will likely keep things on the ground with running backs Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks. The heavy rushing attack should help to keep the score either under of near the spread.
Buffalo quarterback Tyree Jackson is Cardale Jones sized, and I could see him leading the Bulls to a late touchdown or two to secure the spread for the underdog.
Minnesota 34, Buffalo 14
No. 8 Washington (27.5) v. Rutgers - Friday 9/1 8:00 p.m. EST - Fox Sports 1
Are you really sure you want to be a head coach, Chris Ash? Last year saw little go right for the former Ohio State co-defensive coordinator and it looks like more of that is on the horizon this year. The only bright spot for the Scarlet Knights is returner Janarion Grant, who has tied an NCAA record with eight career kick returns, five of those being kickoffs and three being punts.
Even though Washington lost a couple key contributors from last year’s squad which made the College Football Playoff, the Huskies should still be strong this year. After throwing 43 touchdowns last year, Jake Browning is fully recovered from offseason shoulder surgery.
Much like last year’s affair in Seattle, this one will get ugly early for the Scarlet Knights. The Huskies start off their campaign to return to the College Football Playoff with a blowout win.
Washington 54, Rutgers 17
Utah State v. No. 9 Wisconsin (-27.5) - Friday 9/1 9:00 p.m. EST - ESPN
One of my biggest weaknesses is trying to figure out what Wisconsin will do in non-conference games against lesser opponents. When I pick the Badgers to win by a large margin, they struggle to victory. When I think an opponent can hang close, the Badgers blow them out of the water.
The Badgers are depleted at linebacker from injuries to Jack Cichy and Aaron Baun, but I don’t think Utah State will be able to capitalize on those injuries. Alex Hornibrook returns at quarterback for the Badgers, and Wisconsin always finds a way to run the football successful, no matter who is coming out of the backfield. In a pick that is sure to go wrong, the Badgers roll in their season opener.
Wisconsin 44, Utah State 10
Akron v. No. 6 Penn State (-31) - 12:00 p.m. EST - ABC
Penn State is going to be good this year, there is no question about that. It’s likely the Big Ten East will end up coming down to the Buckeyes and the Nittany Lions. In the last seven games of 2016 Penn State averaged 45.6 points per game. With skill position guys like quarterback Trace McSorley, running back Saquon Barkley, and wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton all returning, Penn State should have no problem putting points on the board.
Akron won’t spring the upset here, but they will at least put some points on the board. The Zips have 17 starters returning, so they’ll at least bring some experience to Happy Valley. Former Ohio State running back graduate transfer will take the field for Akron after receiving a medical redshirt last year following an early season injury.
Penn State will be breaking in some new starters on defense, and I think it might take a little bit of time for them to gel. The Nittany Lions win comfortably, but not by as much as Vegas thinks they will.
Penn State 48. Akron 23
Maryland v. No. 23 Texas (-19) - 12:00 p.m. EST - Fox Sports 1
Two of the most intriguing young head coaches in college football will square off in Austin on Saturday. Tom Herman will try to revive a Texas program that has suffered three straight losing seasons. The Longhorns have plenty of returning starters, but none more important than sophomore Shane Buechele, who could flourish under the tutelage of Herman.
Maryland has a young quarterback of their own in Tyrell Pigrome, who gives D.J. Durkin a dual-threat behind center. The Terrapins should have success rushing the football with Ty Johnson, who rushed for 1,004 yards last year, and sophomore Lorenzo Harrison, who averaged 7.2 yards per carry last year.
In this contest 17 points seems like just a little too much. Herman will find success at Texas, but it’s not going to happen overnight. The Terrapins hang close and gain some confidence ahead of their conference schedule, which is brutal this year.
Texas 38, Maryland 31
Wyoming v. Iowa (-11.5) - 12:00 p.m. EST - Big Ten Network
Iowa will kick off their 2017 season with a game that should have them on upset alert. Craig Bohl has taken little time in turning around a struggling Wyoming program, and there is optimism in Laramie because of their quarterback. Josh Allen will likely be one of the first quarterbacks taken in the 2018 NFL Draft, and the game against the Hawkeyes will give him a chance to showcase his skills against a tough opponent.
Iowa is hoping they won’t have much trouble replacing quarterback C.J. Beathard, as they’ll turn to Nathan Stanley. The quarterback shouldn’t have to do much though, as he has not only Akrum Wadley, who rushed for 1,081 yards and 10 touchdowns last year, at running back, but also Nevada graduate transfer James Butler, who ran for over 1,300 yards in both 2015 and 2016.
I want to take Wyoming to cover here just because of Josh Allen, but I don’t think Allen can do it alone. With all offseason to prep for Allen and the Cowboys, Kirk Ferentz sees his team open the season with a two touchdown victory.
Iowa 31, Wyoming 17
Bowling Green v. Michigan State (-17.5) - 12:00 p.m. EST - ESPNU
Rest easy Bowling Green, at least you don’t have to open up this season against Ohio State. Not saying that a trip to East Lansing isn’t a tough task, but the Spartans likely won’t have quite as much success in racking up points like the Buckeyes did against the Falcons last year. If Bowling Green has any hopes of keeping up with the Spartans, they’ll need to stop a Michigan State rushing attack that includes LJ Scott, Gerald Holmes, and Madre London.
Bowling Green does have a lot of talent returning from last year’s squad that struggled to a 4-8 finish in Mike Jinks’ first year as head coach. Bowling Green will hang around, but he’ll have to wait for his first win of the year, as Mark Dantonio’s team starts a turnaround of their own after a 3-9 season last year.
Michigan State 33, Bowling Green 21
Ball State v. Illinois (-7) - 12:00 p.m. EST - Big Ten Network
Can Illinois be relegated from the Big Ten? Lovie Smith’s team this year isn’t going to be much better than the dumpster fire he fielded in his first year on the job last year. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if Ball State won here, but somehow the Fighting Illini pull out the victory late in the fourth quarter. Avoid this game like the plague.
Illinois 24, Ball State 21
No. 11 Michigan (-5.5) v. No. 17 Florida - 3:30 p.m. EST - ABC
This game will undoubtedly be one of the weirdest games of the weekend. Not only do we have Jim Harbaugh, who is never not weird, but Florida has suspended just about everybody on their roster. Harbaugh hasn’t announced whether Wilton Speight or John O’Korn will start at quarterback, but they’ll likely struggle against a Florida defense that was very stingy last year.
Noted shark enthusiast Jim McElwain announced that redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks will start at quarterback for the Gators, and while the youngest won’t have to deal with some of the key cogs in Michigan’s defense from last year, the Wolverines have highly-touted sophomore defensive end Rashan Gary to try and put pressure on Franks.
Before the suspensions I would have tabbed Florida to win this game, but I just think they’ll be missing too much to add to their streak of 27 straight wins in season openers. The Wolverines have questions of their own, but at least they’ll have all their players at their disposal for this one.
Michigan 27, Florida 17
Nevada v. Northwestern (-24) - 3:30 p.m. EST - Big Ten Network
Northwestern has quarterback Clayton Thorson and running back Justin Jackson returning, which could make them a sleeper in the Big Ten West. The Wildcats finished last year with a win in the Pinstripe Bowl over Pittsburgh, and head coach Pat Fitzgerald is hoping the win gave them a bit of momentum heading into this season.
Nevada is a mess but they at least could be entertaining this year. New head coach Jay Norvell will at least bring a pass-happy attack to the Wolfpack. With how much Nevada plans on passing the football, I think we could get a garbage time touchdown or two from the Wolfpack to seal the point spread.
Northwestern 44, Nevada 21
No. 16 Louisville (-24.5) v. Purdue - 7:30 p.m. EST - FOX
At least new Purdue head coach knows some of Bobby Petrino’s tricks of the trade, after Brohm was a former assistant of Petrino’s. Other than that, Purdue doesn’t have much going for them in this matchup. It has been nearly 10 years since Purdue has beaten a non-conference Power 5 opponent, and that won’t change on Saturday night.
Louisville has Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson returning, and Jackson will have little problems carving up Purdue’s defense. While Purdue’s defense will likely be better than last year, that isn’t saying much. Jackson leads Louisville to touchdowns early and often in Indianapolis on Saturday night.
Louisville 58, Purdue 24
Arkansas State v. Nebraska (-15) - 8:00 p.m. EST - Big Ten Network
Nebraska put together a strong start in Mike Riley’s second season at the helm, winning their first seven games of the year, but they couldn’t finish, closing out the year with losses in four of their final six games. Tulane transfer quarterback Tanner Lee with take over after the Cornhuskers had Tommy Armstrong Jr. lead their team for the last 13 years.
Arkansas State seems to always find their way into the 768 bowl games, making one each year since 2011. This game against the Cornhuskers might help them out later in the year, but the beating they’re going to take on Saturday night certainly isn’t going to feel good. New defensive coordinator Bob Diaco has plenty to prove after a failed stint as UConn’s head coach and he starts by taking it out on the Red Wolves.
Nebraska 41, Arkansas State 17