College football season is back this weekend (sorry Week 0, but you do not count) and the entire Big Ten is in action with a conference game actually taking place right off the bat to start the season.
This year, we will be keeping track of how Vegas sees each game in the conference and also pick three games from around the nation. There isn’t really a whole lot of drama here seeing as most of these schools are playing cupcakes, but Michigan fans need no reminder of how those games can become scares quickly.
Without further ado, here is the list for the first week.
All times listed as ET
(Note: These are simply game picks. No money has been or will be wagered on any of the below contests.)
Thursday, Aug. 30
New Mexico State at Minnesota (-21), 7 p.m., Big Ten Network
Minnesota is starting a freshman at quarterback, but not just any freshman, a walk-on freshman. That is the sort of looney stuff that PJ Fleck does that may be so crazy that it works. Even with that, 21 points shouldn’t be that hard to cover in this game. Give me the Gophers.
Pick: Minnesota (-21)
Northwestern at Purdue (-2.5), 8 p.m., ESPN
What an explosive and exciting matchup to start the year in the conference! Honestly, this is not too bad and I think that both of these teams can certainly cause some problems in the Big Ten West. Neither will win it, but they’re well coached. I know, Purdue is well coached now? Who would have thought that a few years back. Even with the facilities from before electricity was invented, the Boilermakers will have this one at home.
Pick: Purdue (-2.5)
Friday, Aug. 31
Utah State at No. 11 Michigan State (-23.5), 7 p.m., Big Ten Network
Michigan State has a knack for struggling in the Friday night opener and everyone cries that the Spartans are terrible and overrated. It will probably wind up being more of the same this year, even in a win that is still comfortable.
Pick: Utah State (+23.5)
Western Kentucky at No. 4 Wisconsin (-35.5), 9 p.m., ESPN
Wisconsin has a great defense and more than enough firepower to make sure they cover the 35.5 here. Not a whole lot of drama in this selection.
Pick: Wisconsin (-35.5)
Saturday, Sept. 1
Oregon State at No. 5 Ohio State (-37.5), 12 p.m., ABC
The Buckeyes’ problems have been well-documented and Urban Meyer will not be on the sidelines as he serves his suspension. Being almost 40-point favorites over any Power 5 school that isn’t Rutgers always feels a little uncomfortable. They win this game easily, but I do not see them covering, no matter how hapless people think that Oregon State may be.
Pick: Oregon State (+37.5)
Kent State at Illinois (-16.5), 12 p.m, Big Ten Network
Illinois could very well be pushing for being the worst team in the conference overall this year. Even then, Kent State is not enough of a MAC power to make this one a close game.
Pick: Illinois (-16.5)
Texas State at Rutgers (-16.5), 12 p.m., Big Ten Network
And then we have Rutgers. Texas State has won seven combined games over the last three seasons, including 2-10 campaigns the last two years. If Rutgers cannot cover this one and cover it easily, they should be sent on a rocket ship out of this conference.
Pick: Rutgers (-16.5)
No. 23 Texas (-13) at Maryland, 12 p.m., Fox Sports 1
Maryland is in a bad, bad place right now and there is no doubt it could have an affect on their football team. I just get a weird feeling anytime people hype Texas and say that they are “back.” The media loves them again going into this year, but I’m not a huge fan yet, though I think Tom Herman is the right guy for the job. Give me the Longhorns to cover, but it’s the pick I feel least comfortable about on here.
Pick: Texas (-13)
Appalachian State at No. 10 Penn State (-24), 3:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
Penn State is due for a regression and now we are really going to see how good of a coach that James Franklin is. People love to make fun of Michigan (rightfully so) for losing to the Mountaineers, but there’s not a Power 5 team in the country that doesn’t get butterflies in its stomach when they see they open the season against them. App State will give the Nittany Lions a bit of a scare, but Trace McSorely and company pull away late.
Pick: Appalachian State (+24)
Northern Illinois vs. Iowa (-10), 3:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
The ten-point spread in this game seems low, but Kinnick should be too much to overcome for the Huskies.
Pick: Iowa (-10)
Indiana (-10.5) at Florida International, 7 p.m., CBS Sports Network
I have a strange feeling about Indiana and I just don’t see them being very good this year. Then, you’re going on the road to take on an eight-win team? The Hoosiers may chaos their way into a win, but it will not be as comfortable as they would like.
Pick: Florida International (+10.5)
No. 14 Michigan at No. 12 Notre Dame (-1), 7:30 p.m., NBC
There’s plenty of coverage this week on this site breaking down this game. Notre Dame is currently favored after it swung back in their direction after the Tarik Black news. Michigan has not beaten a ranked team on the road since 2006. It changes Saturday.
Pick: Michigan (+1)
Akron at Nebraska (-24.5), 8 p.m., FOX
It is going to take some time for Nebraska to get back in the thick of the Big Ten race, but they will come out firing in Scott Frost’s debut at head coach. Nebraska wins big and blows this spread out of the water.
Pick: Nebraska (-24.5)
No. 6 Washington vs. No. 9 Auburn (-1.5) (Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta), 3:30 p.m., ABC
This has the makings of the best game of the weekend and Washington winning could help the Pac-12 boost its reputation, but Auburn just has more talent.
Pick: Auburn (-1.5)
No. 8 Miami (-3.5) vs. No. 25 LSU (AT&T Stadium in Dallas), Sunday at 7:30 p.m., ABC
LSU is ranked because they’re LSU and they’re in the SEC. Can’t really say they are overrated, but they aren’t as good as who they face in Week 1. Hard to pick against Greedy Williams, but have to do it.
Pick: Miami (-3.5)
No. 20 Virginia Tech at No. 19 Florida State (-7.5), Monday at 8 p.m., ESPN
This should be a terrific football game and Deondre Francois is back at quarterback for the Seminoles in Willie Taggart’s debut as head coach. Florida State gets the win, but the Hokies cover.
Pick: Virginia Tech (+7.5)