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FTW! Week One

FTW!  is the BHGP weekly guide to Big Ten football watching and wagering.


Illinois vs. Missouri (2:40, ESPN)

Why Watch?  It's the only Big Ten game this week involving two BCS schools (that is, unless you include Syracuse).  More importantly, it's the only early test for the vaguely darkhorsey Illini, who don't play another legitimate game before their Big Ten opener at Ohio State.  The only team in the conference with more unsubstantiated hype might be Michigan State.  Missouri, even in its weakened post-Daniel state, will be a solid barometer of whether that hype is legitimate.  And the incomparable Ron Franklin is in the booth.

Why Pass?  Oklahoma State has more unsubstantiated hype, and they're playing a better opponent in Georgia on ABC.  Also, the Charlie Weis Farewell Tour & Buffet begins against Nevada on NBC.

Who Ya Got?  Illinois -6.5, O/U 61.  I'll take Mizzou. Both teams were horrible ATS last year (Missouri 5-8, Illinois 4-7), so take the points and the coach who is not named Zook.

Ohio State vs. Navy (11:00, ESPN)

Why Watch?  It's going to be a throwback.  Navy brings its triple option to The Shoe to face Terrelle Pryor and the Buckeyes.  It's not out of the question that the Midshipmen might actually throw the ball more than OSU; Ricky Dobbs has a decent arm, and Pryor learned to throw by watching Johnny Damon.  This thing might be over in 90 minutes.  Plus, there are a ton of questions for Ohio State to answer; that tends to happen when you return just two starters in their original positions on offense.  Finally, Chris Speilman is on color commentary, and if last week's Iowa high school game is any indication, he's locked, cocked, and ready to rock.

Why Pass?  Um, Iowa's playing.  Der.

Who Ya Got?  OSU -21.5, O/U 46.5.  Both of these lines feel about right.  With a gun to my head, I'd take Navy (especially after Tressel's "respect" plea last week).  The O/U has moved up 2 points since it opened, so you could wait for it to hit the magical 47 and fade the public.


Minnesota @ Syracuse (11:00, ESPN2)

Why Watch?  Brewster mananged to lose by 55 in the last game in his own dome.  Lord only knows what he'll do in someone else's.  Plus, you have serious rooting interest here: Minnesota fans against Kenny.  You know who you want.

Why Pass?  Four words:  Pam Ward.  Ray Bentley.

Who Ya Got?  Minnesota -7, O/U 47.  Both of these are spot-on.  I'd take the home dog if I really wanted some action.

Michigan vs. Western Michigan (2:30, ABC)

Why Watch?  Forget the Michigan quarterback shuffle.  Forget Western Michigan's recent run of success against the Big Ten and the possibility that the Wolverines open up their third straight season with a loss.  The way this week is going for Rich Rodriguez, there's a decent chance his team will fall 20 points behind the 'Stangs at the half, all three of his quarterbacks will go down with torn ACLs, his car will be blown up by a member of the Taliban, and his wife will perform her very own "halftime show" at midfield with Lloyd Carr, a buffalo, and a pitching wedge.  You'll want to see all of that.

Why Pass?  Illinois-Missouri will probably be a better game.  Also, Craig James is prominently involved.  If you're going to watch, watch on mute.

Who Ya Got?  Michigan -13, O/U 56.  That over/under feels about right. Your decision on the spread depends on how you think Michigan responds to the practice allegations.  Considering most of the allegations came from former players, the number of young guys on the team, and the bunker mentality of the fanbase, I'd guess Michigan comes out guns blazing.  Give the points.


Penn State vs. Akron (11:00, BTN)

Why Watch?  Good question.  Akron is a slightly-higher-than-average MAC team with an atrocious defense (except for the defensive line, which looks borderline-competent) playing in Happy Valley.  It should be done by halftime.  And yet sadly, the Zips are probably Penn State's biggest test before the Iowa game.

Why Pass?  There are far better games to watch, and games not called by Glen Mason to boot.

Who Ya Got?  PSU -27, O/U 59.  It seems contradictory, but the PSU/under parlay might be the best play here.  Akron's skill positions are experienced, but aren't of the caliber necessary to bother the Penn State defense, and that defensive secondary is a nice warm bath for Darryl Clark and his band of new receivers to stick their collective toe into.

Wisconsin vs. Northern Illinois (6:00, BTN)

Why Watch?  It's the only late Big Ten game, and Bret Bielema is now actively trying to invite second-guessing and calls for his head.  In his week one depth chart, he listed returning starting quarterback Dustin Sherer as third-string and halfback John Clay co-starter.  So let's see just how good Scott Tolzien and Zach Brown really are and decide if Bielema is actually pulling a Costanza.

Why Pass?  Plenty of better football to watch: Alabama-Virginia Tech on ABC.  Oklahoma-BYU on ESPN.  Hell, Nebraska-Florida Atlantic (PPV only).  This is glance-worthy, but the other football will be more impressive.

Who Ya Got?  Wisconsin -16.5, O/U 50.  NIU has been projected in the middle of the MAC pack, so that point spread isn't nearly as inflated as it seems.  If anything, I'd consider the under; Northern Illinois' passing attack is lacking in talent, and Wisconsin will certainly need some time getting that new-look offense on the same page.  Look for low scoring early, and hold on tight in the second half.

The Others

Michigan State vs. Montana State (11:00, BTN) - Yawn.


Purdue vs. Toledo (11:00, BTN) - Purdue's a 10-point favorite, which is slightly comical.  But it's not enough to make this worth watching.