The worst thing about the offseason is that I can write this a week ahead of time because there are no football games this weekend. The second worst thing is that we haven't seen any of these teams play football, so I have little idea what to expect from any of these games. All that changes now.
Thursday, August 29
6:00 PM CT
Indiana vs. Indiana State
Last year, Indiana beat the Sycamores (I'm kind of embarrassed I got that right before looking it up) 24-17; that isn't an ideal margin of victory against an FCS team. Still, Indiana just want to find a way into a bowl this year, so even another slim victory would be good enough. A blowout would be better, since Kevin Wilson's first two years were nothing to write home about.
Minnesota vs. UNLV
Minnesota rode a soft schedule to a bowl last year, a run that started with a thrilling triple-OT road win over UNLV. The schedule is much tougher this year, with 4 conference opponents ranked in the preseason AP poll to go with solid unranked opponents in Michigan State, Penn State, and San Jose State. The Gophers will need to avoid any stumbles against the easier teams on their schedule if they want to go bowling again; hopefully they can manage another entertaining win to start the year.
Friday, August 30
Michigan State vs. Western Michigan
Both of these teams are on Northwestern's schedule, and I still can't bring myself to care about the game. Even if Sparty's offensive problems aren't solved, they should beat the Broncos down without too much difficulty. You have plenty of time to recover for NU's season opener, though, so I recommend drinking every time Mark Dantonio looks uncomfortable.
Saturday, August 31
Northwestern plays at night, which means you can watch all of these without guilt!
11:00 AM CT
Illinois vs. Southern Illinois
Tim Beckman probably won't get knocked down by a ref or caught dipping. Probably. The Champaign Room thinks that his job is safe for this year, and I tend to agree, but losing to an FCS opponent would go a long way to proving us wrong. Still, Illinois will probably win this one. Probably.
Purdue @ Cincinnati
Purdue is the only Big Ten team other than Northwestern to open on the road, and they have a much stiffer challenge. Cincinatti managed a 10-3 record last year, and quarterback Munchie Legaux returns. I have no idea who else returns, because nobody else matters (this is also the only decent matchup in the early timeslot, so watch it).
#23 Wisconsin vs. UMass
The only thing that would make this watchable is Gary Andersen's team melting down in his first game. Against UMass, they should still win by 20 if that happens.
#2 Ohio State vs. Buffalo
Buffalo wasn't as bad as UMass last year, but they also shouldn't put up much of a fight. Still, I am suspicious of anOSU's ranking, so I will be looking for any signs of weakness.
2:30 PM CT
Penn State vs. Syracuse
This game happens to be both the best game in the timeslot and our first look at Syracuse without Doug Marrone and Ryan Nassib. Penn State is off the schedule, can't make the championship game, and should be competent, so they bring very little to the table.
Iowa vs. Northern Illinois
Last year, Iowa eked out a 18-17 victory over the BCS-bound Huskies; while people were concerned at the time, in retrospect, it might have been their most impressive win. This year, the Hawkeyes need to win big to protect-oh who am I kidding, results don't matter to Kirk Ferentz's job for at least five more years. This game is a dark horse for best matchup of the afternoon games, depending on whether Iowa can regroup and Northern Illinois can sustain last year's success.
#17 Michigan vs. Central Michigan
Michigan fans assure me that losing Denard Robinson will be a blessing to the offense, as Al Borges will now not have to deal with having one of the best offensive players in recent memory at quarterback. I'm a bit skeptical of the logic, but Devin Gardner does seem to mesh better with what Borges wants to do. We won't find out how the change is working this week, though, as Michigan should be able to take care of their MACrifice by halftime.
7:00 PM CT
#18 Nebraska vs. Wyoming
The last appetizer before Northwestern's opener is another opportunity to see a good team look like all their questions have been answered. For Nebraska, those questions are mostly on defense and mostly concern stopping the run (Wisconsin scored again). Taylor Martinez should make a strong August Heisman push to put this out of reach well before Northwestern kicks off.
The week 1 slate includes, as usual, a mass of MACrifices and their equivalents from other conferences. Purdue, Penn State, and Iowa could all play decent games; Indiana, Minnesota, and Illinois could all play close games.
More from Sippin' On Purple:
- Your Northwestern Wildcats football 2013 primer
- Northwestern football: Wildcats open season vs. Cal
- Northwestern depth chart: Collin Ellis, Chance Carter starters vs. Cal
- MONDAY OF GAME WEEK SIPS, ft. Northwestern's captains and an update from me
- Tony Jones, Northwestern Wildcats football, No. 6
- 'Only at Northwestern:' An Excerpt from John U. Bacon's 'Fourth and Long'