Much as I would love to refer to the Big Ten Conference as new and improved, the only thing holding me back is the additions of Maryland and Rutgers.
The way I see it, my complete lack of knowledge of the Terps and Scarlet Knights football programs can only hinder my chances to eclipse last season’s 108-23 record in prognosticating games.
But I’ll include them because, well, that’s the kind of guy I am.
As we approach the nonconference portion of the 2014 college football season, here’s how I have this week’s games playing out:
Washington State 45,
Washington State defeated the likes of USC and Arizona last season, while Rutgers surrendered 41 or more points on five occasions. The Knights’ cross-country road trip creates quality sightseeing.
Eastern Illinois 23
Early-season sloppiness coupled with the fact EIU is ranked No. 11 in Football Championship Subdivision makes this one go down to the wire.
Michigan State 34,
Jacksonville State 13
Defending Big Ten and Rose Bowl champion Spartans tested early at home but create serious separation after halftime.
Notre Dame 31, Rice 21
People forget Rice went 10-4 last season and earned a bid to the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. They were crushed 44-7 by Mississippi State, but that’s not the point. This is: The Irish better not take the Owls lightly.
Western Michigan 27
The Broncos played three Big Ten opponents in 2013 (MSU, Northwestern and Iowa) and were outscored by a total of 123-33. Purdue won’t be favored often this season, but the host Boilers are this week.
Indiana State 24
The Hoosiers slapped a 73-point tattoo on the Sycamores last season. This won’t be as lopsided, but IU still gets its offensive wheels turning in a big way.
Ohio State 33, Navy 28
What’s this? The Buckeyes open a football season on the road? Uh ... sort of. Rest assured, most of those inside M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore will be wearing red. Losing QB Braxton Miller for the season hurts, but the Buckeyes are too strong in the trenches.
Florida Atlantic 21
Two seasons ago Florida Atlantic opened its season against Wagner. In 2013 it was a 34-6 loss to once-mighty in-state foe Miami. Now the Owls get to take the field at one of college football’s most imposing venues, which, at least initially, isn’t going to help their cause.
Youngstown State 20,
Call it an upset special, though not really much of an upset. Even at home, the Illini just aren’t very good.
LSU 23, Wisconsin 21
Wouldn’t it be great if other heavyweight programs played each other right out of the gate? Tigers at home in one of their famous rowdy night games, which gives them the slightest of edges.
Northern Iowa 21
The Panthers are pretty doggone good, but not good enough to pull the upset at Kinnick Stadium.
Appalachian State 17
The Mountaineers’ 34-32 stunner at the Big House seven years ago remains legend. Break out the old video because that movie won’t be playing twice.
Wildcats beat Cal by two touchdowns on the West Coast to open the 2013 season. No reason to think they can’t defeat the Bears at home.
Central Florida 20,
Penn State 17
Revenge-minded Nittany Lions travel south to face coach George O’Leary’s Knights but can’t close the deal.
James Madison 17
The Terps won their first four games last season, lost 63-0 to eventual national champion Florida State and were never the same. These programs last met in 2009 with Maryland pulling out a 38-35 overtime victory.
Last year’s record: 108-23 (.824)
2012 record: 101-30 (.771)
2011 record: 90-22 (.804)
Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.