BraxtonMiller 2013

B1G Leaders, Week 1: Let The Games Begin

It’s on.

The 2013 College Football season is here.  Let the smack talk begin, case health the superstitious rituals, cialis sale site the rivalries, sick and the sneers to the fans of that other team.  The passionate bets with humiliating consequences, the frayed nerves, the curse words for good and bad outbursts, the ride we can’t wait to take year after year after year.  Ohhhh yes…paint your face, crank up the fight song and start pouring the drinks because IT IS ON.

The B1G’s Leaders Division should add some excitement to the NCAA this season, although not that much has changed in regards to which teams will bring it.  Most Likely to Succeed?  Ohio State.  Most Likely to Show Marked Improvement?  Indiana.  Most Likely to Suck?  Illinois.  Most Likely To Have a Mediocre Season And Cry And Blame It On Sanctions?  Penn State.  Most Likely to Go Largely Unnoticed?  Purdue.   Biggest Question Mark? Especially SinceTheir Douchey Coach Went To The SEC Wisconsin.  Yep, Yogi, it’s déjà vu all over again.  (Well except Wisky, of course.)

The first weekend of play is always a lil’ bit sleepy with mostly cake match-ups against smaller schools, but it’s a great way to see what everyone has really got.  Teams hold back of course, not wanting to let future opponents learn too much or get too much on tape, but anything that could be exposed often is.  (Appalachian State anyone??  I’m not sure that can ever be topped.)  Here’s who to keep an eye on and why, on this first Saturday of NCAA Football, 2013.

And please, for the love of God.  Don’t go all Miley Cyrus with your #1 foam finger, kids.  *Gag*

11:00 a.m. on ESPN2:  Buffalo at Ohio State

Why you should care Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Ohio State is the most exciting team in the conference right now.  They’re coming off a 12-0 season that was left unmarred with the absence of a bowl game.  (Sanctions from Tatgate have ended making the Bucks bowl eligible again this season.)  They have an irrefutably successful homer coach in Urban Meyer who is back for blood in his second year, along with their explosive, big play-making star quarterback, Braxton Miller, who was named the Big Ten Offensive player of the year last year and who came in 5thin Heisman voting.  If you caught even one OSU game in 2012, you know this guy is crazy watchable.

Urban Meyer

They’re deservedly ranked #2 in the 2013 AP and Coaches polls.  (Side note: the Buckeyes have been ranked more times by the AP – 805 – than any other school.)  They return the most offensive players.  They are loaded with talent, have an excellent coaching staff and a favorable schedule.  No B1G team currently poses much of a threat to them.  This could be a (nother) very, very good year to be a Buckeye fan.  At the very least, expect to see Ohio State in the B1G Title game in December.

The Buffalo Bulls went 4-8 last season and tied for 4th place in the MAC conference.  This should be an easy first win for the Bucks.

What to watch for:  Braxton.  His third season is anticipated to be an amazing one.  Thought he was pretty good last year?  His coaches and coordinators say his awareness in the pocket, his footwork and consistency in mechanics have drastically improved and that he is “light years ahead of where he left off.”  He’s got a better supporting cast this year so we’ll probably see less running.  He’s at the top of several Heisman watch lists.  And the kid wants it.

Expect a stronger offense overall and another very good defense, especially Ryan Shazier who with 116 tackles and 5 sacks last year has the potential to be the top linebacker in the B1G for 2013.  OSU’s young defense is lacking in experience but expect talent to outweigh that factor in time.

And yes, All-American defensive back Bradley Roby and running back Carlos Hyde will be sitting this one out (despite charges being dropped.)  Look for Dontre Wilson to fill in for Hyde.

 

11:00 a.m. on Big Ten Network:  Massachusetts at Wisconsin

Why you should care:  Wisconsin has been a powerhouse in the B1G since former head coach and current Athletic Director Barry Alvarez took over in Madison, leading them to three Big Ten Titles and 11 bowl games.

Bret Bielema continued that success as head coach for the last six years, but suddenly left the Badgers this season for the pastures of the SEC’s Arkansas.  Some would say his record of 1-5 against Ohio State and 2-3 against Penn State, the hiring of Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes’ 2012 12-0 season, and Michigan’s resurgence in the conference may not have let him actually live up to the legend he was in his own mind.  Alvarez says that so far no one has mentioned that they miss him.

So the Badgers are rolling on with new Head Coach Gary Anderson who previously helmed a successful Utah State and actually brought his Aggies to Camp Randall last year, where he nearly beat the Badgers.  He then finished his season 11-2 overall.  You never know what to expect in most head coach’s first year performances, but it is probably safe to say that Wisconsin will weather some growing pains here and there while still playing classic smash mouth football and making their way back to their usual division status.

Returning sophomore QB Joel Stave will start this Saturday and former record-setting star running back Montee Ball’s giant cleats should be filled quite nicely by senior RB James White and sophomore RB Melvin Gordon, both a lethal combination of skill and speed.  The Badgers are still loaded with talent and ranked #23 in the Coaches & AP polls, so a season-opening win against the 45-point underdog Minutemen is not out of the question.  Nor is a blowout.

Joel Stave

UMass went 1-11 last season, giving up 225.6 yards per game on the ground and 235.8 yards through the air.  Their own fan sites state they expect a 2-10 season, which they also call “an improvement.”

What to watch for:  QB Joel Stave’s performance and whether we will see an improved passing game for the Badgers this year.  White and Gordon.  Head Coach Anderson’s style.

 2:30pm on ESPNU:  Purdue at Cincinnati

Why you should care:  Purdue hired Head Coach Darrell Hazell from Kent State with the hope of him turning the Boilermakers into a B1G title-worthy contender.  Last year under Coach Danny Hope they opened their season with 3 wins in their first 4 games.  And then a 5-game losing streak left them with a 3-5 record in the conference and 6-7 overall.  So you’d think the Boilermakers would want a confidence-booster for their brand new head coach and young players on opening day, right?

The Cincinnati Bearcats have seen notable success in the last decade.  They are coming off a 10-1 season and a Big East co-championship.  Their defense was ranked 14th in the nation in points allowed.  And they’re led by award-winning coach Tommy Tuberville, who is best known for his time taking the SEC’s Auburn Tigers to 8 consecutive bowl games as a head coach – including a perfect season that ended with a Sugar Bowl win – and a 7-3 record against Alabama.  This one ain’t really gonna be that cake I mentioned earlier.

Rob Henry

Purdue still has a lot of question marks on defense and they must perform well in this match-up.  On offense, 5th year senior quarterback Rob Henry will be starting and he’ll need to rely heavily on running back Akeem Hunt.  Good things are expected from Coach Hazell,  just don’t expect them all in this game.

What to watch for:  A potential season-opener loss for Purdue.  How the defense fares against the Bearcats.  If the Boilermakers add an aggressive run game.  Wide receivers BJ Knauf and Dolapo Macarthy.

2:30pm on ABC:  Syracuse at Penn State

Why you should care:  Penn State entered last season in one of the worst situations a school probably could.  It might be fair to say the program and fanbase were suffering symptoms of PTSD.  But first year head coach Bill O’Brien led the Lions to an 8-4 finish and showed that Penn State can and will rebuild.  They’re still bowl ineligible this season and feeling the loss of scholarships and they aren’t ranked and only received two votes in the AP poll, but they are packed with young talent.

Coach O’Brien gets to groom two highly-regarded quarterbacks to his pro-style offense this season, top high school recruit Christian Hackenberg and junior college transfer Tyler Ferguson.  Neither has been named as the starter this Saturday but expect to see both play as they battle it out for the job.  The Lions still have star wide receiver Allen Robinson, who was the Big Ten’s top receiver in 2012 with 11 TD receptions and 1,013 receiving yards, and he could go for that title again.

Allen Robinson

Defense will be their issue as the bones of their 2012 success are gone.  Keep an eye on returning defensive end Deion Barnes who racked up 26 tackles and 6 sacks and is expected to be one of the best in the conference this season.

PSU is meeting the Orange for the 71st time this weekend at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.   It’s Syracuse’s first year as a member of the ACC conference and there’s a lot of uncertainty around their program this year.  Though they are coming off an 8-5 season and handily beat West Virginia in a bowl game, they lost a star QB to the NFL and key players.

Penn State is favored by 6 but both teams are breaking in new quarterbacks and young talent so anything can happen here.

What to watch for:  The Quarterbacks Battle – Hackenberg vs Ferguson.  Keep an eye on running back Zach Zwinak and safety Adrian Amos, both could possibly have a breakout year.

About the author: Kristin Conrad is a college football-loving graduate of Ohio State – she bleeds Scarlet & Gray and considers the Varsity Club hallowed ground. A PR pro who just moved back to Columbus from Manhattan Beach, Chicago and NYC, she’s been happy to find that some of her favorite friends ever are from schools she used to hate and that nothing brings people together like sports does.

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  • kez7

    great, fun read!

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