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Big Ten Football 2020: Week 1 Preview
Friday, 2020 October 23 - 6:09 pm
So the pandemic-delayed Big Ten football season is upon us. Other conferences have been playing for seven weeks already, when their teams haven't been decimated by virus outbreaks. I won't say haven't paid any attention to those games, but for me the real season starts tomorrow.

#18 Michigan at #21 Minnesota, 7:30 PM ABC
Both Michigan and Minnesota are looking to fill a lot of vacancies from last year's starting rosters. Michigan starts a new quarterback in Joe Milton and four new offensive linemen, but does get a pile of returning running backs led by Zach Charbonnet. Star WR Nico Collins opted out of this season but Ronnie Bell returns, and there's a lot of speed among the other WRs. On defense, Michigan has perhaps the top DE tandem in the conference in Kwity Paye and Aidan Hutchinson. Josh Ross and Cam McGrone will be solid at ILB, and Dax Hill will be a star at safety. The question marks are at the CB and DT positions, and Michigan will get murdered by several teams if they don't sort that out.

Minnesota returns effective quarterback Tanner Morgan and star WR Rashod Bateman, but they're battling injuries on the OL and there's inexperience at the LB position. So who knows? Also there's an undisclosed number of players who will be sitting out due to positive COVID tests.

So take all the new players, and add in the fact that we're playing in an empty stadium during a pandemic, and the result is a ton of uncertainty. On paper Michigan looks more talented, but I'm pessimistic because, you know, 2020.

Prediction: Michigan 20, Minnesota 26.

#8 Penn State at Indiana, 3:30 PM FS1
Penn State brings back QB Sean Clifford and TE Pat Freiermuth, and that duo alone will be enough to win half of the games on the schedule. They did lose LB Micah Parsons, who opted out of the season, and RB Journey Brown looks to have a season-ending medical condition. But Penn State should still figure to be one of the top contenders for the Big Ten title.

Indiana has a talented quarterback in Michael Penix and they're likely to be able to score some points, but it's hard to see how the defense hangs on against what's likely to be a potent PSU offense.

Prediction: Indiana 23, Penn State 44.

Games to Watch on TV
#23 NC State plays #14 UNC at noon on ESPN. Yeah, I'm not gonna write about NCSU this year, but I will say that they're having a decent season and I expect they'll play well against a vastly-overrated UNC squad. Also at noon, Nebraska plays #5 OSU on Fox, which is mostly notable because these were the two teams most vocal about restarting the season.

The Penn State game is at 3:30 on FS1. #17 Iowa State plays #6 Oklahoma State on Fox; these teams might be the surprise front-runners for the Big 12.

At 7:00, South Carolina plays LSU on ESPN. The Michigan game is at 7:30 on ABC. And I guess there's #9 Cincinnati vs #16 SMU at 9:00 on ESPN, but do we really buy that these two teams are that good?

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Posted by Ken in: sports

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