Thursday, August 28, 2008

Get Gamm - Week One

In the blink of an eye, summer is gone and college football season is upon us. The only bad news is that the crooked sticks will soon give way to shovels and snow blowers. But, rather than mope about it, let's just fire up another season of Get Gamm. I've been busier than ever the past six months, but I will get the games up here weekly. Sometimes I might not have much commentary, but that's life - right?

Without further ado...

Akron at Wisconsin - The Big Ten is usually full of these MAC match-ups in week one, but this is one of just two. Wisconsin has some questions and Akron is decent, but the Badgers don't lose games like this at home. Wisconsin 38 - Akron 13.

Coastal Carolina at Penn State - Not even worth my time. A glorified scrimmage. Penn State 48 - CC 7.

Maine at Iowa - Ferentz gets to go against an old employer. A good warm up for Iowa. Iowa 30 - Maine 6.

Syracuse at Northwestern - One of the better games in the Big Ten this weekend. I like the 'cats to be able to score, and score often. Northwestern 42 - Syracuse 37.

Western Kentucky at Indiana - see Coastal Carolina at Penn State! Indiana 41 - WKU 17.

Youngstown State at Ohio State - um, see ... never mind, you get the idea. Ohio State 52 - YSU 3.

Utah at Michigan - this will be a real test for Michigan. Some how, some way, the maize and blue get it done. Michigan 24 - Utah 23.

Northern Illinois at Minnesota - can the Gophers make progress? This is a must win, right out of the gate. Minnesota 31 - NIU 17.

Illinois vs. Missouri - great game of the week part 1. I picked Illinois to win this in my preview, but can they overcome the loss of Mendenhall? Illinois 34 - Mizzou 31.

Michigan State at Cal - great game part 2. Best opening road test for the Spartans in years. Questions in the air on both sides. I like Michigan State to be good this year, but this is a tall task. Cal 27 - Michigan State 23.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Big Ten Football Previews - Part VIII - XI

Editor's Note: These are the last four in a series of my annual summer Big Ten football previews. Due to a lack of time, these are abbreviated - no breakdowns, just the basics. Next up? GET GAMM! Want to play, pick all the winners on the comments section. Schedule available here...

Team: Michigan State Spartans

Past Predictions/Results:
2007 Prediction / actual: 6-6, 3-5 (T-7th), Insight / 7-6, 3-5 (T-7th), Champs
2006 Prediction / actual: 8-4, 5-3 (5th), Champs / 4-8, 1-7 (T-10th)
2005 Prediction / actual: 7-4, 5-3 (4th), Sun / 5-6, 2-6 (9th)
2004 Prediction / actual: 7-5, 4-4 (T-5th), Sun / 5-7, 4-4 (T-5th)
2003 Prediction / actual: 6-6, 3-5 (T-7th) / 8-5, 5-3 (T-4th)
2002 Prediction / actual: 10-2, 6-2 (T-1st) / 4-8, 2-6 (T-8th)
2001 Prediction / actual: 8-3, 6-2 (T-1st) / 7-5, 3-5 (T-8th)

Returning Starters: 7 offense, 5 defense, 2 kickers

2008 Prediction:
3-1 OOC (loss at California)
5-3 Big Ten (wins over Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin and Purdue)
8-4 Overall, T-2nd - Outback Bowl berth

Team: Illinois Fighting Illini

Past Predictions/Results:
2007 Prediction / actual: 4-8, 1-7 (T-10th) / 9-4, 6-2 (T-2nd) - Rose Bowl
2006 Prediction / actual: 5-7, 2-6 (8th) / 2-10, 1-7 (T-10th)
2005 Prediction / actual: 4-7, 2-6 (10th) / 2-9, 0-8 (11th)
2004 Prediction / actual: 4-7, 1-7 (T-10th) / 3-8, 1-7 (T-10th)
2003 Prediction / actual: 5-7, 3-5 (T-7th) / 1-11, 0-8 (11th)
2002 Prediction / actual: 8-4, 4-4 (T-6th) / 5-7, 4-4 (T-5th)
2001 Prediction / actual: 6-5, 3-5 (T-7th) / 10-2, 7-1 (1st)

Returning Starters: 7 offense, 7 defense, 1 kicker

2008 Prediction:
4-0 OOC (big win over Mizzou)
5-3 Big Ten (wins over Minnesota, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa & Northwestern)
9-3 Overall, T-2nd - Capital One Bowl berth

Team: Penn State Nittany Lions

Past Predictions/Results:
2007 Prediction / actual: 9-3, 5-3 (T-4th), Outback / 9-4, 4-4 (T-5th), Alamo
2006 Prediction / actual: 9-3, 6-2 (T-3rd), Capital One / 9-4, 5-3 (T-4th), Outback
2005 Prediction / actual: 6-5, 3-5 (T-7th), Music City / 11-1, 7-1 (T-1st), Orange
2004 Prediction / actual: 6-5, 4-4 (T-5th), Music City / 4-7, 2-6 (9th)
2003 Prediction / actual: 7-5, 4-4 (T-5th) / 3-9, 1-7 (T-9th)
2002 Prediction / actual: 9-3, 6-2 (T-1st) / 9-4, 5-3 (4th)
2001 Prediction / actual: 5-6, 3-5 (T-7th) / 5-6, 4-4 (T-4th)

Returning Starters: 7 offense, 7 defense, 2 kickers

2008 Prediction:
4-0 OOC (no real tests here)
5-3 Big Ten (wins over Illinois, Michigan, Iowa, Indiana and Michigan State)
9-3 Overall, T-2nd, BCS Bowl Berth (JoePa's last hurrah)

Team: Ohio State Buckeyes

Past Predictions/Results:
2007 Prediction / actual: 10-2, 6-2 (3rd) - Captial One / 11-2, 7-1 (1st), BCS Title Game
2006 Prediction / actual: 11-1, 7-1 (T-1st), BCS / 12-1, 8-0 (1st), BCS Title Game
2005 Prediction / actual: 8-3, 6-2 (T-1st), Capital One / 10-2, 7-1 (T-1st), Fiesta
2004 Prediction / actual: 10-1, 7-1 (T-1st), Rose / 8-4, 4-4 (T-5th), Alamo
2003 Prediction / actual: 11-1, 7-1 (1st) / 11-2, 6-2 (T-2nd)
2002 Prediction / actual: 11-2, 6-2 (T-1st) / 14-0, 8-0 (T-1st), National Champs
2001 Prediction / actual: 7-4, 4-4 (T-5th) / 7-5, 5-3 (3rd)

Returning Starters: 9 offense, 9 defense, 2 kickers

2008 Prediction:
3-1 OOC (tough loss at USC)
8-0 Big Ten (no one will get in the way, let along put up much of a fight)
11-1 Overall, 1st - BCS Title Game berth - third time is the charm

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Big Ten Football Previews – Part VII

Editor's Note: This is the seventh in a series of my annual summer Big Ten football previews. Check back often to see who’s next...

Team: Wisconsin Badgers

Tidbits … Coach Bret Bielema's 21-5 two season record is tied for the second best start in conference history (Jim Tressel went 21-5 as well). The Badgers are the first team ever to draw Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State - in succession - to start league play.

Past Predictions/Results:
2007 Prediction / actual: 11-1, 7-1 (T-1st), Rose / 9-4, 5-3 (4th), Outback
2006 Prediction / actual: 8-4, 4-4 (T-6th), Alamo / 12-1, 7-1 (T-2nd), Capital One
2005 Prediction / actual: 8-4, 4-4 (T-5th), Alamo / 10-3, 5-3 (T-3rd), Capital One
2004 Prediction / actual: 7-4, 4-4 (T-5th), Alamo / 9-3, 6-2 (3rd), Outback
2003 Prediction / actual: 10-2, 6-2 (T-2nd) / 7-6, 4-4 (T-7th)
2002 Prediction / actual: 8-5, 4-4 (T-6th) / 8-6, 2-6 (T-8th)
2001 Prediction / actual: 8-4, 5-3 (4th) / 5-7, 3-5 (T-8th)

*Note, bowl shown only from 2004 on as I did not predict the bowl berths prior to that season.

Returning Starters: 8 offense, 9 defense

Key Returnees: RB P.J. Hill, TE Travis Beckum, OL Kraig Urbik, DE Matt Shaughnessy, LB Jonathan Casillas, CB Aaron Henry

Key Losses: QB Tyler Donovan, WR Luke Swan, WR Paul Hubbard, DT Nick Hayden, CB Jack Ikegwuonu, P Kenny DeBauche, PK Tyler Mehlhaff

Looking Back ... Wisconsin got off to a tremendous start in 2007, winning five straight before back to back road setbacks. For that matter, after the two slip-ups, the Badgers won four of five before a disappointing loss in the Outback Bowl. Despite the nine wins, it was seen as a disappointing season in Madison. A far cry from any era pre Barry Alvarez for certain. Wisconsin had its share of ups and downs but continues to be a mainstay among the top of the league. Post season interviews with all returning players turned up a common theme - disappointment in the way the season went when expectations were running high. A far cry from the days when Camp Randall was perhaps the easiest place to play in the conference...

Outlook - Offense ... Is there a team around the country returning as many offensive starters (8) that is as uncertain about what to expect as Wisconsin? Tyler Donovan may not have been spectacular, but he certainly was serviceable - a heady leader that provided the team with a spark when called upon. Now that he's gone, questions abound. Transfer Allan Evridge was thought to be a guy who might win the job last season, but that never happened. Between he and Dustin Sherer, someone needs to take the bull by the horns. The backfield is as loaded as any in the nation, led by P.J. Hill. Hill needs to get better at avoiding the big hits, though, in order to stay healthy and on the field. The Badger front five is always good, so no worries there. Tight end Travis Beckum is a phenom and will have to carry the load for a young, albeit talented receiving corps. It all rests on the QB. If Evridge or Sherer can take the reigns and provide steady play, the sky is the limit. The problem? Right now that appears to be a big IF.

Outlook - Defense ... Wisconsin returns a load of defenders but this group gave up a load of points at times last season. A load of those players also spent the spring on the shelf. With injury questions still looming large, there are some concerns here. The good news is, those that return are experienced and can make big plays. Three seniors return up front, a pair of seniors and a junior make up the linebacker level and the secondary should be good albeit a little less experienced. Matt Shaughnessy, Jonathan Casillas and Shane Carter lead this defense with the ability to make big plays from defensive end, linebacker and free safety respectively. If this defense can patch up the injuries and avoid a stretch like last season, the sky is also the limit. In fact, if it all comes together, last year's prediction will be more likely than this year's...

Outlook - Special Teams ... It seemed like DeBauche and Mehlhaff were in the cardinal and white of Wisconsin forever. Not so this year and the departure of the pair leaves a noticeable gap in the special teams area. The return game should be strong, with plenty of quick athletes available to make plays, but the development of consistent, reliable kickers could spell the difference between games won or lost...

8/30 - AKRON
9/13 - at Fresno State
9/27 - at Michigan
10/11 - PENN STATE
10/18 - at Iowa
10/25 - ILLINOIS
11/1 - at Michigan State
11/8 - at Indiana
11/22 - CAL-POLY

Key Games:
9/13 - at Fresno State, 9/27 - at Michigan, 10/4 - Ohio State, 10/11 - Penn State, 11/15 - Minnesota

Prediction ... No secret here - the Badgers have potential - A LOT of potential, but I have plenty of questions and concerns as well. The gauntlet run of Michigan, OSU and PSU is huge, though Michigan is down and the latter two are at home. The back end of the schedule - after a tricky trip to East Lansing - is cupcake city. If the pieces and parts all come together and don't fall apart due to the injury bug, I'll eat my words. But for now, I'm going with the prediction I seem to make most every year with this team...

OOC: 3-1 (Road loss to Fresno State, the other three? Who called Minny for scheduling help?)
B10: 5-3 (wins over Michigan, Penn State, Iowa, Indiana and Minnesota)
Overall: 8-4, T-2nd in the conference, Alamo Bowl

Monday, August 11, 2008

Big Ten Football Previews – Part VI

Editor's Note: This is the sixth in a series of my annual summer Big Ten football previews. Check back often to see who’s next...

Team: Purdue Boilermakers

Tidbits … This is Coach Joe Tiller's last hurrah with the old gold and black. When he came aboard, Purdue was mired in a stretch of 12 straight losing seasons. Go bowling in 2008 and that will make 11 of 12 with bowl berths for Purdue. Curtis Painter could become the Big Ten's all time leading passer this season.

Past Predictions/Results:
2007 Prediction / actual: 8-4, 4-4 (T-6th), Alamo / 8-5, 3-5 (T-7th), Motor City
2006 Prediction / actual: 8-5, 4-4 (T-6th), Insight / 8-6, 5-3 (T-4th), Champs
2005 Prediction / actual: 7-4, 4-4 (T-5th), Outback / 5-6, 3-5 (8th)
2004 Prediction / actual: 7-4, 5-3 (4th), Outback / 7-5, 4-4 (T-5th), Sun
2003 Prediction / actual: 10-2, 6-2 (T-2nd) / 9-4, 6-2 (T-2nd)
2002 Prediction / actual: 8-4, 5-3 (T-4th) / 7-6, 4-4 (T-5th)
2001 Prediction / actual: 9-2, 6-2 (T-1st) / 6-6, 4-4 (T-4th

*Note, bowl shown only from 2004 on as I did not predict the bowl berths prior to that season.

Returning Starters: 6 offense, 6 defense, 1 kicker

Key Returnees: QB Curtis Painter, WR Greg Orton, RB Kory Sheets, RB Jaycen Taylor, DT Alex Magee, LB Anthony Heygood, S Brandon King

Key Losses: WR Dorien Bryant, TE Dustin Keller, G Jordan Grimes, C Robbie Powell, DE Cliff Avril, LB Stanford Keglar

Looking Back ... 2007 got off to a rip-roarin' start in West Lafayette but once the big boys came calling, the Ls start to pile up. Purdue was torrid in September but that was against but one team that ended up with a winning D1 record (Central Michigan). Curtis Painter improved by leaps and bounds between his sophomore and junior campaigns and got himself into the preseason Heisman conversations heading into 2008. Despite only two wins in its last seven regular season games, Purdue backed into a bowl and got a second win over a CMU team that was much better the second time around. Will that momentum carry into 2008, particularly with Joe Tiller on the way out? Time will tell...

Outlook - Offense ... While some of the top performers of a very potent offensive attack return, Curtis Painter and company have some things to prove. A year ago, only one win came against a team with a winning record at the D1 level - that was CMU, twice. The good news is, Kyle Orton and his 125 grabs over the past two seasons returns. The one-two punch of Taylor and Sheets is back. The bad news? There isn't anyone else with appreciable experience at the wide out position. The offensive line is in decent shape but has to replace two mainstays. It should be a record breaking season for Painter, but it is going to take some big wins for Painter to be mentioned in the same breath as Drew Brees and maybe even Kyle Orton. The OOC slate is much more difficult and a third game versus CMU in the last 13 might prove to be the toughest yet. Purdue will need to be firing on all cylinders if it hopes to send Tiller out a big winner...

Outlook - Defense ... There is little doubt that the offense will pull its weight this fall in West Lafayette. But what about the defense? There are some play-makers but depth is a big question at defensive end and linebacker and will the myriad players coming back from serious injury hold up over the long season? If it become a battle to outscore, Purdue will not have the season it hopes for. The good news is that six starters return and a few guys, like Torri Williams, offer hope that a return to form could mean big things for this defense. Look for the Boilers to be tough up the gut, with four solid defensive tackles in the rotation. If Purdue's secondary can stay healthy and the linebacking corps can find help for Keglar, the defense has the potential to be good if not quite good. The defense will spell the difference between middle of the pack and upper tier finish...

Outlook - Special Teams ... Chris Summers is the lone returning special teamer and comes off of a very solid sophomore campaign. Purdue is faced with replacing its punter but the most critical replacement is of Dorien Bryant. Bryant could flat out fly and was a tremendous weapon over his career. Replacing him will be almost as critical to Purdue's success as the development of the defense...

9/13 - OREGON
9/27 - at Notre Dame
10/11 - at Ohio State
10/18 - at Northwestern
11/8 - at Michigan State
11/15 - at Iowa
11/22 - INDIANA

Key Games:
9/13 - Oregon, 9/27 - at Notre Dame, 10/4 - Penn State, 10/11 - at Ohio State, 11/8 - at Michigan State, 11/22 - Indiana

Prediction ... Okay, I've been pretty consistent with my predictions when it comes to Purdue so let's see what happens this go around. The non conference slate is MUCH tougher than a season ago and the trip to Columbus will be no picnic. Purdue does get Penn State and Michigan at home and misses Wisconsin, but there are very few "sure things" on the table. It will be critical to get off to a good start with early wins to build momentum - though come to think of it, that didn't help much last year. It will be another winning season in W.L. but there will be plenty of "we could, shoulda, woulda done better" talk yet again...

OOC: 3-1 (Road loss to Notre Dame, though Oregon and CMU are no picnic)
B10: 4-4 (wins over Penn State, Minnesota, Michigan and Indiana)
Overall: 7-5, 6th in the conference, Insight Bowl