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Recent Comments
On College Football 2021: Week 10 Recap and Week 11 P...
Ken said:
Yeah, sorry one of our teams had to lose. I've come to appreciate Penn State as a classy and sympath...
On College Football 2021: Week 10 Recap and Week 11 P...
Dan* said:
Hey Ken, congratulations on the win yesterday! Some really odd choices by our coaching staff in that...
On College Football 2021: Week 4 Recap and Week 5 Pre...
Dan* said:
Hey Ken, thanks for the write-ups. I'm enjoying them as usual.

I'm not sure what to make of PSU y...
On Big Ten Football 2020: Week 4 Recap and Week 5 Pre...
Dan* said:
Ooof. What a horrible season for both of us so far.

At this point, I've mostly lost interest in thi...
On Big Ten Football 2020: Week 1 Recap
Ken said:
I stand corrected. I looked at the ESPN play-by-play to count IU's timeouts and they must have not i...


<< Previous: Big Ten Football 202... | Next: College Football 202... >>

College Football 2021: It's Happening
Wednesday, 2021 September 1 - 6:17 pm
I can't believe football is back, and I can't believe I'm still posting about it here. But yeah, here we go, full of unrealistic optimism until the inevitable crushing defeat. My only hope is that this season isn't one of numbing ennui like the last season. Or the one before that. Or... well, you know.

Michigan vs. Western Michigan, 12:00 PM ESPN
Michigan is coming off a 2-4 season which probably would have been something like a 5-7 season if they'd had enough non-conference cupcakes to snack on. A losing season means a chance to clean house, and boy howdy did they. Most of the assistant coaching staff was axed, including legends DC Don Brown and OL coach Ed Warinner. Coming in at DC is Mike Macdonald, who brings some interesting philosophies from the Baltimore Ravens but has no coordinator experience. The word on the street is that the defensive scheme is complex and difficult for offenses to figure out. On the down side, it's apparently also difficult for the Michigan players to run. And Michigan still has talent deficiencies at the cornerback position, which will probably be annoying all season long. But the defense still has two potential All-Americans in DL Aidan Hutchinson and DB Dax Hill; both are likely to play multiple positions as Michigan seeks to maximize their usage.

The offense looks to be in better shape, with Cade McNamara set to start at QB. He was promising after replacing Joe Milton last season, with a knack for making heady decisions and accurate passes. He'll have a talented group of receivers and running backs around him, led by slot receiver Ronnie Bell and tailbacks Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum. The OL isn't a veteran group but does have some experience and potential. On the coaching side, the major news is the addition of RB coach Mike Hart, who is almost assuredly going to be an upgrade from Jay Harbaugh.

The schedule is brutal, though. While non-conference opponents Western Michigan and Northern Illinois look manageable, the September 11th game against Washington is going to be a stiff early test. There are away games against Wisconsin and PSU which seem like they'll be difficult to win; Nebraska and MSU might have down seasons themselves but those games are also away; and OSU is gonna OSU again, most likely. The floor seems to be four wins; the ceiling is probably nine. So I'd say we're probably looking at 6-6 or 7-5.

That means the opener against Western Michigan is a must-win game. The good news is that WMU is not the formidable MAC team they were under P.J. "Row the Boat" Fleck; they have a dynamic quarterback in Kaleb Eleby, but not all that much else. Michigan is favored by 17 here, and that's probably about right.

Prediction: Michigan 42, Western Michigan 24.

#19 Penn State vs. #12 Wisconsin, 12:00 PM Fox
Penn State has an absurd amount of talent and depth this year, perhaps more so than any other team in the Big Ten, and yet for some reason they're only ranked 19th and not really part of the national title conversation. That has a lot to do with the shadow cast by Ohio State, and some to do with the middling play of Sean Clifford. But he's got Jahan Dotson to throw to, and Noah Cain and Devyn Ford in the backfield, and some very good offensive tackles returning. This team should have no trouble scoring.

Defensively, every unit looks solid. The weakest link might be at linebacker since Micah Parsons is no longer around on defense, but "weakest" is only relative; last season's leading tackler Ellis Brooks is back, and some highly rated newcomers seem ready to step up.

PSU also has to run the Big Ten East gauntlet, and SEC opponent Auburn on September 18th will be a challenge, but otherwise the schedule seems manageable. The opener away at Wisconsin all be difficult; the OSU game is away. But the floor seems like 8 wins, and the ceiling is... 12? I'm gonna say we're probably looking at 10-2, with a loss at OSU and one "Franklin special" upset to someone like Iowa.

Of course, opening against Wisconsin on the road will be no picnic. On neutral territory I'd say the game would be a toss-up; as it is, Wisconsin is favored by 5.5. But I just don't think the Wisconsin DL, which is trying to work in some new faces, will be able to hold up against Penn State's rushing attack. But what a great game to start the season.

Prediction: Penn State 30, Wisconsin 28.

N.C. State vs. South Florida, Thursday 7:30 PM ACCN
N.C. State gets talented quarterback Devin Leary back, having recovered from a broken leg which took him out for most of last season. He has his leading receivers back as well, and a good set of running backs in Zonovan "Not Donovan" Knight and Ricky Person. Will the OL be able to pass protect this year? If so, the offense is poised for a breakout.

The defense is a question mark; they return nine starters, but that's from a unit that was repeatedly gashed last season. The linebacker position looks solid; the defensive backfield, less so. I'm not terribly confident in the Wolfpack's ability to stop the run or the pass, so we're probably looking at some shootouts.

The soft ACC schedule, coupled with some cupcake non-conference opponents, should provide N.C. State the opportunity to pile up some wins. The game against #3 Clemson is a likely loss, the rivalry game against #10 UNC is not looking good, and #14 is on the road. But all the other games seem winnable. I'll put the floor at 5 wins and the ceiling at 9, so I think the likely outcome is 7-5.

NCSU opens as an 18.5 point favorite over the USF Bulls. USF has a ton of returning starters and gains UNC transfer QB Cade Fortin... but this is still a team that's unlikely to stand up to most Power 5 programs.

Prediction: N.C. State 48, South Florida 15.

Games to Watch on TV
We already had Nebraska at Illinois last Saturday, which was fun. Nebraska seems to be vying for MSU's perennial title of "dumbest ways to lose a game".

The NCSU game is on Thursday night at 7:30 PM, on the ACC network or on a regional station. #4 Ohio State plays at Minnesota at 8:00 PM on Fox.

Michigan State plays Northwestern on Friday night at 9:00 PM, on ESPN.

Michigan and Penn State both play at noon, on ESPN and Fox, respectively. I'd say the PSU-Wisconsin game would be the game of the week were it not for a huge ACC-SEC matchup... and I'm not even talking about #1 Alabama vs #14 Miami, which is at 3:30 on ABC. #17 Indiana plays #18 Iowa at 3:30 as well; that's on BTN.

No, your Game of the Week is #5 Georgia vs. #3 Clemson at 7:30 PM on ABC. This will be a game everyone will be talking about at the end of this season, either as a resumé-building win for the playoff, or a non-disqualifying loss.

So it's a big weekend as openers go. Welcome back football. Please try not to crush my spirits too soon.

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Posted by Ken in: sports

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