Week 1 Predictions – 2021

Last Year:  What a year 2020 was for ever team in college football. At best it was an abbreviated season, for some, they cancelled the season all together. For the Buckeyes, they were unbeaten on the field yet some coaches did not feel OSU deserved to be in the playoffs.  How do you feel about that now Clemson!  Although the season ended with a loss to a great Alabama team in the Championship game, it was still a great second season at the helm for Coach Day.  Can they make it to the playoffs again in 2021 and finish what they started?  That all starts this week in Minneapolis.  As for our Buckeye50 staff predictions, for the first time ever we had a 4 way tie for first place with Mark, Rick, Dave and Gregg.  Let’s see if any of them can repeat in 2021.  Go Bucks!

This Week’s Games:  I realize there were a couple games this past weekend but the real season gets into full swing Thursday night including Ohio State and Minnesota in the state of 10,000 lakes.  The Buckeyes will be looking to replace a lot of starters but we say that every year.  Do the Gophers have enough talent to make a game of it or does the Scarlet and Gray roll?  ….  Staying in the Big Ten, another cross-divisional match-up will feature Penn State at Wisconsin.  The Badgers appear to be the favorite in the West but the Lions are looking for a bounce back season. A win for either will be huge in the conference race.  ….  Alabama will begin their title defense against Miami in Atlanta.  Will Saban and the Tide ever play a worthy non-conference opponent on the road.  I doubt it, just as I doubt the ‘Canes will have a chance in this game unless D’Eriq King comes back huge from his 2020 injury.  ….  The big game of the week will be Gerogia and Clemson. The winner of this game may just about lock in a spot for the playoffs but there is still a LOT of football to be played.  Beware JT Daniels, the Tigers like to go after their opponents quarterback.  ….  Indiana starts out against Iowa in our third cross-division game we feature this week.  Iowa played strong after the first two weeks, the Hoosiers played strong all year.  Do either of these teams have what it takes to play in Indy in December?          

Buckeye Greats:   As with the past, we will continue to include former Buckeye players in our prediction fun and we are thrilled to have Vaughn Broadnax back with us as a regular participant for the seventh straight year.  

Here we go with our Week 1 Picks – Good Luck to All – Gregg

(4)Ohio State   Minnesota

Andy:  I think this game is tough to predict. Minnesota returns a ton of veterans from their 2019 and 2020 seasons. I think Tanner Morgan will be one of the best qbs in the country when the season is over. Minnesota’s offensive line is MASSIVE and they have a lot of experience run blocking for their beast mode back Mohamed Ibrahim who was one of the most productive backs in the country last season. I am not concerned about the Ohio State offense going against the Gopher defense even though they have a very tough front seven. I am however concerned when our defense takes the field, we were one of the worst pass defenses in all of college football last season and we lost our top four linebackers to the NFL. The backend of this Buckeye defense has a lot to prove. I think in a shoot out, it favors Ohio State.   Ohio State 41  Minnesota 28

Coach Rick: What a great opening opponent for Ohio State.  Minnesota has a lot of returning players and a great running back on the field.  OSU’s defense will get tested early on the front lines.  OSU on the other has the nation’s best group of receivers.  I will take a group of receivers over on running back any day.  I think this will be an offensive game and have OSU on top winning by 10 points.

Cory:  Most Ohio State fans see this game and do not think it will be a contest. No way a top-five team will lose its opener, especially to an unranked team, right? The Buckeyes absolutely cannot have an eye on Oregon next week because Minnesota is legit. The Golden Gophers are a good team, and you can guarantee that head coach PJ Fleck will have them jacked and ready to play. Some things you should know about Minnesota: They have one of the nation’s top running backs in Mohamed Ibrahim. They return 10 starters on each side of the ball. They have a very experienced and talented quarterback in Tanner Morgan. Part of the reason Minnesota struggled last year was due to the offense’s inability to gel with first-year offensive coordinator Mike Sanford. Now the Golden Gophers have had a year of games and practice to adjust and they should be much better in that area. Ohio State is no doubt more talent, but the Buckeyes must overcome key losses on both sides of the ball. CJ Stroud is the new quarterback and a lot of eyes will be on him in this game. The Buckeyes have been lucky to have had some great quarterbacks recently. Will Stroud be able to fill those shoes?   Ohio State 31, Minnesota 21

Dave:  OSU 42  Minn 10    

Gregg I think for the 2020 season, the Buckeyes were SO focused on getting back against Clemson and extracting revenge from the previous year that there may not have been much left in the tank for the Tide.  I do agree that Alabama was probably the better team and I don’t think Justin Fields was 100% and there were a few players missing due to COVID, but those are just excuses.  Alabama had the better team that night and deserved to win.  Now Ohio State needs to up their game once more and get past the SEC champ.  That journey starts on the field in Minneapolis against a very tough Gopher team.  Returning 20 starters, owning a top flight running back and an experienced offensive line, Minnesota is not going to be a pushover.  But in the end I think Ohio State has way to many weapons and I think we will see a lot of them on the field, in a very convincing victory.  I most look forward to seeing the quarterback play from CJ Stroud, not sure if the others will take the field as Coach Day may want to give him as many reps as possible before Oregon comes to town.  Close through halftime but the game belongs to the Bucks.   Ohio State 52  Minnesota 17  

Jason:  The Buckeyes hit the road at upstart Minnesota for an unusual season opening conference road game.  Ohio State is ultra talented on offense, with potentially the best offense in the country.  C.J. Stroud will take the reins from arguably the best QB in Ohio State history in Justin Fields so expect the Buckeyes to establish a ground game early to allow Stroud to settle in. The O Line is perhaps the best in the country and should provide big holes for a stable of talented running backs before they start pitching the ball around to the unquestioned nation’s best WR group.  The Gophers defense may be up for the challenge.  While they aren’t the most talented group, they are veteran and sport a big defensive line that will need to plug the holes and not allow Ohio State to rip off big gains and move the chains. Offensively, QB Tanner Morgan doesn’t have the weapons at wide out he had a year ago, but reining Big Ten RB of the year, Mohamed Ibrahim is back.  Look for the Gophers to try to control time of possession and keep Ohio State’s offense off the field. Ohio State will score but Minnesota will hang around for awhile by running the football and moving the chains.  In the second half, the Buckeyes will wear on Ibrahim and the offense and after a few quick 3 and outs, Ohio State will open the game up and run away with it early after halftime.   Ohio State 42 Minnesota 17

Joe-S-U:  Ohio State

John:  On paper, Ohio State should win this one comfortably.  However, games aren’t played on paper.  Stroud’s lack of experience doesn’t concern me too much.  Let’s be honest, OSU’s recent track record of untested QB’s is pretty impressive. Barret. Jones, Haskins and even Fields – none had much or any game experience prior to taking over the QB1 position.  No, my concern in on D, particularly with the back seven.  Fortunately, Minnesota historically has been a run oriented offence, which plays into OSU’s strength on D.  It’s the secondary that is a big concern, and the Gophers passing attack should be no match, even against a young secondary.  Look for this to be close through the first half, but expect the Bucks to cover the 14 point spread.   OSU 35  Minnesota 21

Josh: This game will be under the lights, and for both teams, this game officially starts the season despite a few games being played the previous weekend for “Week 0.” Ohio State fans might not be as big of a factor as Minnesota Athletics reported that visiting fans have returned a good portion of tickets (most likely due to the travel and game on a weekday) but if you ask linebacker and team captain Teradja Mitchell, the team is not worried as they will “bring their own juice.” The Buckeyes have the athletes that this game should not be in question, it will just be a matter of how they plan on easing CJ Stroud into the offense, and getting him enough confidence going into the next game. This will be a match up about ball control, as both teams will want to impose their physical play against the other, but Ohio State has the edge on both sides of the ball in the trenches, and will be the difference maker in this game. Expect a lot of running backs playing on both teams. Ohio State 49 – Minnesota 21

Steven:  This game, as so often is the case, will be won or lost at the line of scrimmage.  The Buckeyes have one of the most imposing O-Lines in the Big Ten, and line coach Greg Studrawa has not been shy about mixing and matching pieces to get his best group on the field.  This means there should be a lot of flexibility across the line and the ability to absorb injuries should they occur.  A steady line will be just the prescription, (outside of more cowbell), to provide new starting QB C.J. Stroud a clean pocket and the time he needs to carve up Minny’s secondary.  The Buckeyes should have a strong running game led by… who knows?  Any one of Master Teague, TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams could lead the team in rushing. The word out of camp is that Henderson is crushing it, so it will be great to see if those rumors are true.  Minnesota is a veteran team that should be able to score a bit.  Expect the Gophers to run a lot and work the edges with screens and misdirection to negate OSU’s defensive line strength.  It will be interesting to see if Gopher QB Tanner Morgan can connect deep as the Buckeye secondary was a relative weak spot on last year’s squad.  We may see nickel coverage become a base set, at least until the corners get a little more battle tested.  Repeated deep strikes may be the only thing that can truly put the Bucks against the wall.  As great of a back as Ibrahaim Mohamed is, the Bucks have a great D-Line and pretty decent history of keeping their opponent’s run game in check.  This shouldn’t be a blowout, but I expect the Bucks to have the game in hand by the 3rd quarter.  Bucks 38-27. 

Trout: It’s good to finally have football back. There are a lot of unknowns regarding the Buckeyes going into this year. Firstly, there is CJ Stroud. He had limited playing time last year, but we have no idea how he will be as the number one guy. He did just beat out a room of other 5 star guys to get the job, so I believe he will at worst, serviceable. Secondly, we have the OSU defense and it’s disastrous showing last year. We have no idea how they will play last year. I’m hoping with another year on their belt, there will be improvement. Even with those concerns, I still think OSU beats Minnesota. The Gophers have the potential to be a good team. I do think PJ Fleck is a good coach and can turn this program into 8 to10 win a season team. But, they are not on the same level as the Buckeyes. I just think no matter kind of a fight Minnesota puts up, Ohio State’s talent will always overcome it. I imagine the game being close early. I think it might take a few series for the Buckeyes to get in their rhythm. But after that, I think the Buckeyes pull away and win comfortably. The Gophers will get a few scores, because of OSU’s suspect defense, but I see the Bucks winning by a few scores on the Thursday night matchup. (Ohio State, 49-24) 

Vaughn Broadnax (OSU 1980-83):  Ohio State travels to Minnesota to start the season and it is actually a good thing. A good thing because it won’t be snowing. However, PJ Fleck brings back 20 starters from last year’s  less than stellar team. That’s a bad thing. The bad thing being a “Bad Man” in Mohamed Ibrahim.  Ibrahim is not only one of the best running backs in the B1G, but in the country as well. Ohio State’s defensive line and linebackers are going to have to work in concert to contain him. While Minnesota’s running prowess may cause nightmares, do not forget PJ Fleck’s love for the vertical passing game. OSU’s DBs will be tested for sure. The first of many examinations this season. Likewise, there is no team in the country with the collection of WRs OSU has. If CJ Stroud can keep his poise and trust his receivers, he will lead this team to an offensive explosion. The key to OSU’s success will be to see how Kerry Coombs has grown as a defensive coordinator. A defensive coordinator can inspire kids to play out of their minds, but if they’re not in position to make plays, the inspiration can turn to deflation. I think Coombs learned from last year’s challenges and holds Minnesota’s offense check. The Buckeyes beat the Gophers 42-14. 

Final Score:  Ohio State 45   Minnesota 31 

(19)Penn State  @  (12)Wisconsin

Andy: This is a tough one to predict. I think 2020 was an anomaly for both Wisconsin and Penn State, I believe they are much better teams than their record and performances may have lead people to believe last season. I’m extremely bullish on this Wisconsin defense, they return a bunch of starters with experience and I expect this game to be low scoring. Look for Penn State to take more shots deep down the field with their new coordinator Mike Yurich to try and get Jahan Dotson the ball.   Wisconsin 32 Penn State 24 

Coach Rick:  Wisconsin 

Cory:  It will be very interesting to see how this game between Penn State and Wisconsin unfolds. Last season, Penn State struggled off to an 0-5 start before closing the season with four consecutive wins. Wisconsin got off to a hot start thanks to the terrific play of quarterback Graham Mertz, but the Badgers missed multiple games due to a COVID-19 breakout in the locker room and never looked quite the same after that. For the Nittany Lions, the big question is what kind of production will they get out of quarterback Sean Clifford. We’ve seen it all from this guy and the inconsistency is what’s keeping this offense from becoming a power. He will be helped by the return of running back Noah Cain, who suffered a season-ending injury in the first game of the 2020 season. That said, Wisconsin is so tough to play at home and the Badgers have some talent of their own. Jalen Berger isn’t a household name yet, however, he could become that guy this season. Berger is not as big as Wisconsin running backs typically have been in the past but he runs just as hard and is a guy that’s going to get positive yards one every single play.   Wisconsin 27, Penn State 24

Dave:  Wisconsin 28  Penn State 21   

GreggWisconsin returns 17 starts and their most challenging games, at least on paper, will be played in Madison, including the opener against Penn State. Hard to believe this is the 7th year for Paul Chryst, and the 6th year for Coach Franklin, both have had certain levels of success in the Big Ten, but I think the fan bases are expecting more. Lincoln is not the only place in the conference where there is some attention on how well the teams do this season.  This will serve as a great litmus test for both teams and if the Badgers can get past the Lions and Irish, they may have a shot at a top 10 spot in the rankings.  For this game though I think the Badgers get it done in Camp Randell.  Wisconsin 24  Penn State 20 

Jason:  Graham Mertz is back but interestingly the Badgers don’t have the running back they are used to in Madison, only running for over 200 yards in a game once a year ago. The Badger defense will need to continue to be strong up front and allow Mertz and the offense a chance to get in a groove.  While Penn State’s defense is replacing a slew of starters, it’s still talented enough up front to force Wisconsin into 3 and outs early.  Unfortunately for the Nits and their rebuilding offense, Wisconsin’s defense is really good. As long as Mertz doesn’t make many key mistakes, and if the running game is good enough to control the clock and the tempo, the other side of the ball will take care of the rest. Penn State struggled a year ago to protect the QB and if that continues, Wisconsin will feast on defense.  Penn State’s QB, Sean Clifford is talented but does he have the talent at WR to open up the offense?  Ultimately, the Badger defense will be too much for the Lions and walk away with a solid season opening win.   Wisconsin 31 Penn State 20

Joe-S-U:  Wisconsin

John:  Is Penn State back, or did 2020 represent the new norm in (un)Happy Valley.  The Nit’s have a tough road opener as they attempt to bounce back from a sub .500 2020 season.  Come Saturday night the Blue and White will still be sub .500.   Wisconsin 24  Penn State 17

Josh: James Franklin has recruited well to be in the top talent-wise in the Big Ten, and suffered through a strange 2020 season where they did not meet expectations, and might have spiraled after a controversial decision of the touchdown against Indiana. Sean Clifford is back, and had another season under Mike Yurcich to develop. Graham Mertz for Wisconsin was never the same after his nearly perfect debut last year, as COVID cost him several games, but Wisconsin is still the team to beat in the West. This will be a good litmus test of where both teams are at, and it is hard to win in Camp Randell, but I can see Penn State winning a close one on the road with their passing attack.   Penn State 24 – Wisconsin 17

Steven:  QB play should be the tale of the tape on this one. I have not yet gotten any sort of good read on whether Nittany Lion QB Sean Clifford is any good. Certainly he doesn’t have a supporting cast that would strike a lot of fear in any opposing D Coordinator.  Any team is dangerous to be sure, but these Lion’s teeth seem to have been lost somewhere.  Once again, the strength across the line and their ability to keep the quarterback upright should put the winner over the top. I like Wisky’s line to give QB Graham Mertz the time to methodically dink and dunk against Penn State’s defense.  Wisconsin’s offense should plod along enough to grab the victory.  It may not be pretty, but it will be effective.   Wisconsin 28-19

TroutThis will be a very close game, but I am giving the edge to the Badgers. 2020 was a weird year for everyone and I think both teams poor showing is not a reflection on the programs as a whole. Both teams will be better this year, and both team will be fighting for a spot in the Big Ten championship game. Having said that, I just think the Badgers are the slightly better team. Right now, Paul Crist has his program running better than James Franklin does. They are not great, but they are mostly consistent. I think the game will be close, potentially ending with a last second field goal. It will also be a relatively low scoring game as well. In the end, the Badgers sneak by with a victory.   (Wisconsin, 17-14) 

Vaughn Broadnax (OSU 1980-83):  It’s hard to tell what kind of teams both Penn State and Wisconsin will be this year. Penn State played well last year, but seemed to literally come up short in games last year. Wisconsin started off with promise when Graham Mertz had an incredible season debut, but seemed to disintegrate as the shortened season went on. I am going with the upset.   Penn State over Wisconsin 28-17.

Final Score:  Penn State 16   Wisconsin 10

(1)Alabama vs. (14)Miami

Andy:  It is probably Miami’s luck they get Alabama for the first game of the season, that way they don’t have time to find their identity on offense under freshman Bryce Young. Alabama lost loads of experience and talent to graduation and the NFL, including the best running back in it’s school history (Najee Harris), it’s best receiver in school history (DeVonta Smith) and one of the best quarterbacks in school history (Mac Jones). They also lost some elite talent from their defense and offensive lines. Miami will have to have D’Eriq King absolutely show out this game if they expect to win.   Alabama 32 Miami 26

Coach Rick:  Alabama 

Cory:  The game between Alabama and Miami will get some attention because both teams are ranked, but let’s be clear – this will not be a game. Miami is nowhere close to Alabama. The Hurricanes have a terrific quarterback in D’Eriq King. King, who is back for his sixth, and final, season, suffered a devastating knee injury in the Hurricanes’ bowl game but has worked his way back to be ready to play this week, and if Miami has any hopes of pulling off the upset it will be on the arm and legs of King. The problem is Miami has a lot of young players on the defensive side of the ball. Alabama has to overcome the losses of quarterback Mac Jones, running back Najee Harris, and receivers Jaylen Waddle and Devonta Smith, but if there is any team that can reload after losing elite talent like that it’s Alabama. We finally get a look at the much-hyped Bryce Young at quarterback. It’s a bit much to expect him to outplay King, but Young doesn’t have to do it all since the rest of Alabama is so talented. Expect the Crimson Tide to pull away in the second half.   Alabama 42, Miami 24

Dave:  Alabama 38  Miami 10 

GreggAlabama lost way to many players to the draft last year not to have a drop off.  They should still be able to beat Miami but they will need to grow as the season goes on to make them the national favorite.  The ‘Canes may stick with them for a while if D-Eriq King comes back strong but in the end it will not be enough to overcome the defending champs.  Roll Tide!   Alabama 44  Miami 28

Jason:  While Bama is replacing a lot of talent offensively, they seem to reload every year and they are extremely talented on defense, especially at LB. The Miami offense is improved led by QB D’Eriq King. Back from a knee injury suffered at the end of last season, he’s Mr. Do it All for the Canes but Bama has the speed on D to keep him contained. The Canes are going to be good up front, and there are plenty of weapons, but the Tide’s speed on defense should take away King’s ability to beat them with his feet and force him to beat them from the pocket. King will very likely be the best player on the field but the story of this game will be the Bama defense. Offensively, Bama is replacing nearly everyone who led the Tide to the national title, including their offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian and the Canes may have the best pass rush in the ACC.  However this is Alabama and as long as Nick Saban is in command, don’t count them out. The last season opening loss was to UCLA back in 2001 and it’s not like they’ve been opening with mid majors every year. While Miami is better and will put up a fight for awhile, Alabama is Alabama and with that defense, they roll to another season opening win in attempt to defend their title.   Alabama 38 Miami 17

Joe-S-U:  Alabama

John:  Until someone is able to blow up the Death Star that is Alabama football I’m not picking against them.   Bama 31  Miami 17

Josh: The question in this game is not if Alabama will win, it will be about by how much. Miami is a decent team, but they have never been a challenge since 2002. D’Eriq King gives the Hurricanes a chance to make the score look better than what it is, but it seems Alabama gets these high-profile match ups where they just destroy their opening opponent. (Looking at you USC, and Florida State.) Bryce Young will get all of the attention for the Crimson Tide as he makes his first start, but with the talent around him, there are only 4 teams in the country that can compete with Alabama. Miami just isn’t one of them.   Alabama 42 – Miami 14 

Steven:  Every year it is the same, the talking heads do their best to promote the narrative that Miami is BACK!  Ya know, I get it, college football is better when you have storied programs living up to their past.  It makes the media’s job so much easier when they can talk about how a program is continuing a legacy of excellence. The problem is that Miami is about as back as Michigan or Nebraska are.  At least this year, the bloviation about Miami being in the mix will go away quickly, and the Hurricanes can go back to relative irrelevance.  Alabama will do what Alabama does, crush, crush, crush.  Tide 42-21 

TroutIt’s the Crimson Tide and it won’t even be close. Alabama is one of best teams in the country, even with their new starters. And I don’t believe the Hurricanes will be any good. Honestly, outside of Clemson and maybe UNC, there isn’t any good ACC team this year. Miami has been a shell of itself for years now, and I don’t think they will have the firepower to stand with Alabama. I think the Tide scores early and often with the game being basically over at halftime. (Alabama, 56-3)

Vaughn Broadnax (OSU 1980-83):  Alabama beats down Miami 45-10.

Final Score:  Alabama 44   Miami 13 

(5)Georgia  vs.  (3)Clemson

Andy:  I’m pretty bullish on these two teams in general, both return a ton of talent and a ton of experience. I think this matchup plays to both teams strengths.. so what are there strengths? For Georgia their offensive line and running back stable means they’re going to run the ball a lot each game. If JT Daniels struggles the Bulldogs should have one of the best rushing attacks in the country this season. For Clemson their offense will likely throw the ball deep a lot this season due to DJ Uiagalelei’s big arm and having a big time down field threat like Justyn Ross at wide receiver. This Clemson offense will need to attack the Bulldogs secondary as the strength of their defense will likely be their front seven. This also means no Travis Etienne for Clemson since he is now in the NFL. Clemson will likely call on true freshman tail back Will Shipley a lot this game as both a runner and a receiver, by all accounts he had an amazing fall camp and looks like he will take a lot of snaps with the first team this year. The one thing in this matchup I can’t ignore is the coaching staff really favors Clemson, in bigs games I tend to favor the coaching staff has better experience in big games. With two national titles and 6 playoff experiences in the last 6 years I have to go with Clemson in this one.   Clemson 31 Georgia 26

Coach Rick:  Georgia 

Cory:  For many years Georgia has been on the cusp of being a national championship team. Is this year the time when the Bulldogs finally make that leap? We’ll find out just how good they are when they open the season against Clemson. Quarterback play is the key to this game. Georgia features USC transfer J.T. Daniels, while at Clemson the Tigers have D.J. Uiagalelei taking over for Trevor Lawrence. Daniels took over in the middle of the season last year and looked impressive, completing 67 percent of his passes with 10 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Uiagalelei started a few games when Lawrence was out last year due to COVID-19, and although the Tigers lost in his start to Notre Dame he looked really good throwing the ball. For Clemson the big question is what will see out of the defense? The Tigers got exposed in their loss to Ohio State in last year’s playoff semifinal, and they have serious work to do in defending the pass. Despite that, Clemson has surrounded Uiagalelei with an immense amount of talent. If there’s one thing we’ve seen with Georgia it’s that the Bulldogs final a way to choke in big games.   Clemson 31, Georgia 28

Dave:  Clemson 42 Georgia 21   

GreggI am  looking forward to watching this one, should be a great game.  I don’t think the loser is necessarily out of the playoff hunt, but the winner should have a huge leg up for the quest for the playoffs. Both teams have some holes to fill but these teams are typically deep so don’t expect too much of a drop off. I do think it is time for Kirby Smart to take the Dawgs to the next level and that will start with this game.  Clemson will be breaking in a new starter at QB but DJ Uiagalelei did play a few games last season so he is not completely green.  The real question in this one is, which team has the best NIL deals?   Georgia 38  Clemson 31

Jason:  Replacing a talented group on offense is not only an Alabama issue, Clemson faces that same fate, losing the overall NFL #1 pick in Trevor Lawrence along with talented back Travis Etienne and coming off a season ending blowout loss to Ohio State in the playoff semifinal, they will be looking to bounce back quick.  It won’t be easy even with a load of talent on defense. Thee offense, led by QB DJ Uiagalelei who looks to be as talented as any QB in the country will be tasked to get the reloading started against a talented Georgia team.  He will need help in the backfield and although the Tiger O line is solid, they struggled to run the ball even with Etienne a year ago. Georgia QB JT Daniels will lead a Dawg offense that hasn’t been able to throw the ball in some time but Daniels has the ability to stretch defenses and expect the Clemson secondary to be challenged.  Both of these defenses are really good so it should be low scoring early while the offenses try to get in a groove. This has the makings of a potential CFP elimination game, especially for the Tigers, who don’t have the schedule that Georgia has. Uiagalelei will have some success throwing the football, but Daniels will have just a little bit more and a late turnover by Clemson will seal it for Georgia as the Bulldogs put themselves firmly in the driver’s seat for a CFP appearance.   Georgia 31 Clemson 24

Joe-S-U:  Georgia  

John:  The most intriguing week one match up.  Both teams have legit playoff aspirations.  Both teams also have a real chance of losing a second game this year, so while a loss in this game won’t eliminate the loser from playoff consideration it will leave no margin for error going forward. Should be a good one.   Georgia  28  Clemson 24  

Josh: This is the matchup of the week for obvious reasons. The team that has the most to lose in this one is Clemson, because a loss here could prevent them from making the playoff, even if they run the table, because they will be at the mercy of what happens to the other conferences, namely even the AAC if Cincinnati wins out and goes undefeated. Georgia seems to have an answer at quarterback with JT Daniels, but the wide receivers will be the weakness for the Georgia offense. If Georgia game-planned around the sign stealing of Brent Venables, the Bulldogs will have a chance, but Clemson has a really good quarterback in DJ Uiagalelei, and with Justyn Ross coming back, the Tigers will have a good mismatch to exploit. I see this game being more of a lower scoring affair, as defense will be on display in this one, and Georgia winning in the end.   Georgia 27 – Clemson 24

Steven: While I’d take Dabo Swinney over Kirby Smart in a coaching contest, this year Georgia may just have the horses to beat Clemson.  The Tigers have lost a ton of talent over the past 2 years.  While possessing tremendous talent, Clemson QB D.J. Uiagalelei hasn’t played much, (although, it is more than C.J. Stroud, so what am I worried about?), so there may be some bumps in the road.  On the other side, despite Smart’s inexplicable inability to manage quarterbacks, (sounds like someone from up North doesn’t it?), Georgia seems to have gotten a decent field general in J.T. Daniels, the USC transfer, now in his second year in Athens. As we saw in the semi-final earlier this year, Clemson’s defense can be had.  Their usually stellar defensive line is not what he once was, and their back-end can be beat.  Clemson’s defensive strength should be the linebacking corps.  If James Skalski can keep from spearing anyone, the Tigers have a shot.  I still like Georgia, though. Daniels and his cheesy moustache win it.  If he’s shaved it off, it’s anyone’s game.  UGA 37-24  

TroutPart of me wants to pick Georgia, because I don’t think Clemson will be as good as people think. I don’t see them reaching the heights they did with Trevor Lawrence. However, the Bulldogs have a tendency to lose in big games. They are always a team that has lofty expectations and never meets them. I think they’ll keep it close. Georgia is a good team, this will be a fight until the end. But, looking at their track record, I don’t see them pulling off the victory against the Tigers. I see the game being relatively high scoring, with the lead changing several times. However, Clemson is able to pull away at the end and win the game. Georgia disappoints again. (Clemson, 42-34)

Vaughn Broadnax (OSU 1980-83):  Clemson overpowers Georgia 35-17.

Final Score:  Georgia 10   Clemson 3 

(17)Indiana  (18)Iowa

Andy:  Indiana was one of the teams that benefited most from a chaotic 2020 season. It saw them upset Penn State early and nearly come back to beat Ohio State at home. Before losing star QB Michael Penix to a leg injury, the Hoosier offense had one of the best passing attacks in the entire country in 2020. With Penix back I expect to more offensive fireworks this season, but it won’t come easy in this matchup. Iowa has a way of making games ugly for their opponents, they return a lot of starters on their offensive and defensive lines which automatically makes them a tough team. I think if this game goes into a shootout it favors Indiana.   Indiana 31 Iowa 28

Coach Rick:  Iowa 

Cory:  It would not seem that a game between Indiana and Iowa would have much hype behind it nationally, but the Hoosiers and Hawkeyes both enter the 2021 season with mammoth expectations. If it weren’t for last-second rules change Indiana would have played in the Big Ten Championship game last season. The Hoosiers also get quarterback Michael Penix back from his ACL injury, and though he may not be 100 percent just yet, just having him on the field changes the game. Iowa opened the 2020 season with losses to Purdue and Northwestern and everybody stopped paying attention to the Hawkeyes. What those people missed was Iowa winning its final six games of the season (their last two schedule games were canceled due to COVID-19), giving up an average of just 13.8 points per game in those wins. Indiana won big games on the road last season and nearly upset Ohio State in Columbus, so playing at Iowa will be daunting but doable. Still, you have to wonder at just how healthy Penix is, and that is absolutely a huge factor in this game. Backup Jack Tuttle was an elite prospect in high school but struggled to move the offense consistently after taking over for Penixast season. If Penix isn’t close to 100 percent the Hoosiers could find themselves in an 0-1 hole to start the 2021 season.   Iowa 28, Indiana 20

Dave:  Iowa 27 Indiana 21

Gregg:  Indiana had an outstanding season in 2020, by Indiana standards.  They should have been proud, right up till when they felt they were the East Champs. Then their refusal to wear the Big Ten logo on thier uniforms in the bowl game sealed it for me.  The Hoosiers were crybabies, and of course they were the only team in the Big Ten to lose in bowl season.  Iowa on the othr hand opened last year with a 4 point lose to Purdue, and a 1 point loss to the eventual West Champs Northwestern.  After that they were solid, going 6-0.  I do think both of these teams will have a great season and this should be a great game, but I will give the edge to the Hawkeyes, hoping it will finally get the Hoosiers to stop whining about last year.  Iowa 31  Indiana 24

Jason:  Indiana QB Michael Penix Jr. suffered a knee injury late last season, but he’s back and ready to go as the main contender for dethroning Ohio State as Big Ten East champions.  Iowa will be able to run the football with Tyler Goodson as good as there is in the Big Ten West, but how well will first year starting QB Spencer Petras do throwing the ball to allow Goodson room to operate? If he’s able to throw with any efficiency to keep the front 7 of the Hoosiers honest, Goodson could have a big day.  The Hoosiers secondary is vulnerable to the pass, allowing over 240 yards per game through the air a year ago.

Most of the Iowa defense returns along with a talented secondary so if Penix struggles to throw, it could be major problems for Indiana. The Hoosiers are good, but they struggle to run the football and Penix will be forced to do it all.  As good as he is, the Hawkeyes will contain him enough to keep the Indiana offense from scoring at a high rate. The Iowa offense will pound the ground and control the time of possession and avoid turnovers to keep Petras from having to do too much and Iowa wins their season opener at home, dealing a tough season opening loss to Indiana who is trying to prove last year was no fluke.   Iowa 27 Indiana 21

Joe-S-U:  Indiana 

John:  How will the Hoosiers handle the weight of heightened expectations?  No longer able to sneak up on people, do they revert to norm?  While I think this is a good IU team, I’m not ready to tap them as the second best team in the B1G East just yet.  Iowa  21  Indiana 17

JoshMuch like the Penn State and Wisconsin game, this is another good Big Ten crossover game that will display what sort of team these teams will be in 2021. Indiana had one of their best seasons in terms of positioning for a potential Big Ten Championship game, but lost the game that mattered. Michael Penix Jr is back with one of his key targets Ty Fryfogle, and Penix will try and make some plays with his legs. I like what Tom Allen has done for the culture at Indiana, but this season to me feels like one where Iowa becomes a surprise team, and wins very close games all season. With this game being at Iowa, I gave the Hawkeyes a slight edge as they will have fans returning for the first time in a year, and the “Wave” will boost the morale for the black and gold faithful.   Iowa 24 – Indiana 21

Steven:  If Hoosier QB Michael Pennix Jr. can stay healthy, he could be in the Heisman mix.  The trouble is that the Indiana line has not been able to protect him enough, and Indiana has lost its leading rusher Stevie Scott to the Denver Broncos.  Iowa returns both their leading passer and rusher in Spencer Petras and Tyler Goodson.  If it weren’t for 2 tough season opening losses to Purdue and Northwestern by a total of 5 points, the Hawkeyes could have been undefeated. I doubt Iowa will have such a season this year as with a full summer of prep, the Big Ten West should be much better prepared, (except for Nebraska).  I really want to pick Indiana, but the smart money is on Iowa.  I won’t be surprised if Indiana pulls the upset, but I’m picking the Hawkeyes, 24-21

TroutI think the Hoosiers might win this game. Both Indiana and Iowa are good teams. They won’t be in the discussion for the playoff, but I do think both will make some noise in Big Ten this year. And I think the game will be very close. The talent levels are around the same level in my opinion. I just think Tom Allen will have his team more motivated. They were a touchdown away from winning the Big Ten last year. And I think they believe they can do it again. Its going to be a long, hard fight, but in the end, the Hoosiers, lead by Penix will eek out a victory over the Hawkeyes.  (Indiana, 20-17)

Vaughn Broadnax (OSU 1980-83):  Indiana upsets Iowa 27-21.

Final Score:  Iowa 34  Indiana 6

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