Free Press sports writers predict the winners of two Big Ten teams’ season openers: Michigan State vs. Northwestern (Friday) and Michigan football vs. Western Michigan (Saturday).
Michigan State at Northwestern, 9 p.m. Friday, ESPN
The Spartans beat Northwestern last season when the Wildcats were strong and Michigan State was feeble. Now the Spartans appear more formidable with an influx of transfers, and Northwestern has weakened following the departures of its top contributors. Expect Michigan State to leave Evanston with a win. The pick: Michigan State 31, Northwestern 20
This is a game of addition and subtraction. The Spartans have added a ton of talent, and Northwestern has lost a ton. On top of that, with so many transfers and turnover, this MSU team is a complete mystery. That can only help MSU coach Mel Tucker. The pick: Michigan State 24, Northwestern 21
SCOUTING REPORT:The scoop on Michigan State at Northwestern
BOLD PREDICTIONS:Mel Tucker’s 2nd team will look like Dantonio’s 2nd team
The new-look Spartans show an improved run game with Kenneth WalkerIII and Harold Joiner III and Horst making their impact felt. And MSU’s revamped secondary allows the pass rush to get home for three sacks while the defense wins the turnover battle. The pick: Michigan State 20, Northwestern 13
Tucker brought a bevy of transfers and freshmen. His team is more talented than it was a year ago. That talent is good enough to outlast the Wildcats and give Tucker his best win since beating U-M a year ago. The pick: Michigan State 23, Northwestern 20
PICKING EVERY GAME:Michigan State football game-by-game predictions
Western Michigan at Michigan, noon, ESPN
The Wolverines enter Saturday’s game with a perfect 7-0 record against Western Michigan and an overall record of 33-1 against Mid-American Conference teams. With a new quarterback, new defensive system and (largely) new coaching staff there are going to be kinks for Michigan to untangle in the early portions of Saturday’s game. But none of that would excuse a loss to the Broncos. Michigan may stutter early, but the Wolverines should pull away late. The pick: Michigan 37, Western Michigan 17
[ The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive content. ]
Michigan is breaking in a new defensive scheme and depending on an inexperienced quarterback to carry the offense. Western Michigan retains a lot of firepower from a high-octane attack in 2020 and has a bevy of returning starters on defense as well. There is potential for an upset. But the Wolverines are too deep and talented to lose their fifth straight game at home. The pick: Michigan 34, Western Michigan 24
WINDSOR:Why Jim Harbaugh’s return to his shirtless, steak-eating self is key for Michigan
BOLD PREDICTIONS:Cade McNamara won’t be only Michigan QB taking snaps
Don’t be surprised if this is close in the first half. The Broncos could put a scare into Michigan early. Eleby is efficient and doesn’t make mistakes. But Michigan has more talent and will pull away in the second half. The pick: Michigan 38, Western Michigan 24
The Broncos should have the best quarterback on the field. The Wolverines should have the best talent in most other spots. Despite a young defense, U-M does enough to hold on for a win. The pick: Michigan 31, Western Michigan 22
PICKING EVERY GAME:Michigan football game-by-game predictions
Follow the Free Press on Facebook and Twitter for more news.
Your subscription makes work like this possible. Get exclusive subscriber content and more here.