Big Game Hunting: A little Peyton Ramsey will go a long way for Northwestern vs. Maryland
The graduate transfer, who threw for 6,591 yards and had 56 total touchdowns at Indiana, boosts a passing offense that was completely lost in 2019.
It has been a long time.
Too long? Not long enough?
Everyone has their own opinions about the perpetuation of sports during a pandemic. Add Big Ten football to the list. It’s back. Week 8 of the college football season is Week 1 for the granddaddy of conferences. Old is new, up is down — and away we go.
Hold on to your hats, people.
The games started Friday night, when Illinois played at Wisconsin. While the Illini try to build on a moderately successful 2019, Northwestern aims for a dramatic bounce-back from a brutal 3-9 season. Maryland (+11) at Northwestern (6:30 p.m., BTN, 890-AM) is an ideal opportunity for the Wildcats to get out of the chute well.
Each Big Ten team faces tons of uncertainty. With a nine-week window to squeeze in nine games, NU (like everyone else) is working without a net when it comes to COVID-19. If 5% of the team — or an opposing team — in any week tests positive, there will be a ‘‘no contest’’ ruling (no winner, no loser), and that game simply will not be made up.
Between the lines, though, the Wildcats are feeling a lot better than they did at this time last year. Why? They have a been-there, done-that quarterback in graduate transfer Peyton Ramsey. At Indiana, Ramsey threw for 6,591 yards and had 56 total touchdowns. Think he might help a passing offense that was — by far — the worst in the Big Ten in 2019?
Ramsey is being broken in by a new offensive coordinator, Mike Bajakian. NU definitely needed one of those, too. Bajakian has made the rounds since he was a low-level member of Lovie Smith’s staff with the Bears.
‘‘I think it’s a great fit,’’ Ramsey said.
Two things about the Terrapins: They played no defense last season, and coach Mike Locksley refused to spill the beans about his starting quarterback as the weekend arrived. It’ll be Lance LeGendre or — get this — Taulia Tagovailoa, Tua’s brother.
I’ve got Wildcats 27, Terps 19 in a sloppy but satisfying affair. As for the rest of the Big Ten?
Nebraska (+26) at No. 5 Ohio State (11 a.m., Fox-32): The national-title-or-bust Buckeyes are ready to hit the ground flying. That’s a hefty spread, though, considering the progress Scott Frost’s Huskers are likely to make in Year 3. Buckeyes, 45-24.
Rutgers (+13½) at Michigan State (11 a.m., BTN): It’s true — Rutgers is still a thing. But not really. Sparty, 30-7.
No. 8 Penn State (-6) at Indiana (2:30 p.m., FS1): Whoa — danger right away for the Nittany Lions. If the Hoosiers were in the West Division, I might pick them as this year’s Minnesota. Look, I said ‘‘might.’’ Nits by three in overtime.
Iowa (-3) at Purdue (2:30 p.m., BTN): Not having game-breaker Rondale Moore is a huge blow to the Boilermakers. Besides, they generally stink early in the season. Often middle and late, too, come to think about it. Hawkeyes by 10.
No. 18 Michigan (-3) at No. 21 Minnesota (6:30 p.m., Ch. 7): Too bad Minnesota can’t be this year’s Minnesota. (Sorry, it’s against the rules.) Wolverines in a fun one — let’s go with 27-21 — for the Little Brown Jug.
OTHER WEEK 8 PICKS
No. 3 Notre Dame (-10) at Pittsburgh (2:30 p.m., Ch. 7): About that Irish passing game — yikes. At least running the ball has become a strength. You ready, Kyren Williams? Irish, 20-17.
No. 17 Iowa State (+3½) at No. 6 Oklahoma State (2:30 p.m., Fox-32): Sounds crazy, but this could be a preview of the Big 12 title game. Cyclones with the upset.
No. 9 Cincinnati (+2½) at No. 16 SMU (8 p.m., ESPN2): It’s no joke — these teams are good. Mustangs quarterback Shane Buechele, son of former Cubs third baseman Steve, goes off in a 37-30 victory.
My favorite favorite: Oklahoma (-6) at TCU (11 a.m., Ch. 7): Forget about the unranked Sooners’ two early losses. It’s time to go off and get right back in the Big 12 race.
My favorite underdog: Syracuse (+46½) at No. 1 Clemson (11 a.m., ACCN): It’s the largest point spread the Orange have faced as an underdog. This one’s for Donovan McNabb.