When Ohio State drags ESPN’s Game Day crew into Bloomington on Thursday, it will be the first time a pair of Big Ten schools have opened the college football season against each other since 1996.

That’s not really why anyone cares about this game, though.

The real drama centers on the fact that former IU head coach Kevin Wilson will be standing on the opposite sideline after spending six seasons in B-Town building the Hoosiers into a back-to-back bowl team.

That apparently wasn’t good enough to mend the philosophical differences between Wilson and Indiana AD Fred Glass.

So Wilson left and shortly afterward drove across the state line to accept a job with Urban Meyer as the Buckeyes’ offensive coordinator.

That, as much as anything, explains why these two teams were matched up for this made-for-TV production on ESPN.

It also is why I consider the Buckeyes as the favorites to win another national title.

Wilson, of course, will be staring across the field at Tom Allen, who was his defensive coordinator with the Hoosiers last season and is now the IU head coach.

Since Allen plans to be his own defensive coordinator, the chess match with Wilson should be interesting. At least until Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett gets untracked running Wilson’s high-octane offense.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Ohio State at Indiana, 7 p.m. CT, Thursday, ESPN

Washington at Rutgers, 7 p.m., Friday, FSI

Ball State at Illinois, 11 a.m., Saturday, BTN

Florida at Michigan, 2:30 p.m., Saturday, ABC

Louisville vs. Purdue, Indianapolis, 6:30 p.m., Saturday, Fox

FAB FIVE

  1. Ohio State: Kevin Wilson joins Urban Meyer’s staff, bringing his high-powered offense to the Buckeyes.
  2. Michigan: Guess Jim Harbaugh’s starting QB and win a kewpie doll.
  3. Wisconsin: Badgers will again show how the west is won.
  4. Penn State: Nittany Lions’ defense will negate any chance at a title defense.
  5. Northwestern: Wildcats will need some help to make next step. 

THE PACK

6.Iowa: Hawkeyes will have to be good early – or else.

7. Nebraska: Huskers need a QB who can hit the broad side of a barn.

8. Michigan State: Mark Dantonio will be tested, but what’s new.

9. Indiana: Hoosiers are hoping Tom Allen can rise to the occasion as a head coach.

10. Minnesota: At 36, P.J. Fleck is the youngest head coach among Power Five schools.

11. Maryland: Terrapins still trying to find their way in Big Ten.

THE UNPROVEN

12. Illinois: Lovie Smith still searching for back-to-back wins in second season with Illini.

13. Purdue: For now, Jeff Brohm is a better coach than the Boilermakers deserve.

14. Rutgers: Scarlet Knights were shutout four times last season and outscored 450-188. Ouch!

BEARD’S PICKS

(All times Central; projected winners in bold caps)

Buffalo at MINNESOTA, Thursday, 6 p.m. BTN

OHIO STATE at Indiana, Thursday, 7 p.m., ESPN

WASHINGTON at Rutgers, Friday, 7 p.m., FS1

Utah State at WISCONSIN, Friday, 8 p.m., ESPN

BALL STATE at Illinois, Saturday, 11 a.m., BTN

Wyoming at IOWA, Saturday, 11 a.m., BTN

Maryland at TEXAS, Saturday, 11 a.m., FS1

Bowling Green at MICHIGAN STATE, Saturday, 11 a.m.,  ESPNU

Akron at PENN STATE, Saturday, 11 a.m., Penn State

FLORIDA vs. Michigan, Saturday, 2:30 p.m.,  ABC

Nevada at NORTHWESTERN, Saturday, 2:30 p.m., BTN

LOUISVILLE vs. Purdue, Saturday, 6:30 p.m., Fox

Arkansas State at NEBRASKA, Saturday, 7 p.m., BTN

Note:Each week during the college football season, I’ll be  updating how things are unfolding in the Big Ten by Wednesday, the SEC by Thursday and ACC by Friday. I covered teams in each of the conferences during my 41 years as a sports journalist and I’m not ready to give it up in retirement.

I welcome your feedback, either by commenting on this blog or by email at randy.beard@yahoo.com

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