This year’s predictions will mix things up a bit! Not only will Rule of Tree’s staff predict the Stanford/Northwestern game, but each writer also selected another game to predict as well!
Leave your pick in the comments and see how you do against the staff!
Northwestern at Stanford:
This is one of the least predictable Stanford seasons in recent memory—and I’m not just saying that because I have a newborn baby and haven’t been able to follow the team as closely! No, I’m saying that because it’s true. Bill Connelly is a master of analytics, but even he was befuddled when looking at this year’s Stanford team, declaring that Stanford could go anywhere from 12-0 to 3-9!
This game at Northwestern will offer us some very early data on what to expect in a season of the unexpected. My hunch is that when Stanford squares off against the Big Ten West champion, it will prove to be a back-and-forth, low-scoring affair. Both defenses should be solid enough, but the difference is on offense, where Stanford will be returning quarterback K.J. Costello and two of his three most explosive targets from last year (in yards per reception): Colby Parkinson and Osiris St. Brown. Although Northwestern will keep the game close, I expect Stanford to edge it out.
Stanford ekes out a close win, 27-21.
Middle Tennessee at Michigan
Perhaps I’ll have a bit of fun this season and bounce around among teams with a Stanford connection! Let’s start with Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan.
Since arriving at Michigan, Harbaugh is 0-4 against rival Ohio State, including an embarrassing 62-39 loss last year. ESPN’s Max Kellerman believes that Harbaugh’s consistently poor performance against Ohio State should land him in the hot seat.
I’ll respond to Kellerman’s scorching hot take with an ice cold one: Harbaugh won’t be fired this year. Not hot enough? Okay. This will be the year that Michigan makes the College Football Playoffs.
True, Harbaugh has historically struggled against rivals, going a combined 2-6 against Ohio State and Michigan State. But this year, he has both rivals in the Big House. He also poached Alabama’s offensive coordinator, Josh Gattis, to head up the Michigan offense this season. Along with Shea Patterson at QB, Michigan is also returning four-fifths of its offensive line and three explosive wide receivers: Nico Collins, Donovan Peoples-Jones, and Tarik Black. (And, who knows, we might even see some magic from Christian McCaffrey’s brother, Dylan McCaffrey, at backup quarterback!)
With the offense rejuvenated and the defense in elite form, I expect big things from the Fighting Harbaughs—starting in the game against Middle Tennessee.
Michigan 49, Middle Tennessee 7
Northwestern at Stanford:
Stanford is taking on a Northwestern defense in crisis and an offense that hasn’t decided its quarterback. The Wildcats listed two quarterbacks as the starter for Saturday. Two.
Stanford will be looking for new faces to produce, but also can trust quarterback K.J. Costello to lead this team to a win. Northwestern is a rudderless ship.
Stanford wins 28-17
Missouri at Wyoming
My not-so-random follow for the season is the Missouri Tigers.
I like teams that are playing up against bowl bans (the squad received the ban for ethical misconduct), especially when players stick around the program anyway.
This team will have a massive chip on its shoulder. Better yet, Missouri is led by a salty quarterback in Kelly Bryant who is out to prove why he is good enough to play anywhere, ahead of anyone.
Missouri wins 38-23
Do not sleep on Northwestern. It happened in 2015, and if Stanford is caught flat-footed in this game, they will undoubtedly lose. The reigning Big Ten West champs are better than we think. Yes, they lost their quarterback, but they will (likely) replace him with former five-star quarterback Hunter Johnson who transferred from Clemson.
They also return their top running back Isaiah Bowser, who shined as a freshman last year. To keep it simple, Stanford has its work cut out for them.
On the other side; K.J. Costello is the more experienced quarterback with a veteran line. And Conor Weddington returns after missing last season. Plus, Stanford still has Colby Parkinson at tight end, who is good enough to take Kaden Smith off the mind.
The offense will not be an issue this game or this season; instead, the defense will be the deciding factor. With only two underclassmen starting on defense, Stanford is better off than we think. Paulson Adebo anchors the secondary as an already established star, and Thomas Booker is a star in the making. The Cardinal defense holds off the Wildcats just enough, and Stanford wins 28-24.
Virginia Tech at Boston College
I don’t know much about Virginia Tech, but given that my school shares an airport with them, they’re the closest thing I have to a local football team. Who knows, maybe I’ll even go to a game this year. Traditionally, Virginia Tech has been pretty good while Boston College has struggled. I’m picking the Hokies to win 27-24.