Northwestern (0-0) at Syracuse (0-0)
When, where: 11 a.m. Saturday at Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y.>
Radio: ESPN 1000 AM
What you need to know: Northwestern is perfect in season openers under coach Pat Fitzgerald in his six years. The Wildcats last played at Syracuse in 2009 and lost to the Orange 37-34. Northwestern is coming off a disappointing season where it went 6-7 overall, 3-5 in the Big Ten and lost its ninth consecutive bowl game. With Dan Persa graduating, Kain Colter takes over as the full-time quarterback for the Wildcats. Colter is 2-1 in his previous starts. The Wildcats may have the conference’s deepest wide receiver group. Their defense was suspect throughout much of last season and was an area of concentration in the offseason. Syracuse was 5-7 last season and returns starting quarterback Ryan Nassib and top wide receiver Alec Lemon.
Scott Powers’ prediction: Northwestern 35, Syracuse 24
Western Michigan (0-0) at Illinois (0-0)
When, where: 11 a.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill.
Radio: WIND-560 AM
What you need to know: The Tim Beckman era begins for Illinois. Beckman gets a familiar foe in Western Michigan in his debut. As Toledo’s coach last season, Beckman defeated Western Michigan 66-63. The Illini also played Western Michigan last season and squeaked out a 23-20 win. Western Michigan defeated them in 2008. Don’t expect for Illinois to overlook the Broncos for those reasons. Nathan Scheelhaase will be Illinois’ starting quarterback for the third consecutive season. The Illini are 14-12 with two bowl victories in the past two seasons. Illinois began last season with six consecutive wins and then followed with six consecutive losses. The Illini returns seven starters on both sides of the ball.
Powers’ prediction: Illinois 41, Western Michigan 24
Northern Illinois (0-0) vs. Iowa (0-0)
When, where: 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Soldier Field in Chicago
Radio: WYLL-1160 AM
What you need to know: Northern Illinois holds the longest FBS winning streak in the country with nine consecutive wins. The Huskies dropped three of their first five games last season and bounced to win nine games, including the MAC championship game and GODADDY.com Bowl. The Huskies are replacing starting quarterback Chandler Harnish and their entire offensive line this season. Jordan Lynch will take over for Harnish. The Huskies return 10 players on defense. Northern Illinois hopes for a different outcome at Soldier Field after Wisconsin defeated the Huskies 49-7 in Chicago last season.
Powers’ prediction: Iowa 37, Northern Illinois 20