CollegeFootballNews.com Preview 2017: Big Ten Preview
The 2017 CFN Big Ten Preview with the top players, teams that will surprise and disappoint, and shoes to fill.
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2017 Big Ten Preview
Welcome to the Golden Age of Big Ten football.
As much as longtime Big Ten fans might get all moist about the Woody vs. Bo days, the Big Two, Little Eight wasn’t a whole bunch of fun for the rest of the league.
Especially when the Big Ten was 5-20 in the Rose Bowl from 1968 to 1992.
Okay, fine, so the Big Ten is a brutal 2-10 in its last 12 trips to Pasadena, and Ohio State is still a dominant force, but overall, the league is stronger than it’s ever been – even with Rutgers and Purdue struggling.
There’s a fantastic mix of coaching talent ranging from the legendary (Urban, Harbaugh, Ferentz), to the young rising superstars (P..J. Fleck, Jeff Brohm, D.J. Durkin) to the NFL veterans (Lovie Smith, Mike Riley) to the big-time talent putting their stamps on their respective programs (Mark Dantonio, James Franklin, Paul Chryst, Pat Fitzgerald).
And then there’s what drives it all. The $.
Eight programs brought in $49 million or more in football revenue in 2015-2016, 12 brought in $30 million or more, and the cash machine keeps on making it rain with the expansion and Big Ten Network revenue continuing to make everyone happy.
Best of all, the league is more fun than it’s ever been.
Who could’ve seen Penn State rising up and taking the Big Ten title last year? How about Ohio State getting into the College Football Playoff without getting into the Big Ten title game? Northwestern and Minnesota pulled off stunning bowl wins, Wisconsin hit the seven-foot putt in the Cotton Bowl, and while Michigan and Penn State lost their high-profile New Year’s Six games, at least they were classics.
And Ohio State in the Fiesta … nothing to see here. At least the Big Ten is 3-for-3 at getting teams into the College Football Playoff.
This year, everyone will be in love with Ohio State and Penn State – and rightly so – and Michigan and Wisconsin will be in the mix for the Big Ten title, but Ohio State and Michigan haven’t been in either of the last two Big Ten championships.
There’s no forgone conclusion like there is in the SEC, ACC or Big 12.
Michigan State and Iowa proved they could rise up and come up with a powerhouse season, Wisconsin remains amazing, Indiana has turned from woeful into consistently solid.
Minnesota and Maryland look like they might rise up and rock under their young coaches, Purdue should be a thing under its new coaching staff, Illinois is an X factor under Lovie, and Michigan and Penn State are back to being Michigan and Penn State again.
And if it’s Ohio State vs. Michigan for the East title and, eventually, the Big Ten championship, that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, either.
It’s all working. The conference is doing everything the powers-that-be envisioned after expansion kicked in along with the new media environment. And it’s all going to keep on rolling.
Big Ten Team That Will Surprise
It’ll be all doom and gloom after losing almost all of the starters from a team that couldn’t get the job done last season. However, it’s not like the team is inexperienced. Most of the new starters saw plenty of time, the defensive production won’t be going anywhere, and there’s a hopeful chance the receiving corps is even stronger, even if it’s younger.
Get by Florida in the opener, at least split on the road at Penn State and Wisconsin, take care of Ohio State at home, go to the Big Ten Championship. Easy peasy.
Big Ten Team That Will Disappoint
Effort will never be a problem, and the coaching is more than fine, but for a program desperate to be among the college football elite again, it’ll be another year when it isn’t. With road games at Oregon, Minnesota and Penn State, and home dates against Wisconsin, Ohio State, Northwestern and Iowa, it’s going to be a rough run for a team without a ton of elite talent.
Game Of The Year
Nov. 25 Ohio State at Michigan
Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s the obvious big game in a season when Penn State will have its say in the East showdowns, Wisconsin hosts Iowa and Michigan, and Michigan State might just be Michigan State again, but the best rivalry in sports will once again be a really, really big deal. The winner will likely be in the College Football Playoff.
5 Big-Time Players Who Deserve A Bigger Spotlight
Five players who have been a bit under the radar on a national level, but should rise up and be among the season’s best players.
1. QB Clayton Thorson, Jr. Northwestern
2. LB Josey Jewell, Sr. Iowa
3. NT Conor Sheehy, Sr. Wisconsin
4. S Josh Kalu, Sr. Nebraska
5. LB Markus Bailey, Soph. Purdue
5 Big Ten Coaches On The Hot Seat
Five Big Ten coaches who’d better win this season. Being on a hot seat doesn’t necessarily mean a coach is about to fired – especially not in the case of some of the guys on this list – but the pressure is on to produce up to expectations and beyond.
1. Mike Riley, Nebraska
2. Lovie Smith, Illinois
3. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
4. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan
5. Chris Ash, Rutgers
5 Non-Conference Games That Big Ten Teams Had Better Take Very, Very Seriously
The Big Ten usually does a great job in non-conference play – Northwestern and Iowa key losses last year aside – but these five games are potential Group of Five landmines.
1. Nevada at Northwestern, Sept. 2
2. Arkansas State at Nebraska, Sept. 2
3. Western Kentucky at Illinois, Sept. 9
4. Middle Tennessee at Minnesota, Sept. 16
5. Cincinnati at Michigan, Sept. 9
5 Best Pro Prospects
1. RB Saquon Barkley, Jr. Penn State
2. DT Maurice Hurst, Sr. Michigan
3. DE Tyquan Lewis, Sr. Ohio State
4. DE Sam Hubbard, Jr. Ohio State
5. QB Clayton Thorson, Jr. Northwestern
5 Biggest Shoes To Fill
1. Michigan LB/S Khaleke Hudson for Jabrill Peppers
2. Ohio State S Damon Webb for Malik Hooker
3. Ohio State CBs Denzel Ward and Damon Arnette for Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley
4. Wisconsin RB Bradrick Shaw for Corey Clement
5. Penn State WR DeAndre Thompkins for Chris Godwin