CollegeFootballNews.com Preview 2017 Season Predictions: What Will Happen In The Big Ten
Predicting everything that’ll happen this season in the Big Ten Conference.
What Will Happen? 5 Big Ten Predictions
1. Give It One More Year
The Big Ten is getting to an interesting place. The blue-blood killers up top will still be good, the midsection will continue to be strong, and at the very least, there’s a vision for the relative have-nots.
It’s possible to foresee Illinois all of a sudden turning into a defensive powerhouse under Lovie Smith – eventually.
You can look at D.J. Durkin’s recruiting classes and Maryland and see the program as a possible thorn in everyone’s side in the East – in a year or so.
Rutgers might be getting steamrolled, but it has a young coach in Chris Ash who’ll get plenty of time to build and build some more. This will still be the dog of the league, but it’s not Kansas-like miserable.
Indiana went for years as a Big Ten free space game, but now it has the defense to go along with the offensive system – if Tom Allen can keep everything going from the Kevin Wilson era.
And then there’s Purdue. The last thing any of the Big Ten big boys wants to deal with is a team their supposed to beat with an offense good enough to hang up 40 points per game, and that’s supposed to be what Jeff Brohm brings.
Throw in the possibilities of what P..J. Fleck might do at Minnesota, and the Big Ten has six programs that can legitimately look forward and see a positive future.
It’ll be a transition season in a lot of ways for all six of them, but give it another season and reassess in 2018.
2. On Wisconsin/On Wisconsin/Plunge Right Through That Line
As is the case with just about everyone when it comes to figuring out who’ll have a big season, it comes down to three key things.
Schedule, schedule, schedule.
Last season, Wisconsin started off against LSU. It had to go on the road to face Michigan and Michigan State, it had to face Ohio State, and then it had to go to Iowa before hosting Nebraska.
And that was all before November.
It looked like an unfair and unmanageable slate, but the Badgers survived and advance to the Big Ten Championship with just the two close losses to the Wolverines and Buckeyes that could’ve gone either way.
This year’s Wisconsin team is every bit as strong – if not better offensively – and it gets the big break of having a much easier road to run.
There’s no Ohio State this year. There’s no Penn State or Michigan State, either. If they can survive a trip to BYU – do NOT blow this game off; weird things happen in Provo – they’ll be 3-0 before getting a week off to prepare for Northwestern.
They’ve got to go to Nebraska, but after that, the toughest remaining road game is at Minnesota to close out the regular season.
They get Iowa and Michigan at home, face Indiana and Maryland from the West, and now, have no excuse with this team returning not to at least get back to the Big Ten Championship.
No, this isn’t a 12-0 talented team, but with this schedule, getting through unscathed is possible.
Of course to do that, Bucky has to beat Michigan, and …
3. You’re Sleeping On Michigan. Don’t.
It’s an easy narrative. Michigan failed to win the Big Ten title with a loaded team last year, and now it loses everyone.
Yeah, over 20 starters from last season’s team are gone, but Jim Harbaugh has built up the talent level overall, to go with the depth from last season about to shine through.
The Wolverines are still good enough defensively to pitch a gem against Florida in the opener, but it’s going to be a low-scoring slugfest. Win or lose, assume they get stronger and gain momentum as the year rolls on.
Cincinnati, Air Force, at Purdue, Michigan State, at Indiana. That’s not going to be a cakewalk, but Michigan should be good enough to survive and advance before having to go to Penn State.
Expect Michigan to have just one loss going into the final two weeks, going to Wisconsin and hosting Ohio State.
And this year, Harbaugh will finally get that win over Urban.
4. The Teams That HAVE To Win Now Are …
Michigan State in the East, and Nebraska in the West.
Even with the controversy, Mark Dantonio isn’t on any sort of a hot seat at Michigan State in terms of being fired – at least for right now. But if his team clunks again with another losing season – especially if it goes 3-9 – and everything changes.
6-6 would be good enough, a winning season would fantastic, and being back to Big Ten title contention would be a shocker. The Spartans will be better, but they’re not winning the East.
In the West, it’s time for the whole Mike Riley experience to start producing.
Everyone wants to see this work. Riley is one of the good guys in the business – he’s the type of coach to root for – but where’s the talent? Whatever happened to Nebraska as a national title-caliber program? Where’s the hope and vision to become the Big Red Machine again?
The Huskers certainly won’t be awful, and they’ll beat the mid-level to bad teams they’re supposed to, but will they win at Oregon? Can they take advantage of getting Wisconsin, Ohio State, Northwestern and Iowa at home?
The schedule is good enough to win the Big Ten West. The team might not be.
5. The Big Ten Championship Game Will Be …
Michigan over Wisconsin
It’ll be the Ohio State-Michigan winner vs. Wisconsin.
Penn State won’t be bad by any stretch, but can they fire up the same magic again? With games at Iowa, Northwestern, Ohio State and Michigan State, along with the home dates with Michigan and Nebraska, no.
Iowa will be an interesting player if it can at least split with Wisconsin and Nebraska on the road, and watch out for Northwestern if it can win in Madison in its Big Ten opener. But if Wisconsin can take care of home, it’s going back to Indianapolis.
The Badgers will beat the Wolverines the first time around on November 18th, but it won’t be easy. With the Big Ten title on the line – as well as a spot in the College Football Playoff – Michigan will take the rematch.
Where will everyone end up? For all of the Big Ten Bowl Projections?