Every Big Ten Team’s Storyline for 2017
What’s the main story to watch for every Big Ten team in 2017?
Here we go with the 2017 season. The Big Ten is primed to have another exciting and unpredictable year, so why not look at every team’s main storyline in 2017?
It has to be the changing of the guard with Tom Allen taking over as head coach for Kevin Wilson. We know he can run a defense, but how will he handle wearing the headset? How will Indiana fare?
Okay Lovie Smith, it’s time to start showing some progress. But will it happen? The defense has to get a ton better and the offense will need to find ways to utilize the talents of dual-threat quarterback Chayce Crouch.
There are wholesale changes with the coaching staff, and Nathan Stanley is taking over at QB. Can Iowa get through the changes and surprise us yet again? We’ve seen it before.
Can the Terps continue the climb towards respectability in D.J. Durkin’s sophomore year? The recruiting is coming along, but will it play out on the field with improved competitiveness against the more talented teams in the league?
Ten starters lost from the defense, and only five total on both sides of the ball return. Jim Harbaugh was brought in to restore the Michigan lore, but so far he has finished no better than third in the East Division. Can he show that rebuilding isn’t a thing at Michigan and do what everyone is waiting for in Ann Arbor?
The season was a disaster last year and the off-season woes included much of the same. Can the Spartans rebound from a miserable 3-9 campaign, and get back to contending with Brian Lewerke under center?
Row, row, row the boat gently down the Mississippi. Can there by any storyline bigger than the P.J. Fleck era getting its start in the Twin Cities? He’s a ball of energy and confidence. Will it rub off on the Golden Gophers on the field?
Can the ‘Huskers finally — mercifully, take the West Division crown again? Wisconsin is the prohibitive favorite, but folks are high on Tulane transfer Tanner Lee at quarterback. It’ll take more than that to get Nebraska back among the elite.
Ditto for the Wildcats. If there were ever a year in which Northwestern was set up to make a run at the division, this is it. There’s a ton of returning talent including quarterback Clayton Thorson and running back Justin Jackson. This could be your dark-horse candidate if only the Wildcats can stay away from their flaky ways.
What kind of impact will new coaches Ryan Day and Kevin Wilson have in the passing game? Day has been reportedly schooling Barrett on taking more calculated risks, and Wilson has supposedly brought more tempo and purpose to the offense in camp. Now, will it translate to game days and get OSU back in the College Football Playoff?
How will the Nittany Lions handle themselves with the target on their back, rather than coming from the ashes to win the Big Ten? The schedule is much, much tougher, but there’s enough talent to repeat if it can handle the load of expectations. Might there be a run at a Heisman trophy as well?
The big story has to be new head coach Jeff Brohm. He brings an offensive mind-set and pedigree to West Lafayette, and there are some pieces there to work with despite the abyss the team has been operating in for the last few years. Can Purdue be more competitive and show signs of improvement and hope?
Mild progress must be seen under Chris Ash. We know what kind of defensive mind the former Meyer and Bielema assistant is, but can he get the culture turned around in Piscataway? It’ll be a slow burn, so patience must be exercised. Making a bowl is likely out of the question, but two or three wins in Big Ten play would be a momentum builder.
Can the Badgers make the College Football Playoff? It’s all there for the taking with a schedule that has no Ohio State or Penn State, and Michigan at home. The talent is there, the coaching is there, and depending on how things shake out, the Badgers could be favored in all their games. It’s time to get it done.
Phil Harrison is the lead Big Ten writer for College Football News. Get his opinion and analysis all year long. Follow him on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFB