Five Bold Predictions For The Big Ten West In 2017
We’ve already looked at five bold predictions for the Big Ten East. Now it’s time to go the other direction and do the same for the West Division for 2017.
No. 5 – Northwestern is going to surprise folks — in a good way
Yeah, your guess is as good as mine as to what we should expect with the Wildcats. The Northwestern program is one of the hardest from year-to-year to figure out, and sometimes game-to-game, or minute-to-minute. But I am betting on Pat Fitzgerald having a solid team this year.
And I’m not talking about just barely bowl worthy. No, I’m talking about contending for second, third, or even first in the division if things break right. QB Clayton Thorson took a huge leap in year two, and I woudn’t be surprised to see even more growth in year three. Throw in potential all Big-Ten running back Justin Jackson and multiple returners at key spots, and this team should be hard to handle.
No. 4 – Nebraska is still not ready to contend
There have been signs of life, but the ‘Huskers are still a ways away from contending for Big Ten title, let alone the division. The recruiting classes have slowly began to get better, but not to the level that Nebraska needs in order to be among the elite again.
Big Red may throw a wrench into things when Wisconsin comes to town in early October, but head coach Mike Riley is still trying to build things. It’ll be another bowl year in Lincoln, but not one that goes through Indianapolis.
No. 3 – Iowa will disappoint
If Northwestern is the poster child for inconsistency, then Iowa is in the foreground. The Hawkeyes are able to put things together it seems when expectations aren’t that high, yet stumble when things appear to be set up for a run at special things (queue up last year).
One thing is certain though; Ferentz’s teams seem to be directly tied to quarterback play. With C.J. Beathard gone, and the proposition of breaking in a new starting signal-caller front and center, expectations aren’t exactly getting a nosebleed. Maybe, that’s just where the Hawkeyes want to be.
No. 2 – Purdue will have a real, live football team
Lost in all the losing in West Lafayette over the last few years is the fact that Purdue actually has some decent talent on board. Markus Bailey is a stud that leads a very solid linebacking corps, and there’s a very solid combination at quarterback and running back with David Blough and Markell Jones.
Look, the call here is not to contend for the division. It’s not even to sniff a bowl game, but the compete level should go up substantially with the installation of the Jeff Brohm offense, and a retooling of sorts on defense. Teams going to play in West Lafayette will find an improved culture instantly. Now about those interceptions.
No. 1 – Wisconsin will make the College Football Playoff
The Badgers have been oh so close. The fans, administrators and players can almost taste it, but it’s just out of reach like a drink of water sitting just beyond in the desert. No more. This is the year Wisconsin quenches that thirst and elbows its way into the playoff.
There won’t be much of a drop off in defense with what’s coming back. And the offense? Now healthy on the O-line, it’ll be the bludgeoning opportunistic one we’re used to seeing. Then there’s the schedule that sets up nicely like a runway just waiting for departure. It’s Indy and more for Wisconsin in 2017.
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