No. 2 Big Ten
Don’t just assume the Big Ten is automatically one of the two best conferences in college football. At least not this season.
After three straight years of not getting its champion into the College Football Playoff, it might be tough to bust the streak.
Ohio State has the mega-star recruit talent – including at quarterback with Georgia transfer Justin Fields – to expect nothing less than a third straight Big Ten title. But can Ryan Day pull a Lincoln Riley and step in for a legend and make the situation even better?
Can he beat Michigan?
Everyone will be sleeping on the Wolverines, but they’re going to be every bit as salty as they were last season, and now the offense is going to be even better.
But it’s Ohio State without Urban Meyer, and it’s, well … Michigan under Jim Harbaugh. There are question marks.
Penn State’s quarterback situation just got weird with presumptive No. 1 guy Tommy Stevens leaving, the James Franklin has amassed enough talent to keep the program a player.
Michigan State isn’t going to win the national title, but it has a CFP-caliber defense again. Just a little more offense will make it a killer in the Big Ten title chase.
And then there’s sort of a problem.
Indiana will be better, but it appears destined to be around the five-win range again. Maryland isn’t going to be appreciably better under new head coach Mike Locksley, and Rutgers will be appreciably better without coming close to going bowling.
Will Wisconsin overcome the massive losses on the O line and be okay at quarterback?
Nebraska has talent and the right scheme, but it’s still a year away from being any sort of thought in the College Football Playoff chase, and Purdue is going to be fun, but seven-win fun.
Iowa will be Iowa. It’ll be tough every week, but will miss just enough to be amazing.
Illinois won’t quite be Illinois. It’ll get more out of the offense in what seems like Year 13 of a youth movement under Lovie Smith, but it’s not winning the Big Ten.
Northwestern will be even better than the Big Ten West champion version, but this time around the schedule is a whole lot nastier – at least early on.
At least for the Big Ten winner, the Rose Bowl is a nice prize to still go after – even if the top four teams in the country are playing in the CFP’s Fiesta and Peach.