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2017 BIG 10 PREVIEW AND PREDICTIONS

When you think of overall story lines with the Big 10, there aren’t many you can actually come up with that can make it more of a national interest story the way the SEC easily does. The Big 10 is simply going to come down to 3 games for the most part:

Michigan @ Penn St. on October 21st
Penn St. @ Ohio St. on October 28th
Ohio St. @ Michigan on November 25th

For those story lines to break right, Michigan will need to beat Penn St. in State College and then Penn St. will need to lose to Ohio St. in Columbus which potentially sets up Ohio St. @ Michigan with both teams being 11-0 for a shot at the Big 10 East division title and a chance at the college football playoff. Of course if Penn St. beats both Michigan & Ohio State, the story lines becomes all about James Franklin, Trace McSorely and Saquan Barkley. That itself is a redemption story for the program after the horrific Jerry Sandusky scandal that rocked the program and threatened to decimate Penn State football for good. Penn St. would not only have climbed out of the mire of that situation, but would practically be sitting on top of the college football world again.

But the real story of the Big 10 might not be the incredible talent of Ohio State or the 2 Heisman Trophy candidates at Penn State. It might not be the incredibly talented youth arriving in Ann Arbor. The real story of the Big 10 could unfold on the first Thursday night of the season when Ohio St. begins their road to the playoffs with a road trip to Bloomington, Indiana! The Hoosiers could determine the Big 10 if only marginally. All of this goes for nothing if Indiana loses (which is definitely likely) but what if the Hoosiers catch Ohio St. early and pull off an upset. IU ostensibly loses on the road to Penn State but they get a young Michigan team at home and what if Indiana manages to beat the Wolverines? Their only other road conference games are against Michigan State, Maryland, Illinois & Purdue. All 4 games easily winnable. If Ohio St. beats Penn St. and Penn St. loses another conference game, then Indiana could wind up being the Big 10 East champions! If that sounds insane it is because IT IS!

But if you are looking for story lines outside of the 3 obvious games between Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State then Indiana gives you your best potential story by blowing up the Big 10 East when nobody is expecting it. The Big 10 West could be interesting with Wisconsin, Northwestern and Nebraska all battling it out for the division title. Even Iowa potentially could make some noise and I think Purdue is going to surprise a lot of people this year with David Blough playing for new HC Jeff Brohm, but at the end of the day, Wisconsin, Northwestern and Nebraska aren’t elite teams and mostly like are nothing but fodder for whoever comes out of the East in the Big 10 championship game. Would anyone pick the Badgers, Wildcats or Cornhuskers any higher than 4th if they were playing in the Big 10 East?

Don’t get me wrong. A Wolverines, Buckeyes & Nittany Lions blood bath is MORE THAN ENOUGH of a story line to get everyone excited, but an under the radar Hoosiers squad provides just a hint of scandal that could push the Big 10 ahead of the SEC for national intrigue. It’s an exciting thought that would give the Big 10 more than 3 games to get excited about.

# TEAM BIG 10 EAST
1 Computer Hope Ohio State has averaged 12 wins per season since Urban Meyer arrived in Columbus and this year looks to be no different. JT Barrett returns as QB and is probably the best signal caller in the Big 10. The Buckeyes return an O-Line that features 4 starters from last season & RB Mike Weber also returns. They’ll need some receivers to step up, but this is a tough offense to stop. What separates Ohio St. for me is their defense & particularly their pass rushing duo of Sam Hubbard and Tyquan Lewis. Those two are potential All-Americans & are going to be cut loose as Ohio St. will typically have the lead. Too much talent.
2 Computer Hope If you liked Penn St. last year you should love them this year! The Nittany Lions averaged 38PPG and almost everyone returns on offense. Their O-Line should be stellar and they are blocking for arguably the best RB (Saquon Barkley) in the nation. Trace McSorley isn’t crazy accurate but he limited his mistakes. PSU will need to find a replacement for Chris Godwin on the edge. I think Ohio St. is ahead of Penn St. because of the edge rushers. Penn St. returns just 6 starters on defense & lost both their edge rushers from last season. They also draw Ohio St. in Columbus. They definitely have the ability to finish the season 12-0!
3 Computer Hope Indiana throws a wrench into things in the East by finishing ahead of Michigan and for good reason. Last year HC Tom Allen coached the defense and Indiana improved their D by 10.4PPG and almost 130 yards! The Hoosiers return 9 starters on that unit with some legitimate playmakers in Nate Hoff, Greg Gooch, Tegray Scales & Rashard Fant. It was arguably the best defense the Hoosiers have had since 1993 when Bill Mallory led IU to an 8-4 mark. Offensively IU gets WR Simmie Cobbs back & QB Richard Lagow could make big improvements. They draw Michigan at home after a bye week. They could win 10 games.
4 Computer Hope Jim Harbaugh closed the talent gap between Michigan and the rest of the country in no time. Michigan is arguably as talented as any team in the nation but their inexperience is startling. The Wolverines return only 4 starters on offense losing their top-3 receivers, their leading rusher & 3 starters on the O-Line. QB Wilton Speight returns & has some incredible talent to work with but how will they put it together? Michigan also returns just a single starter on defense & lose 7 of their top-8 tacklers. I love Maurice Hurst, Rashan Gary & Mike McCray but this team is young. They play at Indiana after hosting Michigan State. So 4th.
5 Computer Hope I thought HC DJ Durkin did a solid job taking a 3-9 team he inherited and getting the Terps back to a bowl game. I like what Maryland could do on offense especially if they feature RB Ty Johnson a lot more who averaged a ridiculous 9.1ypc en route to gaining over 1,000 yards rushing. DJ Moore is a solid piece on the outside and Maryland has quite a bit of talent on the O-Line. They’ll have to figure out the QB situation as Perry Hills graduated. Defensively, Maryland returns 7 starters and have some really interesting pieces like Jesse Aniebonam, Shane Cockerille, Jermaine Carters & JC Jackson. They’ll get back to a bowl.
6 Computer Hope Like their rivals Michigan, the Spartans are in for somewhat of a transition year as they return just 4 starters on both offense & defense. Unlike the Wolverines, Michigan St. is falling behind Ohio St., Michigan & Penn St. in the talent race. It’s instructive to note that Michigan St. & Mark Dantonio were wildly successful during the time that Michigan & Penn St. were faltering. That allowed Sparty to get a lot of kids who otherwise might have headed to those other two schools. Now that Jim Harbaugh & James Franklin have righted their respective ships, Michigan St. is sinking. Dantonio needs to figure out how to keep up.
7 Computer Hope Chris Ash has a tough road to hoe in New Brunswick as the Scarlet Knights finished up 2-10 last season and if they aren’t careful they could wind up 2-10 again this season. Rutgers has a talent problem and they aren’t going to be very successful recruiting if they keep losing double digit games a year. What is a coach to do? Hopefully hit the jackpot with transfers. Ash has done this with QB Kyle Bolin (originally at Louisville), WR Damon Mitchell (Arkansas), TE Jerome Washington (Miami-FL), WR Ahmir Mitchell (Michigan) and DB Ross Douglas (Michigan). It’s not a bad strategy but I don’t think it works in 2017.

 

# TEAM BIG 10 WEST
1 Computer Hope Tommy Armstrong was a good QB for Nebraska, but I think a QB like Armstrong hurts you just a bit because he limits your ceiling. He does enough to keep the job but not enough to push you towards championships. I’m buying the hype on Tulane transfer Tanner Lee. At 6’4/230lbs, he’s more of a conventional drop back QB and I think he fits with what HC Mike Riley wants to do on offense. The Huskers have a lot of talent on the O-Line so Lee should stay upright. The defense loses a lot but Freedom Akinmoladun returns & more importantly, Nebraska gets Northwestern & Wisconsin in Lincoln. The win the West.
2 Computer Hope I really like Wisconsin’s O-Line and think it is one of the best in the nation, but I think losing RB Corey Clement is going to be a tough loss and I’m not sure QB Alex Hornibrook is a game changing QB. At least not yet. I like the Hornibrook to TE Troy Fumagalli connection & WR Jazz Peavy has done a good job, but the Badgers are built on running and this questionable. On defense I think losing TJ Watt, Vince Biegel and now Jack Cichy is brutal! TJ Edwards is a beast for sure, but the Badgers have no proven edge rushers. They play at Nebraska the week after they host Northwestern. I think that game costs them the West.
3 Computer Hope I could easily see the Wildcats winning the West. QB Clayton Thorson isn’t the most accurate QB but the junior limits his mistakes on turnovers. RB Justin Jackson is a workhorse back that can grind a defense down and the O-Line has 4 returning starters along with all 5 projected starters being upperclassmen. Defensively the Wildcats bring back 8 starters from a unit that allowed only 22.2PPG a season ago & should be better. Replacing LB Anthony Walker is going to be very tough but NW should be fine. The problem I have with NW is them taking on Wisconsin & Nebraska on the road. However, they won those in 2015!
4 Computer Hope Iowa might be in somewhat of a transition season given that they are replacing their starting QB and breaking in a lot of receivers, but they return a veteran offensive line & RB Akrum Wadley who rushed for almost 1100 yards last year and averaged 6.4ypc! The projected starting QB is Nathan Stanley & if he can limit his mistakes, the Hawkeyes can play some smash mouth football. Defensively Iowa has to replace Desmond King &  Jaleel Johnson which is going to be very tough but they return 8 starters from a defense that allowed 19PPG. They have road games against Nebraska, Wisconsin & Northwestern.
5 Computer Hope I think Purdue surprises a lot of people and not only jumps out of the basement of the Big West, but jumps it by two places. If not for back to back road games against Northwestern & Iowa, I could potentially put the Boilermakers up to 4th. I’m a HUGE believer in QB David Blough & I think he’ll only get better under new HC Jeff Brohm. Purdue is pretty young offensively but RB Markell Jones can run a bit & Blough has a solid TE in Cole Herdman. The defense returns 8 starters on a terrible unit but LB Markus Bailey shows promise and frankly the D can’t get any worse. Getting Minnesota at home off a bye pushes them up.
6 Computer Hope I can’t wait to see how the Gophers “ROW THE BOAT” under new HC PJ Fleck, but this season might get away from the new HC as Minnesota has road games against Purdue, Michigan, Iowa & Northwestern while taking on Wisconsin and Nebraska at home. That could be 6 conference losses before the rowing ever gets started. The good news is that the offense wasn’t awful last season and RB Rodney Smith returns behind a decent O-Line. Minny breaks in a new QB in Demry Croft, but outgoing QB Mitch Leidner wasn’t great. The Gophers bring back just 5 on defense but DT Steven Richardson is a solid player in the middle.
7 Computer Hope Oh Lovie! Illinois is in for some heartache as the Illini bring back 5 starters from an offense that scored 19.7PPG and just 6 starters on a defense that allowed 31.9PPG. Smith had a tough road to hoe when he took over in Urbana-Champaign as Illinois hadn’t been good in almost a decade. The roster was depleted so it needs to be rebuilt. While Smith will hopefully depend on Virginia Tech transfer Dwayne Lawson to take over at QB, Smith is going about things a little bit different than Chris Ash at Rutgers in that he’s relying on recruits to build the roster up. The problem is that he’s not hammering the recruiting trail well.



BIG 10 CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

EAST BIG 10 CHAMPIONSHIP WEST
Computer Hope Frankly I think this game is going to get ugly. The Cornhuskers actually host the Buckeyes on October 14th so in some ways we should be able to see a preview of this game before it happens. Nebraska hopefully takes copious notes because on paper this looks like a massive pounding just waiting to happen. From an historical perspective I think it’s interesting because you get two historically great programs, but the on field product might be disastrous for Nebraska. Nebraska doesn’t have any chance to stop the Buckeyes in this one. Computer Hope
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August 19, 2017 Posted by | Big 10, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan St., Minnesota, NCAA, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio St, Penn St., Predictions, Preseason, Previews, Purdue, Rutgers, Wisconsin | Leave a comment

RANKING POWER-65 COLLEGE FOOTBALL COACHES – #50 to #65

Let’s get back into action with some college football talk. This marks the beginning of my ranking the 65 Power college football coaches in the nation. I looked all the head coaches from the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, SEC, ACC and Notre Dame. I took the last 5 years and looked at their records, conference records, history, recruiting efforts, bowl records and the overall trends of their team over these past 5 seasons. I’ll go in reverse order starting at the bottom and working my way up by 10 spots. This beginning post will start with the bottom 15. Here we go!

#65 – Chris Ash – Rutgers

Ash didn’t exactly walk into the best situation given the Kyle Flood controversy but in his first year in New Brunswick, the former Ohio St. DC finished 2-10 with a conference record of 0-9. His 2016 recruiting class also ranked #78 according to Rivals meaning talent isn’t pouring into New Jersey either. Most of Rutgers games weren’t even that competitive. In their games against Ohio St., Michigan, Michigan St. and Penn St., the Scarlet Knights were outscored 224-0! The Big 10 East isn’t the easiest division to play in, but good grief Rutgers can’t get HAMMERED like that. Ash probably has a little more rope but another 2-10 (0-9) season might spell disaster.

#64 – David Beaty – Kansas

Beatty has gone 2-22 in his first two seasons in Lawrence with a Big 12 record of 1-17. There has been improvement. Beatty went 0-12 his first season at the helm and improved by 2 games last season to 2-10. He also improved his conference record from 0-9 to 1-8. The powers that be at KU thought enough of that improvement to give Beaty a contract extension through 2021! Beaty did lead Kansas to their first win over Texas since 1938 and they came pretty close to beating Iowa St. and TCU! Recruiting it up a bit and Beaty has a chance to improve this ranking quite a bit. Sure Kansas only won 2 games, but in 2015, their average margin of defeat was 30.8 PPG. In 2016 it was 17.0!

#63 – Barry Odom – Missouri

Almost impossible to replace a HC like Gary Pinkel who had tremendous success at Missouri, but if there is anyone that knows Pinkel it’s Odom. Another positive about Odom is that there can’t possibly be a more dyed in the wool Mizzou Tiger than Odom himself. There will never be a lack of passion for Missouri football coming from the head coach! Odom’s first year as HC wasn’t a great one as the Tigers went 4-8 (2-6). That was the worst record the Tigers have had since 2000 when Missouri went 3-8 the year before Gary Pinkel was hired. Pinkel’s worst record in 15 years was 4-7. Odom has his work cut out for him and he needs to recruit better, but Pinkel did more with less so maybe he can too.

#62 – Bronco Mendenhall – Virginia

Mendenhall is a tough one to evaluate. His first year in Charlottesville was a disaster as the Cavaliers went 2-10 with a 1-7 conference record. I don’t think much was expected of Virginia in Mendenhall’s first season, but Virginia should have been at least comparable to their 2015 version which went 4-8. Instead, they regressed. Sometimes seasons can go sideways and that seems to be the case with Virginia. They shouldn’t have lost to FCS Richmond to open the season. They let road games at UConn and Wake Forest get away from them as well. Those 3 games turning to wins would have at least allowed UVA to get to 5-7. There is a lot of room to move up this season for Mendenhall.

#61 – Lovie Smith – Illinois

Before last season, the last time Lovie Smith coached in the college ranks was 1995 when he was DB coach for Ohio State. He was the head coach for the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers for 11 years leading the Bears to a Super Bowl in 2006, so it was quite an odd move that Smith would leave the NFL for collegiate football and all the headaches involved with recruiting 16 and 17 year old boys. Smith got a rude awakening his first season. The Illini finished 3-9 (2-7) with one of their wins coming against Murray State. The games weren’t even that competitive and Smith didn’t exactly tear it up on the recruiting trail. With Jeff Brohm and PJ Fleck joining the Big 10 West, it’s not getting any easier.

#60 – Dino Babers – Syracuse

Babers was an assistant coach for almost 30 years before he finally got his shot at Eastern Illinois and made the most of it. He went 19-7 with EIU winning back-to-back Ohio Valley Conference championships. He parlayed that job into the head coaching gig at Bowling Green and did well there too. Babers posted an 18-9 record with the Falcons, winning the MAC East in both years and the MAC championship in 2015. He traded that job for a Power-5 conference job with Syracuse. Unfortunately for Babers, he didn’t do as well at Syracuse as he did with EIU and BG. A 4-8 (2-6) record wasn’t fantastic and Babers didn’t kill it on the recruiting trail either. He still has plenty of time left.

#59 – Justin Wilcox – California

Wilcox has never been a head coach but for the last 11 years he’s been the defensive coordinator for Boise St., Tennessee, Washington, USC & Wisconsin. In those seasons here is how his defenses ranked in scoring defense:

2006: #20 (Boise St.)
2007: #26 (Boise St.)
2008: #3 (Boise St.)
2009: #13 (Boise St.)
2010: #56 (Tennessee)
2011: #36 (Tennessee)
2012: #39 (Washington)
2013: #29 (Washington)
2014: #46 (USC)
2015: #50 (USC)
2016: #4 (Wisconsin)

Clearly Wilcox has a track record of success which is good for Cal because the Bears haven’t had anything resembling a decent defense these past 5 seasons. Losing QB Davis Webb will be tough, but Wilcox will do a good job if he can keep Cal from giving up 40PPG.

#58 – Tom Allen – Indiana

Allen did a stellar job as a defensive coach at Ole Miss and South Florida before coming onto Kevin Wilson’s staff last season as the defensive coordinator. Allen didn’t disappoint, improving the Hoosiers’ scoring defense by 10PPG! That’s good news for Indiana as their problem has always been on the defensive side of the football. Allen has never been a head coach and his ascension to the throne was somewhat odd in light of the dismissal of former HC Kevin Wilson, but I think Indiana is in a much better place with Allen leading the charge than with Wilson, even if Wilson guided the Hoosiers to back-to-back bowl appearances. It doesn’t get any worse than the Big 10 East, but Allen has started recruiting well which is a good beginning.

#57 – D.J. Durkin – Maryland

Durkin’s first year in Maryland doesn’t look horrible when you consider the Terps were 6-6 during the regular season and getting bowl eligible before losing the bowl game to finish 6-7. A deeper look is a little more rough as Maryland started the season 4-0 against garbage competition and then finished 2-6 in their final 8 with wins over Rutgers & Michigan State, two team who combined for a 1-17 conference record. That’s hardly awe inspiring. Maryland also lost to Ohio St., Michigan and Nebraska by a combined score of 149-13. That’s not Rutgers territory, but it’s not great either. Durkin is recruiting well in College Park and he’s in a fertile recruiting ground which makes it easier. Still a lot of room to make up on Ohio St., Michigan & Penn State.

#56 – Ed Orgeron – LSU

I get the pull of Orgeron being a Louisiana native and who in their right mind isn’t in love with the guy, but I wonder if LSU made the right call in bringing their native son back home to head up the Bayou Bengals? For Orgeron, this is a shot at redemption. There is no question that Orgeron can recruit with the best of them and he’s in a prime spot to bring in a top-5 class annually. There is also no question that Orgeron is a helluva defensive coach as well and the Tigers will most certainly have his fingerprints all over their defensive identity. The question will be whether or not Orgeron can pull it all together. He’ll need a strong staff around him, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Orgeron will get it done.

#55 – Matt Campbell – Iowa State

It wasn’t a banner year in Matt Campbell’s first year in Ames has head coach of the Cyclones, but the 3-9 record hid some exciting trends. The Cyclones let a close to Northern Iowa get away from them but they also played Oklahoma, Kansas St., Oklahoma St., and Baylor very close. ISU picked up conference wins over Kansas & Texas Tech, even beating the Red Raiders 66-10 which was Iowa St., most lopsided win since the Cyclones beat Colorado St. 69-0 back in 1980! Campbell is young and energetic. He had tremendous success at Toledo and he has recruiting trending the right direction. There is no reason to believe that Iowa St. can’t be a bowl eligible team on a yearly basis under his watch.

#54 – Matt Rhule – Baylor

Hard to argue with Rhule’s bonafides. His first year at Temple was 2-10. His 3rd year the Owls were 10-4 and AAC East champions. His 4th year they were 10-3 and AAC Champions! The only thing that was tough to argue about Rhule was his taking the Baylor job to begin with. Rhule is a Penn St. graduate and all of his experience is just not east, but east of Ohio! Now he’s smack in the middle of Texas against some HEAVY HITTERS in Texas, Texas A&M, TCU, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. That’s not easy, and I’m not even mentioning the inroads that places like Notre Dame, Alabama and LSU have made the Lone Star State. Rhule will definitely have the Bears playing outstanding defense early.

#53 – Will Muschamp – South Carolina

I’m probably being a little hard on Muschamp here seeing how in his first season he took the Gamecocks to bowl eligibility when nobody except the most dedicated Gamecocks fans though SC would do anything but finish in the basement of the SEC East. My only caveat is that South Carolina and Muschamp worked the schedule which allowed SC to finish 6-6 and get to a bowl. Their non-conference wins included those against East Carolina, UMass and Western Carolina. Missouri was in the tank last year and Vanderbilt wasn’t great so there is 5 wins there. An upset win, which they got over Tennessee, was all SC needed. Muschamp will recruit well enough. Let’s see how his 2nd stint through the SEC East goes.

#52 – Jeff Brohm – Purdue

Brohm wasted little time building off of what Willie Taggart and Bobby Petrino did before him at Western Kentucky. Brohm finished his time in Bowling Green with a 30-10 record with a 19-5 mark in Conference USA play. In his last two seasons at WKU, Brohm led the Hilltoppers to a 22-5 mark including 2 bowl wins and a CUSA record of 15-1 which led to back-to-back conference championships. Brohm had Western Kentucky’s offense flying and the Hilltoppers actually led all of FBS in scoring offense in 2016. Brohm inherits a mess at Purdue, but he’ll get the offense rolling and if the defense follows suit, the Boilermakers could definitely start making noise in the Big 10 West.

#51 – Steve Addazio – Boston College

Addazio’s a tough one to figure out. I think what you have to wonder is what kind of ceiling does a program like Boston College really have? Addazio has went 7-6 in 3 of his 4 years on Chestnut Hill and is 1-2 in bowl games. That’s isn’t terrible when you consider that BC plays in the same division as Clemson, Florida St., and Louisville. In reality, BC is probably looking at a ceiling like 8-4/9-3 and Addazio is pretty close to having the Eagles at this mark with some aspect of sustainability. I think he could recruit better to be sure. Boston College should be able to get better players than what they have. Matt Ryan & Doug Flutie showed how good BC can be when they get elite level talent on the roster.

#50 – Rich Rodriguez – Arizona

Rodriguez is better than this but his teams certainly aren’t playing like it. Rodriguez had somewhat of a breakthrough in 2014 when the Wildcats went 10-4 and won the Pac 12 North, but it was colored a bit by a 51-13 loss to Oregon in the Pac 12 Championship game followed up by a 38-30 loss to Boise St. in the Fiesta Bowl. In 2015 the Wildcats dropped to 7-6 and last year Arizona completely collapsed finishing 3-9 with a 1-8 mark in conference play! Arizona’s conference record over the past two seasons is 4-14 and Rodriguez’s recruiting classes have been trending downward. USC seems to be stabilizing under Clay Helton. Colorado is emerging. That doesn’t play well for RichRod in the Pac 12 South.

May 14, 2017 Posted by | ACC, Arizona, Baylor, Big 10, Big XII, Boston College, California, Coaching, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa St., Kansas, LSU, Maryland, Missouri, Pac 12, Purdue, Rankings, Rutgers, SEC, South Carolina, Syracuse, Virginia | 5 Comments

2016 PRESEASON ALL-BIG 10 TEAMS

POS TEAM FIRST TEAM OFFENSE
QB Computer Hope John O’Korn: The obvious choice here is JT Barrett, but I think Korn is going to be 1st Team All-Big 10 at QB because he’s going to put up gigantic numbers due to the skill athletes he can utilize. O’Korn originally played at Houston where he was a freshman starter & threw for 3000+ yards with 28TD. He was around the program last season so he’s now familiar with all the concepts of the Harbaugh system. While Harbaugh typically runs a pro-style offense, I think O’Korn is going to chuck it because of Jehu Chesson, Amara Darboh, Jake Butt, DeVeon Smith, Ty Isaac, & Grant Perry. Michigan returns 4 starters on the O-Line and a fantastic recruiting class full of skill players. O’Korn will impress!
RB Computer Hope Saquon Barkley: Last season, Barkley didn’t figure to be in the RB rotation early on as the Nittany Lions had Akeel Lynch returning, but Barkley got in the 2nd week against Buffalo & made the most of it rushing for 115yds/1TD on 12 carries. He followed that up with a 195yds/2TD performance against Rutgers & never looked back en route to rushing for 1,076 yards & 7TD in his true freshman season! Barkley is made to play at RB at 5’11/225lbs. A shifty threat with speed, Barkley is also a threat out of the backfield totaling 20 catches for 161yds. Barkley missed 2 complete games & parts of 2 others which means he probably left 300-400 yards out there due to injury. He should have a monster season in ’16.
RB Computer Hope Corey Clement: Clement returns for his senior season at Wisconsin which I think is a solid move given his injury struggles last season with the Badgers. Clement only ran the ball 48 times last year but was never really healthy. He was relatively healthy against Rutgers last year & blasted them for 115yds/3TD on only 11 carries. He played well against USC in the Holiday Bowl helping the Badgers grind out a 23-21 victory that ensured 10-win season in HC Paul Chryst’s first year in Madison. It’s easy to forget that as a sophomore Clement averaged 6.5ypc with almost 1,000 yards backing up Melvin Gordon. Wisconsin has 4 starters back on the O-Line & their run game is always amazing so health is key for Clement.
WR Computer Hope Jehu Chesson: Chesson made a pretty big splash as a freshman in 2013 catching 15 balls for 221yds & a TD. His role was thought to expand in 2014 but with the emergence of Jake Butt & Amara Darboh he fell behind. Last season Chesson really broke out as Michigan’s #1 WR catching 50 balls for 764 yards & 9TD as Jake Ruddock came to Ann Arbor and found a favorite receiver. The end result was Chesson being a 1st Team All-Big 10 receiver. The fireworks could get even bigger with John O’Korn taking over as QB. Chesson could be in for a monster year and at 6’3/200lbs, he’s definitely in the running to be a first team All-American. Michigan’s offense is going to be powerful. Chesson will be a big reason why.
WR Computer Hope Simmie Cobbs: An unheralded recruit out of Illinois, Cobbs exploded on the scene last year in Bloomington catching 60 balls for 1,035 yards which averages to 17.2ypc. Cobbs is huge at 6’4/220lbs with IDEAL size as a #1 WR. He also has the ability to take it to the house with the ball in his hands. The only thing Cobbs didn’t do well last year was get into the endzone with regularity. The Hoosier wideout found the paint just 4 times despite QB Nate Sudfeld throwing 27TDs. Sudfeld’s in the NFL now, but Kevin Wilson has this offense rolling. I could see Cobbs improving again on his numbers and finding the endzone even more. Cobbs has a chance to be historically great for the Hoosiers if he can stick around for 4-years.
WR Computer Hope Chris Godwin: Godwin broke out last season becoming Christian Hackenberg’s go-to receiver piling up 1,101 yards & 5TD on 69 receptions. A big time recruit out of high school, Godwin got onto the field regularly in 2015 & proved the hype was real. Penn St. is loaded at receiver this year with DaeSean Hamilton & Saeed Blacknall joining Godwin at WR while Mike Gesicki’s role should increase as well. Penn St. has to figure out who is going to be throwing the ball however. Will it be rSO Trace McSorley who saw very limited action last year or will it be rFR Tommy Stevens who at 6’5/225lbs is turning into a physical specimen that looks every bit the part of an NFL QB? Godwin can match last year’s numbers.
TE Computer Hope Jake Butt: If OJ Howard would have turned pro last year, Butt would be the far and away pick for 1st Team All-American TE this year. Even with Howard back at Alabama, Butt is going to make things extremely interesting as Michigan’s offense looks to be incredible & Butt should see an insane amount of mismatches that will allow him to take advantage of the defense. At 6’6/250lbs, the Wolverine is already a load to deal with & last year he finally lived up to his potential catching 51 passes for 654 yards & 3TD. He’s a redzone nightmare & I believe with John O’Korn coming in to play QB, Michigan is going to throw the ball early & often. I could easily see Butt going over 1,000 yards receiving with 10TD.
OC Computer Hope Pat Elflein: Taylor Decker got a lot of well deserved hype last season about being one of the best left tackles in college football, but Pat Elflein was no slouch himself becoming an All-American last year at right guard for the Buckeyes & playing a important role in how good Ezekiel Elliott and the Buckeyes ground game turned out to be in 2015. Urban Meyer hit the lottery when Elflein decided to return to Columbus for his rSR year. Elflein is a 2-year starter with 29 career starts. Ohio St. is moving the 6’3/300lbs interior lineman to center this year to replace the departed Jacoby Boren. Elflein enters the season as arguably the best interior lineman in the country and will do a great job moving from RG to C.
OL Computer Hope Dan Feeney: It sounds amazing to say this but Dan Feeney has the opportunity to give the Indiana Hoosiers a player on the All-American team for the 3rd straight year! In 2014, RB Tevin Coleman was a 1st team selection while last year both Feeney & LT Jason Spriggs  were 3rd Team All-Americans. Like Elflein, Feeney is a rSR with loads of experience. He’s been anchoring the Hoosier O-Line since he set foot on campus & has made 37 career starts. Feeney has been a key blocker the last two years as he’s led the way for one 2,000 yards rusher (Tevin Coleman) & then last year helped both Jordan Howard & Devine Redding to 1,000 yard seasons. Feeney enters the season as arguably the best guard in the nation.
OL Computer Hope Erik Magnuson: If you look at a picture of Erik Magnuson, you definitely come away with the thought that this guy plays tackle at Michigan. At 6’6/310lbs, Magnuson looks & plays the part of a big time tackles at the collegiate level. He garnered 2nd team All-Big 10 honors a year ago at RT and will return to the position in 2016 to protect one side of the line for new QB John O’Korn. The senior has 24 career starts & don’t be surprised to see his role expand. The Wolverines lost C Graham Glasnow last year to the NFL draft & they are moving LT Mason Cole to center as Grant Newsome takes over at LT. Magnuson will anchor what should be an outstanding O-Line in Ann Arbor. He’s an all-conference player for ’16.
OL Computer Hope Billy Price: How amazing is the talent in Columbus? Both Elflein and Billy Price are legitimate All-American candidates this year & they are being moved off their positions to make room for young talented players the Buckeyes have coming in! Price  started at LG as a freshman and sophomore. He has 28 career starts despite being only a junior this year, but like Elflein he is switching positions moving from LG to RG. At 6’4/315lbs, Price has ideal size to play in the interior and he’s tough as nails. Price was a 2nd Team All-Big 10 player last season & has been a integral part of Ohio St.’s running during the Ezekiel Elliott era. He gives Ohio St. the chance to put two interior lineman on the All-American team.
OL Computer Hope Dan Voltz: The Big 10 is FILTHY rich when it comes to interior lineman. Voltz joins Elflein, Freeney & Price as Big 10 guys who have very good chances at being a 1st Team All-American by the time the 2016 season concludes. Voltz dealt with some injuries last season which kept him to 7 starts, but in 2014 he started 14 games for the Badgers and garnered 2nd Team All-Big 10 honors. Voltz has 28 career starts all at center, but this year the Badgers are moving him to LG to give way to Michael Deiter who played center in Voltz’s absence last season. With Elflein at center, Voltz combines with Feeney to arguably give the Big 10 the 2 best guards in the nation. I think Voltz stays healthy & is big this season.

2ND TEAM OFFENSE

QB-JT Barrett/Ohio St.: Everyone else’s pick to be 1st Team Big 10, Barrett is the no doubt QB1 for the Buckeyes and I think he’s going to put up video game numbers.
RB-Justin Jackson/Northwestern: A workhorse back last year rushing for 1,418yds/5TD but averaging just 4.5ypc. At 5’11/190lbs, he could stand to get a little bigger.
RB-LJ Scott/Michigan St.: The 6’0/240lbs BEAST was a true frosh last year & ran for 699yds/11TD! Can’t wait for the encore but he’ll be splitting time for carries.
WR-Jordan Westerkamp/Nebraska: Westerkamp has the chance to become Nebraska’s all time leading receiver this year if he can go for 742 yards. He’ll get it done.
WR-DaeSean Hamilton/Penn St.: The 6’1/206lbs junior could just have easily been a 1st team selection. Penn St. receivers should light up the scoreboard this year.
WR-Amara Darboh/Michigan: Excellent size at 6’2/215lbs. A lot of eyes will be on Chesson this season, but Darboh is an NFL talent in his own right & he’ll be big.
TE-George Kittle/Iowa: Great receiving skills at 6’4/246lbs. Kittle is CJ Beathard’s safety valve. He led the team in TD receptions last year with 6. He’ll top that number.
OC-Brian Allen/Michigan St.: Like Elflein, moving to center from the guard position. Like Elflein, will be outstanding at the new position with All-American talent.
OL-Kyle Kalis/Michigan: Three year starter with 30 career starts under his belt. One of 3 seniors returning for Big Blue & one of 4 returning starters on the O-Line.
OL-Chris Muller/Rutgers: Huge for a guard at 6’6/320, Muller is a 3-year starter with 37 career starts. Muller is the best of a Rutgers O-Line that I think is underrated.
OL-Michael Dunn/Maryland: 37 career starts for the 6’5/312lbs senior from Bethesda MD. The 37 career starts were consecutive but missed season finale last year.
OL-Brendon Mahon/Penn St.: Very talented interior lineman with tremendous size at 6’4/320lbs. The junior has 20 career starts & should anchor PSU’s interior line.

3RD TEAM OFFENSE

QB-CJ Beathard/Iowa: Threw for 2800+ yards last year with only 5INT to go with 61.6% completion rate. Beathard puts up numbers despite Iowa being run heavy.
RB-Shannon Brooks/Minnesota: The true frosh split time with Rodney Smith last year but at 6’0/210lbs, he can be an every down back the Gophers need on offense.
RB-Markell Jones/Purdue: 3rd Team All-Big 10 as a frosh last year with 875 rushing yards to go along with 10TD. He’s a weapon out of the backfield too. Big upside!
WR-Malik Turner/Illinois: QB Wes Lunt is going to want to throw the ball early & often & Turner should be the main beneficiary as he’s likely Lun’t go to receiver.
WR-Brandon Reilly/Nebraska: The 6’2/200lbs senior has big play ability & averaged 18.9ypc last season. With Westerkamp around he should see single coverage a lot.
WR-Mitchell Paige/Indiana: For all the Hoosiers get wrong, they get right on offense. Paige is the perfect slot receiver for them at 5’7/175lbs. He’ll get plenty of balls.
TE-Josiah Price/Michigan St.: The 6’4/260lbs senior could make a case for being on the first team. Should easily settle into the role of Tyler O’Connor’s safety valve.
OC-Mason Cole/Michigan: 25 starts & only a junior, Cole anchored Michigan’s OL at LT in a season where the Wolverines QB was sacked just 18 times. Moves to center.
OL-Andrew Nelson/Penn St.: Ideal length at 6’6/310lbs, Nelson is a 2-year starter and will be given the job of protecting the blindside of either McSorley or Stevens.
OL-Dimitric Camiel/Indiana: Jason Spriggs’ counterpart on the right side last season, Camiel is HUGE at 6’7/310lbs. He can run block & pass protect. He’ll open eyes.
OL-Nick Gates/Nebraska: Gates is a rSO who started 10G last year at RT. This year he moves to LT to protect Tommy Armstrong & anchor a line returning just 2 starters.
OL-Ben Braden/Michigan: Huge interior lineman at 6’6/322lbs. Braden is the 4th Michigan O-Lineman on my first three All-Big 10 teams. Yeah, this line is exceptional.

4TH TEAM OFFENSE

QB-David Blough/Purdue: Compared to Drew Brees because he’s short, plays for Purdue & is from Texas. He’s MUCH better than you know. I wouldn’t sleep on him!
RB-Mike Weber/Ohio St.: Weber is a tremendous talent that is playing for a tremendous team behind a tremendous O-Line. He’s just a rFR but he’ll put up big numbers.
RB-Devin Redding/Indiana: Had more carries than Jordan Howard last year & eclipsed the 1,000yds mark with 9TD. More of a workhorse back but it’ll play up for IU.
WR-DeAngelo Yancey/Purdue: Led Purdue last year with 700yds/5TD on 48 receptions. Has a connection with Blough & I think these two connect early and often.
WR-RJ Shelton/Michigan St.: Will be an excellent slot receiver for Michigan St. as they break in a new QB and two new outside wideouts. Will be a safe play with Price.
WR-Ricky Jones/Indiana: So much offense at Indiana. Jones put up a 54/906/5 line last year & I think he could be even better this season. Indiana should score a ton.
TE-Cethan Carter/Nebraska: Good size at 6’4/240lbs. Senior QBs know how important TEs are & with Westerkamp & Reilly around, Carter is going to have opportunities.
OC-Brian Gaia/Penn St.: Penn St. is set to have the best offense they’ve had since 2008. The QB position is the wild card and having a solid center is going to be important.
OL-Damian Prince/Maryland: IMMENSE talent for the Terps, Prince is still only a rSO but at 6’3/330lbs, has the ability & physical power to be a 1st Rd. NFL draft pick.
OL-Eric Olson/Northwestern: Solid size at 6’6/300lbs, Olson enters his senior season as a 2-year starter for the Wildcats & will have a good final year manning RT.
OL-Kodi Kieler/Michigan St.: A 6’6/310lbs RT with 19 career starts. Kieler is only one of two returning starters for the Spartans this year & should have a solid final year.
OL-Jonah Pirsig/Minnesota: ENORMOUS at 6’9/320lbs, Pirsig anchors the Gophers O-Line at RT. Minny’s O-Line averages 6’5/321lbs. That’s tops in the conference.

POS TEAM FIRST TEAM DEFENSE
DL Computer Hope Sam Hubbard: Hubbard was 6’5/225lbs coming out of high school so he redshirted a season in Columbus in 2014 during which time he gained 40lbs! He came into the season behind Joey Bosa & Tyquan Lewis but established himself quickly with 6.5 sacks which was 2nd to Lewis’ 8 to lead the team & 1.5 more than the eventual #3 overall pick Joey Bosa! Hubbard is a physical specimen at 6’5/265lbs. Not quite as big as Bosa but more agile & athletic, Hubbard could easily find himself pushing for All-American honors by season’s end. With Lewis on the opposite side, opponents are going to have a tremendous time deciding who to double team. I love this guy’s upside & could see 12-13 sacks in 2016.
DL Computer Hope Chris Wormley: Wormley was outstanding last year leading a Michigan defense that was smothering in both sacks with 6.5 and tackles for loss with 14.5. Don’t be confused with Wormley’s 6’5/305lbs size. It screams 4-3DT but Michigan is trying to transition to a 3-4 defense & has some oddball alignments. Wormely is listed as DE to Taco Charlton’s “Buck” position but both are essentially oversized DTs with Charlton having the size of a 3-4DE. What makes Wormley stunning is his ability to get the QB despite his size. A 2nd Team All-Big 10 last year, Wormley could be an All-American this year & his draft status will be a thing to watch as the NFL really values interior QB pressure from their DTs.
DL Computer Hope Malik McDowell: A 2nd Team All-Big 10 selection last year, McDowell is arguably the best DT prospect in college football. McDowell has amazing size at 6’6/280lbs and as you can guess, most NFL front offices are salivating over the idea of putting 50lbs on that frame and making McDowell a legitimate 2-gap daddy at NT at 6’6/330lbs! McDowell has outstanding quickness for a man his size. He was 2nd on the team last year in both sacks with 4.5 and tackles for loss with 13. Michigan St. employs a 4-3 base defense so we don’t get to really see McDowell clogging up the entire interior O-Line, but he’s not just a space eater. At worst his downside is a 6’6/290lbs 43DT that terrorizes the QB from the inside.
DL Computer Hope Tyquan Lewis: While everyone was worrying about Joey Bosa, everyone was also forgetting about Tyquan Lewis as Lewis became the dominant force on the D-line for Ohio St. last year amassing 54 tackles, 8 sacks & 14 tackles for loss. Lewis might become the focal point of the defense due to Sam Hubbard only being a sophomore. He’s the only returning starter on the D-Line and at 6’4/260lbs, has more than enough size to hold the position down. Like Hubbard, the scary part about Lewis is that he could get even better because last year was just his first season as a starter. I think Lewis will see more double teams early on because of Hubbard’s youth but eventually it’ll be pick your poison.
LB Computer Hope Raekwon McMillan: A freshman All-American as a true frosh in 2014, McMillan followed that up with being a 1st All-Big 10 player as a sophomore last year! McMillan had a banner year for Ohio St. racking up 119 tackles. McMillan also flashed the ability to drop into coverage with 4 passes broken up. He’s fast enough to get to the QB on designed blitzes and at 6’2/240lbs he’s got more than enough size to set up in the middle & thump running backs who miraculously get through the Buckeye D-Line. McMillan is likely to add 1st Team All-American to his resume after this season with 1st Rd. NFL draft pick a few months later. He comes into this season as arguably the best LB in the college football.
LB Computer Hope Anthony Walker: If you think McMillan is the best LB in college football then how do you reconcile that with Anthony Walker? The 6’1/235lbs sophomore last season destroyed opponents en route to amassing 122 tackles, 4 sacks, 20.5 tackles for loss, 4 passes broken up, 1 pick & 2 QB hurries. I watched a few Northwestern games last year & Walker EXPLODED off the screen in each game I watched. His production easily made him a 1st Team All-Big 10 player & he also was a 3rd team All-American. I don’t know what he does for an encore. Walker was 5th in the nation in tackles for loss & the only sophomore with 20+TFL on the season. The sophomore who ranked 2nd? Myles Garrett with 19.5!
LB Computer Hope Jabril Peppers: Peppers excelled last year as a rFR garnering 1st Team All-Big 10 honors. Peppers is used more like the emerging hybrid LB/S position that is becoming popular for WIL LBs in the NFL. Think of Deone Bucannon in Arizona or Mark Barron in Los Angeles as possible comparisons to Peppers. Peppers is 6’1/210lbs which is severely undersized for an NFL LB, but Peppers made 45 tackles last year and had 10 broken up passes to go along with 5.5 tackles for loss. That’s a helluva player to have on the field and it also adds flexibility to run different defensive subpackages. Peppers is the best player of this “type” so he could easily be a 1st Team All-American & a 1st Rd. NFL Draft pick in 2017.
LB Computer Hope Vince Biegel: The Big 10 doesn’t run many 3-4 schemes but Wisconsin does & Vince Biegel is an ideal fit as a 34OLB. The 6’4/245lbs senior is a 2-time 2nd Team All-Big 10 defender and I believe he is going to be in for his most dominant year yet. Last season Biegel racked up 66 tackles, 8 sacks, 14 tackles for loss & 9 QB hurries. He’ll step into Joe Schobert’s role from last season as the one Wisconsin defender who offenses will key on, but I think he’ll respond. Biegel’s importance only compounds when you look at Wisconsin’s schedule which is MUCH more difficult than recent versions. With games against LSU, Michigan, Michigan St, Ohio St, and Iowa, pressuring the QB is going to be priority #1.
DB Computer Hope Desmond King: Kirk Ferentz must have thought it was his birthday when 1st Team All-American CB Desmond King decided to wait a year before entering the NFL draft and come back to Iowa City for his senior season with the Hawkeyes. King was a LOCK DOWN corner last year with 8 picks and 13 passes broken up. You have to wonder why he got that many opportunities as QBs would have been better served to avoid him entirely. King is a surefire 1st-round NFL Pick and he’ll look to become the first ever defensive back to win the Jim Thorpe award twice! At 5’11/203lbs, he’s got great size & tremendous ball hawking skills to match. King is arguably the best CB in college football this season.
DB Computer Hope Jourdan Lewis: Even worse than King, Lewis was targeted early and often with offenses having almost nothing to show for throwing the ball his way. Lewis is a smallish CB listed at 5’10/175lbs which makes me wonder if he isn’t more like 5’8 or 5’9 given that he had a ridiculous 20 passes broken up yet only 2 picks which gives thought to maybe him having an inability to high point the ball. Regardless, Lewis was a 2nd Team All-American last year and will take half of the field away from opposing offenses. Like King, I think Big 10 offenses will learn not to throw his way so his numbers might decrease this season, but he’s almost a lock to go in the 1st round of next year’s NFL Draft. He’s fun to watch.
DB Computer Hope Demetrius Cox: Outstanding free safety at 6’1/198lbs who does everything well, Cox racked up 79 tackles to go along with 7 passes broken up and 3 picks en route to a 3rd Team All-Big 10 performance. Cox does everything you’d like to see your free safety do. He’s got great size to cover and does it well yet he’s not afraid to drop into the box and do some hitting in the trenches. Cox sat behind Kurtis Drummond for a couple of years in East Lansing but took the starting role like a fish to water & Michigan St. didn’t see hardly any dropoff at the free safety position. A lot will be expected of Cox this season as he’s the best secondary player the Spartans have & MSU looks to be in somewhat of a rebuild for ’16.
DB Computer Hope Nathan Gerry: Seems weird to have an all conference defense that Nebraska takes part in and yet just one Cornhusker resides on the 1st Team list. Nathan Gerry is a big physical playmaker for the Huskers at free safety. Last season the 6’2/210lbs senior to be led Nebraska in tackles with 79. He also led them in interceptions and passes broken up. Gerry is only one of 2 senior returning starters along with LB Josh Banderas. He’s going to be expected to anchor the secondary and the defense as a whole with his ability to cover and also his ability to inhibit the running game. I think Gerry is in for a big year in Lincoln and will at least be reminiscent of the type of player the Blackshirts were known for.

2ND TEAM DEFENSE

DL-Jake Replogle/Purdue: Huge at 6’5/300lbs, the Purdue product has 12 tackles for loss last year. If he converts those to sacks, he’ll be in the All-American conversation.
DL-Darius Hamilton/Rutgers: Redshirted last season but is one of the best DTs in the conference. From 2013-2014, Hamilton racked up 23 tackles for loss & 10.5 sacks.
DL-Dawuane Smoot/Illinois: Smoot led Illinois last year in sacks (8) and tackles for loss (15). Great size at 6’3/265lbs playing for an Illini D-Line that might be underrated.
DL-Jaleel Johnson/Iowa: Johnson can make a great case he should be a first team DT. Solid quicks for a guy his size at 6’4/310lbs. Can provide interior pressure for Iowa.
LB-Josey Jewll/Iowa: Another Hawkeye who has a great case for being a 1st team defender, Jewell racked up 126 tackles last season along with 4 picks and 6 passes broken up.
LB-Riley Bullough/Michigan St.: A more fluid athlete than his brother Max, Riley did a little bit of everything last year & will have to do more with Darien Harris moving on.
LB-Marcus Oliver/Indiana: The Hoosiers finally have a defender worth mentioning. Oliver is a solid WIL at 6’1/236lbs. Led Indiana last year with 112 tackles. Also had 2 picks.
LB-Jon Reschke/Michigan St.: Don’t be surprised if this guy is a 1st team All-Big 10 LB by season’s end. Last year he 2 sacks & 5.5 tackles for loss, but also had 8 QB hurries.
DB-Matthew Harris/Northwestern: A 3rd Team selection last year the 5’11/180lbs senior to be had 4 interceptions to go along with 13 passes broken up. An excellent corner.
DB-Rashard Fant/Indiana: Like Jourdan Lewis, Fant is “listed” at 5’10/174lbs meaning more like 5’8-5’9. Still, he had 22 passes broken up which is insane, but just 1 pick.
DB-Montae Nicholson/Michigan St.: Cox’s counterpart, Nicholson is a 6’2/225lbs thumper at SS with ball skills to match. Nicholson had 83 tackles last year but also 3 picks.
DB-Marcus Allen/Penn St.: Rangy free safety at 6’2/205lbs. Allen will be a true junior yet already has 19 starts under his belt. I think he’ll be a big emerging talent this year.

3RD TEAM DEFENSE

DL-Taco Charlton/Michigan: A physical freak at 6’6/285lbs, Charlton has been dogged by inconsistency his entire tenure in Ann Arbor. The upside potential is immense.
DL-Jarrod Clements/Illinois: “Chunky” busted out last year as a starter for Illinois with 11.5 tackles for loss & 6 QB hurries from the inside. Lovie Smitih will help this guy.
DL-Parker Hesse/Iowa: Like Sam Hubbard, Hesse was a recruited LB at 6’3/200lbs. He redshirted a season & last year became a 6’3/250lbs DE freshman! He’s going to be good!
DL-Chickwe Obasigh/Wisconsin: Not ideal size at 6’3/270lbs to play 3-4DE but this is Wisconsin and not New England. Solid veteran player with 20 career starts to his name.
LB-Brandon Bell/Penn St.: Blue collar thumper on the strong side at 6’1/231lbs. What separates Bell is ability to get to the QB which resulted in 5.5 sacks & 12 tackles for loss.
LB-Hardy Nickerson/Illinois: Grad transfer from California, Nickerson led the Golden Bears last season with 112 tackles. Doesn’t do much else but is a tackling machine.
LB-Jack Lynn/Minnesota: Lynn turned in a great junior season last year ranking 4th on the Gophers in tackles with 76 and first on the team in tackles for loss with 11 total.
LB-Jermaine Carter/Maryland: Carter led Maryland in tackles last year with 103 but was spectacular with 14 tackles for loss and even threw in 3 passes broken up. Solid.
DB-Isaiah Wharton/Rutgers: Outstanding size at CB at 6’1/204lbs, Wharton was just a freshman last year but had 10 passes broken up & a pick. He’s going to get better.
DB-Grant Haley/Penn St.: Not huge at 5’9/185lbs, but Haley was a starter last year as a sophomore & did well with 9 passes defended. He’ll be a key part of PSU’s defense.
DB-Leroy Clark, Purdue: Clark finally became a starter last year & made the most of it leading Purdue with 88 tackles. A 5’10 thumper at SS, Clark also has solid cover skills.
DB-Anthony Cioffi/Rutgers: Cioffi led the Scarlet Knights in interceptions last year despite being the starting strong safety. Rutgers returns their entire secondary for 2016.

4TH TEAM DEFENSE

DL-Garrett Sickles/Penn St.: Sickles will be expected to pick up the enormous slack in pressuring the QB given that Penn St. has to replace Austin Johnson and Carl Nassib.
DL-Gelen Robinson/Purdue: Played very well once inserted into the starting lineup for the last 7 games. Sort of looks like Dwight Freeney at 6’1/270lbs. I think he’ll be a force.
DL-Quanzell Lambert/Rutgers: Another shorter DE at 6’1/260lbs, Lambert has the talent that if he puts his game together he could wind up with double digit sack numbers.
DL-Steven Richardson/Minnesota: A bit small for a DT at 6’0/290lbs, but Richardson provides interior pressure & short isn’t always bad as evidenced by Sheldon Rankins.
LB-TJ Edwards/Wisconsin: Edwards led the team in tackles last year with 84 and should be able to hunt once again as Wisconsin should be solid at D-Line and with their OLBs.
LB-Jason Cabinda/Penn St.: Cabinda led the team in tackles last year as a sophomore with 100. He’s big for a WIL at 6’1/245lbs, but showed he could drop back into coverage.
LB-Nate Hall/Northwestern: Big 6’2/230lbs SAM, Hall recorded 56 tackles in his freshman season to go along with 2 passes broken up and 4 QB hurries. Started last 4 games.
LB-Dedrick Young/Nebraska: A converted RB, Young switched positions and still started for Nebraska last year as a true freshman! What happens when he learns to play LB?
DB-Greg Mabin/Iowa: Overshadowed by Desmond King, but Mabin is a big physical corner at 6’2/200lbs who successfully defended 10 passes last year and had 2 interceptions.
DB-Josh Kalu/Nebraska: Kalu was a starter last year as a sophomore and had 7 passes broken up & 3 interceptions. Doesn’t shy away from contact evidenced by his 75 tackles.
DB-Jonathan Crawford/Indiana: Started immediately for the Hoosiers as a true frosh & was 2nd on the team in tackles with 76. Also led the team in interceptions with 4.
DB-Dymonte Thomas/Michigan: Had 7 passes broken up in limited action last year, Thomas is a great athlete & Michigan’s D looks so formidable I think he gets to hunt a lot.

July 18, 2016 Posted by | Big 10, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan St., Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio St, Penn St., Preseason, Previews, Purdue, Rutgers, Wisconsin | Leave a comment

2015 NCAA WEEK 3 – BIG GAMES

ROAD QUICK THOUGHTS HOME
Computer Hope Ole Miss has shown the ability to play defense this year but the real trick will be seeing how they handle Alabama stud RB Derrick Henry. Remember that while Ole Miss has an exceptional offense, Nick Saban can counter that by keeping them off the field. You don’t hear about in the media all that much, but ball control is absolutely vital to winning football. The Alabama defense is looking for statements. Locking up Ole Miss would be a huge statement to make & put the SEC on notice. Computer Hope
Computer Hope I think this game really catapults either squad nationally. Notre Dame has historically struggled with this sort of team during Brian Kelly’s tenure, but the loss of Malik Zaire or Tarean Folston doesn’t affect the defense one bit. I think the Irish score, but the biggest point of emphasis will be Notre Dame’s ability to stop Paul Johnson’s triple option. To this point GT hasn’t had to rely on QB Justin Thomas, but you almost get the feeling Thomas has been waiting for this game to put his game face on. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Keep an eye on Auburn’s rush defense. Through 2 games, War Eagle ranks 97th in the nation in rush defense & Leonard Fournette is coming to town. Fournette bruised up Mississippi St. last week to the tune of 159yds & 3TD on 28 carries. The beating was slow & methodical. Also note that LSU’s defense pretty much kept Dak Prescott in check & Jeremy Johnson isn’t nearly the QB Prescott is. Given how Auburn has played early & that this game is in Baton Rouge? Auburn finally slips. Computer Hope
Computer Hope I think most people by now would have thought BYU would be 0-2. Instead they are 2-0 & you can’t help but notice the magic surrounding this football team. The Cougars were going to be good this year regardless of how they played at Nebraska & Boise State. What we didn’t know was that Taysum Hill would be out for the season against Nebraska & Taylor Mangum would become a glory magnet with 2 huge wins. Sure Missouri & Michigan are left but a win at UCLA sets BYU up for 12-0! Computer Hope
Computer Hope Stanford looked better last week against Central Florida in a 31-7 win, but that still can’t erase the 16-6 disaster they posted against Northwestern. USC tuned up Arkansas St. & Idaho in preparation for Pac 12 play. I don’t think either team could be entering the game from more opposite directions. I think we can learn a lot here. If Stanford holds tough then you kind of have to wonder just how good Northwestern could be or rather if the loss was just a blip on Stanford’s season. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Just think about 2010, 2011, 2012 & 2014 to realize how important this game is for Georgia. Sure the Bulldogs got a win in 2013 but Spurrier seems to own Mark Richt & Georgia in recent times. There is no way Georgia should lose this game. They are more talented. They are playing between the hedges. There are a number of other reasons but throw them out. Georgia doesn’t have great QB play so if the Gamecocks defense shows up against the run then who knows what happens! Computer Hope
Computer Hope Blake Kemp & the East Carolina passing attack torched the Gators last week although Florida did walk away with a 31-24 win. Kentucky has been winning games with a solid rushing attack behind Stanley Williams & JoJo Kemp. One thing Florida is doing well is playing outstanding rush defense so it’ll be interesting to see if UK QB Patrick Towles can make some plays. Could you imagine saying Kentucky is out to a 3-0 start with wins over Florida & South Carolina? In football? Computer Hope
Computer Hope I was really high on Pittsburgh before the season began because I thought Pat Narduzzi could do a good job with all the Panthers had returning. All-American RB James Connor was knocked out of the season in Week 1 but Qadree Ollison has stepped up in a HUGE way! I still like Pittsburgh but this game will be telling. Pitt’s defense stepped up against Akron but the Panthers might have a QB controversy on their hands. As for the Hawkeyes, a win is huge as the West is wide open! Computer Hope
Computer Hope Can Arkansas bounce back from a humiliating home loss to Toledo? Whether you like Texas Tech or not, the Red Raiders are going to score some points. Tech has scored 64PPG in their first 2 games & QB Patrick Mahomes has already thrown 8TD passes! Arkansas had tremendous issues running the football on the Rockets which is almost impossible to imagine. Texas Tech ranks 121st in rush defense so if the Razorback defense can hold up, Arkansas should run wild. Computer Hope
Computer Hope A really interesting game. It’s not among powerful teams but intriguing for what it can tell us. Duke has been flawless in their first 2 games outscoring their opponents 92-7. Northwestern has the huge opening win over Stanford. Duke QB Thomas Sirk has been almost perfect & the Blue Devils have some intriguing players. Duke is 19-8 over the past 2 seasons with an ACC Coastal title. This won’t be a walk, but a Wildcat win further solidifies Northwestern. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Texas is in complete shambles at this point. After the 38-3 drubbing at the hands of Notre Dame, HC Charlie Strong completely shakes up the staff. The following week Texas wins an uninspiring home opener over Rice & the school fires the athletic director. Maybe getting rid of Mack Brown wasn’t such a fantastic idea even if he wasn’t winning national championships. I love this game for Cal because it’s a resume builder & Cal can start turning some heads. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Louisville hasn’t looked so good starting the season 0-2 but the Cardinals have lost both games by 10 points so they are this close to being 2-0 & if that were the case we’d be thinking about this game in a completely different light. Let’s face it, Louisville has a freshman QB in Lamar Jackson who is struggling mightily. Two of his starting receivers are out & Louisville is allowing 32.5PPG. This is a game Clemson should win by 20. Let’s see if they do it. Computer Hope
Computer Hope The opening home loss to BYU was a gut-punch for the Cornhuskers but Nebraska fans might be clamoring for Bo Pellini should they lose to Miami-FL and start the season 1-2! I think it’s amazing how Nebraska has fallen by the way side as a national power. It’s not unlike Miami-FL has done since Butch Davis left Coral Gables. This is a great game when you think historically, but not so much today. I’d like to see the Hurricanes get to 3-0 & get noticed. Computer Hope
Computer Hope I don’t think Michigan St. is going to turn around and lose a home game to Air Force after securing the biggest win in college football this year, but I do think this will be a tough game. Michigan St. is exceptional with their run defense & Air Force runs that triple option & they do it exceedingly well. Because of this I think Air Force can keep it close & cause the Spartans some trouble. These games can be bruising so keep an eye on Sparty’s injury report as they head into B10 play. Computer Hope
Computer Hope It’s worth noting that over the past 5 seasons, Northern Illinois is 57-13 with 3 MAC Championships. That isn’t to say they’ll beat Ohio St., but NIU isn’t your typical run of the mill MAC doormat that the Big 10 so likes to dominate. Drew Hare is a solid QB running that system & NIU has looked good in their first 2 games. I will say that the last time the Huskies faced a ranked opponent was 2011 when Wisconsin beat them 49-7. I’d expect the same, but maybe NIU can stick around. Computer Hope
Computer Hope I love this game. I’d love it even more if they would just play the home & home instead of going to Denver. Seeing the Buffaloes in Ft. Collins is an awesome sight plus it puts the rivalry moreso in the students’ hands than the alumni in Denver. I think Colorado St. is one of those programs just under the radar that needs a great head coach that wants to be there for awhile. They are a Dan Hawkins or Chris Petersen or Gary Patterson away from becoming the new Boise State. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Rutgers is an absolute dumpster fire at this point. They were this way early with all their player dismissals & suspensions but now HC Kyle Flood has been suspended for inappropriately contacting a faculty member our players’ grades! The Big 10 has to feel awful allowing the Scarlet Knights admission but there they are. Given all that is going on with Rutgers, nothing less than a blowout for Penn St. is acceptable but can they do it? Coaching Penn St. is a little tougher than coaching Vanderbilt! Computer Hope

September 17, 2015 Posted by | Air Force, Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Big Games, BYU, California, Clemson, Colorado, Colorado St., Duke, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisville, LSU, Miami-FL, Michigan St., Mississippi, N. Illinois, Nebraska, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Ohio St, Penn St., Pittsburgh, Rutgers, South Carolina, Stanford, Texas, Texas Tech, UCLA, USC, Week 3 | Leave a comment

2015 BIG 10 PREVIEW and PREDICTIONS

RANK B1G EAST COMMENTS
#1 OFFENSE: Lost in the conversation about Ohio St.’s tremendous QB depth is just how good JT Barrett was last season before missing the final 3 games. Barrett was 11-1 in 12 starts & was a 3rd team All-American passing for 2834yds/34TD, while rushing for 938yds/11TD! Barrett is penciled in as the starter which is a smart move. Amazingly enough RB Ezekiel Elliott was only a 2nd team All-Conference player (thanks to Melvin Gordon & Tevin Coleman) although he’s a Heisman front runner this season. With 4 OL returning, Ohio St. should be able to run the ball at will. Losing WR Devin Smith will be tough to replace, but the Buckeyes have tremendous WR potential. Expect the offense to score 45PPG yet again. DEFENSE: As a 6’6/280lbs DE, Joey Bosa was arguably the most dominant defensive player last year in college football as a true sophomore! The 2nd coming of JJ Watt, Bosa is almost unblockable & could be just as much of a Heisman candidate as Elliott! DT Adolphus Washington is another All-American candidate. It’s not Alabama or Penn St., but Ohio St.’s trio of LBs in Josh Perry, Raekwon McMillan & Darron Lee are the best LB corps in the entire nation! They accounted for 254 tackles last season including 13 sacks! The secondary returns 3 of 4 players headlined by S Vonn Bell. This is by far the best defense Urban Meyer has had in his time in Columbus. SCHEDULE: A road trip to Blacksburg to start the season won’t be easy but the only tough road game in conference comes in Ann Arbor where Michigan will be playing under 1st year HC Jim Harbaugh. Ohio St. avoids Wisconsin, Nebraska, Northwestern & Iowa from the B10 West. This schedule sets up well for a return trip to the playoffs. BEST CASE: 12-0. WORST CASE: 9-3 with losses to Virginia Tech, Michigan St. & Michigan.
#2 OFFENSE: Michigan St. had a banner year offensively in 2014 racking up 43PPG in Mark Dantonio’s best offensive showing since arriving in East Lansing in 2007. Expect a fall back to the 28-31PPG range this year as the Spartans lose quite a bit. Gone is RB Jeremy Langford who ran for 1522yds/22TD, WR Tony Lippett (1198yds/11TD/18.4ypc) & WR Keith Mumphrey (495yds/19.0ypc/3TD). QB Connor Cook comes back & might be a 1st Rd. NFL draft talent but Sparty needs some others to step up to become the big play threats they’ve lost. The O-line is outstanding & brings 4 starters back. A RB should emerge from the LJ Scott, Madre London, Delton Williams trio & TE Josiah Price should be a huge piece to the puzzle. The Spartans will score but not as much. DEFENSE: MSU got terrible news recently when LB Ed Davis was lost for the season due to injury. It’s a tough loss, but MSU is solid defensely. The D-Line headlined by Shilique Calhoun, Malik McDowell, Lawrence Thomas & Joel Heath looks especially strong & is arguably the best front-4 in the nation. Riley Bullough & Darien Harris will be fine at LB although the Davis loss hurts. The secondary has 2 huge losses in CB Trae Waynes & S Kurtis Drummond who were 1st & 3rd team All-Americans respectively! The secondary will be down a notch for sure. As you can see there is some question marks in the back-7. SCHEDULE: Michigan St. has a few land mines in road games against Ohio St., Michigan & Nebraska along with a home data against Oregon! The Spartans definitely have the talent to win games & you can be sure Sparty will have revenge on its mind when it plays Ohio St. & Oregon given that those teams prevented Michigan St. from the playoffs a year ago The season finale against Penn St. could be tricky as well. BEST CASE: 12-0. WORST CASE: 7-5.
#3 OFFENSE: Penn St. isn’t considered a playoff contender, but no team will be watched more closely if only because QB Christian Hackenberg could be the #1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. The 6’4/230lbs QB came under scrutiny last season after playing worse than his freshman campaign, but that was more in line with an O-Line that had 4 first year starters & a WR corps that featured a couple of first year starters & a TE as a first year starter. HC James Franklin wasn’t completely starting over from the Paterno era due to Bill O’Brien, but O’Brien’s system is vastly different than Franklin’s methods. PSU has 8 starters returning including 4 on the O-Line & RB Akeel Lynch. Hackenberg should be in for a big year & the offense should show marked improvement. DEFENSE: Penn St. allowed just 18.6PPG last year & look to be even better this year. The Lions return 5 of their top-6 tacklers & have the best DT combo in the B1G in Austin Johnson & Anthony Zettel. They lost LB Mike Hull (140tkl in ’14) but Nyeem Wartman returns at MLB & they add in Ben Kline & Koa Farmer. S Jordan Lucas anchors the secondary along with CB Trevor Williams. Worth mentioning is DEs Carl Nassib (6’6/270lbs) & Garrett Sickels (6’4/265lbs). First year starters, both guys have outstanding size & should do some damage with Johnson & Zettel up front. They should be very fun to watch. SCHEDULE: Penn St.’s OOC schedule is a joke with Temple, Army, Buffalo & San Diego State. They do get Michigan St. & Ohio St. on the road which is tough but get Michigan at home coming off a bye week. Getting Northwestern & Illinois out of the West isn’t so bad either so the schedule sets up very nice. BEST CASE: 10-2. WORST CASE: 5-7. Losses to tOSU & MSU are a given but Indiana, Maryland, Illinois, Northwestern & Michigan could happen.
#4 OFFENSE: Despite the 20-18 record over the last 3 seasons, the cupboards aren’t bare in Ann Arbor for incoming HC Jim Harbaugh. Devin Gardner isn’t a terrible loss at QB & Michigan now has former Iowa QB Jake Rudock who comes in as an immediate improvement. The Wolverines also return 4 starters on the O-Line along with a stable of very talented backs headlined by De’Veon Smith, USC transfer Ty Isaac & Derrick Green. Michigan loses WR Devin Funchess but returners Amara Darboh (6’2) & Jehu Chesson (6’3) are big targets that should step up quickly along with true frosh Brian Cole. Jim Harbaugh is an OUTSTANDING football coach & he knows how to get the most out of his players & this team is talented. Michigan should be able to run at will. Expect a big improvement. DEFENSE: Like the offense, the defense has some very good talent despite some losses & Michigan has some tremendous athletes. The LBs lose Jake Ryan but have both Joe Bolden & Desmond Morgan returning who could be all conference. They lose Frank Clark on the DL but DEs Taco Charlton & Mario Ojemudia are solid options who are also very big. Michigan averages 6’4.25″ & 288lbs along the DL. S Jabril Peppers & Stanford transfer CB Wayne Lyons should anchor a secondary that also has CB Jourdan Lewis & S Jarrod Wilson as returning starters. The defense allowed 22.4PPG in ’14 but is better this year. SCHEDULE: Tricky. Michigan opens on the road against Utah & also draws Oregon St. & BYU as OOC games although both are in Ann Arbor. They get both Michigan St. & Ohio St. at home in big rivalry games that anything could happen but Michigan has some tricky road games against Indiana, Minnesota & Penn St.. Northwestern is also on the slate. BEST CASE: 10-2; WORST CASE: 4-8 which seems impossible with Harbaugh.
#5 OFFENSE: The Hoosiers come into 2015 much the same way they came into 2014. High expectations on offense & the hopes of 6 wins to get bowl eligible. The offense last year took a downturn when QB Nate Sudfeld got hurt. Backup Zander Diamont was definitely not the answer as IU sputtered to 1-6 in their final 7 games. Sudfeld returns this year along with 4 returning O-Linemen, but IU loses an awful lot of skill position players headlined by all-world RB Tevin Coleman (2038yds/15TD in ’14). IU also lost their top receiver in Shane Wynn. All hope isn’t lost in Bloomington however. UAB transfer RB Jordan Howard (1587yds! in ’14) takes over & IU shouldn’t miss a beat. The Hoosiers also have some high upside at WR in Camion Patrick, Simmie Cobbs & Dominque Booth. The offense should be better & IU will score more than the 25.1PPG they posted in 2014. DEFENSE: For as much publicity the offense has gotten in the Kevin Wilson era, it ultimately has come down to defense where Indiana has yet to allow fewer than 32PPG since 2009! The Hoosiers return 5 starters from a defense that allowed 32.8PPG a year ago which doesn’t portend to success. The good news is that Indiana isn’t completely devoid of talent on the defensive side. DT Darius Latham, LB Tegray Scales, LB Nile Sykes, LB TJ Simmons and SS Antonio Allen all have talent. The question is can Indiana finally put some decent defensive numbers together? SCHEDULE: Not brutal but Indiana drew some winnable games on the road in Penn St., Maryland & Purdue. They do get Michigan & Ohio St. in Bloomington but those will be tough battles. An OOC road trip to Wake Forest probably won’t be terribly easy either. They do get Rutgers & Iowa at home. BEST CASE: 9-3; WORST CASE: 1-11 & Kevin Wilson is looking for employment.
#6 OFFENSE: With only 5 starters back from an offense that scored 26.7PPG last year, you might expect the Scarlet Knights to struggle offensively especially with QB Gary Nova (#2 all time passer in Rutgers history) graduating the program. That might not happen. Rutgers has Chris Laviano & Hayden Rettig (LSU transfer) taking over for Nova & they should approximate Nova’s numbers which weren’t stellar (57.2%/22TD/12INT). Paul James & Josh Hicks return at RB while WR Leonte Carroo is a huge weapon at WR (55rec/1086yds/11TD in ’14). Rutgers has just 2 starting O-Linemen returning but there is a lot of size & talent all along the line. I like this offense quite a bit & think it has some tremendous upside especially if the QB situation settles & RB Paul James can remain healthy all season. HC Kyle Flood is doing a great job here. DEFENSE: While the offense has 5 returning starters but has some upside, the defense has 5 returning starters without the feelings of optimism! Rutgers loses 5 of their top-7 tacklers although LBs Steve Longa & Quentin Gause return who were the team’s top-2 tacklers. The LBs corps is the strongest part of the defense with Longa & Gause along with South Carolina transfer Kaiwan Lewis. I’m most excited about DT Darius Hamilton & DE Kemoko Turay who could both be all conference defenders. Rutgers needs their secondary to come together, but I think the front-7 could do some serious damage if they all stay healthy. SCHEDULE: If Kyle Flood wants to make it 4 bowls in 4 years, Rutgers is going to have to take care of their OOC schedule against Norfolk St., Washington St., Kansas & Army. Wazzou could be a tough one although it’s at home. Rutgers draws Wisconsin & Nebraska from the West. They get Indiana & Michigan on the road! BEST CASE: 7-5; WORST CASE: 3-9. 
#7 OFFENSE: Maryland had the best offensive output they’ve have under HC Randy Edsall, posting 28.5PPG en route to a 7-6 season. The offense might look towards a downturn in 2015 as they return just 6 starters & lose QB CJ Brown who also led the team in rushing a year ago. Maryland should find the going fairly rough offensively this year as Brown is gone, and they also lose their top-2 receivers in Stefon Diggs & Deon Long. Caleb Rowe takes over at QB while RBs Brandon Moss & Wes Brown should give Maryland RBs who actually lead the team in rushing. The rest of the offense is a little thin. The receivers are small although Marcus Leak might be OK. The O-Line returns 3 starters but this is a line that allowed 37 sacks & paved the ray for the Terps to average a measly 3.7ypc on the ground. There isn’t much upside here at all. DEFENSE: Maryland brings back just 4 starters from a below average defense that allowed 30+PPG in 2014. Maryland loses 6 of their top-9 tacklers including #1 tackler LB Cole Ferrand. Maryland will be especially thin up front as they returns just one starter (DE Yannick Ngakoue) to their front-7! Something else to keep in mind is that Maryland is moving to a 4-3 defense meaning they are a little off in their personnel. Ngakoue is just 6’2/250 which profiles more as a 3-4 OLB than  4-3 DE. The secondary returns 3 of 4 starters including CB William Likely who is outstanding & S Sean Davis who is solid. Rutgers needs a lot of guys to step up, but Ngakoue, Likely & Davis are good starting points. SCHEDULE: The OOC is easy outside of a road date against West Virginia. Drawing Wisconsin & Iowa (road) from the West hurts a bit. Maryland gets Indiana at home which is winnable but travels to Rutgers which is a tough blow. They are at Ohio St. & Michigan St.! BEST CASE: 7-5; WORST CASE: 2-10. Beware of Bowling Green.

 

BIG 10 EAST OVERALL OUTLOOK: The division is Ohio St.’s to lose without question. I think what is most interesting about the Big 10 is the response to Urban Meyer coming to Columbus. In his 3 years at the helm, Ohio St. has gone 36-3 including a 12-0 season in 2012 & a national championship in 2014! That’s amazing. What we’ve seen though is Penn St. go out & grab James Franklin, a coach on the rise that showed you could win at Vanderbilt despite playing in the most brutal conference in college football. Michigan went out and hired Jim Harbaugh who could be arguably the best college coach on the planet. Michigan St. already had Mark Dantonio, a disciple of Nick Saban. I think this division is fascinating. Michigan St., Michigan, Ohio St. & Penn St. are 4 of the most intriguing teams in college football for various reasons. Maryland, Rutgers & Indiana almost seem like forgotten teams in a division so rich in football history regarding the other 4 but the “little brothers” can have successful seasons too. Harbaugh is a HUGE game changer making Michigan must watch football every Saturday!

 

RANK B1G WEST COMMENTS
#1 OFFENSE: It’s very difficult to get a feel for how Nebraska might perform offensively. The Huskers scored 37+PPG last year primarily as a rushing offense. This year under new HC Mike Riley, Nebraska might try to be more of a passing offense given Riley’s propensities at Oregon St.. We’ve seen this before in Lincoln when Bill Callahan was the HC & it didn’t work out so well. Nebraksa will be dealing with losing RB Ameer Abdullah (1611yds/19TD) along with leading WR Kenny Bell. They also lose the entirety of their interior offensive line. The good news is that QB Tommy Armstrong returns along with WRs Jordan Westerkamp & De’Mornay Pierson-El. Nebraksa also has 4 senior starters across the line & while the RB numbers will dip, Imani Cross & Terrell Newby should be OK. There will be growing pains & I’m not sure how great Armstrong is, but there is still a lot here. DEFENSE: This isn’t your father’s Nebraska defense. Nebraska loses 4 of their top-5 tacklers along with all-world DE Randy Gregory who is a massive loss. It’s Nebraska so there is a lot of talent on hand for Nebraska but can it come together? DTs Maliek Collins & Vincent Valentine should be tough to handle leaving room for DE Greg McMullen to work. S Nathan Gerry also returns & has All-Big 10 ability. SCHEDULE: Nebraska’s schedule is what really separates the Huskers from the rest of the Big 10 West. Nebraska gets Wisconsin, Northwestern & Iowa in Lincoln! They also get Michigan St. at home! Their conference road games come against Rutgers, Minnesota, Purdue & Illinois! Nebraksa doesn’t have the easiest OOC schedule there is with Miami-FL on the road & a season opener at home against BYU, but the conference schedule couldn’t have set up better. BEST CASE: 11-1 (they can’t beat Sparty). WORST CASE: 2-10. Huge range here.
#2 Let’s forget breaking down the offense & defense for a minute when talking about Wisconsin football. From 2009-2014 the Badgers have won 60 games. They’ve been to 3 Rose Bowls. They’ve finished in the top-10 on 2 occasions and have finished in the top-25 in 5 of those 6 seasons. The only team in the Big 10 who has won more games over the same span has been Ohio St., although the Buckeyes have been to just one Rose Bowl during the period that Wisconsin has been to 3. To Ohio St.s credit, they are coming off a National Championship season & they did go 12-0 in 2012 when they were banned from bowl play. What I’m trying to argue is that Wisconsin has been the most consistent & dominant team in the Big 10 outside of Ohio State for over the past 6 years. What’s interesting is that they will no welcome in their 3rd HC in a 4-year span. Bret Bielema went to 3 straight Rose Bowls from 2010-2012 & won 2 straight Big 10 conference championships in 2011-2012, yet picked up for Arkansas in what looked to be a move down. Utah St. HC Gary Andersen came in & went 20-7 in 2 years & bolted this past season for Oregon State in what looked to be another move down. I can sort of see leaving Wisconsin for Arkansas if you wanted to be in the SEC, but why would anyone leave Wisconsin for Oregon St.? Paul Chryst now comes in to Madison. Chryst was born in Madison. Played QB for Wisconsin & was the OC from 2005-2011. By all accounts, you can’t get more Madison than Paul Chryst so the Badger faithful have to happy that they could have incredibly stability at the HC position assuming Chryst turns out to be another HC like Barry Alvarez or Bret Bielema. This story provides a narrative that program fit is extremely important in looking for a HC. BEST CASE: 11-1 (I can’t see a win over Alabama). WORST CASE: 6-6.
#3 OFFENSE: Injuries hammered Northwestern last year before the season started. RB Venric Mark was out for the season along with WR Christian Jones. I had called for Northwestern to win the B1G West but was dubious about their luck before the season began. Luckily, true frosh RB Justin Jackson stepped up & ran for 1187yds/10TD in Mark’s place. WR Kyle Prater also did a decent job becoming the #1 WR. What hurt Northwestern the most on offense in 2014 was their QB play & their offensive line. QB Trevor Siemian was brutal completing 58.2% of his passes with 7TD to 11INT. He also rushed for -123yds in 68 attempts! The O-Line allowed 34 sacks & NW’s rushing attack averaged just 3.4ypc. This year Jackson will only get better while the O-line returns 3 starters with 4 starters being upperclassmen. The QB situation is iffy with Clayton Thorson, Matt Alviti & Zach Oliver but any of them will most likely be better than Siemian. Expect more than 23PPG. DEFENSE: The Wildcats return their entire D-Line & 7 of their top-10 tacklers. They also return 3 of their 4 DBs. DE Dean Lowry has all-conference talent as does CB Nick VanHoose. The goods news is that Northwestern has solid talent across the board defensively with 9 upperclassmen starting. The one weakness could be the LBs corps which will have to deal with the loss of Chi Chi Ariguzo. Still, this is a solid that should be better than they were in 2014. SCHEDULE: Brutal OOC with Stanford & a road game against Duke. Northwestern also has road games against Nebraska, Wisconsin & Michigan! They do get Iowa & Minnesota at home which is a solid break, but I don’t think the home date with Penn St. will be easy. Most of the winnable games are at home so Northwestern should get bowl eligible. BEST CASE: 7-5; WORST CASE: 2-10. The back of the B1G West is stronger.
#4 OFFENSE: It would seem Iowa is in a huge rebuild as they have just 5 starters back including a new QB, but I think there is some potential for the Iowa offense to be much better than people think. There was some controversy at the end of last season between QBs CJ Beathard & Jake Rudock but Rudock transferred to Michigan while Beathead takes over as QB1. You can make an argument than Beathead was better in the 4th quarter than Rudock last season & if Beathead can keep that over a full season, Iowa might have it’s best QB situation since Ricky Stanzi in 2009-2010. I also like RB Jordan Canzeri who will be 2 years removed from ACL surgery. WRs Tevaun Smith & Matt VandeBerg have some big play ability while TE Jake Duzey is a great pass catching TE. One thing we can also count on with Iowa is fantastic O-line play. Iowa was less than expected in ’14 but return their interior O-Line. The 2 tackles also have some big upside. This is certainly a glass half-full analysis but I like the potential here. DEFENSE: Iowa brings back 7 starters from a defense that allowed 26PPG last year. That isn’t Iowa defense, but there is a lot to be excited about this year. DE Drew Ott has all-conference potential as does CB Desmond King & S Jordan Lomax. The problem is the losses which are HUGE! DTs Carl Davis & Louis Trinca-Pasat are both in the NFL. S John Lowdermilk led the team in tackles & LB Quinton Alston was 2nd. It’s a lot to lose but the secondary should be solid as should the DEs. The LB are much more experienced too so overall I’d expect Iowa to be better. SCHEDULE: The anti-Nebraska, Iowa gets the Huskers, Northwestern & Wisconsin on the road! They also draw Indiana on the road which won’t be easy. They do get Illinois, Minnesota & Purdue at home along with Maryland, but draw Iowa St. in Ames. BEST CASE: 10-2; WORST CASE: 4-8.
#5 OFFENSE: After 4 frustrating years with Nathan Scheelhaase at QB, the Illini turned to Oklahoma St. transfer Wes Lunt to QB & was immediately ecstatic with the results. Lunt completed 64% of his passes for 1763yds with 14TD to just 3INT! The numbers would have been better had Lunt not missed 6 starts! Lunt is healthy to start 2015 so the Illini have to be beyond happy at the prospects. I also feel Illinois is on the verge of breaking out. They return 8 starter on offense including their leading rusher in Josh Ferguson & their top-4 receivers! WRs Mailk Turner & Geronimo Allison are 6’3 & 6’4 respectively. JUCO TE Andrew Davis is 6’6 giving Lunt some big targets to throw too. The O-line returns 3 starters & has 4 upperclassmen starting. Illinois also adds in RBs Ke’Shawn Vaughn & Henry Enyenihi. Illinois will threaten to score more than 30PPG for the first time since 2010! DEFENSE: The defense returns 8 starters from a unit that allowed 34PPG but there is reason to be optimistic. The D-line returns 3 starters and the secondary returns 3. They only have 2 big losses in S Zane Petty & LB Earnest Thomas but those losses are fine. LBs TJ Neal & Mason Monheim have all-conference ability. The D-Line averages about 6’4/290lbs which is exciting. DE Jihad Ward & S Taylor Barton should also have huge years. There is a lot to like about this defense & it should be improved. SCHEDULE: I would have had Illinois much higher except the schedule is nasty. Most of their winnable games are on the road while they draw Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Ohio St. at home. They also get road dates against Penn St. & North Carolina which doesn’t bode well for the Illini. Tim Beckman is doing a fine job in Urbana-Champaign & I hope he’s able to stick around. BEST CASE: 11-1 (really!); WORST CASE: 3-9
#6 OFFENSE: It might not have looked like it, but HC Darrell Hazell showed marked improvement in his offense from 2013 to 2014. The Boilermakers went from 14.9PPG to 23.8PPG. They also improved by 62yds of total offense. Purdue also improved by 2 wins. If they show the same improvement curve, Purdue will win 5 games & score 31PPG! That kind of offense could get them to a bowl. There is a lot to like about the offense. WR Danny Anthrop returns as a big play threat & the other projected starting WRs are all 6’2 or better. The entire O-Line returns which is a HUGE deal given the improvement the O-Line showed from year 1 to year 2 in the Hazell era. The huge question mark could be QB where rFR David Blough is expected to start. The 6’1/202lbs signal caller has been said to have quite a bit of Drew Brees & Brett Favre in him! If that’s true then look out because Purdue could contend in the West. DEFENSE: The Purdue defense made good strides in Hazell’s 2nd year as well improving by 6PPG & 44ypg! The Boilermakers return 7 starters on defense including all 3 LBs & both CBs. CB Frankie Williams is the only guy with legit all-conference capabilities but there could be some surprises. Purdue is fairly big up front but they need talent & a pass rush. Purdue hasn’t been able to get much pressure on the opposition since Ryan Kerrigan left. I’d like to see DE Evan Panfil step up. SCHEDULE: Purdue lucks out getting Minnesota, Illinois & Indiana at home. Those are winnable games in the friendly confines of Ross-Ade Stadium. The OOC isn’t bad outside of a home date against Virginia Tech. Purdue gets Wisconsin & Michigan St. on the road, but those were probably losses anyway. If Blough plays well & somebody replaces RB Akeem Hunt, this team will be fun. BEST CASE: 8-4; WORST CASE: 1-11 (Indiana St. should be automatic.)
#7 OFFENSE: The offense has improved by 3-4PPG in each year of Jerry Kill’s tenure in Minneapolis. If the trend continues, the Gophers will average 31-32PPG in 2015, which is something they’ve haven’t done since 2005! Losing RB David Cobb might look horrible, but Cobb averaged just 5.2ypc which is something RB Rodrick Williams has done during his career. Minnesota’s O-Line is going to be very good so it’s easy to suspect Williams might be on the verge of having a big year in this offense that is very run heavy. QB Mitch Leidner also returns & while he wasn’t great in 2014, Leidner is a threat to run & his passing numbers have nowhere to go but up. The O-Line returns 4 starters & I think Minnesota is intriguing at WR with KJ Maye, JJ Jones & Nate Wozniak who is 6’10! The offense will be solid & Cobb’s loss will be minimal. DEFENSE: LB Damien Wilson & S Cedric Thompson were NFL Draft picks & will be hard to replace, but those are the only losses to the back-7 which should actually get better as the unit is more experienced. CBs Eric Murray & Briean Boddy-Calhoun have all-conference talent & should be playing on Sundays eventually.  LB De’Vondre Campbell could have a big year. I’d also keep & eye on DEs Theiren Cockran & Hendrick Ekpe. Cockran at 6’6/260lbs is a load & could be headed to the NFL. Minnesota should be very good off the edge. SCHEDULE: I hate putting Minnesota here because I think HC Jerry Kill is amazing but the schedule sets up tough for the Gophers. They draw Michigan & Ohio St. out of the East & also get Purdue, Northwestern & Iowa on the road. The Big 10 West is interesting because there is certainly a lot of intrigue surrounding teams that haven’t been good for awhile. Minnesota is no different here as Kill keeps improving the on-field product. BEST CASE: 10-2. WORST CASE: 2-10. (won’t happen under Kill!)

 

BIG 10 WEST OVERALL OUTLOOK: Massive parity. While the East is dominated by Ohio St.’s huge odds to win the division, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see any of the 7 teams finish on top an that includes Purdue, Minnesota & Illinois. I think every team has a story line that is compelling and I don’t think these intra-divisional games will feature any blowouts. Wisconsin & Nebraska are interesting because they should be the 2 best teams in the league but are both bringing in new HCs! How crazy is that? Northwestern could have a huge storyline brewing with Pat Fitzgerald. While I don’t see Fitzgerald leaving Evanston anytime soon, he’s a FANTASTIC HC and at some point he’ll draw interest. He’s too young and he’s entering his 10th year at Northwestern! Iowa, Purdue & Illinois have crazy QB stories to watch involving CJ Beathead, David Blough & Wes Lunt respectively. The Gophers have HC Jerry Kill who keeps making the Gophers better. If he keeps up his trend since taking over for Minnesota, the Gophers could be in line for 10 victories in 2015! Everything is up in the air in this division which should make it fun from the beginning.

August 16, 2015 Posted by | Big 10, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan St., Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio St, Penn St., Predictions, Previews, Purdue, Rutgers, Wisconsin | Leave a comment

BIG 10 OUTLOOK WITH 6 WEEKS LEFT

The College Football Season is over half finished. With the playoff selection committee ready to reveal their playoff rankings in 2 weeks, I thought it would be a good idea to take stock of where each team is in each conference and what to look for as we head down the stretch. Getting in position to make the playoffs or even to get bowl eligible will start to dominate the college football landscape. Starting with the Big 10, let’s take a look at where everyone is and what we should expect to see from each team moving forward.

 

BIG 10 EAST

 

TEAM REC WHAT TO WATCH FOR OVER LAST 6 WEEKS OF 2014
6-1 All Michigan St. needs to do now is win. The Spartans get good games against Ohio St., Michigan & Maryland & if they win will be 11-1 & will be favored for the B1G Championship. For the Spartans to make the playoffs they’ll need some help. The loss to Oregon in Week 2 isn’t killer but the Ducks are getting better. If Oregon winds up 12-1 then they obviously get a spot ahead of Michigan State. You know the SEC champion is going to get a spot as is Florida St. if the Noles go 13-0 which seems likely. An 11-1 TCU team would be hard to keep out as would a 2nd SEC team. Vegas thinks that if Michigan St. gets into the playoffs they are most likely to win. They have to get there first.
5-1 After losing to Virginia Tech, Ohio St. has gone 4-0 outscoring their opponents 224-69! The loss to Virginia Tech is brutal seeing how the Hokies are 4-3 (1-2) in the ACC! There is simply no way to spin the loss in a positive light unless VA Tech goes crazy, finishes the season 9-3 (6-2) & wins the ACC title which doesn’t seem likely. The Buckeyes do have games against Michigan St., Minnesota & Michigan left so they can look a lot better. Should they win out & win the B1G they’ll be 12-1, but they’ll need a ton of help. Any 1-loss team from a Power 5 conference will look better than Ohio St. as would Notre Dame. They need a lot of 2-loss teams & their name to help them.
5-2 The Terps could win the Big 10 I suppose. If they win out they’d be 10-2 (7-1) but they would need Ohio St. to lose twice as one loss wouldn’t cut it as Ohio St. destroyed Maryland just a couple of weeks ago. Eve if Maryland winds up 11-2, it’s unlikely they get into the playoffs having losses to Ohio St. & West Virginia. A more likely prospect for Maryland is just concentrating on getting bowl eligible. They only need one more win bt their remaining schedule has road games against Penn St., Wisconsin & Michigan with home dates against Michigan St. & Rutgers. I think there are 3 winnable games left meaning Maryland could get to 8-4 (5-3) which would be huge in year 1 of the B1G.
5-2 I didn’t think Rutgers would win 3 games when the season began so the fact that they are 5-2 through 7 games should have ever Knights fan celebrating a successful season. Rutgers playoffs hopes are abysmal. Their remaining schedule is nasty & even if they were to get to 10-2 they’d need a ton of help because of their loss to Penn State. As with Maryland, the focus should be on getting that 6th win, but Rutgers has: at Nebraska, Wisconsin, bye, Indiana, at Michigan St. & at Maryland left on the schedule. The home game against the Hoosiers looks like their best bet. Going 6-6 would be a huge success for Rutgers in their first season. A much better than expected year.
3-4 At this point I don’t think there is anything that could save Brady Hoke’s job. There is no way Michigan can get into the playoffs and with road games against Michigan St. & Ohio St. left on the slate, the best the Wolverines can hope for this season is a bowl eligible 6-6. That would require getting 2 wins from Indiana (home), Northwestern (road) & Maryland (home). All 3 of those teams will be playing for their own bowl eligibility so they won’t be easy wins for Big Blue. This isn’t a bad situation to step into. Michigan could potentially have 18 returning starters for 2015. There is talent here & it’s still Michigan. They bailed on Rich Rodriguez too early. A good hire is needed.
4-2 Penn St. still has half of its season left so there is a lot of football to be played. Penn St. could theoretically still win the B1G. They have Michigan St. & Ohio St. left on the schedule. Those teams play each other so Penn St. beating one of them would give that team 2 losses with PSU owning the tiebreaker. They would need the winner of OSU/MSU to lose again, but I guess it’s possible. With losses to Northwestern & Michigan, an 11-2 Penn St. team still wouldn’t make the playoffs. Penn St. could win 4 of their final 6 and that should be the focus. Not many people expected too much from James Franklin in his first season but if the Lions finish 8-4 (4-4), it would be an incredible year.
3-4 If Nate Sudfeld is lost for the season, Indiana’s 2014 campaign is completely over as Xander Diamont isn’t ready and the Indiana defense is just terrible. Indiana could get to 5 wins if they take care of Penn St. & Purdue at home which is certainly feasible if Tevin Coleman carries the offense & the defense can hold opponents to less than 30pts. What hurts Indiana is they have 3 games left on the road against Michigan, Rutgers & Ohio State. Rutgers & Michigan are going to be playing for bowl eligibility themselves so Indiana won’t have easy road dates there. A 5-7 year would be a hold year for IU as they were 5-7 last season. The Bowling Green & Maryland losses were deathly.

 

BIG 10 WEST

 

TEAM REC WHAT TO WATCH FOR OVER LAST 6 WEEKS OF 2014
6-1 Can you believe Minnesota can make the playoffs? The Gophers are 6-1 (3-0) right now. The scare from Purdue doesn’t help their cause from a cosmetic perspective but Minny gets Ohio St. & Iowa at home. What hurts the Gophers is their final 2 games which are road dates against Nebraska & Wisconsin. Let’s assume Minnesota gets to 11-1 & wins the B1G to get to 12-1! Their lone loss comes from TCU so the Gophers have to hope TCU keeps winning. At this point if TCU wins out they’ll most likely win the Big XII if Oklahoma beats Baylor. I think Minnesota would also need the Pac 12 to have a 2-loss champion & only 1 SEC team in the Final 4. If all that happens, they are in!
6-1 Nebraska is in a good spot going forward. They just hammered a Northwestern team that beat Wisconsin. They do have to travel to Madison but that is the toughest game remaining & the Huskers get Minnesota in Lincoln. It’s hard to argue with Nebraska’s 27-22 loss to Michigan St. in East Lansing. It certainly would benefit Nebraska for Michigan St. to get to 11-1 so they could get a rematch against Sparty in the championship game. If Nebraska winds up 12-1 with their only blemish being a 5-pt loss at Michigan St., then it’ll be hard to keep them out of the playoffs. College football is better when Nebraska is dominating & college football has been waiting a long time.
5-2 The loss this week to Maryland virtually kills Iowa, dropping the Hawkeyes to 5-2. Oddly enough Iowa could still win the B1G West because they still have games against Wisconsin, Nebraska, Minnesota & Northwestern. If Iowa wins out they could be 10-2, but even an 11-2 season with a B1G championship wouldn’t help with losses to Iowa St. & Maryland. I think Iowa actually needs to focus on getting bowl eligible. They need 1 more win but their remaining schedule is: Northwestern, at Minnesota, at Illinois, Wisconsin & Nebraska. The Illinois game should give them at least 6 wins but Iowa has to be the most frustrating team in college football. They should be 7-0 right now.
3-4 Injuries have just ravaged Northwestern all season long. I really thought the Wisconsin game would determine the B1G West & Northwestern won that game. Unfortunately the Cats lost their first 2 and then was hammered last week against Nebraska. They’ve also lost to Minnesota so not only is Northwestern not going to the playoffs, but it’s almost impossible for them to win the West. I don’t think they can win at Notre Dame so at best Northwestern gets to 7-5, but it might be time for them to worry about bowl eligibility. They have road games against the Irish & Iowa. That means they’d need to win all 3 against Michigan, Purdue & Illinois. I wonder if Pat Fitzgerald would ever leave?
4-2 Losing at Northwestern is BRUTAL for Wisconsin, but not all is lost for the Badgers who actually have a pretty good team & a helluva coach in Gary Andersen. I don’t think the Badgers can make the playoffs even if they win out & win the B1G, finishing at 11-2. Losses to LSU & Northwestern would be too much, but Wisconsin does get Nebraska & Minnesota in Madison so there is a real possibility the Badgers could indeed finish 10-2 (7-1). The Badgers & Ohio St. are in the same boat to me. They are teams nobody is really talking about but who could end the season with great records. Can either team win a championship? No, but Wisconsin could finish 12-2 if they win out.
3-5 Purdue has a rough road ahead of them, but over their last 3 games, the Boilermakers have averaged 36PPG, played Michigan St. really tough, beat Illinois & almost upset Minnesota! The road doesn’t get any easier for the Boilermakers as their next 2 games come against Nebraska & Wisconsin, but their last 2 games (Northwestern at home & Indiana on the road) look very winnable meaning Purdue could be a 5-win team needing a miracle win against either the Huskers or Badgers to get bowl eligible. It’s worth noting that Purdue was 1-11 last season. Earlier this year Purdue looked terrible, but with 8 games down, Purdue is in the bowl discussion which is amazing.
3-4 The home loss to Purdue really put a damper on the season because I think nobody thought the Illini would beat Washington, Nebraska or Wisconsin. A win over the Boilermakers & Illinois would be sitting at 4-3 needing a couple of wins to get bowl eligible with Penn St., Northwestern & Minnesota left on the schedule. Instead, the Gophers are playing extremely well & Illinois gets them & Ohio St. in their next 2 games. Bowl eligibility is still on the table for Illinois, but their defense has been awful & that probably won’t change. When you look at the schedule, Illinois hasn’t beaten anyone and it wouldn’t surprise me if Illinois finished 3-9. A step backwards for HC Tim Beckman.

October 19, 2014 Posted by | Big 10, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan St., Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio St, Penn St., Playoffs, Purdue, Rutgers, Wisconsin | Leave a comment

2014 NCAA WEEK 8 – GAMES OF THE WEEK

ROAD WHY IT IS MUST SEE! HOME
It doesn’t get much better than Notre Dame/Florida St. when both teams are undefeated! This game has the feel of an all or nothing affair. If Florida St. wins then this is pretty much their last difficult test of the season. The same goes for Notre Dame although I suppose USC will be a tough task at season’s end. The good news for FSU is that Jameis Winston is going to play. That is bad news for the Irish defense who struggled mightily with Marquise Williams a week ago. On the other hand, the Irish are probably the best team FSU has seen this year & it’s not like the Seminoles have been playing good football. The game will be really interesting if Everett Golson can play mistake free football. If that happens then Notre Dame has a shot. The fallout here will be interesting too for the loser’s playoff hopes with 1 loss on the resume. We’ll see.
I can’t wait to see how TCU rebounds after the stunning loss to Baylor a week ago. I think Oklahoma St. is an interesting team. They played Florida St. tough in the season opener and despite suffering massive losses on both sides of the ball from a year ago, the Cowboys are sitting at 5-1. They are a team nobody is talking about & that could all change with a win in Ft. Worth this weekend. Not too many people are talking about OSU’s chances but remember that if they were to beat TCU, Oklahoma St. would be 4-0 in the Big XII. The big issue here for OSU is that they have road games against TCU, Baylor & Oklahoma. It almost seems impossible for them to escape unscathed. Oklahoma St. didn’t have an easy time with Iowa St. or Kansas. That makes me think they are a product of schedule & TCU will probably have their way with them in a blowout.
This is another Big XII game that I think is big although to be fair I think it could expose the Big XII as well. Teams like Oklahoma St. & Kansas St. are benefitting by winning games they should win & playing an excellent team close. For Oklahoma St. that was a close lose to Florida State. For Kansas St. that loss came to Auburn. Kansas St. is a run heavy team & the Sooners won’t be too easy to run on. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a blowout as well. With Baylor beating TCU, the Sooners have to believe their playoffs hopes are as alive as they’ve ever been. A great conference run to end the season including a win over Baylor could elevate the Sooners into playoff contention. You’d have to think a Big XII team is going to get in & an 11-win Oklahoma squad on a 7-game winning streak is attractive. Oklahoma got over their emotional letdown last week in beating Texas 31-26. Now they’ll be fired up to leave no doubt. My guess is the Big XII has a couple of pretenders that will know about after the weekend.
You would think Texas A&M is probably going to lose this game & I wouldn’t disagree. They’ll get killed in the rankings because their record will fall to 5-3, but their 3 losses will have come against Ole Miss (#3), Mississippi St. (#1) & Alabama (#7)! Losing to all three could still mean A&M is a viable Top-10 team! This is a must win for Alabama which makes it interesting. Sure the Tide have a loss to Ole Miss but if Alabama can win out & Ole Miss drops a game or two Alabama could find themselves sitting at 11-1 & SEC West champions! It will also be interesting to see how the Bama defense does against QB Kenny Hill and vice versa. Hill has struggled for most part against SEC West defense & the trend will probably look to continue. This seems like a game Alabama can get back on the right track with although both teams struggled with Arkansas. I still think Bama rolls.
Georgia really has something going here I think. The Todd Gurley injury is killer but the SEC East is down & the Dawgs get Auburn between the hedges. Georgia’s defense can’t be playing any better, throwing a shutout against Missouri last week & allowing just 17 points to Vandy the week prior. Arkansas will prove much more difficult to stop especially in Fayetteville & this makes the game so much more interesting because the Hogs are going to figure out a way to finish games eventually & Georgia might be ripe for the taking given their soft schedule thus far. I think a win over Arkansas puts them on the map for this season, but a win for Georgia validates them in certain respects. If UGA can beat Arkansas then they stand a chance against Auburn. IF they can’t beat Arkansas then they can’t beat Auburn & it doesn’t matter if they win the East.
This game looked a lot more fun until last week. LSU & Kentucky now have a common opponent in Florida. While Kentucky went down to Gainesville & almost pulled off a stunner, losing to the Gators 36-30, LSU actually went into Gainesville & got it done beating the Gators 30-27! That might give the edge to LSU especially with the Tigers playing in the Swamp but Kentucky is A LOT better than you might think. They’ve beaten South Carolina so they do have some confidence & Mississippi St. proved you can win in Tiger Stadium! I really want to believe UK isn’t a product of schedule just because they seem like the most likely candidate to really challenge Georgia for the SEC East. A win against LSU would be amazing, but it would show Kentucky could win other games in conference. As it stands now, UK needs a 2in to get bowl eligible & that will not be easy.
I still think Dana Holgorsen is a tremendous coach & I think West Virginia is going to be well rewarded with him being in Morgantown if they can keep him for the long haul. This game seems innocuous but it’s never easy winning in Morgantown & West Virginia has looked pretty good starting the season 4-2. The Mountaineers have played both Alabama & Oklahoma very tough & if you believe both teams are better than Baylor then the Bears could be on upset alert. The only issue is that West Virginia isn’t the best of defensive teams which is a HORRIBLE recipe for success against a Baylor team that just put up 61 on TCU! At best West Virginia has to hope for some serious hangover to stay in the game. I can’t wait to see the Clint Trickett/Bryce Petty battle here. If WVU can get a couple of stops maybe Trickett can pull a rabbit out of his hat & turn the Big XII upside down!
An overlooked game in my opinion because of the SEC games, the Big XII games and Florida St./Notre Dame. It still should be an amazing game made even better because it’s in Tucson. It’s interesting that Taylor Kelly came back to practice with Arizona St. this past week, but current QB Mike Bercovici is an experienced leader who is playing really good football. It’s a tough problem to have but it’ll be interesting to see if Kelly gets on the field against the Cardinal. Arizona St. is actually in a pretty prime position. Although they did lose to UCLA, they beat USC and are 2-1 in the Pac 12. Their road isn’t easy but they avoid Oregon while UCLA has 2 conference losses. Stanford is 2-1 in the Pac 12 & they are in the thick of things as well with Oregon & UCLA left on the schedule for them to make a serious move. This game is full of consequences in my opinion. Great matchup!
I’m really interested to see how Washington does this week in Eugene. With the Ducks offensive line getting healthier, Oregon should start to take off and Marcus Mariota has been playing out of his mind in even the most trying circumstances. Assuming the Ducks get 13 games this season Mariota is on pace to complete 70% of his passes for 3512yds & 37TD. He hasn’t thrown an interception all season & is on pace to rush for 773yds/11TD! The Huskies are 5-1 but haven’t played anyone of consequence yet outside of Stanford, a game they lost 20-13. I wouldn’t expect Oregon to lose this game but I would love to see Washington keep it pretty close to see how good they are. If Oregon blows it open then I think Oregon has to reenter the national championship picture. If they run the table to get to 12-1, I’m not sure how you keep them out just because of a 7pt loss to Arizona.
I don’t think I’ll ever understand Iowa. I’m not sure the Hawkeyes could stick with an SEC power this season but I also thought that if Iowa could get past Iowa St., then they’d have a real chance to run the table. Playing either Michigan St. or Ohio St. in the B1G Championship wouldn’t have been easy but anything can happen in one game. Instead, Iowa dropped the game 20-17 to the Cyclones but are still 5-1. This is one of those games Iowa probably should win, but Maryland is a pretty good team with a very good coach in Randy Edsall so you wonder if the Hawkeyes will stick around in this one & let it get close before they eventually lose the game. The B1G West is wide open so I’m rooting hard for Iowa. Jake Ruddock is a helluva player & Iowa gets both Wisconsin & Nebraska. They simply can’t squander these sorts of opportunities when they are there.
I f everyone didn’t think the B1G West completely sucked, this would be a much bigger game than what it is. Nebraska is coming off a big loss to Michigan St. while Northwestern is coming off a big loss to Minnesota. The Huskers are 1-1 in the B1G while Northwestern is 2-1. The Wildcats couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start losing to Cal & N.Illinois to start the season but since are 3-1 and I still think they can win the West as I predicted them to. A win for Northwestern almost seals their division title as nothing is tough on the schedule except a road date against Iowa. They’d have a win over Nebraska. A win for the Huskers definitely bodes well for them to try & get a revenge game against Michigan St. in the B1G championship game. Melvin Gordon ran all over Northwestern. I want to see if Ameer Abdullah can do the same but given Nebraska a different result.
It’s kind of easy to forget about Ohio St. given their schedule. Through the first 7 weeks of the season, the Buckeyes have already had 2 bye weeks! They simply haven’t played a ton of football yet, but they are 4-1 with wins over Maryland & Cincinnati. The loss to Virginia Tech seems distant now & there are no bye weeks until December. A couple of things about this game that are intriguing. Nobody thought Rutgers would be 5-1 at this point, but they aren’t playing poorly defensively. The Knights have a real problem with turnovers & for this reason I think Gary Nova probably throws them out of games with his decision making but maybe Rutgers keeps it close. The other thing is to remember that the Buckeyes haven’t lost a conference game. Sure they are just 4-1 but if they finish 12-1 is anyone really going to keep them out of the playoff picture because of a Week 2 loss?
Indiana keeps popping up on best games of the week and while I admit to being an IU HOMER, the games they’ve been involved with really are interesting, even on a national level to a degree & sometimes Indiana just happens to be playing the right team to make it relevant, i.e. this week against Michigan State. I’m don’t think Indiana can beat Michigan St., but Indiana is playing at home & they have an explosive offense. Michigan St. struggled to contain Purdue and they didn’t exactly blow out Nebraska meaning Indiana could get going offensively & put a real scare into Michigan State. I don’t know if it’ll happen especially with Indiana turning to a freshman QB in the wake of Nate Sudfeld’s injury, but how knows. Sparty needs a great game to work out the kinks. They go back home after Indiana but their next two games are against Ohio St. & Michigan. They need a tune up, but CANNOT overlook Indiana.

October 17, 2014 Posted by | Alabama, Arizona St., Arkansas, Baylor, Big Games, Florida St., Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas St., Kentucky, LSU, Maryland, Michigan St., Must See Games, Nebraska, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Ohio St, Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., Oregon, Rutgers, Stanford, TCU, Texas AM, Washington, Week 8, West Virginia | Leave a comment

2014 NCAA WEEK 6 – GAMES OF THE WEEK

By far the biggest week of the 2014 college football season thus far. The SEC West is on full display today & even the East has Florida & Tennessee playing each other. There are big games in every conference and what will really be interesting is the playoff fall out after this weekend. This will definitely give us a picture of what the playoffs might look like. It won’t be the complete picture but it will at least put the picture into a little more focus. This week will probably set up the storylines for the rest of the season which is exciting. I can’t wait to see what happens.

 

ROAD WHY IT IS MUST SEE! HOME
I think we’ll know pretty quick whether or not Ole Miss is going to be up to the challenge of establishing themselves as a legitimate player in the SEC West and Nationally. Playing in Oxford isn’t goign to intimidate the Tide, so I wouldn’t expect nerves from Alabama. They’ve been a completely different team since they beat West Virginia in the opener. I think it’s interesting that Bo Wallace is taking heat before this game because of the interceptions he’s thrown thus far. He’s got 6 in the Rebels’ first 4 games which is too high, but Wallace also completed 70+% of his passes which is outstanding. He hasn’t seen a defense like Alabama’s so far this season & if Ole Miss turns the ball over there is absolutely no way they can win the game. If Wallace plays like he did against Memphis, Ole Miss is likely to get blown out at home.
Josh Robinson & Dak Prescott aren’t the runners that Alex Collins & Jonathan Williams are, but they are good enough to look at what Arkansas did last week to A&M’s defense & salivate just a little bit. Prescott is also a little different than Brandon Allen in that he can carry a team on his shoulders through the air if he absolutely needs to. The win over LSU was outstanding especially because it came in Baton Rouge, but the Rebels can start talking about a possible SEC West title with a win today. It’s the type of year MSU fans have been waiting for from Dan Mullen and the head coach might be ready to deliver. The Bulldogs had a week to prepare while A&M was struggling with the Hogs. The Bulldogs defense is better too than Arkansas’ so this really sets up well. On the other hand, something magical might be happening with this A&M team.
Let this sink in for a minute, LSU might be the worst team in the SEC West! They are probably still a top-15 or top-20 team, but at the end of the day, the Bayou Bengals could actually finish 7th in their own division! That’s incredible when you think about it. Unfortunately for LSU they visit Auburn which isn’t likely to end well for them. There is a really interesting juxtaposition going on here. On the one hand I think LSU made a good decision naming Brandon Harris the QB because I think it establishes stability for the next couple of years. They might struggle a bit but I think they are better off in the long run. As for Auburn, their time is obviously now but doesn’t it seem like War Eagle is flying under the radar despite playing in the national championship game a year ago? A win today will definitely give them a lot more publicity & I think it happens.
This might end up being the best game of the day. TCU is ready to reach the top echelon of the Big 12 & they certainly get a chance to do just that by hosting a top-5 team with national championship aspirations. TCU looks more like the Frogs teams that dominated the Mountain West with a suffocating defense that was opportunistic. The only problem here is that TCU hasn’t played anyone of note in their first 3 games. I can’t wait to see what QB Trevone Boykin can do against the Sooners D. Oklahoma is playing ball hawking defense so if TCU can avoid turnovers, this one could be interesting because the Sooners haven’t been prolific in their passing game. If TCU can avoid turnovers & contain the Keith Ford/Samaje Perine running combo, the Horned Frogs have a shot to shock the football world & enter into the playoff discussion.
The loss to USC stinks. There is no way around it, but Stanford still controls its own destiny especially after going into Seattle & getting by Washington 20-13 last week. That didn’t exactly catapult the Cardinal back into the national spotlight, but a road win over an undefeated Notre Dame team would do just that! A win over the Irish basically puts Stanford back into the minds of voters & it also makes the game against the Ducks a winner take all affair. As for the Irish, this is the big test Notre Dame fans have been waiting for. The Irish look great at 4-0 but you can argue their schedule has been a little weak thus far given how Michigan has played & how bad Purdue is. A win here by Notre Dame almost guarantees the Irish at worst finish 11-1, but with the way Florida St. is playing, ND has to be thinking playoffs. They must win today!
This is the Big 10 game of the year so far. The Cornhuskers are sitting at 5-0 & it’s just not a normal 5-0, but a DOMINATING 5-0! Nebraska has been crushing teams on the backs of their rushers. Ameer Abdullah gets the most attention as he leads the nation in rushing yards with 833 & is on pace for over 2100, but Tommy Armstrong, Imani Cross, Terrell Newby & Jordan Nelson have all done a great job rushing the football. The Blackshirts are playing fairly well too. This is Nebraska’s first real test & it won’t be easy especially in East Lansing. Michigan St.’s rush defense is outstanding & Armstrong is going to feel tremendous pressure all day long from the Spartan front-7. Michigan St. runs the ball well too & the Connor Cook/Tony Lippett connection is proving lethal. A huge opportunity for Nebraska here, but Michigan St. might be too tough.
This might seem like an obvious win here for Oregon but remember that last season Oregon came into Tuscon at 9-1 and ranked #5 in the nation & the Wildcats gave them a spanking 42-16 that prevented the Ducks from winning the Pac 12 North & essentially cost Oregon a BCS bowl, having to settle for beating Mack Brown in his final game as a Longhorns HC 30-7! The big question here will be Arizona’s defense. The Wildcats just gave up 45 to California in a 49-45 win, but if they give up 45 to the Bears, how many will they surrender to the Ducks? Something to keep an eye on is Oregon’s offensive line which is ravaged by injuries. If Arizona can get pressure on Marcus Mariota early on & keep the game close early, then I think Arizona could upset. If that happens, how do you think Michigan fans feel about RichRod’s success at UA?
Although this game is somewhat odd because neither team is ranked, there is A LOT of implications here. Florida was hammered by Alabama 42-21, but the Gators kept that close for 3Q & forced Alabama to turn the ball over quite a bit. That formula will work against 99% of college football teams not named Alabama! What’s interesting here is that Florida had a rough time against Kentucky so we are trying to derive meaning from that. Tennessee almost knocked off Georgia in Athens. The SEC seems jumbled up but one thing that is clear is that if Florida can go into Knoxville & give the Vols a pretty good beating then I would think Florida would establish themselves as the SEC favorites. A loss here to the Vols & then all of a sudden the Gators look lost once again & you ahve to wonder how long Will Muschamp can keep his job.
Utah had a real shot to build on the Michigan game, but fell at home to Washington St. 28-27 last week in a really disappointing loss. I don’t think the Utes have ANY CHANCE in the P12 South because I think at least 4 teams are better than them, but the road game against Michigan was solid & now they find themselves on the road against UCLA which could be interesting. I’m more interested in here UCLA. The Bruins sort of sleepwalked their way through their first 3 games & if you look at scoring margin alone, detractors could argue the Bruins could have started the season 0-3! The win last week over Arizona St. was extremely convincing even though the Sun Devils were without Taylor Kelly. I want to see the Bruins win this one by 30-40 points too so we can feel a little bit better about UCLA being considered a truly ELITE team in 2014.
The wheels are falling off in Ann Arbor. It’s bad enough Michigan is losing games to teams like Minnesota & Utah, but now with the Shane Morris situation pervading Brady Hoke’s daily existence, you have to wonder if it’s not time to start over yet again. How much do Michigan fans long for the days of Lloyd Carr? Rutgers isn’t a horrible team coming into this one 4-1 & playing at home, but they haven’t played the toughest of schedules & they lost to Penn St. who just got drilled by Northwestern! As wild as it would be for Rutgers to get a win over Michigan in their first year in the B1G, the Wolverines need to refocus because all isn’t lost. If they keep their minds right they’ll at least be 7-5 by year’s end which is a bowl team. Their other losses come against Michigan St. & Ohio St, but maybe miracles happen? There is still time & this is still Michigan.
This is a tough matchup for Arizona St. because they once again won’t have Taylor Kelly under center & the Trojans are the only team left in college football who have yet to surrender a passing TD! That’s some serious pass defense right there! College football is a crazy game sometimes because USC just beat Oregon St. last week 35-10 making Sean Mannion look incompetent. Mannion is a great college QB! The problem is that the week before, USC goes into Boston College & loses 37-31 when they gave up 452 rushing yds & 5TD to the Eagles!? How does that happen? As you can see, teams have a shot if they can run the ball & ASU could do that with DJ Foster & Demario Richard. Both guys have ran the ball well & Arizona St. has averaged 6.41ypc as a rushing offense. We’ll see what happens today but look for ASU to run!
I actually picked Northwestern to win the B1G West but then Venric Mark left the program & Christian Jones suffered a season ending injury. That shouldn’t have completely derailed Northwestern, but the Wildcats dropped their first 2 games to Northern Illinois & California. They’ve bounced back with wins over W.Illinois & Penn St. so this could mean the Cats have found their way. It won’t be easy this week at home against a Wisconsin team who is still suffering from the effects of a season opening loss to LSU down in Houston. As you would expect, Wisconsin has been dominating since their loss to LSU with Melvin Gordon leading the way for a nasty Badgers rushing attack. At this point I would think the West is Wisconsin’s to lose & if they want any playoff hope they have to run the table & get to 12-1. This game is trickier than you’d imagine.
How amazing is it to think that the team hurting here is Texas & the big favorite is Baylor even with the game being played in Austin!? That is incredible just to think about! What’s even more amazing is that you can easily argue that Texas is either the 4th or 5th best team in the entire state. Baylor & Texas A&M being better is obvious. I think TCU is also better than Texas & if you are in an arguing kind of mood, you could even make a case that Texas Tech is right now better than the Longhorns. I don’t think Charlie Strong is going to fail in Austin & I would expect Texas to be back on top of the B12 in short order but from an historical sense, this is truly an interesting time in college football history regarding the state of Texas. As for today I’d expect Baylor roll over the Longhorns who are in for a very long year in Strong’s first season.

October 4, 2014 Posted by | Alabama, Arizona, Arizona St., Auburn, Baylor, Big Games, Florida, LSU, Michigan, Michigan St., Mississippi, Mississippi St., Must See Games, Nebraska, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rutgers, Stanford, TCU, Tennessee, Texas, Texas AM, UCLA, USC, Utah, Week 6, Wisconsin | Leave a comment

2014 NCAA WEEK 3 – GAMES OF THE WEEK

Typically your weeks between opening weekend & conference play are hit or miss when it comes to big games, but this week is pretty interesting from the perspective of the Big 12. The conference has a chance to make a big statement this weekend. Take a look at these games:

Oklahoma plays Tennessee
Texas plays UCLA
Texas Tech plays Arkansas
Texas Tech plays Minnesota
West Virginia plays Maryland
Iowa St. plays Iowa
TCU plays Minnesota
Kansas plays Duke

The conference has a chance to really shine heading into conference play & there are some pretty big names on the list. Five of those 8 games made it onto my list below so it’s definitely a week that all eyes should be on the Big 12 as a whole. Very interesting.

 

ROAD WHY IT IS MUST SEE! HOME
College football is infinitely better when Tennessee is good & the Volunteers are starting to look that way again after what seems like a decade in the wilderness. I don’t have any illusions to think Tennessee might win the game, but there is some evidence for the Vols to scare the Sooners just a bit. Tennessee has had a tougher slate to date & has made it look easy in beating Utah St. & Arkansas State. Oklahoma has beaten LA Tech & Tulsa. Tennessee’s receivers look AMAZING but the Vols can’t run the ball worth a lick. Oklahoma’s offense is scoring 50PPG but looked a little out of sync against LA Tech to open the season. Both teams are playing great defense to date. UT QB Justin Worley is going to shoulder a ton of responsibility in this game & if he plays extremely well then Tennessee has a shot at hanging around in this game.
There has been a lot of talk about this game being a must win for South Carolina because a loss eliminates them from the playoffs. I disagree. They are already eliminated. The loss to Texas A&M is killer because now Texas A&M has to run the table & so does SC. That probably isn’t going to happen! The big question in this game is how in the world is South Carolina going to stop the Georgia running game behind ALL-WORLD RB Todd Gurley? Texas A&M ran for 169yds/4TD/4.3ypc against the Gamecocks & I can assure you that Gurley is MUCH better than what the Aggies through at SC’s front-7. Georgia is coming off a bye week & I almost think that’s a bad thing because it killed momentum after the Clemson win. This should be a great game especially if Mike Davis & Dylan Thompson go to work, but Gurley looks unstoppable!
Where to begin? UCLA hasn’t played at all like most people thought they would opening up with close wins over Virginia & Memphis! Those teams were a combined 5-19 a year ago! Against Virginia the offense looked terrible. Against Memphis the defense looked terrible. If UCLA is able to put together a game on both sides of the ball things might look a little better, but they have to hurry because Pac 12 season is starting soon. For Texas it’s just going to be a season HC Charlie Strong would rather soon forget. He’s suspending players, players are hurt, and the players he does have aren’t playing very well. Both teams are playing poorly but it’s not like Texas doesn’t have some talent. If UCLA plays terrible then Texas can win & keep an eye on UT QB Tryone Swoopes who is a dual threat QB at 6’4/241lbs! He could do damage.
I love this game because it gives you two angles to watch in particular. The first is the overall strength of the Big XII against the SEC. Texas Tech isn’t going to challenge for a Big XII title but they were an 8-5 team last year that won a bowl. Arkansas is a team on the come in the SEC under HC Bret Bielema. Arkansas hung around for an entire half against Auburn before wearing out, but they came back & beat Nicholls St. 73-7! the following week where the Hogs ran for 495yds/6TD/12.4ypc!!! The game is at Texas Tech so the Red Raiders have that going for them but this will be an interesting game from the standpoint that Arkansas is going to run the football which means they are going to control the clock. Texas Tech is obviously going to bomb away through the air. It’s two contrasting styles that will be very interesting to watch. SEC v. B12!
This is an interesting game for me because I want to see what TCU does. They got off to a good start in their opener beating Samford 48-14, but then they went on bye. The bad part about this game against Minnesota is that TCU has yet another bye week before traveling to SMU. The following week they host Oklahoma. That’s just 3 games before the Sooners come to town. Oklahoma will have only played 4 and they have a bye week before heading to Ft. Worth. Minnesota isn’t a great team but HC Jerry Kill gets the most out of his players. This will be a good test for TCU because the Gophers have struggled defensively to open up the season & they’ve only played E.Illinois & M.Tennessee State! TCU should dominate both sides of the football. They are somewhat of a forgotten team at the moment, but I’m expecting a pretty big year.
Despite Bowling Green’s showing against Western Kentucky, I still think this is going to be a pretty good test for the Hoosiers. If Bowling Green gave up 59 points to Western Kentucky, then it’s going to be downright scary what Indiana is going to put up on the Falcons. Bowling Green got burned through the air against the Hilltoppers which isn’t a good sign because IU is an excellent passing team. What could be even more dangerous is IU RB Tevin Coleman who is arguably the best football player you haven’t heard of! The game is so interesting because it could set up a game that could be a real program changer at Indiana. If IU beats Bowling Green then it sets up IU at 3-0 going to Missouri. If the Hoosiers can beat a ranked Missouri team on the road & get to 4-0, then all of a sudden Indiana potentially becomes a ranked team! Wow!
The 2nd Bobby Petrino era has gone about as well as anyone could hope for. Louisville took on their first ACC opponent as an ACC member and all they did was embarrass “THE U” 31-13! They followed that up with a 66-21 drubbing of Murray State. Now the Cardinals get their 1st ACC road opponent in Virginia, but the Cavaliers might not be an easy out. The Wahoos almost beat UCLA in their opener & if not for a few turnovers probably would have. Virginia followed that with a 45-13 win over Richmond. The one problem Virginia has had in their first couple of of games is getting good stops against the pass on defense. Their rush defense has been playing well, but they can’t seem to guard well against the pass which could be problematic against a Bobby Petrino led team. Still, Virginia might not be a bowl team, but they are a very tough out.
Looking good against UT-Martin & Ohio at home is one thing. Going on the road to The Swamp and playing as well as you have is completely another. The Wildcats have looked really good in their first couple of games especially on defense. Mark Stoops is doing good things in Lexington & he’s even proving that you can recruit high level talent to play football at Kentucky. After getting their first game suspended due to lightning, Florida came out last week & handed E.Michigan a 65-0 loss. You can’t really draw any conclusions from Florida’s win but I don’t think Kentucky is as horrible as they’ve shown sometimes in the past. It’s a different Kentucky team with actual talent on the roster so while I’d expect Florida to win, this is a better barometer game than it has been in year’s past because Florida might actually face some nice competition.
Rutgers gets its first taste of Big 10 football by welcoming the Penn St. Nittany Lions to New Jersey! It’s sort of weird because I almost feel this is sort of a homecoming for Penn State. I’m a Big 10 guy and I like Penn State being in the conference, but before the Lions came to the Big 10, I always associated them as a northeast team and the Lions have had a big recruiting presence in the NY/NJ area. This is a game between 2 surprising teams that could start the season 3-0. I didn’t think Rutgers would beat Washington St. & I didn’t think Penn St. would be UCF, but here they are. For James Franklin, the year couldn’t started better & Penn St. is playing Penn St. defense. Rutgers on the other hand has exploded somewhat offensively. This will be an interesting contrast in styles & of course Christian Hackenberg is playing so tune in!
This is an interesting trap game for the Trojans. They are coming off a huge road win over Stanford that catapulted the Trojans into a top-10 team, but deep down the Stanford win was iffy because the Cardinal essentially gave them that game & USC’s offense wasn’t exactly moving the ball efficiently. Boston College is also a tricky team. Their opening UMass was more impressive than I thought it would be & the Eagles played Pitt really well in a 30-20 loss. Boston College is a run HEAVY team and Steve Addazio proves over & over again that he’s a helluva coach. The Eagles didn’t have much coming back but Florida transfer QB Tyler Murphy is proving hard to handle so it’ll be interesting to see how USC does going cross country in a game after Stanford but before Oregon State. I like USC but I think BC keeps it close on Chestnut Hill.
This should be blowout city but I’m a NOTRE DAME HOMER so all the Irish games are going to be part of MUST WATCH games! The Irish are coming off a resolute 31-0 beating of rival Michigan which has elevated the Irish to almost top-10 status. I’m not sure my boys are that good, but if they can beat Michigan 31-0, what are they going to do to a Purdue team that is coming off a loss to Central Michigan 38-17!? Notre Dame might get back-to-back shutouts which would be amazing for an Irish D that many were questioning. After this game the Irish play a better than you’d think Syracuse team, but ND has a real chance at 4-0 before welcoming Stanford & North Carolina to South Bend. If ND can take care of homefield advantage & keep getting better each week, the Irish could be looking at a 10-2/11-1 season. One game at a time.
Forget the rebuilding process at Missouri. Whether Gary Pinkel is showing us how great of a coach he is, or if Missouri has more talent, or if the team just gets better by playing in a better conference with tougher competition, Missouri is a legitimate top-25 program that should be taken seriously. They had NOTHING coming back from last season but when on the road to Toledo & hammered the Rockets. 49-24. Toledo isn’t a bad team! It’s possible the Tigers are actually better with Maty Mauk playing QB this season. Like I wrote above, I think this game is interesting for what it sets up which could be a 3-0 Missouri team taking on a 2-0 Indiana team in Columbia. UCF will be a tough test, but the Knights miss Blake Bortles an awful lot even though they had a lot of players returning. UCF had a bye week to prepare so let’s see what happens.
I’m a huge fan of Paul Rhoads, but at this point what more can the guy do? They lost their opener to North Dakota St. and then gave up a lead at home last week in a loss to Kansas State. It’s a rough way to start and the only thing I can think of is that Rhoads hired former Kansas HC Mark Mangino to run the offense so maybe there are going to be some hiccups along the way. This is probably my favorite in-state rivalry game for reason I haven’t a clue. Iowa comes in 2-0 and it’s an interesting game for the Hawkeyes. Teams in the B1G West are not playing well & Iowa avoids Michigan St. from the East so there is a legitimate chance Iowa can run the table. Iowa St. is always a problem though & Iowa hasn’t been world beaters this year. The last time they played in Iowa City, the Cyclones beat the Hawkeyes 9-6. I feel asleep on that one!

September 13, 2014 Posted by | Arkansas, Big Games, Boston College, Bowling Green, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Iowa St., Kentucky, Louisville, Minnesota, Missouri, Must See Games, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Penn St., Purdue, Rutgers, South Carolina, TCU, Tennessee, Texas, Texas Tech, UCF, UCLA, USC, Virginia, Week 3 | Leave a comment

BIG 10 – WHAT DID WE LEARN IN WEEK 1?

In general you never really wanted to overreact to games from the first week of the season but the Big 10 had a couple of games that I think brought about seismic shifts in the way the Big 10 could play out. The first game was Northwestern’s loss at home to California. That was a real stunner as I had the Wildcats winning the B1G West! The showed me that Northwestern could be dealing with significant issues with their QB & right now are easily behind Iowa, Nebraska & Wisconsin in the West. That could change but a loss like this to open the season could signify the wheels coming off before Northwestern even gets started!

I think Rutgers win over Washington St. is crucial too. The Scarlet Knights were able to move the football at will. Granted, it’s Washington State but QB Gary Nova did a pretty nice job and the Rutgers receivers played well. Rutgers had the chance to trot out a pretty good offense this season & it looks like they are doing just that. They’ll face much tougher defenses in the Big 10, but if Paul James keeps running like he did against the Cougars, Rutgers is going to be better than people imagine.

The final game I thought signified a big shift in the Big 10 is Wisconsin’s 28-24 loss to LSU. I can’t be too hard on Wisconsin because a 4-point loss to LSU in their backyard is hardly cause for concern, but the Badgers have QB issues and that could hurt them down the road. With how Iowa, Northwestern & Wisconsin played this first week, Nebraska has to be feeling pretty good about themselves and even Iowa has to be pleasantly surprised as they get Nebraska, Wisconsin & Northwestern in Iowa City!

 

ROAD PTS WHAT WE LEARNED PTS HOME
EIU 20 No surprises here really as Minnesota relied heavily on the running game to beat Eastern Illinois by almost 4TD! The Gophers rushed the ball behind David Cobb & Berkley Edwards 40 times while the QBs attempted just 18 passes. Keep an eye on Edwards. He had a 42yd TD run & should get more time, splitting carries with Cobb. QB Mitch Leidner was OK going 9/17 for 144yds & 1TD but he didn’t make any mistakes. It took awhile for Minny to hit stride, leading only 14-0 at the half but they were up 35-0 early in the 4th before EIU scored some garbage TDs. LB Damian Wilson led the team with 10 tackles. 42
41 I didn’t expect Rutgers to come out & play this well on the road. I thought a lot of Rutgers offensive performance would rely on QB Gary Nova getting better. He went 16/27 (59.3%) for 281yds & 2TD/1INT. That’s much better than last season. The real story though is that WSU had no answer for RB Paul James who rushed for 173yds/3TD/6.0ypc! That’s great to see with Justin Goodwin switching positions. WR Leonte Carroo had 6rec/151yds/1TD including a 78yd TD score on the 1st play of the game. The Knights obviously had issues stopping Wazzou’s passing attack but who cares. 41 points & a win! Great start for 2014! 38
JSU 7 It was only Jacksonville St., but on a weekend where so many top-10 teams struggled, the Spartans put the hammer down. Michigan St. led 38-0 at halftime before putting in the JV team. QB Connor Cook had a ridiculous day going 12/13 for 285yds/3TD! The Spartans had the ball for almost 40 minutes & had 200+yds rushing while holding JSU to 22 rushing yards on 25 carries. MSU racked up 5 sacks & 3 interceptions. Didn’t commit a turnover & had 2 penalties. WR Tony Lippett had 4rec/167yds/2TD while RBs Jeremy Langford & Nick Hill rushed for 99yds. Michigan St. did what they were supposed to do which does matter. 45
26 A very sloppy game that included virtually no rushing attack from either team combined with 4 turnovers & 17 penalties for 137yds! I thought QB Christian Hackenberg would miss Allen Robinson, but Geno Lewis, DaeSean Hamilton & Jesse James combined for 26rec/398yds/1TD! This could be a bad sign for the B1G because UCF’s secondary is supposed to be one of the best in the nation & Hackenberg carved them up for 68%/454yds/1TD! Hackenberg did throw 2 picks so maybe PSU could have won this game earlier. PSU outgained UCF 511-246! Great defense by PSU; LB Mike Hull with 11 tackles, DT Anthony Zettel w/5TFL! 24
YSU 17 Illinois got the win but there are certainly concerns. I thought Illinois would be a ball-controlled offense considering what they had returning, but Youngstown St. dominated the line of scrimmage rushing for over 200yds & having the ball for 40+ minutes! After 3 quarters, YSU actually led 9-7! QB Wes Lunt took the game over in the 4th as Illinois outscored the Penguins 21-8, but Illinois couldn’t run the ball worth a darn. Lunt was great going 24/38 (63%) for 285yds & 4TD/0INT. It’s good that Lunt played well, but there has to be some worry about a defense that couldn’t get off the field & an offense that couldn’t run on YSU! 28
ISU 10 If you just look at the final score you might be a little disappointed in the Hoosiers’ 28-point performance because they averaged nearly 40PPG in ’13 & this is Indiana State! However, Indiana outgained the Sycamores 566-170, was 11/17 on 3rd down & rushed the ball for 455yds/4TD/6.6ypc! Tevin Coleman was a beast with 247yds/2TD/10.1ypc but D’Angelo Roberts 129yds/1TD/5.4ypc! Indiana’s O-Line was outstanding & don’t forget that defense had a great day. ISU was 2/14 on 3rd down & had just 30 rushing yards. Indiana completely DOMINATED this game from start to finish & HC Kevin Wilson has to be happy. 28
NIU 23 I don’t know what it is about Northern Iowa, but Iowa always seems to struggle with them a bit. QB Jake Ruddock was solid at 31/41 (76%) for 250yds/2TD/0INT, but Iowa had problems with their running game. Mark Weisman & Jordan Canzeri didn’t play all that well which was surprising. A lot of dinking & dunking with the passing game too although Derrick Willies had a 46yd reception. Defensively Iowa did a great job against the run but gave up quite a few passing yards. On the other hand NIU completed just 46% of their passes & threw 2 picks. Nothing to get excited about here but I would have liked to see more big plays. 31
14 Michigan wasn’t going to let a repeat of 2007 happen this season. The Wolverines left no doubt going up 42-0 early in the 3Q & racking up 560 total yards! The Michigan offense put on a clinic as QB Devin Gardner was 13/14 for 174yds/3TD. RBs Derrick Green & De’Veon Smith both have over a 100yds rushing & combined for 285yds/3TD/12.4YPC!!! WR Devin Funchess at 6’5/230lbs went 7rec/95yds/3TD & will be a redzone nightmare for opposing defenses. Defense was solid holding App St. to 4.1 yards per play & allowing a 51.5% completion mark. A really good day for an unproven O-Line. That’s very good news. 52
34 After seeing Ohio St. & Notre Dame play yesterday it does look like those teams will be losses for Navy, but I’m not discounting the Buckeyes struggling because that would make Navy a 10-2 team by year’s end. Navy actually led 7-6 at halftime & 14-13 late in the 3Q, but it did look like the Buckeyes finally wore the Middies down & outscored Navy 21-3 from that point forward. QB JT Barrett looked awfully good for never having any college experience & WR Dontre Wilson should get the ball every down! He’s ELECTRIC! Tyvis Powell led the defense with 13 tackles. This was a very good win that will look better over time. 17
34 The good news is that Purdue scored 43pts after averaging 14.9PPG in 2013! That’s a huge step forward. QB Danny Etling was OK but he threw 2TD & had no picks. The Purdue rushing game looked good with Raheem Mostert going for 146yds/2TD/6.6ypc & Akeem Hunt chipping in 78yds/1TD/5.2ypc. The O-Line paved the way for 226yds rushing & Etling was sacked only once. The bad news is that W.Michigan is SERIOUSLY awful & they still rolled up 34pts on Purdue & kept Etling pretty much a non-factor. WMU actually had more yards & Purdue & ran for over 200! These are VERY OMINOUS signs for the PU defense. 43
7 A ridiculous display of offensive firepower. The Cornhuskers racked up 784 total yards en route to 55 points! It took them a bit to warm up, but when they did GOOD GRIEF! Most impressive was NU’s running game. Ameer Abdullah ran for 232yds/1TD/11.0ypc while Terrell Newby added 107yds/2TD/6.7ypc! WRs Kenny Bell & Jordan Westerkamp really stepped up too combining for 11rec/241yds/1TD! Westerkamp even made a behind the back catch! QB Tommy Armstrong was solid. Defense was GREAT but star DE Randy Gregory hurt his knee & is day-to-day. That could be an issue if the injury lingers. Great 1st game. 55
31 This was the most shocking game of the day in my opinion. Before the season began I had Northwestern winning the B1G West & finishing the season 11-1! I had Cal having another bad year & finishing 1-11! Instead, the Bears walk into Evanston & go up 31-7 mid-way through the 3rd quarter! Cal QB Jared Goff had a great day & NW had no answer. The troubling part was NW QB Trevor Siemian. The senior QB completed just 52% of his passes & threw 2 picks. Over the last 5-years NW was 17-3 as home favorites & Cal was 2-14 as road underdogs. Sometimes games just don’t make sense. This is one of them. 24
JMU 7 Sure it was only James Madison, but Maryland had an excellent day & was up 45-0 after 3 quarters. I thought the Maryland pass defense had a great day holding JMU QB Vlad Lee to a 43% completion rate & picking him off twice. Offensively I would have liked to have seen a little more from QB CJ Brown, but the Terps running game was solid rushing for 285yds/5TD/5.7ypc. What’s interesting going forward is that Maryland’s defense was dominant against the run & they’ll face MUCH TOUGHER rushing attacks in the B1G which could foreshadow the problems Maryland could have keeping opponents offenses off the field. 52
24 A brutal loss for Wisconsin who led the game 24-7 midway through the 3Q. I couldn’t figure this game out while watching it. Wisconsin seemed to tire at the end which is why I think LSU outscored them 21-0 down the stretch but the Wisconsin offense looked awful & they only gave the ball to Melvin Gordon 16 times! Gordon in those 16 carries rushed for 140yds & a TD & even if you take away his 63yd run he still averaged 5.1ypc! Why not ride that train to a victory? I thought Wisconsin played great D although RB Kenny Hilliard got hot. Wisconsin needs to figure out their QB situation because Tanner McEvoy is terrible. 28

August 31, 2014 Posted by | Big 10, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan St., Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio St, Penn St., Purdue, Rutgers, Week 1, Wisconsin | Leave a comment