#Big10 Football Best/Worse 2016

What a crazy year it was in the Big 10. Michigan State’s crazy ride ended with a thud against Alabama, but a lot of teams face that when playing the Crimson Tide. How about Northwestern’s rise? The early season victory over Stanford catapulted them into a very successful season. Even though Ohio State did not make the playoff, they ended the season with a very good win in the Fiesta Bowl. We can not forget Michigan, Harbaugh has the Wolverines primed for a deep run this season. Nebraska could not buy a break early, but they snuck in and won a bowl game. What will happen this go-around? We will go team by team projecting a best and worst case scenario and along the way we will see how last season compared to our best and worse scenarios. We are not predicting which team will go to which bowl, rather outlining how the season in the Big 10 might shake out.

Illinois

Last year: 5-7

Vegas over/under win prediction: 4.5

They surpassed Vegas’ outlook and avoided our worst case scenario, but failed to make a bowl. Enter Lovie Smith, his NFL experience and defensive acumen should help the Fighting Illini. Perhaps not this season though. We should find out something when they host North Carolina on September 10. Last season the Tar Heels poured it on, but this year the game is in Champaign. Back to back road games against Rutgers and Michigan will also be a test (October 15 and 22). Best case: making a bowl. Worst Case: another 5 or less win season.

Indiana

Last year: 6-7 (Defeated by Duke in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl)

Vegas over/under win prediction: 4.5

Last season we thought the best case for the Hoosiers would be bowl eligibility, and they got there. Although a 6 game losing streak midseason put that goal in jeopardy. There were a few close scores that could have swung another victory their way. This season they open on the road at Florida International, but the rest of the road games are spread out through the season. To make back to back bowls Indiana has the good fortune of just defending home field. Michigan State on October 1 will be the toughest home game. Best case: returning to a bowl. Worst case: the under on Vegas’ 4.5 prediction.

Iowa

Last season: 12-2 (Defeated by Stanford in the Rose Bowl game presented by Northwestern Mutual)

Vegas over/under win prediction: 8.5

What a year for the Hawkeyes, even though they came up short against Michigan State and Stanford at the end it was still a very good season. I loved watching the Big 10 Championship Game, classic slugfest. The schedule sets up for the Hawkeyes to have a really good season again. The toughest road game will be at Penn State on October 5, they get Michigan at home the week after. That two week stretch could make or break the season if Iowa has visions of replicating the success of last season. Best case: New Year’s 6. Worst case: a low ranking bowl such as the Quick Lane Bowl.

Maryland

Last season: 3-9

Vegas over/under win prediction: 4.5

Dreadful, Maryland lost to Bowling Green last season. They did manage to get a win over Rutgers in the last game of the season. Last season we said in our worst case scenario that they could finish 3-9 on a 9 game losing streak, well that almost happened. Vegas says to not fear the turtle again this season. The fact that they have half of their schedule on the road leads me to believe that this will be another long season for the Terps.  Back to back nonconference road games at that: at Florida International and Central Florida (sidebar-why is a Big Ten school scheduling like an FCS school?) on September 9 and 17 are probably an indication of a bad year happening. We’ll see (second sidebar-how in the bleep did Florida International get not 1 but 2 Big Ten teams to come to their place?) Best case: Getting over Vegas’ win prediction. Worst case: when is basketball season again?

Michigan

Last season: 10-3 (Defeated Florida in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl)

Vegas over/under win prediction: 10

We stated last season that a swift turnaround in Ann Arbor should be expected. Well all they did was get double digit victories and Harbaugh doesn’t even have all his pieces in place yet. It ought to be fun for the Wolverines this season. 3 of their only 4 road games will be tests Michigan State October 29, Iowa November 12, and Ohio State November 26. But, they get Illinois, Maryland, and Indiana as tune ups at home before each road test. They also open the season with consecutive home dates. To say it could be a good year is an understatement. Best case: College Football Playoff. Worst case: New Year’s 6.

Michigan State

Last season: 12-2 (Defeated by Alabama in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl-College Football Playoff)

Vegas over/under win prediction: 7.5

If not for a fluke against Nebraska, Michigan State might have went into the Playoff against a different opponent and who knows what could have happened. We stated last season the best case scenario would be in the Playoff and that is exactly what happened. Vegas does not seem to like them to return to their spot atop the conference but that is why they play the games. They travel to Notre Dame on September 17, this will be an early season test to see what kind of team we have in the Spartans this year. The two games to circle are the rematches with Michigan and Ohio State on October 29 and November 19. Even though they get both at home, both will seeking revenge for last season. Best case: Outback or Holiday. Worst case: stumbling to a 6-6 season.

Minnesota

Last season: 6-7 (Defeated Central Michigan in the Quick Lane Bowl)

Vegas over/under win prediction: 6

Losing 5 of 6 almost cost the Gophers a bowl game, but they got in and took home a victory. We stated in the best case scenario that they could make the Quick Lane bowl and not only did they make that bowl, they won it. Vegas seems to think they are going to hover right around the same record as last season. Taking a look at the favorable schedule gives reason to be optimistic about a bowl return. The toughest road game should be October 1 at Penn State, after that the last game is also on the road: at Wisconsin on November 26. That game could be a bowl pecking order game. Best case: New Year’s bowl (not New Year’s 6). Worst case: Back in the Quick Lane Bowl.

Nebraska

Last season: 6-7 (Defeated UCLA in the Foster Farms Bowl)

Vegas over/under win prediction: 8.5

The best case scenario we outlined was making a bowl, Nebraska got in by the slimmest of margins and outlasted the Bruins. I still am not sold on this program, even though Vegas likes them. The one thing they have going is they are not afraid to schedule opponents. Last year BYU and Miami were big nonconference games and this season Oregon comes to Lincoln on September 17. Almost all of their road games this season are going to be really difficult. At Northwestern (Sep 24), at Indiana (Oct 15), at Wisconsin (Oct 29), at Ohio State (Nov 5), and at Iowa (Nov 25). That is a gauntlet of a schedule and if they can get through that then respect. Best case: Bowl eligibility. Worst case: Upset by Fresno State and Wyoming to start off a bad 3-9 season.

Northwestern

Last season: 10-3 (Defeated by Tennessee in the Outback Bowl)

Vegas over/under win prediction: 6.5

What a season, Northwestern got to 10 wins. How often does that happen? They surpassed our speculations by far and the defense they showed all season was awesome. I was very impressed by this team all year. I don’t know if they can match 10 regular season wins again but 9 are very doable. The 3 games to watch are all on the road: Iowa (Oct 1), Michigan State (Oct 15), and Ohio State (Oct 29). It seems the month of October will be the time when we find out all about Northwestern. Hopefully they can pick up where they left off and be a surprise again. Best case: Another New Year’s Day (Not New Year’s 6). Worst case: 6-6.

Ohio State

Last season: 12-1 (Defeated Notre Dame in the Battlefrog Fiesta Bowl)

Vegas over/under win prediction: 9.5

The only game that kept Ohio State from defending their title was an upset at the shoe by Michigan State. They nailed our “worst” case scenario by making the New Year’s 6 bowl against Notre Dame. That being said this is a program that has only lost 4 games under head coach Urban Meyer. Yes they are 50-4. That is awesome. It is not like they have been beating cupcakes every week either. The Big Ten has established itself as a conference that can compete with whoever, whenever. This season they continue to schedule great with a road trip to Oklahoma on September 17. I feel as though they will be favored in every single game except that one and maybe the Michigan game at home to finish off the season. Best case: College Football Playoff. Worst case: New Year’s 6.

Penn State

Last season: 7-6 (Defeated by Georgia in the Taxslayer Bowl)

Vegas over/under win prediction: 6.5

Penn State started off with a dud by losing to a better than we all expected Temple team then ran off 7 wins in 8 games. A bad 4 game losing streak ended what we thought would be a double digit victory season. This year the second game is a road game at Pitt on September 10. After that they get Temple in Happy Valley September 17. They travel to Michigan the next week on the 24. Penn State lucks out by getting Ohio State and Michigan State at home on October 22 and November 26. Best case: Mid-tier bowl. Worst case: another 7-6 season.

Purdue

Last season: 2-10

Vegas over/under win prediction: 4.5

I bet they wish Drew Brees would retire and become head coach. Purdue has become a very bad program. 6 wins in the last THREE seasons. This season I see no reason for optimism to get to Vegas’ win total. They should be favored against Eastern Kentucky to open the season but after that it is anyone’s guess. Cincinnati and Nevada are the other two non conference games and those will probably be losses. Best case: winning more than 3 games. Worst case: 1-11.

Rutgers

Last season: 4-8

Vegas over/under win prediction: 4.5

Last season was forgettable. We stated our worst case scenario would be 4-8 or 5-7 and they matched that 4-8 record. This season they open at Pac-12 favorite Washington and could very well have a first half of the season record of 2-4. There are not many victories to see in the second half of the season either. At Minnesota, Michigan State, and Maryland all in the second half of the season are going to test the Scarlet Knights’ depth after a long season in the Big 1o. Best case: overachieving to bowl eligibility. Worst case: bottoming out to a 2-3 win season.

Wisconsin

Last season: 10-3 (Defeated USC in the National Funding Holiday Bowl)

Vegas over/under win prediction: 7

We thought they might be a shade better than they were last season by saying “worst” case scenario would be in a New Year’s 6 game. But they did get to a very good Holiday bowl and won it. Another 10 win season up in Madison. I said this last year, they just know how to do it there. However, if there were a year for the Badgers to fall on hard times this may be it. They open against LSU and have a brutal 4 game stretch from September 24-October 22 that is as follows: at Michigan State, at Michigan, home Ohio State, at Iowa. Good bleeping luck, that is a horrid stretch for any team in America. Best case: make it back to the Holiday Bowl. Worst case: creeping into a bowl at 6-6.

Last season we identified Michigan State, Ohio State, and Wisconsin as teams to look out for. This season I believe this is a 2 horse race between Michigan and Ohio State for the bid into the College Football Playoff with the loser having a New Year’s 6 game as a consolation prize.

 

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