Is there anything more worthless than preseason predictions? It’s hard enough to guess what’s going to occur in the upcoming week, much less over the course of a whole football season. I don’t care how much you know about the game, no one can account for all of the variables (letdowns, injuries, suspensions, scandal, etc...) that can potentially affect a team’s performance over the course of a season. But what else can be talked about while you’re waiting for them to kick it off? Below is my FROM THE COUCH predictions for the upcoming season. My predictions include comments on each team and, like all prognosticators, are written as though I know what I’m talking about. I’m fully aware that when it comes to preseason predictions, no one does.
OHIO ST. (7-1), (11-1) – The only thing certain about college football is its uncertainty. Major upsets will happen and the Buckeyes are a prime candidate. So prior to going through this season’s schedule, I’d already made up my mind that Ohio St. is gonna lose a game. Now all I had to do was figure out which one. Who do I think could possibly beat this loaded defending national champion? Maybe Minnesota but that game’s at the Shoe. So is the Michigan St. game and I don’t think the Buckeyes will be letting their guard down for that one - the Spartans are a legitimate threat. It’s gonna happen at the Big House on the last game of the regular season, leaving the Buckeyes on the bubble for inclusion in the playoffs.
MICHIGAN ST. (6-2), (9-3) – It’ll be a good season but the Spartans had their fifteen minutes of championship fame. There’s a new sheriff in town. Well, actually it’s an old sheriff returned, but you get what I’m saying. DC Pat Narduzzi bolting for Pitt doesn’t help, either.
MICHIGAN (5-3), (9-3) – The answer for me is “yes”. I think new HC Jim Harbaugh turns things around immediately. Adding Harbaugh’s coaching abilities is only half of the equation. Eliminating former HC Brady Hoke’s ineptness is the other half. This is Michigan. There’s always been talent. Just have to know how to use it.
MARYLAND (3-5), (6-6) – Caleb Rowe is a decent QB and Randy Edsall is a good enough coach to muster a .500 record in a league that really isn’t that strong after the top four or five teams.
INDIANA (3-5), (6-6) – The Hoosiers finally go bowling. I don’t think they’ll be any better than in previous seasons, but the schedule sets up some opportunities.
PENN ST. (3-5), (6-6) – Most expect big things from the Nittany Lions this season but not me. I’m not sold on HC James Franklin. To me he comes off like a used car salesman- all smoke and mirrors. Harsh judgment after only one season at the helm, but that offensive scheme was high school. Blaming the O-line was a scapegoat to hide that fact. And there were no changes among his coaching staff so I expect more of the same.
RUTGERS (1-7), (5-7) – The Scarlet Knights were much better than expected last season against a tough schedule. Once again the schedule is unjust as the crossover games are against Wisconsin and Nebraska, and there aren’t many returning starters. I like HC Kyle Flood but I just can’t find many conference wins for Rutgers.
WISCONSIN (6-2), (9-3) – I don’t think the Badgers will be all that good due mainly to the transition to new HC Paul Chryst. The first season of a coaching change is always iffy and it isn’t like Chryst was lighting it up at Pitt. There’s also a considerable lack of experience on the O-line. But Chryst and the players are familiar with each other as Chryst served as the Badgers OC a few years ago. And the conference schedule is favorable enough for Wisconsin to win the trip to the Big Ten championship game even though they won’t be the best team in this division.
MINNESOTA (5-3), (8-4) – I had planned on predicting a division championship and an overall great season for the Gophers. But as I was working my way through the season I couldn’t help but play my hunch for a couple of upsets at Minnesota’s expense. The Gophers open the conference schedule with two consecutive road games against Northwestern and Purdue. Two very winnable games but I’ve got a feeling the Gophers lose both. I also think they beat some good teams, including Wisconsin, but a crossover loss at Ohio St. will relegate the Gophers to second place in the division.
NEBRASKA (5-3), (7-5) – My thinking is that a change of scenery doesn’t make a coach any better. And while it’s true that an improvement in talent can certainly help, the fact remains that new HC Mike Riley is a lifelong .500 coach. And usually the first year of a coaching change isn’t very successful in the win column. And from what I understand, Riley likes to throw. QB Tommy Armstrong showed flashes last season, but for the most part struggled as a passer. Armstrong could improve, though. I’m not so sure Riley will at this point in his career.
NORTHWESTERN (4-4), (7-5) – The Wildcats drove me nuts last season as they were a completely different team from week to week. I hate to say it because I like HC Pat Fitzgerald, but that’s usually a sign of poor coaching. Fitz has been around long enough now for his rate of improvement as a coach to have leveled off, so I’d say by now what you see is what you get; a very good, but not great, coach. And with the academic standards and the mediocre status as a football program, NW isn’t an easy place to recruit. I expect another up and down season from the Wildcats.
IOWA (3-5), (6-6) – I’ve defended HC Kirk Ferentz long enough. His days as a premier coach of a premier program have passed. This team was just as weird last season as Northwestern was as the Hawkeyes too were a different team from week to week. I’ve always found the Hawkeyes’ offensive play calling to be strange, and now the fundamentals are starting to fade. Last season’s team was uncharacteristically poor at tackling and the O-line struggled to open holes despite the presence of a top NFL draft pick. The top NFL draft pick will obviously be busy playing in the NFL this season.
PURDUE (3-5), (5-7) – I like the Boilermakers to improve this season. Not saying they’ll be a powerhouse but I do think they take a step forward. I base this on what I saw last season. They were showing signs.
ILLINOIS (2-6), (5-7) –The season ending victory against Northwestern that sent the Illini to a bowl last season was about the worst thing that could have happened for this program. It put the Illinois administrators in a position to have to acknowledge improvement and give HC Tim Beckman another season at the helm. As I’ve always said, I think Beckman’s a nice guy and I hope he proves me wrong, but I don’t think he’s the answer. But I’ll give him credit for bringing in a good OC who turned the offense around and now he’s shown the backbone to hire a new DC to take over a horrendous defense, so maybe he will prove me wrong. I’ll also give credit to the Illinois administrators for giving their coaching hires every reasonable chance. They did the same thing with Beckman’s predecessor, Ron Zook. But I do think the story will have the same ending.
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