Almost as bad as the fans who get raging diamond cutters over the SEC are the fans who defend the Big Ten or their teams and do it in a pathetic manner. The Big Ten is a good conference, not a great one, not a bad one, just a good one. When they have the opportunity to win the big one, every time (other than the phantom pass interference penalty in the 2002 title game), they choke. It’s just a fact. So for all the tOSU fans, all the Nittany Lion diehards, all the ones who want to defend Brady Hoke’s diet or Darrell Hazell’s possibility of success in West Lafayette, take it down a notch. Let the season play out and hope one of your teams makes it to the College Football Playoff and then anything could happen. OK, enough of that rant. I think years of getting only Big Ten and Notre Dame games (and the SEC game of the week on CBS, even pre-Verne) has caught up to me. Here are the Big Ten predictions.
- Michigan State Spartans (8-0 conference, 11-1 overall) – It’s time for Sparty to show the rest of the conference who’s boss. They are in easily the tougher of the two Big Ten divisions so it won’t be easy. But with tOSU, Michigan, and Nebraska all coming to East Lansing, this is the Spartans’ best chance in a very long time to contend for a national championship. Only a mega-matchup against Oregon will keep this team from running the table.
- Ohio State Buckeyes (7-1 conference, 11-1 overall) – The Fighting Urbans (or the Fighting Meyers, whichever you choose) had a pretty bad end to last season. After 24 wins in a row, they came crashing back down to Earth. But I would have them winning the East and going back to Indianapolis if it weren’t for one thing; their late season trip to Michigan State. That will be the one thing that keeps them out of the inaugural CFP Fun-Time Bonanza Semi-Finals of Doom and Destruction and Such.
- Michigan Wolverines (5-3 conference, 8-4 overall) – Big Bad Brady Hoke brings his somewhat-less-than-big-and-bad Wolverines into this season looking to make a statement and also save his job. They should be better than last year but not by much. However, this should be enough to keep his job…for now. At some point, Hoke has to contend for the division title or he will be given his walking papers.
- Penn State Nittany Lions (5-3 conference, 9-3 overall) – Hey did you hear James Franklin is now the head coach in State College? Only thousands of times. We get it. He did wonders at Vanderbilt. And he is an awesome coach. But unless Christian Hackenburg plays lights out all season it won’t matter. Wait, it won’t matter anyway since they won’t be going bowling regardless of how they do. Most interesting thing may be in the off-season if the NCAA discusses cutting the Lions’ stay in bowl game purgatory.
- Indiana Hoosiers (2-6 conference, 3-9 overall) – Why, oh why do experts always play up the Hoosiers’ chances every fucking year? Every. Fucking. Season. “This is the year Indiana goes to a bowl game.” “This is the year Indiana gets into the upper echelon of the Big Ten.” “This is the year the football Hoosiers show everyone that it’s not just basketball that everyone cares about at Indiana.” Can you all please just fuck off? Indiana is finishing near the bottom this year…again. Period. Let’s move on before I actually get pissed off about this.
- Maryland Terrapins (1-7 conference, 4-8 overall) – Everyone in the Big Ten East (even Indiana) has to be salivating at the arrival of the Terps. If it was a better ACC team, they may not have been as pleased, but this is OK…for now. Maryland will be competitive quickly in the conference but not this season, which is music to the other teams’ ears. On the other hand we have the other team that joined the Big Ten for this season…
- Rutgers Scarlet Knights (1-7 conference, 3-9 overall) – …this team is different. Whereas Maryland should be competitive soon and may exceed my expectations even this season, the Knights most certainly will not. They were barely OK in the American and take a massive step up here and should get their asses handed to them on an almost-weekly basis. If it wasn’t for the fact they get Indiana at home, I probably would have had them running the table (in the opposite direction).
- Wisconsin Badgers (7-1 conference, 10-2 overall) – The Badgers have a very rough start to the season; playing LSU in Houston. They will most certainly be underdogs there. However, they probably won’t be the rest of the way. A possible issue with a game at Iowa but other than that it looks like smooth sailing. And what kind of unbiased schedule maker, gives the Badgers a schedule without tOSU and Sparty? How about someone who’s a secret Cheesehead or is originally from Madison. What a joke.
- Iowa Hawkeyes (6-2 conference, 9-3 overall) – I made a huge mistake last year of calling Iowa the worst BCS conference team. Boy was I wrong. Won’t make that same mistake again. I’m even saying that Iowa has an outside shot at winning the division but it will all come down to their game against the Badgers at home late in the season. Win that, and they may make their first trip to the Big Ten title game.
- Nebraska Cornhuskers (5-3 conference, 9-3 overall) – See what I did there? You see? There isn’t a 4 in the losses section. Yes, I am going out on the limb of limbs (and pretty much making sure Bo Pelini doesn’t kick my ass) by saying the Huskers will only lose THREE games this season. Amazing! Unfortunately, they fall in the division standings despite breaking the Pelini Curse which may make Bo (and Pelini Cat) even angrier.
- Northwestern Wildcats (4-4 conference, 6-6 overall) – Remember when the Cats were playing Ohio State and it was on Saturday night on ABC and Musburger was calling the game? It seems like eons ago…it was early last October. Ever since that game, the Wildcats were beyond awful (horri-awful according to the Shaquille O’Neal dictionary). This is their chance for a tiny bit of redemption as I see more of early-season Northwestern rather than late-season Northwestern and have the Wildcats inching into a bowl game this season.
- Minnesota Golden Gophers (4-4 conference, 7-5 overall) – So Jerry Kill will be back on the sideline this season. This is good. And the Gophers won’t return to being shitty. This is also good. The same schedule that didn’t give Wisky the Buckeyes and Spartans gave them to the Gophers. Yeah, thanks bud. Throw in games against Michigan and travelling to Nebraska and this team will earn their bowl game bid this season.
- Illinois Fighting Illini (1-7 conference, 4-8 overall) – Tim Beckman must almost seem sad, longing for the good old days when he was back in the MAC, being all successful and shit at a smaller program. His time in Champaign will probably come to an end after this season (or during if they’ve truly tried of him) as there is no way he can will the Illini to a bowl game this season. Sorry, Timm-ay.
- Purdue Boilermakers (0-8 conference, 3-9 overall) – Speaking of former MAC coaches regretting their decisions to take a step up, Darrell Hazell and his fighting train engineers better get used to the basement. There is nothing about this team that screams progress or competitiveness or conference wins. Luckily for Purdue, other than Notre Dame, their non-conference sked is a joke so they should at least win more than they did last year during that awful season that they would like to forget.
And now the conference championship game prediction. And what the Big Ten Conference Championship game has taught us is that you should rarely pick the favourite. Or just pick Wisconsin. I will buck this awful trend and say Michigan State beats Wisky pretty easily and has an outside shot at the CFP Semi-Finals.