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Football NCAAF

2019 Big Ten Football Preview

Urban Meyer "retired" from football again for "health" reasons.

2018 Standings & Bowl Game Results

Big Ten West

  1. Northwestern Wildcats: 9-5 (8-1): Won Holiday Bowl 31-20 over Utah
  2. Iowa Hawkeyes: 9-4 (5-4): Won Outback Bowl 27-22 over Mississippi St.
  3. Wisconsin Badgers: 8-5 (5-4): Won Pinstripe Bowl 35-3 over Miami
  4. Purdue Boilermakers: 6-7 (5-4): Lost Music City Bowl 63-14 to Auburn
  5. Nebraska Cornhuskers 4-8 (3-6)
  6. Minnesota Gophers: 7-6 (3-6): Won Quick Lane Bowl 34-10 over Georgia Tech
  7. Illinois Fighting Illini: 4-8 (2-7)

Big Ten East

  1. Ohio State Buckeyes: 13-1 (8-1): Won Rose Bowl 28-23 over Washington
  2. Michigan Wolverines: 10-3 (8-1): Lost Peach Bowl 41-15 to Florida
  3. Penn State Nittany Lions: 9-4 (6-3): Lost Citrus Bowl 27-24 to Kentucky
  4. Michigan St. Spartans: 7-6 (5-4): Lost Redbox Bowl 7-6 to Oregon
  5. Maryland Terrapins: 5-7 (3-6)
  6. Indiana Hoosiers: 5-7 (2-7)
  7. Rutgers Scarlet Knights: 1-11 (0-9)

The Big Ten went 5-4 in Bowl games last year, and 1-1 in New Years 6 games. The sad part for the Big Ten was missing the College Football Playoff for a second year in a row. Ohio State had a brutal blowout loss to Purdue that eventually we found out was the reason they were kept out. Michigan the other hopeful, had they upper-hand at a playoff spot until they got blown out by Ohio State on the road. Overall it was an average year for the Big Ten. Wisconsin was a team that was ranked #4 at the start of 2018 and ended up unranked, while Michigan St. was ranked and had a very disappointing year ended up 7-6 on the year. The Big Ten West as a whole was odd with Northwestern coming out on top going 8-1 in conference with their only loss coming at home to Michigan. At one point Purdue, Northwestern, Wisconsin, and Iowa had a chance to win the West and you really had no clue who was going to come out on top.

5 Big (Ten) Questions in 2019

  1. Can the Big Ten get back to the College Football Playoff after a two year hiatus?
    • The only two real chances I see the Big Ten having are Ohio State and Michigan and both teams have major questions. For one Ohio State has a new coach in Ryan Day, and new QB in Justin Fields, and they lost a ton of production on offense. Their defense was bad last year for their standards so they brought in Greg Mattison from Michigan to turn things around. Michigan has questions on offense with new OC Josh Gattis. Will his new uptempo, shotgun offense change the faults Jim Harbaugh has had in the past. Can Michigan beat a ranked team on the road? The real question, can Harbaugh beat Ohio State. I think Michigan St. has a outside shot to surprise people and win the Big Ten East and have a shot at the College Football Playoff.
  2. Talking about Michigan St., can they bounce back?
    • MSU had a very bad year last year, even with a top defense. Their offense was riddled with injuries, mainly at QB with Brian Lewerke who does have NFL talent. It’s hard to imagine two years in a row of bad football from a Mark Dantonio coached team. The big four in the Big Ten East weren’t the big four last year partly because MSU was so bad. Michigan St. has the talent and mainly the defense to compete with Michigan and Ohio State in the East. If they have a bounce back year, they could really screw things up in the Big Ten.
  3. How much does Nebraska improve?
    • Many people have a hard on out there for Nebraska for some reason even though their defense is still atrocious, and it’s only the second year under Frost so he doesn’t have his guys. However, Nebraska played well at the end of 2018 and they are on the up and up in the Big Ten West. Does this team have enough to compete for the Big Ten West title? There are huge expectations with Frost in Nebraska and it’ll be interesting to watch this team if they lose a game or two early on.
  4. Who wins the Big Ten West?
    • The Big Ten West might not be the best division in college football, but it is without a doubt the most up for grabs. Besides Illinois, you can make an argument for every other team to come out on top. We just talked about Nebraska, but will Wisconsin have a bounce back year, can Iowa behind Nate Stanley make another run at the top, Northwestern is always tough and has Clemson transfer Hunter Johnson at QB, Minnesota won 7 games last year and finally beat Wisconsin in 2018 and have a favorable schedule in 2019, and finally Purdue has one of the most exciting players in the country in WR Rondale Moore and Jeff Brohm stayed in Lafayette for a reason. The Big Ten West is wide the fuck open and should be fun to watch all year.
  5. Does the Big Ten have a legit Heisman Candidate?
    • The first name that comes to mind is Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor who could lead the country in yards and turnovers, but to win the Heisman Wisconsin will probably need to win the Big Ten and be a playoff team. Does Purdue WR Rondale Moore have a ridiculous year and get invited to New York? He might have a great year but Purdue being a great team is a long shot. If anything the recent Heisman winners have shown us you need to have great statistics, be on a playoff team, and if you’re not on a playoff team you have to be must watch TV, which is what Lamar Jackson was in 2016. That leaves me with two big candidates and both are QBs: Justin Fields of Ohio State and Shea Patterson of Michigan. Both guys have question marks, but if either guy can lead their team to an undefeated year, a playoff spot, and probably score at least 30 all purpose TDs then I can see either guy making the trip to New York.

Biggest Off-Season Moves

  1. Ryan Day takes over for Urban Meyer
    • Urban Meyer “retired” from football again for “health” reasons. I don’t mean to make fun but when you’re on the sidelines kneeling over in pain *only* when your team is losing or getting gashed, it’s hard to believe you have health problems. I mean when Ohio State was kicking the shit out of my Wolverines, I don’t recall seeing Urban in pain. Urban is now in the booth and give it a year or two and he’ll be on the sidelines in USC again and bring them back to prominence. In his place, former Buckeye OC Ryan Day takes over. Day coached the team for the first three games in 2018 and went 3-0. If Ohio State sees a drop in success in 2019 I don’t think we can pin it all on him. Day have proven to be a good coach but Ohio State lost a lot on offense. Good thing for Day, they have gimme games until going to Nebraska on September 28th.
  2. Jim Harbaugh hires Josh Gattis to be is new Offensive Coordinator
    • After years of lining up like a 1990’s pro style team and trying to the run the ball up the middle, Harbaugh made the smart decision and turned the offense over to former Alabama OC Josh Gattis. Gattis brings in a new wide open, shotgun, RPO style offense that is much more friendly to QBs Shea Patterson and Dylan McCaffrey. Harbaugh’s offense was successful in years past, but they weren’t blowing out teams they should have, they weren’t putting away teams they should have, and against stiffer competition the offense consistently struggled. Gattis has talent all over the field in Michigan. He has one of the best WR crops in the country, two very good TE’s, one of the best OLs in the country and a few QBs who can do whatever he asks of them. The only question mark here is the RB position but other teams have shown you can still have successful offense with multiple RBs.
  3. Justin Fields transfers to Ohio State
    • Fields couldn’t get on the field for Georgia because Jake Fromm was just too good so Fields decided to head out and play for Ohio State. He doesn’t have to sit out a year according to the NCAA because: reasons. Fields isn’t the only guy whose transferred and can play right away for absolutely no good reason at all other than he didn’t get playing time at his old school. Fields was one of the top recruits in the nation and brings a different type of QB to Ohio State then what they had with Dwayne Haskins. Fields will be a much better runner than Haskins, but needs to work on his throwing. If Fields can throw the ball well, Ohio State won’t miss a beat on offense even with all the talent that left Columbus this off season.

Notes & Conference Tidbits

Schedules

  • Big Ten West Hardest Schedule: Wisconsin Badgers
    • Badger open at South Florida which could be a tricky game. Then in the East, they get Michigan at home on September 21st, Michigan St. at home on October 12th, and have to go to Ohio State on October 26th. They also have to go to Nebraska and Minnesota late in the year. No other team in the West draws 3 of the big four teams from the East. Right now, Wisconsin plays 5 teams ranked in the AP Poll.
    • Runner Up: Northwestern
  • Big Ten East Hardest Schedule: Michigan Wolverines
    • In the non-conference Michigan plays two teams that won double digit games last year: Army at home on September 7th, and Notre Dame at home on October 26th. They obviously play (at) Penn State, Michigan St., and Ohio State. From the West, they have to go to Wisconsin on September 21st and host Iowa on October 5th. Right now, Michigan plays 6 teams ranked in the AP Poll.
    • Runner Up: Michigan St.

Offensive Player of the Year Candidates

  • RB Jonathan Taylor (WI), WR Rondale Moore (PUR), QB Justin Fields (OSU)
    • Darkhorse: QB Shea Patterson (MICH), RB J.K. Dobbins (OSU)

Defensive Player of the Year Candidates

  • DE A.J. Epenesa (Iowa), DE Chase Young (OSU), LB Joe Bachie (MSU),
    • Darkhorse: DE Aidan Hutchinson (MICH), DL Kenny Willekes (MSU)

Best Offensive Units

  • QBs: Michigan (Shea Patterson, Dylan McCaffrey)
    • You’ll find a good amount of Michigan fans out there who think McCaffrey is better than Patterson and should be starter. If there is a gap between them, it’s not big and if Patterson goes out the Wolverines wouldn’t miss a beat. McCaffrey probably starts at every other Big Ten school other than Ohio State.
    • Runner Up: Ohio State (Justin Fields), Nebraska (Adrian Martinez)
  • RBs: Wisconsin Badgers (Jonathan Taylor)
    • Don’t really care whose behind Taylor here, he had 2,194 YDS, 16 TDs in 2018 and was a First Team All American and won the Doak Walker award. His OL loses a lot of talent but Wisconsin just reloads there. Taylor should lead the Big Ten in rushing again and be a dark horse Heisman candidate.
    • Runner Up: Ohio State (J.K. Dobbins), Minnesota Gophers
  • WRs: Michigan (Tarik Black, Nico Collins, Donovan Peoples-Jones)
    • All three of these guys can go to the NFL, all three have a different skill set that Michigan can utilize. Black’s issue has been he can’t stay healthy, and the other two just didn’t get the ball enough with Harbaugh running the offense. DPJ is an absolute game changer and should get the ball in a ton of ways for Michigan.
    • Runner Up: Ohio State Buckeyes, Purdue Boilermakers
  • TEs: Penn State (Pat Freiermuth)
    • Freiermuth is probably going to be the top individual TE in the Big Ten this year so we put them at the top. Freiermuth had 26 catches for 368 yards and 8 TDs last year as a Freshman.
    • Runner Up: Michigan Wolverines, Iowa Hawkeyes
  • OLs: Michigan (C Cesar Ruiz, LT Jon Runyan, RG Michael Onewenu, LG Ben Bredeson, RT Jalen Mayfield)
    • Michigan returns four starters from last year with RT Jalen Mayfield being the odd guy out. Bredeson can improve his draft stock this year and play himself into a first round draft pick, Onewenu is also an NFL talent.
    • Runner Up: Iowa Hawkeyes, Wisconsin Badgers

Best Defensive Units

  • DLs: Michigan St (Kenny Willekes, Jacub Panasiuk, Raequan Williams, Mike Panasuik, Naquan Jones, Jacob Slade)
    • Michigan St. has a few All-American candidates in Willekes and Williams, and they return everybody from a front four that here first against the run in 2018. These guys will lead a Michigan St. defense that should be on of the tops in the nation.
    • Runner Up: Ohio State Buckeyes, Penn St. Nittany Lions
  • LBs: Penn State (Micah Parsons, Jan Johnson, Cam Brown, Charlie Katshir, Ellis Brooks, Jesse Luketa)
    • Parsons had 83 tackles last year, Johnson had 72 in 2018. Penn State also goes very deep with this unit has two highly touted recruits that will probably compete for time also. Combine this unit with Penn States great DL, and the defense should carry Penn State in 2019.
    • Runner Up: Michigan St. Spartans, Michigan Wolverines
  • DBs: Ohio State (Jordan Fuller, Damon Arnette, Jeff Okudah)
    • OSU is loaded on the back-end, led by future first round pick in Jeff Okudah. Fuller at the other CB positions and Jordan Fuller at Safety are both NFL guys also. Sophomore Josh Proctor who played in nine games last year as a True Freshman will most likely start at safety opposite Jordan Fuller. Also lots of experience here, Arnette and Fuller are both Seniors while Okudah is a Junior.
    • Runner Up: Michigan Wolverines, Penn State Nittany Lions

Best Special Team Units

  • Kicker: Justin Davidovicz (Rutgers), Logan Justus (Indiana), Matt Coghlin (MSU), Jake Moody (Michigan)
  • Punter: Will Hart (Michigan), Drue Chrisman (Ohio State)
  • Returners: Rondale Moore (Purdue), Donovan Peoples-Jones (Michigan)

Conference Game of the Year

  • Ohio State @ Michigan (November 30th)
    • Hard not to pick “The Game” as the top game in the Big 10 every year. These are the projected top two teams in the Big Ten, what many consider the only real CFP contenders in this conference, and of course Michigan hasn’t beat Ohio State in forever and this seems like a great chance for them to do it. If everything goes as planned for these two, both should be undefeated going into this game or one loss at the most
    • Runner-Up: Michigan St @ Michigan (Nov. 16th), Michigan St. @ Ohio State (Oct. 5th), Iowa @ Wisconsin (Nov 9th)

Non-Conference Game of the Year

  • Notre Dame @ Michigan (Oct. 26th)
    • Normally this is a Week 1 game but this year it comes in late October which is huge. Both teams have CFP aspirations and this game could go a long way in getting one of these teams in. With this game coming so late in the year its going to have bigger implications on the CFP rankings and both teams are going to be more well refined versus the knocking off the rust in Week One. If Notre Dame somehow wins at Georgia and both teams are undefeated, this has game of the year potential.
    • Runner-Up: Iowa @ Iowa St. (Sept. 14th), TCU @ Purdue (Sept. 14th), Nebraska @ Colorado (Sept. 7th), Northwestern @ Stanford (Aug. 31st)

2019 Picks

Big Ten West

  1. Iowa
  2. Wisconsin
  3. Minnesota
  4. Nebraska
  5. Purdue
  6. Northwestern
  7. Illinois

The Big Ten West is the biggest crap shoot in all of college football, any team 1-6 above could win this division and I imagine it’s going to come down to the final week. I wanted to pick Wisconsin but then took a look at their schedule again, they get Michigan, Michigan St, and Ohio St. – I’m not sure if they win one of those games and that already puts them at three Big Ten losses. Iowa only has to go to Michigan and should have one of the top defenses in the Big Ten with a veteran QB. A dark horse here is Minnesota who has a favorable schedule and Northwestern does have a very good QB coming in and they could repeat, but they just won way too many close games last year for me to think that’s gonna happen again. Nebraska is a year away, I think they could get to 8 wins but until their defense proves they can stop somebody, I just can’t pick them. Honestly we’re throwing a dart a the wall here with the Iowa pick and one of those teams 1-6 is probably going to miss bowl season, just hopefully its not due to injuries.

Big Ten East

  1. Michigan
  2. Michigan St.
  3. Ohio St.
  4. Penn St.
  5. Indiana
  6. Maryland
  7. Rutgers

The Big Ten East is a three team race this year with Penn St. being the odd man out. I think Michigan St. has a bounce back year and is a good dark-horse bet to make the CFP. I like Michigan because I believe Gattis is going to work out and they’re going to have one of the best offenses in the country, they have all the talent to do so. I think Michigan St. takes seconds partly because there is no way they’re going to be as injured in 2019 as they were in 2018. Their QB play should be much better, and I would say they’re going to have a top 3 defense in the country. Ohio St takes third and they might have two losses all year – to the two Michigan teams. You could flip those top three teams and I wouldn’t argue with you. There’s a drop off from those three to Penn St. Penn St. will have a great defense but on offense, who knows what they’re gonna look like. Indiana is gonna compete and probably give one of those top 4 a scare and even pull an upset. I see them fighting for a bowl bid come the end of the year.

Going Bowling

College Football Playoff Contenders: Michigan, Michigan St, Ohio State

New Years Six Contenders: Michigan, Michigan St., Ohio State, Wisconsin, Iowa

Bowl Game Participants: Michigan, Michigan St., Ohio State, Penn State, Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Minnesota, Purdue, Northwestern

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