Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, July 18, 2014 at 7:00 PM
It’s always dangerous to make bold predictions in the middle of July about the coming college football season. But we are VERY confident when we say that there will NOT be a replay this year in the Big 10 Championship game between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Michigan State Spartans. There’s just NO way both of those teams will return to the title tilt.
How can we be so confident? They both play in the new EAST Division of the Big 10. No more “Legends” and “Leaders.” The newly expanded Big 10 (which now includes Maryland and Rutgers) is now split geographically in a way that will have Ohio State linked up with potent Michigan State, eternal rival Michigan, and storied Penn State. Only one of those traditional powers can make it to the Big 10 championship game each season…where they will likely face the survivor of Wisconsin, Iowa, and Nebraska (more on that group in tomorrow’s NOTEBOOK).
Who’s going to make it in December of 2014? Let’s run some numbers and see how the race might play out.
Big 10 East Division
2013 Record: 12-2
2013 Rankings: 7 on offense, 46 on defense
Returning Starters: 5 on offense, 6 on defense
Head Coach: Urban Meyer
Notebook: The Buckeyes are the heavy favorites because Heisman Trophy candidate Braxton Miller returns at quarterback. They surely would like to have returned more experience on both sides of the ball in terms of a championship chase. But, these guys are the clear frontrunners because Michigan State returns less talent and has a shakier offense. OSU doesn’t have quite the gift schedule they usually enjoy in September, with Navy, Virginia Tech, and Cincinnati on the slate. They’re still decisive favorites to reach November undefeated. The big game with MSU will be on November 8 in East Lansing.
2013 Record: 13-1
2013 Rankings: 80 on offense, 2 on defense
Returning Starters: 5 on offense, 5 on defense
Head Coach: Mark Dantonio
Notebook: You can make a very good case that Michigan State was superior to Ohio State late last season, which means they should technically be the favorites in the East. MSU beat the Buckeyes 34-24 in Indianapolis to win a Rose Bowl bid…then best Stanford 24-20 in the Rose Bowl. Why won’t the media and the market give them more respect? It’s a blind spot that goes back years, even decades in terms of big game football. We have these teams very close in the NETWORK internal Power Ratings entering the season because we respect defense. Don’t miss MSU at Oregon on September 6!
2013 Record: 7-6
2013 Rankings: 86 on offense, 41 on defense
Returning Starters: 7 on offense, 8 on defense
Head Coach: Brady Hoke
Notebook: The Wolverines have been a disappointment that’s now trending in the wrong direction under Coach Hoke. He was a breath of fresh air when he first arrived. Now it’s clear that he doesn’t know how to run a big time offense other than hoping that a scampering quarterback breaks a big play. The defense played worse when it mattered than that yardage ranking would suggest. Good amount returning talent, and Devin Gardner can still make things happen at quarterback. The bad news is that games with MSU and OSU are both on the road.
2013 Record: 7-5
2013 Rankings: 43 on offense, 48 on defense
Returning Starters: 3 on offense, 6 on defense
Head Coach: James Franklin
Notebook: Coach Franklin comes over from Vanderbilt after his predecessor helped settle a sinking ship. But, this isn’t a group that seems ready to compete. You can see that graduation killed the offense. And, we’re talking about an inconsistent team that got routed by Indiana last year and had to go overtime to beat helpless Illinois. We will be looking to fade the Nittany Lions in league play unless the new offensive starters show us something in September. Note that quarterback Christian Hackenburg is one of the three returning starters on that side of the ball, which could smooth the transition.
2013 Record: 7-6 (in the ACC)
2013 Rankings: 75 on offense, 44 on defense
Returning Starters: 7 on offense, 9 on defense
Head Coach: Randy Edsall
Notebook: The Terps did manage a winning record last year. But, that was padded by victories over Florida International and Old Dominion. Maryland had a losing record in the mediocre ACC, then lost their bowl game to Marshall of Conference USA 31-20. Very tough to see them mattering in their Big 10 debut. An unlucky schedule break has them facing both Wisconsin and Iowa from the “West” division too. At least the team is experienced (including quarterback CJ Brown). The kids will get the thrill of playing Big 10 football before they graduate.
2013 Record: 5-7
2013 Rankings: 9 on offense, 120 on defense
Returning Starters: 7 on offense, 9 on defense
Head Coach: Kevin Wilson
Notebook: The Hoosiers are definitely moving in the right direction. That 5-7 record generally consisted of impressive wins vs. bad Big 10 teams, but losses to the powers because Indiana just doesn’t have the horses to hang tough for 60 minute vs. quality. They are no longer a doormat, which is important. We expect good things to continue this season, and are very interested to see how Indiana handles early road tests at Bowling Green and Missouri. We have them higher than Maryland in our own Power Ratings, and those two will open Big 10 play against each other on the last Saturday of September.
2013 Record: 6-7 (in the American Athletic Conference)
2013 Rankings: 95 on offense, 73 on defense
Returning Starters: 9 on offense, 5 on defense
Head Coach: Kyle Food
Notebook: Like Maryland, Rutgers at least brings a lot of returning starters over to the new conference. But, also like Maryland, Rutgers was only bowl eligible last year because of wins over bad teams (Norfolk State and Eastern Michigan), went 3-5 in a sub-par conference, and lost its bowl game by double digits (29-16 to disinterested Notre Dame). Gary Nova returns at quarterback, making it a full clean sweep for returning experience at QB in the Big 10 East. That’s amazing considering what we just went through in our ACC previews with hardly anyone returning at the position. Big 10 play starts early with a home game vs. Penn State on September 13.
Back with your tomorrow to look at the other half of the Big 10. The most important thing about this weekend is that NETWORK clients can go back to making money! The All-Star Break is over, and we now have BIG, JUICY WINNERS up every day in baseball.
You can purchase those right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about baseball or football service, call us in the office 1-888-777-4155.
Ahead in the NOTEBOOK…
Sunday: College Football…Big 10 “West” Preview
Monday: MLB Series Preview…LA Dodgers at Pittsburgh Pirates
Tuesday: MLB Series Preview…Tampa Bay at St. Louis
Wednesday: College Football…Pac 12 “North” Preview
Thursday: College Football…Pac 12 “South” Preview
Enjoy the great summer weekend…and be sure you GET ALL THE MONEY with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!