25 Days: Big Ten Preview

There are 25 days till the first Saturday of the 2017 football season. I feel that this is a good time to start up this blog. So here is my preview of the Big Ten football season.

Exciting Storylines:

P.J. Fleck in Minnesota – After taking the Western Michigan Broncos a 13-win season, MAC Championship win and Cotton Bowl App, P.J. Fleck rowed the boat over to Minnesota. Fleck has as lot of work to do to improve the Gophers, but his dynamic recruiting and coaching style will be fnu to watch on chilly northern saturday mornings.

B1G the best conference in football? – The Big Ten has a legitmate chance at stealing the top spot from the SEC. At the end of the last season, the Big Ten had 4 programs fighting for the final spot. Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Penn State all had a chance to make it into the College Football Playoff. This year, look for Nebraska, Minnesota and Iowa to keep rolling. Indiana, Maryland and Northwestern also all made bowl games last year. Expect Michigan State to rebound after that disaterous 2016 campaign. That leaves us with Illinois, Purdue and Rutgers, but every conference has its runts. The Big Ten has high profile out of conference games this year including:

Week 1: Florida vs. Michigan, Maryland @ Texas

Week 2: Pitt @ Penn State, Nebraska @ Oregon, Oklahoma @ Ohio State

Week 3: Wisconsin @ BYU, Purdue @ Mizzou

If all goes right through the conference schedule, could we put multiple teams into the CFP?

2nd Year Coaches – Lovie Smith (Illinois 2-7, 3-9), Chris Ash (Rutgers 0-9, 2-10), DJ Durkin (Maryland 3-6, 6-7)

DJ Durkin got it easy by squeezing it into a bowl game, keep his stride, win a couple more games and another bowl, he is no longer on the hot seat. Lovie and Chris Ash have a much tougher job. Illinois returns only 10 starters and a redshirt junior in Mikey Dudek, who is coming back after missing two seasons to an ACL tear. Its going to be a young team. The Illini do have a tough non-conference schedule. Expect a rock year and a rocky season, but improvements inside the locker room. Chris Ash has a whole different issue. Rutgers had 4 scorless games and was no where near competitive in Big Ten competition. But Ash does have stints at Ohio, Arkansas and Wisconsin, expect a big step forward, but nothing break through.

Key Players to Watch For:

The list will start and end with two players from the same team. Trace McSorley (QB) and Saquon Barkley (RB) are the biggest, most ferocious duue to watch for this year. Not only did the two teammates carried Penn State to a B1G Championship. Barring the utter beat down by Michigan, Penn State was dominant throughout the season. McSorley is easily one of the best passers in the Big 10. Passing for over 3500 yards and close to 30 touchdown and running for 7 more TD’s expect this dominance to continue. Barkley had equally dominating 2016 performance. The junior had 1500 yard on the ground with 18 TD’s and added 5 more through the air. Barkley also forced 146 missed tackles, which is an incredible number.

Just missed the cut: Nick Bosa (ED, OSU), Chayce Crouch (QB, Illinois)

Big Games to Watch for Each Week:

  • Week 1: Florida vs. Michigan
  • Week 2: Oklahoma at Ohio State
  • Week 3: Wisconsin at BYU
  • Week 4: Penn State at Iowa
  • Week 5: Maryland at Minnesota
  • Week 6: Michigan State at Michigan
  • Week 7: Ohio State at Nebraska and Northwestern at Maryland
  • Week 8: Michigan at Penn State
  • Week 9: Penn State at Ohio State
  • Week 10: Ohio State at Iowa
  • Week 11: Iowa at Wisconsin
  • Week 12: Michigan at Wisconsin
  • Week 13: Ohio State at Michigan
  • Week 14: B1G Championship.
  • Ofcourse these are subject to change as the season goes.

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