Hallelujah! We have finally returned to the Promised Land! Not totally unlike the trek back to the OG Promised Land that the Israelites made after the Egyptian Exodus (shout out to 16 years of Catholic education), it has been a hot and sweaty ordeal. Furthering the links between the ancient Hebrews and collegiate pigskin, we have had constant contact with God, or in the CFB sense, Jim Harbaugh
Now since this is my blogtorial debut and I’m sensing that my audience is primarily former high school or D III football guys that are right in that sweet spot of being too old to claim that they “still have it” and too young to be pathetic, fat, sacks of shit that gain the most satisfaction since prom night (wink, wink) from watching Rust Belt state schools pound it out in the I formation, I think I’m amongst kindred spirits. That being said, let’s get into some pre-pre season break downs starting where all roads to success begin, the Big Ten.
NORTHWESTERN- 10-3 (6-2 Big Ten), Outback Bowl 2016 (Lost 45-6 to Tennessee)
“We rubbing hands like Birdman”
Last year was a shockingly good year for the Wildcats, winning big upsets against Stanford and Wisconsin. Their defense looked sharp, despite being younger and considerably smaller than almost every team they played and Justin Jackson ran for 1400 yards. While their last year was unexpected, it was likely a fluke. MONSTER blow outs delivered by Iowa and Michigan and a down right beat down from Tennessee in the Outback Bowl stand as glaring reminders that though they squeaked by Stanford, they also barely made it out against Ball State, Penn State, and Nebraska, 3 teams that a powerful Big Ten team should beat soundly. However, things are looking up in Evanston has Pat Fitzgerald has put a huge emphasis on just that, getting HUGE. I’m talking swoldiers of the Purple Army. A bigger, stronger defense is precisely what the Wildcats need to stay out of mediocrity and a 4 star DE recruit stolen from Baylor (easiest steal of all time) and a 3 star TE/DE hybrid flex guy could make for a phenomenal pass rush, something probably a lot more useful in bowl and non-conference games. One day at a time, boys.
ILLINOIS – 5-7 (2-6 Big Ten), No Bowl Appearance (duh)
Listen, I’m not gonna spew some nonsense about how the Illini are back (were they ever here? Maybe before the forward pass) or whatever but they have a new head coach who is v popular in the region as he was a miracle worker with the Bears and U of I football couldn’t possibly sink any lower. All I know is that I went to a college without a football team so I’d give my left you-know-what to have something to tailgate on the weekends so when I hear about little frat boys that can’t bench the bar laughing at their OWN team, I take it upon myself to act the old curmudgeon to remind them that not everyone has a football team and that I had to walk 10 miles, uphill both ways to get in line for the Glass Steagall Act or whatever. Worst fan base but best upside because the only side they have left is up.
WISCONSIN – 10-3 (6-2 Big Ten), Holiday Bowl 2015 (Won 23-21 over USC)
*obligatory reference to how much their offensive linemen weigh*
The Badgers had a solid year last year but still disappointing by the standards in place in Madison. If this team isn’t competing for the national championship, then it was a down year. Joel Stave was a stud, no two ways about it, absolutely carried the team but he’s gone and I personally feel that the run game needs to help pick up that slack, given that this is the Big Ten we’re talking about. Kinda weird when I looked at the numbers to see how little they rushed for despite having such a diesel line. Shouldn’t big fat guys* be better at run blocking than pass blocking? Yes, I’m the one writing the pre season analysis here but I don’t see you raising your hand with an answer so stfu. Look for Wisconsin to dominate or be dominated, as they have one of the tougher schedules in all of CFB.
* I’m a person of size so it is perfectly acceptable for me to comment on people’s weight. 300 club, represent
PURDUE– 2-10 (1-7 Big Ten), No Bowl Appearance (an even bigger duh)
In the highly unlikely case that Will Colmery reads this, they’re gonna go undefeated and win the 2017 Oscar Meyer Hot Dog Bowl. Maybe if they stopped being a loser engineering school and actually let some girls in, they MIGHT grab an out of state recruit or two. Baby steps, fellas, but you gotta take ’em. Success is how high you bounce after hitting rock bottom.
INDIANA- 6-7 (2-6 Big Ten), New Era Pinstripe Bowl 2015 (Lost to Duke 44-41 OT)
presumably moments before a sack
Indiana looked a lot better last year than they have in decades. The score against Ohio State doesn’t really reflect it but they gave them one HELL of a game. Their bowl game was also one of the best games of the entire bowl season and Duke is no push over. Maybe this is just the evolution of the Big Ten East. You get good or you get gone. Or maybe I’m wrong, time will tell. The Hoosiers appear to have a slightly easier schedule but that is all subject to change come week 1.
IOWA- 12-2 (8-0 Big Ten), Rose Bowl 2016 (Lost 45-16 to Stanford)
Listen, Iowa had an unprecedented year last year and I can’t take away from their performance. However, their schedule made cupcakes look like blood diamonds (I think they’re the hardest?) but they STILL kept it close in games that should’ve been over in the 2nd quarter. Fact is, they still have a true, Midwest gunslinger under center and Beathard may be on Heisman watch but there is no chance on God’s green earth that they repeat the success from last year, mainly because the big, bad men from Fargo are rolling into Kinnick on week 2 and NDSU stands for “Nah, Don’t Think So”. 8-4 Hawkeyes, lock it down.
MICHIGAN- 10-3 (6-2 Big Ten), Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl 2016 (Won 41-7 over Florida)
For Jim Harbaugh, don’t call it a comeback. Michigan was the team-that-just-might all of last year but like the ugliest girl in a sorority, always a bridesmaid, never a bride. The Mighty Men of Michigan put some serious whoopings on BYU, Northwestern, and Oregon State but limped out of match ups with Minnesota and Penn State and took 2 OT’s (!) to put away Indiana. Clearly a classic case of playing down to your opponent (a similar outbreak of this ailment can be found in South Bend), Harbaugh needs keep a firm grip on the wheel if they really want to compete with the Ohio States and Alabamas of the world because you know they ain’t sleeping.
And to think I almost didn’t talk about this.
PS There should really be no mercy for the punter Blake O’Neill. Dude is from Australia and doesn’t play rugby. He’s friendless in Ann Arbor and Down Under.
MICHIGAN STATE- 12-2 (7-1 Big Ten), Cotton Bowl/Semi Finals/First Round (whatever, they choked against Bama 38-0)
Absolute heart breaker of a bowl against Alabama. I was all set for Michigan State to be my team in the playoffs and then the Tide rolled in. It honestly was like watching a small child build a wall on the beach to watch the waves just pummel it down and then the rip current sucks the kid out to international waters aka his watery grave. Derrick Henry is a man, a man who laces up his work boots, makes some steel, and comes home to his nagging wife, waiting until he or she dies. THAT is what men do. Anyhow, MSU ran the table and if not for a blown call, they would’ve beaten Nebraska and gone undefeated (BUT because Nebraska won, I got a free shot at the bar I was at so who’s the real winner?). 2016 holds a similarly difficult schedule for Sparty but they trade Oregon for Notre Dame for the non-conference game, potentially a lateral move considering the contrast in offensive styles of the 2 teams. Putting my bookie hat on, I got 3 to 1 saying they’re back in the playoffs, 7 to 1 national champions.
NEBRASKA- 6-7 (3-5 Big Ten), Foster Farms Bowl (Beat UCLA 37-29)
My kinda people ^
Gotta show a little love to the Good Life, right? Horrible record for the Huskers, simply brutal, but it was a transition year after Bo Pelini (who I maintain should’ve never been fired) and they went to the Participation Trophy Bowl brought to you by the Liberal Agenda, so not that bad, all things considered. I actually think it’s actually pretty amazing that Nebraska posts the kind of records they do despite Lincoln, Nebraska being arguably one of the worst destinations for a recruit to go. Sure, if you’re a Husker, you never have to buy a drink in the state of Nebraska again but if you’re an alcoholic, you can never leave Nebraska again. It’s all about the compromises. In the spirit of compromise, I wouldn’t be stunned if Nebraska returned to the Big 12. They’re looking to expand and the Big 12 is like kale in 2014, it’s about to EXPLODE so I have a hunch that the Huskers are on the move.
MARYLAND AND RUTGERS ARE NOT REAL BIG TEN SCHOOLS. SKIPPED LIKE BAYLESS
I purposely left out Penn State, Ohio State, and Minnesota because I don’t think anyone cares enough about those schools (because everyone is clamoring for more Purdue and Husker chalk talk) and you can go to ESPN if you want some more ball washing of THE Ohio State. Tape those fingers, pop the mouth guard in, it’s time for oklahomas!, I mean, college football!