Sep. 23, 2016
Remainder of the Season Big Ten Predictions
Normally around this time of the week, I do a brief preview of each Big Ten football game individually, but with four weeks remaining and an equal number of games remaining, I decided that I will do a prediction of each team's final record instead, and who they will beat/how they will get there. Who are my bowl teams, who is going to win the East and the West? Find out below.
ILLINOIS-Current record: 2-6 (1-4), 7th in West; final four games: Michigan State, @Wisconsin, Iowa, @Northwestern
Well, Illinois is likely going to finish last in the Big Ten West, and is tied for last as far as record goes with Rutgers (a team they beat) and Michigan State?!?!? At first glance when the season began, this upcoming stretch for Illinois looked impossible, and yet now they could find a way to get an upset in here. Their head coach, Lovie Smith, did lead the Chicago Bears to a Super Bowl and a few division titles, so it's not like he is a bad coach. And, with the way Michigan State is playing, I have a hard time picking them in any situation. Plus, Northwestern and Iowa have had mediocre seasons at best. The only (almost) sure loss is at Wisconsin, but the other three have a bit of potential for the Illini, especially Saturday's game vs. Michigan State. That said, I think Michigan State should still have the edge here with how bad Illinois is. Illinois loses the rest of the season.
Final Record: 2-10 (1-8), Last in Big Ten West
INDIANA-Current record: 4-4 (2-3), 5th in East; final four games: @Rutgers, Penn State, @Michigan, Purdue
Indiana definitely should win the games at Rutgers and versus Purdue, and although Purdue is showing signs of life in the passing game this season, Indiana has been showing those signs since Tevin Coleman was a Hoosier. I wouldn't vote against Michigan in the second to last game of the season, and although Penn State has had some impressive wins, including vs. Ohio State, they have also lost at Pittsburgh. That game could be a sneaky good game, and possibly a tossup. I like the Hoosiers, and I think that Penn State game will help them add more relevance to their program for the near future. They beat Rutgers, beat Penn State, lose to Michigan and beat Purdue.
Final Record: 7-5 (5-4), 4th in East
IOWA-Current record: 5-3 (3-2), 4th in West; final four games: @Penn State, Michigan, @Illinois, Nebraska
I think that Iowa has definitely struggled more than they were supposed to this season, and a big part of that has been injury. However, more of that was the fact that they coasted through a pretty soft schedule the year before, causing expectations to be raised a bit too high. The win at Wisconsin in 2015 was nice, but Wisconsin just could not find a way to score that game, and that was their best win of the year. Despite me not believing in Iowa, I still don't think that this team is a .500 ball club, and they should either take the win vs. Nebraska at home or at Penn State. Michigan may be a small possibility as well, but I don't think Michigan's chances of losing are very high outside of the Ohio State game. I think they get it done vs. Nebraska and Illinois, and lose to Michigan and Penn State
Final Record: 7-5 (5-4), 4th in West
MARYLAND-Current record: 5-3 (2-3), 4th in East; final four games: @Michigan, Ohio State, @Nebraska, Rutgers
Yeah, remember when Maryland went 4-0 to start the season, and then I said I bet they will struggle to get to .500? Well, thankfully for Maryland, they have Rutgers on the schedule, meaning .500 is very well within reach now. However, had they not found a way to beat Michigan State (which was the last time I let the Spartans trick me), they would be 4-4 with Michigan, Ohio State and Nebraska. I don't care if those teams are all playing in Maryland, they are all top 10 teams, and despite Maryland's record, Maryland is not a very good team. Hence them only beating Purdue, and a surprisingly terrible Michigan State. Maryland makes a bowl game, but only by being better than the bad.
Final Record: 6-6 (3-5), 5th in East
MICHIGAN STATE-Current record: 2-6 (0-5), 6th in East; final four games: @Illinois, Rutgers, Ohio State, @Penn State
I had believed in this team for too long, and although they showed signs of life when Michigan came into East Lansing, I do not like their chances of finding a way to make a bowl game. Remember when they beat Notre Dame and everybody thought they were that good? Turns out, Notre Dame is just that bad too, for some weird reason. Anyways, I think 5-7 is a possibility here, but that is only if Penn State stumbles down the stretch (like they have before). I think 4-8 is more realistic, and thankfully they can beat up on Illinois and Rutgers to try to salvage parts of what is left from this season. Don't even ask if they can beat Ohio State. Michigan State finishes 2-2.
Final Record: 4-8 (2-7), 6th in East
MICHIGAN-Current Record: 8-0 (5-0), 1st in East; final four games: Maryland, @Iowa, Indiana, @Ohio State
I like this team to go into Columbus at 11-0, although they do have a potential trap game at Iowa coming up next week after what should be a disassembling of the Terrapins. Michigan just won a (should be) tough road test, and they do have experience against quality competition, with wins over Wisconsin, Penn State and Colorado. I really think that Michigan has a chance to beat Ohio State, and if the Buckeyes keep struggling, that may indeed happen. However, I don't think Michigan is quite ready to be a true National Championship contender again, and Ohio State should remind them of that in the final weekend. Michigan finishes at 11-1.
Final Record: 11-1 (8-1), 2nd in East
MINNESOTA-Current Record: 6-2 (3-2), 2nd in West: final four games: Purdue, @Nebraska, Northwestern, @Wisconsin
Minnesota is a solid team, don't get me wrong here, but I don't think that they are quite ready yet to be a contender for the West, or even the Big Ten. The Purdue game should continue to replenish the fool's gold in the treasure chest that many Gophers' fans believe in, but the final stretch of at Nebraska, vs. Northwestern and at Wisconsin should take it away for now. There is something here, but it's not finished. Ask the losses to Penn State and Iowa, both of whom are teams around the talent level of Northwestern. And I don't see the Gophers going on the road against Top 10 competition, especially with the teams that Wisconsin has played this year, and getting a win. Maybe they beat Northwestern, but I just don't see it.
Final Record: 7-5 (4-5), 5th in West
NEBRASKA-Current Record: 7-1 (4-1), 1st in West: final four games: @Ohio State, Minnesota, Maryland, @Iowa
I don't think they will beat the Buckeyes, and this could be one of those games where Ohio State finally figures it out. I'll talk about that more later, but Nebraska is likely going to squander their Big Ten West lead to Wisconsin after losing to Ohio State this weekend. I also think that Iowa has a chance to beat them at home, and as you know I have already picked them to win at home in the final weekend. I just don't think Iowa is going to finish 6-6, and I like their chances in Iowa City better than in State College. Maryland and Minnesota should be won by Nebraska, and if they aren't it's clear that the Cornhuskers were fraudulent to this point. They finish the season 2-2.
Final Record: 9-3 (6-3), 2nd in West
NORTHWESTERN-Current Record: 4-4 (3-2), 5th in West: final four games: Wisconsin, @Purdue, @Minnesota, Illinois
Well, despite an awful start to the season by the Wildcats, Northwestern will be around to salvage what is left of this lost season in Evanston. Despite losing two of three, Wisconsin is rolling defensively, and the Wildcats just don't have the necessary forces to be able to score on Wisconsin. After that, they might have potential issues going on the road to what will be a streaking Gophers team, and then face a tougher than expected Purdue team before taking on Illinois. I like Northwestern better in all three of those games, but I wouldn't be surprised if they finished 5-7 instead of 7-5. I'll go in the middle and pick Purdue to beat them, and have Northwestern finish 6-6 on this mediocre season.
Final Record: 6-6 (5-4), 3rd in West
OHIO STATE-Current Record: 7-1 (4-1), 2nd in East: final four games: Nebraska, @Maryland, @Michigan State, Michigan
This is probably one of the toughest schedules left in the country, although I unfortunately believe that the Buckeyes will cruise through it. Nebraska has yet to prove that they are not an overrated team, Maryland already has proven that, and Michigan State has fallen completely flat. The Michigan game will be tough, but Michigan is not quite ready. That said, I think Ohio State will win the East by sweeping the rest of the season, but lose the title to Wisconsin in a rematch that will cause a bunch of problems when choosing the College Football Playoff.
Final Record: 11-1 (8-1), 1st in East (loses to Wisconsin in Big Ten Championship)
PENN STATE-Current Record: 6-2 (4-1), 3rd in East; final four games: Iowa, @Indiana, @Rutgers, Michigan State
I like the Nittany Lions, and although I think they will lose a tough road game at Indiana, they should finish the season 9-3. They will get some nice wins against Iowa and Michigan State at home, and the gimme vs. Rutgers on the road.
Final Record: 9-3 (7-2), 3rd in East
PURDUE-Current Record: 3-5 (1-4), 6th in West; final four games: @Minnesota, Northwestern, Wisconsin, @Indiana
Purdue has shown signs of life this season, and I honestly didn't think that they could be in a position to win four games this season, but the games at Indiana and Minnesota, and having a home game vs. Northwestern gives Purdue three winnable games. This team isn't even close to a contender yet, but with the progress they have made so far, I think they can pull one out against Northwestern.
Final Record: 4-8 (2-7), 6th in West
RUTGERS-Current Record: 2-6 (0-5), 7th in East; final four games: Indiana, @Michigan State, Penn State, @Maryland
Look, I don't think and have never thought that Rutgers belongs in the Big Ten, and I also believe that Maryland should be in the ACC due to proximity, but at least Maryland is putting up a fight this season in not only football, but has made noise in basketball too. What has Rutgers done besides lose by an average of 68 points to Michigan and Ohio State? I don't see them winning, and they are the worst team in the Big Ten. Congratulations on beating New Mexico by nine, and beating FCS Howard. That's all you will have to celebrate this season.
Final Record: 2-10 (0-9), 7th in East
WISCONSIN-Current Record: 6-2 (3-2), 3rd in West; final four games: @Northwestern, Illinois, @Purdue, Minnesota
With the crazy schedule from the beginning of the season over, and with me being right about where the Badgers would be at this point in the season, I feel as though I already talk enough about the Badgers. No, the offense isn't very good, but the running game is coming alive. And, this defense is the best in the country, despite not having the talent of some other schools. They will meet Ohio State in the championship, and I would like to believe they will get revenge for that overtime loss on October 15th. As of now, especially with the Buckeyes' struggles, I have no reason to not believe that.
Final Record: 10-2 (7-2), 1st in West (defeats Ohio State in Big Ten Championship)