Michael’s 2012 Football Predictions
By Michael Chung
The 2012 football season is only days away, and college football pundits around the country are chiming in with their last-minute picks for the upcoming season.
Who will win the Big Ten? How good will Ohio State be in year one under Urban Meyer? Which teams will play for a chance to raise the crystal football?
Ozone contributor Michael Chung takes a look at that and more in his 2012 Football Predictions.
Almost all the experts are picking Michigan or Michigan State, and how can you blame them? The Spartans will have one of the B1G’s best defenses and Michigan is coming off of an 11-2 season with a victory in the BCS, and the Wolverines will have a Heisman trophy candidate in Denard Robinson.
Not as many are talking about Nebraska. They return 16 starters from their 2011 team, 8 on offense and 8 on defense. They have both Michigan and Wisconsin at home but must travel to Ohio State and Michigan State. One key that no one is talking is kicker/punter Brett Maher. Huskers.com writes, “In 2011, Maher became the first Big Ten specialist to be named the all-conference place-kicker and punter in the same year since 2001."
He also won both the Bakken-Andersen Big Ten Kicker-of-the-Year and the Eddleman-Fields Big Ten Punter-of-the-Year awards. Maher picked up Big Ten Special Teams Player-of-the-Week honors three times, and was one of 20 semifinalists for the Lou Groza National Place-Kicker Award.”
He will be a weapon that most teams will not possess. Their schedule maybe a challenge, however, with road games at Ohio State and Michigan State, along with Michigan at home.
It is hard to go against Tressel-disciple Mark Dantonio. Already 4-1 against archrival Michigan, Dantonio shows he has learned the master’s tricks in winning the big game. Defense, special teams and running the football was Tressel’s hallmark and Dantonio has the ingredients to continue. With an experienced O-line coming back and RB Le’veon Bell, who combined rushing and receiving for over 1,200 yards the year before, Dantonio has the ingredients for a Tressel-ball-esque season.
With senior kicker Dan Conroy, MSU will have a lot of FG attempts and Conroy should be able to connect on most of them. MSU’s single greatest Tressel-ball weapon could be sophomore punter Mike Sadler, who can boom the ball but also has the accuracy to pin the other team inside the 20-yard line.
They travel to Ann Arbor and Wisconsin back-to-back weeks, which could be difficult but it would not be surprising to see them win both, and win the Legends division the way the master taught his apprentice.
Just about every national expert has picked Wisconsin and that certainly seems to be the obvious choice in the Leaders Division. With Ohio State and Penn State ineligible to play for the conference championship and Montee Ball returning, the Leaders Division has almost rolled out the red carpet for the Badgers to return to the Championship game. But what is overlooked is that Wisconsin only has 11 returning starters from 2011 and will also have a new punter and kicker in 2012.
Purdue, on the other hand, has 19 returning starters from their 2011 Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl championship team, including quarterback Caleb TerBush – along with backups Robert Marve and Rob Henry.
The Boilermakers are hoping to get tailback Ralph Bolden back at some point, but Akeem Shavers is coming off a 149-yard performance in the Little Caesar’s Bowl.
They have Michigan and Wisconsin at home with a trip to Columbus immediately following those two games. Having Michigan and Wisconsin home so early could be a boon for the Boilers as both, especially Wisconsin, will still be making adjustments while the Boilers, with 19 returning starters, should not be as impacted by inexperience.
Wisconsin will have a new QB, granted not a true freshman, in transfer Danny O’Brien. What is not discussed too much is the impact of such a high turnover on the coaching staff, with close to half of Bret Bielema’s staff being new – along with the key loss of offensive coordinator Paul Chryst to Pitt.
With so few returning starters and such a high turnover rate of coaches, this could be the year of the Cinderella for Purdue. A favorable schedule, coupled with Ohio State’s ineligibility and Penn State’s demise, along with Michigan and Wisconsin at home could be enough for Purdue to make it to the championship game, if everything were to fall into place for Danny Hope.
2012 B1G Predictions:
B1G Championship Game: Michigan State vs. Purdue
B1G Champion: Michigan State
National Championship Game: LSU vs. USC
Much has been made of LSU losing the Honey Badger, Tyrann Mathieu, but what has not been stated is the experience on both the offensive and defensive lines that returns at LSU. The Tigers return four starters from the 2011 O-line and four from their D-line, which means LSU should be even stronger in the trenches for 2012.
Losing both CBs – Claiborne to the NFL and Mathieu – will be huge but the lines should be so strong and LSU will have a stable of four solid running backs to pound that it would not be surprising to see LSU even stronger than last year.
Gone are the two QBs for LSU, but early reports are that Georgia transfer Zach Mettenberger will share snaps with no one and is an upgrade from 2011.
USC returns a lot of talent and one of the top quarterbacks in the nation. They lack depth due to scholarship reductions, which could be their Achilles heel, but their schedule is rather unchallenging compared to those of the SEC. Their toughest game will be Oregon, who they will have in L.A. and if they win, would likely face Oregon again in the title game, again at home.
They would not be a good pick if their scheduled matched LSU’s or Alabama’s, but the only real challenge they will face is Oregon, and maybe Stanford early on.
National Champion: LSU
Ohio State Record: 9-3
A 12-0 season would be most desirable for Ohio State fans, but something like 9-3 sounds more realistic.
The whole team must adjust to a new offensive system that will take time and with 10 freshmen already on the 2-deep, communicates either the old talent is not good enough or that Urban Meyer is starting anew.
Either way, the experience level will be too low and motivation late in the season may be difficult without a B1G championship and bowl game to play for. Road games at Michigan State and Wisconsin will be tough, while playing dangerous teams like UCF, Cal, Illinois, Purdue, Nebraska and, of course, Michigan will be hard to escape completely unscathed.
As long as The Game is not another loss, 9-3 or even 8-4 would be a realistic bounce-back season in Urban Meyer’s inaugural year. It could also lay the foundation for a National Championship run in the last BCS title game for 2013.