One Bold Prediction for Each B1G Football Team
By Tony Gerdeman
We have finally come upon Prediction Season. It's the last stop before the Preseason, which is the last stop before the actual Football Season.
As such, I have offered up one bold prediction for each Big Ten team this season. These are not meant to be concurrent predictions, because that's a dodecafecta that I'm not even trying to hit.
Instead, these are 12 bold predictions completely independent of eachother. They are based in reality, but I can't promise that some won't seem a little surreal.
The great thing about calling something a "bold prediction" is that by its very nature, nobody is going to hold you to it when you end up being wrong. Besides, I would just offer up a, "Hey, I said it was bold, you should've known better than to believe me."
Except for Michigan fans. They love to tell me about that one time when I was wrong. Though if I'm wrong about my bold UM prediction this year, I doubt they'll come back and taunt me this time around.
1. Purdue will beat Notre Dame.
Notre Dame goes to West Lafayette this year to play a night game against the Boilermakers. It will be Purdue's third game of the season, and I expect them to come in at 1-1. They'll lose a close game at Cincinnati, thanks to Hazellball keeping them close. They'll obviously beat Indiana State in week two, unless they're looking past the Sycamores. But there's just something about Darrell Hazell that makes me think this bold prediction can happen. Namely, he is a Jim Tressel clone, and this is an opportunity for Hazell to make his first emphatic statement as the Purdue head coach. Plus, Tommy Rees will probably throw, like, a thousand interceptions.
2. Iowa will go 3-0 against the MAC.
This is a fairly bold prediction considering Iowa is 3-2 against the MAC since 2007. But the true boldness of this prediction comes from the fact that Iowa only has two MAC teams on the schedule this year. That means I am boldly predicting them to make a bowl game, and defeat a MAC team in said postseason extravaganza. Though I will admit that what makes me most nervous about this prediction is that I'm not sure they can beat Northern Illinois to open the season.
3. Andrew Maxwell will throw for more yards than any Spartan quarterback before him.
Jeff Smoker holds the Spartan season record for passing yards with 3,395 in 2003. Without much of a running game this year, Michigan State will rely more on the passing game. This, of course, assumes that the passing game is better than it was last year, which it very well should be. Andrew Maxwell only needs to throw for 800 more yards than he did last season, and looking back, his receivers may have had 1,000 yards in drops. He'll need to throw for 262 yards per game to break the record, which isn't an outrageous number, and that number comes down by 20 yards if the Spartans make the Big Ten Championship Game.
4. Ohio State will win the BCS National Championship.
In order to be bold, it's either predict a national championship or predict a four-loss season, and I don't see four losses on this schedule. It will help that the Buckeyes will only have to beat a Texas or Louisville or Florida State, as opposed to an Alabama, who will be left out. (I don't believe any of this.)
5. Christian Hackenberg will be the national freshman of the year.
I mean, what choice does Bill O'Brien have, really? And seeing what O'Brien did with the Matt McGloin reclamation project, he's obviously a miracle worker. The question becomes whether O'Brien wants to go with junior college transfer Tyler Ferguson or true freshman Christian Hackenberg. Ferguson only has one season of junior college football under his belt, so it's not like he's head and shoulders above Hackenberg in terms of experience.
6. Indiana will go 2-0 against the SEC.
There is currently only one SEC team on Indiana's schedule, and that is Missouri on the fourth week of the season. This, of course, means that for Indiana to play a second SEC team, they will need to make it to a bowl game, and not just any bowl game, but a bowl game in the top half of the Big Ten, presumably the Gator Bowl. If you think about it, this is more like four bold predictions all rolled into a one. First, picking Indiana to beat Missouri? That could go either way. Second, picking Indiana to go to a bowl game? It will be tough. Third, picking them to go to a New Years Day Bowl game – their first since 1988 – sounds insane. Oh, and then fourth, they have to win. I should have just predicted Tre Roberson to win the Heisman.
7. Devin Gardner will be invited to the Heisman ceremony.
If we're basing this prediction off of Devin Gardner's production in his five starts last season – which I am, then this prediction may not end up being be all that bold. If we were to prorate the stats from his five starts to a 14-game football season, Gardner would be looking at 3,400 yards passing, 30 touchdowns, 280 yards rushing and another 19 rushing touchdowns. Obviously, not all of those things are going to happen, but Gardner absolutely has a shot to break the school record for passing yards in a season (John Navarre - 3,331). Yes, he threw an interception in every game last season, but that's probably normal for most wide receivers who are thrust into action. Also, his two worst starts were also against his two toughest opponents – Ohio State and South Carolina. Still, a win over Notre Dame in week two will catapult him into September Heisman contention if for no other reason than he is a Michigan quarterback. He should put up some huge numbers over his first seven games. How he finishes the final five will ultimately determine the accuracy of this prediction.
8. Illinois won't lose all of their games.
There is a chance that season opener Southern Illinois could oversleep and miss kickoff.
9. Nebraska won't end up with four losses.
On a page full of bold predictions, this may be the boldest, as Nebraska's head coach, Bo Pelini has yet to finish a season without exactly four losses. Obviously, the key to this is not making the Big Ten Championship game, thereby decreasing their odds to lose a fourth game altogether. However, if they win the Legends Division and have two losses on their record, then it's a virtual guarantee that they will end up with four losses. So my advice for Nebraska fans is to only root for the Huskers to go so far. Three losses is much better than four. Just imagine the parades you can have.
10. Wisconsin will play in the Big Ten Championship Game for a third consecutive year.
I know, I know. Ohio State is totally going undefeated this year, and we have moved from bold predictions to absolute impossibilities, but hear me out. There is only one Big Ten game on Wisconsin's schedule that they "should" lose, and that's at Ohio State. The rest of their tough games (Northwestern and Penn State) are at home. There is no Nebraska, Michigan or Michigan State. If Ohio State beats Wisconsin, then that means the Buckeyes will have to lose at least two games in order to get the Badgers to Indianapolis. However, games at Northwestern and Michigan could very well be those two losses. Those games may not even matter for Wisconsin if the Badgers can win in Columbus. It's not as outrageous a scenario as you may think. However, I'll stop there as I don't want to downplay the boldness of this prediction anymore than I already have.
11. Northwestern will be the final Legends Division champ.
The only bold predictions you can make with Northwestern is that they're either going to be great or going to be awful. Since they're always the middle of the road, predicting them to be in the middle of the road has absolutely zero boldness to it. However, predicting them to represent the Legends Division in the Big Ten Championship Game, now that has some zest! The main reason that this can happen is because there isn't a huge separation between the top four teams in the Legends Division. Northwestern has always been great at seclusion, and if they can remain secluded during the Big Ten season and let the rest of the division cannibalize themselves, maybe they can sneak through. Getting Michigan and Michigan State both at home is huge, and both could very well be wins for the Wildcats. They do have to go to Nebraska, but that hasn't stopped them in the past. As a 3-5 team in 2011, Northwestern went into Lincoln and came out with a 28-25 win over the #9 Huskers. Having Ohio State and Wisconsin on the schedule as well is what truly makes this a bold prediction.
12. Minnesota will go 0-8 in Big Ten play.
I know you may not think this is that bold of a prediction, but when Minnesota goes 0-8 this season, it will only be the second time they have done so in the last 30 years. The other time was 2007, which was Tim Brewster's first season. The Gophers' most winnable game is the one that will probably determine if they win any conference games at all – the Big Ten opener against Iowa in TCF Bank Stadium. If they lose that game, I don't know where a win will come from. The best bets would be Penn State at home or at Indiana, and I would expect the Gophers to be underdogs in both of those games.
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