Tuesday, August 28, 2012
College Previewkakke: B1G Legends Division
And here we find ourselves on the final leg of our NCAA Preview journey. The B1G Legends division (Jesus that’s grating to type) will be the most entertaining division to watch this season behind the SEC West. Three teams have a legitimate shot at winning the division, two could contend or turn into a dumpster fire, and Minnesota, like every year, has a fanbase that thinks they’ll finally turn it around this season.
Remember when the ACC intentionally put FSU and Miami in different divisions because they were expected to play for the ACC Championship every year and draw huge ratings? No? Maybe that’s because it still hasn’t happened. Remember when the B1G put OSU and Michigan in different divisions, then had a huge debate over whether they were going to move the protected OSU-Michigan game away from the last game of the season because they didn’t want them playing two weeks in a row? No?
Probably because neither OSU or Michigan made it to the inaugural game, and it doesn’t look like either will this year, again (yes, OSU is on probation, but they wouldn’t have made it last year anyway, and I would wager they won’t have a better record than Wiscy this year either). Once again, the Legends division favorite is Sparty, which leads me all the way back to the B1G Leaders division preview. Here we sit, in what is supposedly a “changing” B1G, and the two teams who may play for the B1G Championship two years in a row both run pro style offenses. Certainly, we can have a lengthy discussion about whether we should change the definition of “pro-style”, but we know what it means. Hard running, good blocking, 4-3 defense, acceptable game-managing QB.
It may not be as exciting as the AIR RAID, and it may not be different or new, like a zone read. But there is something comforting in having the pro-style formation live on and win titles in the B1G. So with that, who wins this year? Here are my 100% accurate predictions:
Team Name Overall W-L Conference W-L
Michigan State 11-1 7-1
Nebraska 10-2 6-2
Iowa 10-2 6-2
Michigan 9-3 6-2
Northwestern 6-6 3-5
Minnesota 3-8 1-7
Michigan State: D’Antonio has a pretty impressive run going here. MSU won the Leaders last year with tough defense, solid running, and a senior quarterback. They were basically Wisconsin any season they don’t have Russell Wilson, and sadly, last year Wisconsin had Russell Wilson. This caused MSU to lose the B1G Championship game, and settle for an Outback Bowl win against Georgia. Yup. You lose the B1G title game and apparently Taylor Martinez gets a better bowl bid than you. This year MSU will have a potentially better defense than it did last year. The biggest question is on offense, where Kirk Cousins and nearly all his receivers are gone. But who cares? They still have a great offensive line, still have Le'Veon Bell, and MSU will survive with another mediocre game manager at the helm. They’re the best team in the Legends division, hands down.
Nebraska: Now we get into some schedule oddities. There may not be a conference in the country where the schedule can make or break your season moreso than the B1G. Case #1: Nebraska. Nebraska is an 8-win team (and by that I mean you should perceive them as you normally would a team with 8 wins), but this year they get Michigan and Wisconsin to come to Lincoln. They’ll eat a loss at MSU, beat Michigan in Lincoln, and go 1-1 at home vs. Wisconsin and at Ohio State. The rest of their schedule is a parade of cupcakes… and the next team on this list.
Iowa: Iowa is a 6 win team this year. It pains me to admit this, because I am and always have been an Iowa Hawkeye fan. They have no defensive line; it is a barren wasteland of redshirt senior walk-ons and freshman. They have no RB (this has been perhaps the worst AIRBHG season ever). They have to work in a new offensive coordinator and a new defensive coordinator. They have the best pure-passer in the conference, but there will be mighty growing pains. And yet, I have them at 10 wins. How? Here you go: http://espn.go.com/college-football/team/_/id/2294/iowa-hawkeyes
Check out their schedule, and come back. Despite being a 6-win caliber team in a BCS conference, they play a full nine teams worse than them. Nine! This season could be the greatest example of the issue unbalanced scheduling presents in modern history. There are nine games on Iowa’s schedule that they will be favored in. Yes, Iowa generally loses to one team who usually has no business beating them (recently, Northwestern) but I have no way of predicting which team that is. They’ll probably end up 9-3 this year with a loss to… I don’t know. Purdue at home? That sounds likely. The tenth win I have for Iowa is either at Michigan or at home against Nebraska to end the year, both because Iowa seems to have Michigan’s number, because they have rebuilt their defense to stop the rash of spread offenses in the B1G (which has, ironically, made them extremely weak against MSU and Wisconsin), and because the thought of losing at home to Nebraska makes me want to kill myself.
Is it more reasonable to assume Iowa goes 7-5 or 8-4? Without looking at the schedule, yes. Because, in a normal year, that would be Iowa’s record. That’s the ceiling this team should have. But going through this season, game by game, led me to several strange records. NC State, Vanderbilt… and Iowa. An aside to Code Red; I acknowledge Iowa is woefully mediocre! I just can’t find more than 3 losses!
Michigan: Michigan is much better than Nebraska and Iowa. Denard is a freak, their defense got turned around so fast the entire Michigan fanbase is still recovering from whiplash, and they should compete for a division title. But here lies the other foot which drops in the scheduling argument. Michigan plays Michigan State at home then Nebraska on the road in consecutive weeks. They play at Notre Dame. Then they end the year playing at the Horseshoe, in a game that the entire crowd and all the OSU players will treat like the National Title Game. Add in potential pitfall games, and Michigan will be lucky to escape with 2 losses this year; and it is far more likely they’ll finish with three.
Northwestern: This is a rebuilding year for Northwestern. Colter will be a dangerous quarterback in the future, and the NW spread is always dangerous (just ask Nebraska). But Colter is young, and the NW defense should not improve this season. Unlike an Iowa or Wisconsin, Northwestern can’t fall back on one strong position (Linemen) to carry them through down years, so this season will be a struggle. They should find six wins on their schedule, but no more. Making it to a bowl this year should be seen as an accomplishment.
Minnesota: Have you heard? This is the year Minnesota is back! Marquis Gray will turn it around! The running game will be revived! Jerry Kill is so great! Wait. We’ve heard that before? For the last two seasons? Oh. 3-8, then.
CODE RED RESPONDS:
The exact standings will be as follows:
Nebraska 11-1 (7-1 Conference): I overrate Nebraska every year. I’m not sure why. I have various reasons for questioning all of the presumed heavyweights in this division, and I loathe Michigan with every fiber of my being, so, fuck it. I’m rolling with the Huskers.
Michigan 10-2 (6-2 Conference): I want Michigan to burn, but I can’t drop them lower than 10-2, with losses to Iowa and Nebraska. I have them beating Alabama mostly because Alabama has few returning starters on defense and Denard is a tall order for a rookie defense. But seriously, fuck ‘em.
Iowa 9-3 (5-3 Conference): Wow. Iggins! Is right. Their schedule is shit. I have them losing to Nebraska, Purdue (who is really just filler for whoever their inevitable upset is), and @MSU. Wow. Nice job, pancake schedule makers.
Michigan State 8-4 (4-4 Conference): I’m down on MSU this year because they’ve won 11 games in back to back years and it’s MSU. Something’s fishy here. Not like 8-4 would be a huge failure after their unprecedented success the last two years, but for a team that seldom dominates, the loss of an entire offense could be enough to lose a few close games that they would have won with Cousins and Co.
Northwestern 6-6 (3-5 Conference): Yeah. What he said.
Minnesota 3-9 (1-7 Conference): Also what he said. MarQuiese Gray passes like NFL Tebow in college. That makes sense, right?
B1G Championship Game:
Iggins!: Wisconsin vs. Michigan State again, eh? This year I have MSU taking the title: will that leave them in position for a shot at the crystal ball? WE SHALL SEE.
Code Red: Wisconsin over Nebraska (Code Red loves Nebraska because they run the option. FYI.)
The season begins Thursday, so Wednesday we'll have our BCS bowl projections and potentially an ode to college football and a plea for mercy for the AIRBHG. See you then!