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Monday, February 18, 2008

2008 Big Ten predictions, pre-spring ball...

I'll go back over these this summer, with capsules on each team... but I sat down and looked at every schools schedule and tried to make some predictions for the final big ten standings....

Basically, I did this:
I went through each teams 12-game schedule* and predicted whether each game was:
- Likely to be a win
- Likely to be a loss
- A toss up

I assume that teams will win 50% of games that are "toss ups"... so the end result could be that a team is predicted to have a 5.5-2.5 Big Ten record... which is obviously not possible. This isn't meant to be a definitive... but I do think that teams will probably fall in line somewhat in the order listed below.

In the chart below, the blue line represents the predicted winning % for conference games for each school, the green bar represents a high and low boundary to that prediction, the upper edge represents the team over achieving and winning 2/3rds of its "Toss up" games, the bottom edge represents an underachieving team that wins only 1/3rd of its "Toss up" games.

The purple dot represents overall winning percentage.

click on the chart to get a good picture

below are my Big Ten game by game predictions (you'll have to click the picture to zoom in)... basically, Green = "Likely win", Red = "Likely Loss", and Blue = "Toss Up"... feel free to rip me a new one over these.

Finally, here is a brief, sentance or two, preview of each school this year:

1. Ohio State: The national runner up returns most of their team, and many thought THIS would be the year they made a run at a national title. It should be a big year for the Buckeyes. Illini fans don't want to hear it, but for the foreseable future the Big Ten will remain Ohio State's to lose. Of course anything can happen on any given Saturday, as it did last year... nothing is a "given"

2. Wisconsin: Nobody has done more with less than Wisconsin. Constantly middle-of-the-pack in Big Ten recruiting rankings, Wisconsin has built a very solid football team. They return most key players (Jake "X-Box" Ikegwouna won't be back, however) and should be a force in the Big Ten... its tough to predict how they will finish, I think they will be good, but I don't think they will be THAT good. That said, they all their tough games (outside of Michigan, who is depleted) at home this year... that alone, plus a very good (but not great) team, makes them a contender. Game of the year: vs. Ohio State in the second week of Big Ten play.

T-3. Illinois: Biggest question mark will be running back... either Juice has to become a solid passer, or we need someone to take a large portion of Rashard's yards. I think we have a platoon of good backs on our roster, but we only get to put one (maybe 2) on the field at once. Illinois gets most of the "good" teams on the road, and the bad teams at home... too bad we couldn't swap schedules for 2007 and 2008... because last years schedule would be ideal this year... oh well, look for Illinois to drop a tough road game or two, but to be a force in the Big Ten. Game of the year: vs. Ohio State in the 8th week of Big Ten play.

T-3. Penn State: another tough team to predict, they dodge Minnesota and Northwestern in Big Ten play (ouch)... QB is a bit of a question mark (unless they get Pryor), but Morelli is gone, and that should be good news enough for the Nitany Lions. I think they are about as good as Wisconsin, but suffer from a tougher schedule. Game of the year: @ Wisconsin, I think both teams are pretty evenly matched. Illinois at home also gets a mention, because even though its in September, it could very well be for a New Year's Day game when its all said and done.

T-5. Michigan: For as talented of a team as they are... not having a QB to run Dick Rod's offense is gonna hurt... they are an exceedingly tough team to predict... there is a chance they could go 9-3 or 8-4 and play on New Year's, or have a season so terrible they will want to shred all the evidence afterwards. I think Michigan struggles, and gets beaten up by the top of the conference, but still has a very solid year... Game of the Year: @ Ohio State will be the super bowl for this Michigan team

T-5. Michigan State: MSU had a decent year last year, at the end of the season Hoyer and crew were hitting on all cylinders. MSU has a chance to upset one or two teams and put themselves into a January Bowl game... but I don't think they do, a three game stretch of Ohio State, @ Michigan, and Wisconsin will be tough. Game of the year: Chance to beat Michigan would go along ways to cementing the Dantonio regime.

7. Purdue: watch your step, its a long drop off between MSU and Michigan and Purdue. The Boilers get Curtis Painter back, but the team was pretty mediocre to begin with. Throw in some mediocre recruiting, Tiller's impending departure and bad temper, and this could be an interesting season in West Lafayette. Don't look for Purdue to go much higher than 7th in the Big Ten, and they could easily go much lower. Game of the year: both Purdue and Indiana could be playing for a bowl game in rivalry week.

T-8. Indiana: Nothing says "we are second class, but damnit we want to go to a bowl game anyways!" like Indiana's 08 Schedule. 8 home games, a murderers row of opponents like:
- Murray State
- Western Kentucky
- Central Michigan
- Ball State
not to mention they don't play Ohio State or Michigan this year... Wisconsin is, by a WIDE margin, the only marquee game in Bloomington this year. As for the team itself, IU loses Kevin Hardy, which gives Kellen Lewis exactly 0 NFL-caliber prospects to throw towards. Lewis is a damn good QB, but a platoon of average to decent WR's, an average RB, and being completely outclassed in the trenches shouldn't instill much confidence in the Junior QB... IU goes to a bowl game, beating a bunch of mediocre to crappy teams, but doesn't touch the top half of the Big Ten. Game of the year: both Purdue and Indiana could be playing for a bowl game in rivalry week.

T-8. Iowa: Iowans demand winning football, and they are evidently paying top dollar for it... nobody is getting paid for each win he produced last year than "Captain" Kirk Ferentz. Iowa barely cracked the top 50 with their recruiting class this year. The highest rated recruit? Kirk's son, a 3* center. Iowa's saving grace is that they avoid Michigan and Ohio State, which didn't do much for them last year. Ferentz's Iowa Career could very well be on death watch by the end of the year. Game of the year: Iowa had Illinois' number last year... this year it could be for a bowl game.... their trek to Champaign will be huge for them.

T-10. Northwestern. NU is usually decent, and Bacher is a pretty good QB. Tyrell Sutton tops my All-Big Ten overrated list, however. Should be a par-for-the-course year in Evanston... just short of a bowl game, couple non-con wins, maybe a Big Ten upset or two... they can get the season off in smashing fashion with a win over Iowa in week 1... Game of the year: Purdue at home is their best chance for a home win in the Big Ten.

T-10. Minnesota. Year two for former Illinois great Tim Brewster. Minny will be better (although we'll see how many people make it to campus this fall)... but they won't be very good... expect them to jump on one or two teams... expect them to be in a lot of games... expect them to lose alot of close games. They could be decent in 09 when they open the new stadium. Game of the year: Minnesota/Iowa will be a big game for both teams... Minnesota could be out of the postseason hunt by then, but they have a chance to spoil a teetering Iowa team.

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