Game of the Week Preview: The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry

The History

This is one of my favorite rivalries in all of sports. From memories like The Miracle at Jordan-Hare, to the countless meetings that eventually decided an SEC champion, no matter what the circumstances, this game is important and both teams seem to bring a little more to the table in this game each year.

Offense

Bo Nix vs Kentucky

Both teams are led by star studded, but young and generally unproven quarterbacks. Bo Nix is playing in his second Auburn-Georgia game. Last year, he was 30/50, for 245 yards and 1 touchdown. He also had 13 carries for 42 yards and a touchdown with one lost fumble. J.T. Daniels on the other hand, was just cleared to play at Georgia and has yet to play an SEC game. He was highly touted out of high school, committing to play at USC, but it did not work out and now he goes into his first game as a Georgia Bulldog. Expect to see a lot of power running, and a lot of talented play makers at wide receiver. The connection to look for will be Bo Nix to his best wide receiver Seth Williams. This duo linked up for two touchdowns last week against Kentucky. The offenses will score points, but the question is which defense will get the stops.

Defense

image

When you think defense you think of the SEC, and when you think of SEC defenses, you have to mention Auburn and Georgia – two of the top five defenses in the SEC last year, and they’re looking to do it again. Typically, Auburn’s defensive line is the focal point of their defense, and this year is no different. They are young, but Big Kat Bryant is the veteran stud in the lineup this year. Also, they return a lot in the back seven, including all three starting linebackers from a year ago. Georgia also has a strong defensive unit at all positions. The star is Richard Lecounte, their safety, who racked up a pair of interceptions in Georgia’s season opener.. Both defenses are going to make a lot of stops, and I think whoever forces the most turnovers wins this game.

The Keys To Victory

I believe the quarterback play will decide the outcome of the game. Bo Nix vs J.T Daniels. I have Nix winning this matchup due to his experience and his dual-threat skillset, so I am going with Auburn winning 27-17, but I think it will feel even closer throughout the game.

Episode 47: Central Arkansas AD Brad Teague Talks Scheduling Football During COVID

In the latest episode of our twice-a-week podcast, we brought on two guests. First, we welcomed Central Arkansas athletic director Brad Teague – Teague has had an extremely busy fall, putting together a 10-game schedule for the Bears, with just 14 FCS teams playing. The unique season opened up opportunities for games with 3 FBS opponents, and a road trip to FCS powerhouse North Dakota State. Teague joined our show to discuss these challenges.

We also welcomed former Navy football linebacker Tyler Goble, who joined as our guest picker of the week, celebrating the start of the Commander-in-Chief Trophy series this weekend, as the Midshipmen travel to take on Air Force. Check out a packed episode, as we break things down with our two guests and offer up a preview of this week’s action!

Rattler’s Youth A New Challenge For QB Guru Riley

When the odds came out for this past weekend’s college football games, and Oklahoma was listed as a 28-point favorite against Kansas State, I thought it was absolutely ridiculous. Kansas State may have looked bad in their season opener, but they beat Oklahoma last season, and the Sooners’ Spencer Rattler was making his first start against Power-5 competition. Rattler has been much hyped as a darkhorse Heisman candidate, due partly to his talent level, which is clearly high, but also due to Lincoln Riley, the ‘QB whisperer’. Riley has produced a Heisman finalist in each of his four years as the Oklahoma head coach, including two winners. One potential factor, brought up by many analysts, was that each of those prior quarterbacks had been transfers. 

Despite the question marks, Rattler quieted many doubters in his debut as a starter, dicing up an inferior Missouri State offense for 290 yards and four touchdowns in just one half of play. Yes it was Missouri State, but Rattler hardly looked wowed by the collegiate stage. It looked like more of the same in the early going against Kansas State, as Rattler posted a 17-19 stat line, tossing three touchdowns. However, those two incompletions fell into enemy hands, as two interceptions kept Kansas State in the game. The second pick led to the Wildcats’ only scoring drive of the half, as the Sooners led 21-7 at halftime. 

Oklahoma kept up the pressure at the start of the second half, racking up two more scores to go up 35-14 with 2:46 to go in the third quarter. 

If you’re a Sooners’ fan…look away now,. 

After taking a 21-point lead, it took a total of 13 snaps for their advantage to be narrowed to a single touchdown. The Wildcats utilized a 78 yard pass to score in three plays. They forced a fumble on Oklahoma’s next possession, and then they punched in another touchdown, grinding it out on a 8-play, 38-yard drive. Suddenly, it was 35-28, but Rattler still had an advantage, and the ball. 

To be fair, it wasn’t just Oklahoma’s redshirt-freshman quarterback that melted on Saturday, but he didn’t inspire anyone with his clutch-time performance. He went 2-5 on the ensuing drive, getting to midfield before stalling out. A blocked punt set up the Wildcats for another touchdown to tie the game, and Oklahoma got the ball back with 8:17 left in the game. Rattler completed one of three passes there, taking a bad sack on third down, which led to Kansas State getting great field position at their own 40. The Wildcats banged through a field goal, but hope wasn’t yet lost for the Sooners. 

Rattler and Co. would get two more chances with the ball. But neither possession was a productive one, as the Sooners went 3-and-out and punted it away. They got one more shot, starting at their 24-yard line, but Rattler was picked off on the second play of the drive, securing the stunning comeback upset victory for the Wildcats. All-in-all, after taking a 35-14 lead, Rattler completed 4 of 13 passes for 65 yards, throwing an interception and taking one very ill-timed sack. Prior to that, he was 26 of 28 with four touchdowns. 

The takeaway? Rattler is really good – but he is also really young. The talent was clearly there in his impressive early numbers, but the poise and clutch gene appeared to be lacking in a horrific finish to the game. Essentially, he’s young. Thus, Lincoln Riley, who has been elite with a varied batch of transfer quarterbacks, must now prove his mettle in mentoring a quarterback with virtually no collegiate experience. Rattler’s three interceptions was the most by an Oklahoma quarterback since 2014, before Riley arrived in Norman. It’s an entirely new challenge for the QB Whisperer. And he doesn’t have a lot of time to figure this one out. Oklahoma travels to Iowa State on Saturday, and the Cyclones are getting hyped up for the primetime clash, breaking out their all-black uniforms that they are 3-0 all-time in. They are not an easy game, and no one can be taken lightly after Oklahoma lost to K-State, who was 0-1 with a loss to Arkansas State. Following Iowa State? It’s the Red River Rivalry and another Texas-Oklahoma classic. 

Rattler’s got talent. But it takes more than just raw talent to survive in College Football, particularly in the offense-heavy Big 12. Can Riley work his magic once more, or are the Sooners done in 2020?

6 and 7 Game Seasons? Pac is Back? What Is Going On In College Football?

Barely over a month ago, the hopes for a college football season seemed dismal at best, and completely dead at worst. The Pac-12 and Big 10 had cancelled, as had the Mountain West and MAC, leaving just six of ten FBS conferences ready to play in the fall. Rumors were that the ACC were close to folding, but the resolve of Notre Dame to both play and join the ACC temporarily gave that desire new life to start playing. The FBS season kicked off on September 3rd, with Miami taking on UAB, and we’ve since seen three weekends of college football. There have been hiccups – Baylor has seen four different games called off due to coronavirus concerns, and certainly the season has not gone off without any problems, but the return of college football is real, and it’s feasible that everyone else will be back soon as well.

Yesterday, there we’re several announcements regarding the Pac-12 and Mountain West, which are intending to return to the fall football scene, albeit with shortened schedules. That followed up the Big 10’s announcement that they hope to resume play in late October, and overall, it’s been an absolute whirlwind in college football. Here’s a brief rundown of what’s going on:

The Pac-12 is back, playing a 7-game schedule

As of now, the plan is that the Pac-12 will return on November 6, and they’ll play a 7-game schedule that includes the conference championship. Teams play the five teams within their division, and one crossover game. On December 19, there will be a title game played, with the non-qualifiers playing an additional crossover game to round out their schedule. The full schedule will be released in a couple of days.

To this point, there is no indication of whether they are ineligible for the College Football Playoff, which could lead to some interesting debates if Oregon, or perhaps USC, goes 7-0, but they have to compare there resume with a mix of SEC, ACC, and Big 12 teams that have played 10 or 11 games. Simply being eligible will be key for the Pac-12, as that at least entitles them to the Power-5 payout, which last year was 66 million per conference.

The Mountain West and Big 10 pick up the same timeline

The Mountain West conference elected to take the same schedule format as the Big 10, beginning an 8-game slate on October 24, with their conference championship on December 19. With two 6-team divisions, it’s unclear what the specifics of the schedule will look like, but ultimately, the biggest factor here is Boise State. The Broncos are the only consistently good team in this conference, and they are a yearly challenger for the Group of 5’s spot in the New Year’s 6.

A notable exception at this point is the Air Force academy. Despite the Mountain West’s cancellation the Falcons had gone ahead with their plans to compete in their two-game series with Army and Navy. While their clash with Navy is scheduled for October 3rd, their game with the Black Knights is slated for November 7, which would be the third week of the Mountain West season. That potential dilemma was not mentioned by the Mountain West in their announcement today.

What about the MAC?

The MAC remains the only FBS conference to not have a fall season in place, but this could change soon as well. They were the earliest conference to postpone their season, doing so on August 8, but sources say they are planning on holding a presidents’ meeting, where the plan is to vote on a season. As of now, the rumors are circulating around a potential 6-game season in the MAC, which would officially get all FBS conferences into play. The MAC doesn’t have a nationally relevant team, with their best overall record last season coming from Buffalo, who finished 8-5. Regardless, at this point, it would be very strange for the conference to attempt to go solo and play a spring season by themselves, so expect some shortened season announcement to be coming soon.

Game Of The Week Preview: #23 Kentucky @ #8 Auburn

Although College Gameday may be headed to the FSU-Miami rivalry clash, the true game of the week lies a little northwest, at Jordan-Hare Stadium, where the #8 Auburn Tigers will play host to the #23 Kentucky Wildcats. This game is truly an intriguing battle, as both teams enter with a lot of unknowns. For Kentucky, they’ll be seeing the first of quarterback Terry Wilson since he suffered a season-ending injury in Kentucky’s second game last season. Will he spark a Kentucky offense that has been mediocre at best over much of the past decade? For Auburn, they lost stud defensive tackle Derrick Brown to the draft, but they return a lot of talent, and they’ll be anxious to see if Bo Nix’s promising true freshman campaign translates into a strong sophomore season.

History of the Matchup

Auburn has absolutely dominated this series, leading Kentucky 26-6 all-time, with a tie mixed in. The two teams haven’t played since 2015, when the Tigers took down Kentucky 30-27 in Lexington. Auburn has won 17 of the past 18 clashes with the Wildcats, going back to 1967. Traditionally, if Auburn gets any kind of offense, they have little issue with Kentucky – they are 21-0 all-time when they score more than 14 points against the Wildcats. As for Kentucky, they’ve only scored 20+ points seven times against Auburn, eclipsing the 30-point mark just once.

Auburn Offense vs. Kentucky Defense

As mentioned above, when Auburn finds a way to score points against Kentucky, they are traditionally very successful. They’ll be facing a difficult defense that finished 14th in the nation at 19.3 points allowed per game. Bo Nix is clearly the X-Factor here for Auburn, as his dual-threat abilities will be called upon to handle Kentucky’s elite pass defense. Auburn was 5-0 when Nix completed 65% of his passes, so efficiency will be the key against this stiff defense. If I’m Kentucky, my early focus is on stopping the Auburn ground game – forcing Nix to become one-dimensional will be key if Kentucky is to have a shot in this one. The Tigers have bruising freshman running back in Cartavious Bigsby, and if he can be effective running between the tackles, Nix can generate a passing attack off of play-action.

For Kentucky, they return seven of their top nine tacklers from 2019, a year in which they topped the SEC in passing defense. Their secondary core of Brandin Echols and Cedrick Dort, along with safety and leading tackler Yusef Corker, gives the safety position some star-level talent. The X-factor for Kentucky, as mentioned above, will be stopping the run. If they do that early, they’re daring Nix to beat them where they’re best, which is all you can ask for as a road underdog. The pass rush figures to be strong, but if Kentucky can get their big bruisers- 367-pound Quinton Bohanna being the anchor at nose tackle – into the backfield, then Auburn’s going to be facing an uphill battle to reach the end zone.

Kentucky Offense vs. Auburn Defense

This one may very well come down to Terry Wilson, who might have benefited the most from the delayed start to the season, as he was able to ramp himself up to full speed. If he comes back at 100%, he will give Kentucky a tough weapon on offense. However, the argument can be made that Wilson is far too inconsistent to be relied upon. In his full season as the starter in 2018, Wilson went through a five-game stretch where Kentucky couldn’t score more than 17 points, and overall, Wilson threw 11 touchdowns to 8 interceptions. Wilson not only needs to be back at 100%, he needs to play at prime Terry Wilson level from the get-go, without suffering from those bouts of inconsistency.

Beyond Wilson, Kentucky has a pretty solid ground game, led by Asmir Rose, who ran for 826 yards last season. Kavosiey Smoke and Christian Rodriguez will complement Rose after combining for 12 touchdowns last season, giving Kentucky a set of viable weapons in the running game. However, Kentucky is full of question marks in their receiving corps, where their top returning pass-catcher racked up just 233 yards last season. That, combined with Wilson’s shaky resume as a passer, does not offer a lot of hope for Kentucky’s air game. As a road underdog, the likelihood that Kentucky can win this with just their backfield is unlikely, so the Wildcats will need to find a way to get things going aerially.

Defensively for Auburn, they’ll lean on linebacker K.J. Britt to lead the charge against Kentucky. Britt forced two fumbles last year and recorded ten tackles for loss. He can be a quarterback spy of sorts for the Tigers, stopping any kind of short passing game or extended quarterback scrambles, if he plays effectively. Kentucky loves their smoke-and-mirror type of offense, and if Britt can be an intelligent leader for the Auburn defense, they’ll force Kentucky to get their passing game going, which is not Kentucky’s strength. In the secondary, Roger McCreary will be one of the major factors for Auburn, as he likely steps into a starting role after nine pass-breakups and an interception as a reserve last season.

Prediction

Auburn is 21-0 when scoring more than 14 points against Kentucky. That’s absolutely absurd to me, and I think it’s a mark that the Tigers exceed on Saturday. I’m not confident that this Kentucky offense is versatile enough to put up more than that against Auburn, even if their defense can limit Bo Nix and Co. Auburn has won three straight season openers, the last two against ranked opponents, and I’m putting my trust in the Tigers in what should be a defensive battle.

Auburn 24 Kentucky 13

Best ACC Bets – Week 3

The ACC is back in action this week, despite the postponement of Notre Dame and Wake Forest’s conference battle, and we are here to give you our top bets you can make for Saturday’s slate of games. All these bets – unless included in our parlay – have odds that are better than -200.

Louisville @ Pittsburgh, OVER 55.5

Louisville put up 34 points against a pretty decent Miami defense, and that was with three turnovers. If the Cardinals clean up the miscues, I anticipate them being able to put up another 30-35 points against Pitt. Meanwhile, Louisville’s defense looked absolutely abysmal, and Pitt QB Kenny Pickett has the talent to take advantage of the blown coverages that the Cardinals offered up at an alarming rate. I think Pitt races to keep pace with Louisville, trying to avoid a home loss, and this game ends up with both teams putting up 30+ points.

Syracuse @ Georgia Tech, UNDER 52.5

Talk about two abysmal offenses in this match-up. In four total games, these two teams have combined for 53 points. That’s horrendous. They should both be 0-2 had it not been for Florida State’s equally abysmal offense against Georgia Tech in the season opener. Syracuse has a pretty solid defense overall, keeping UNC in check for three quarters, and limiting Kenny Pickett and the Pitt Panthers to 21 points. I think this game is an ugly, defensive slog, where whichever team can break 20 points will claim victory. I can’t picture this game hitting the over.

NC State (+7.0) @ Virginia Tech

I flinched on this one. I liked Virginia Tech at first, but the Hokies really struggled at the start of last season, particularly in an embarassing loss to a BC team that lost by 24 to Kansas shortly after, and they’re playing a team that is already a week into their campaign. NC State boasted a new-look offense that was dynamic last week, plastering 45 points on Wake Forest. While Wake Forest isn’t as good as Virginia Tech, I wouldn’t bet on this Wolfpack offense losing by more than a touchdown right now. I’d be tempted to take the +210 moneyline here, but I’ll just give the spread as my go-to pick.

Miami (-11.5) vs. Florida State

This is probably the one I’m least confident out of the four, but I really am going to heap the embarrasment on the ‘Noles here. FSU lost by 17 at home to Miami last year, and the Hurricanes look a lot better this season. Meanwhile, the Seminoles were an absolute embarassment in their home opener, losing to an unimpressive Georgia Tech team in Week 1. Nothing gives me confidence that FSU keeps this one close on the road against their rivals, currently ranked 12th. I’m leaning Miami by two touchdowns in this one, covering the spread.

College Football Down But Not Out: How Players and Coaches Are Fighting Back

As the coronavirus pandemic raged on through the summer – the promised dip in cases with the warm weather never really arriving – a pit began to form in the stomachs of many college football fans around the country. While the NFL has yet to make significant changes, outside cancelling preseason games, college football was always at greater risk. There’s limited ways to institute a bubble system that has allowed for successful restarts in the NHL and NBA. The MLB has allowed limited travel, and even that has not come without its drawbacks, with several teams seeing a multitude of games cancelled as the virus raged through their clubhouse.

Could college football ever survive? The early responses to that question began rolling in over the past couple of weeks, as FCS moved their season to the spring, while UConn became the first FBS team to cancel their fall season. The MAC became the first FBS conference to make the announcement – seemingly making it only a matter of time until the season fell by the wayside. On Monday, major dominoes finally fell, as the Big 10 voted to cancel their season by an overwhelming 12-2 majority. The Mountain West Conference soon followed. The Pac-12 is expected to vote their way into the same course of action today, which would leave the FBS with just 6 of 10 conferences still standings. However, don’t spell doom on the college football season just yet. 

Players Fighting Back

#WeWantToPlay. The hashtag has flooded twitter, after it was posted by itself in a Tweet by Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. The tweet was followed up by a longer explanation from the potential #1 draft pick, stating that the players and community at large would be at least as safe with a football season as without. Coming from Lawrence, who has little to gain in the way of draft stock this season, the statement was extremely important. Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields echoed the sentiment, as did several other prominent players, with Mississippi State running back Kylin Hill being another notable name to join the cause. Several other Buckeyes’ players reacted to the Big 10’s decision, firing out tweets wondering whether they could join the SEC for a year. On Monday, Ian Book and the rest of the Notre Dame captains released a statement, affirming their support for a 2020 season: “As leaders of this team, we can confidently say that the metal and physical health of this team is in a better place with the football season taking place this fall”, the statement read. 

Joe Burrow, although a recent alum of the college football world, sent out an eye-opening tweet, saying that if this had happened last season, he would likely be looking for a job right now. The tweet referenced Burrow’s meteoric rise from a player barely projected to be drafted to a lock for the #1 overall pick, a stunning climb that hinged on his historical Heisman-winning 2019 season. Which players out there could make a similar move in 2020? If the decision to cancel the season is upheld, we may never get to find out. 

Coaches and Celebrities Get Involved

The desperate fight to play has not only involved players, as everal coaches got involved in the movement. Jim Harbaugh cited Michigan’s 0 positive results in their last 353 tests as evidence that the virus could be controlled, a point emphasized in a tweet from Michigan defensive lineman Adam Hutchinson.

Scott Frost said the Nebraska program was prepared to explore opportunities outside the Big 10 for a season, while Ohio State’s Ryan Day and Penn State’s James Franklin both expressed sentiments about hoping to reverse the decision. Lane Kiffin of Ole Miss also tweeted out the #WeWantToPlay hashtag in support of the movement to have the 2020 season. Nick Saban released a statement saying that the notion that college players could only get the virus from playing football was incredibly false, citing Alabama’s 2% positive test ratio since the 4th of July. 

Basketball legend Shaq and President Trump were also among the big names that advocated for the players via social media yesterday, however not everyone wants the season to be played. Stephen A. Smith said the season should be cancelled today, and evidently, there’s concern among some players as well, with 31 opt-outs to this point. Rashod Bateman (Minnesota), Rondale Moore (Purdue), and Micah Parsons (Penn State) highlighted the opt-out movement, as all three highly-ranked prospects elected to not play in 2020. However, a growing sentiment in the college football world was that the option to play should be as readily available as the option to opt-out. The virus has proved containable, and with effective measures in place and conference-only play, a season with an abbreviated slate of games seems attainable. 

Realignment and other ideas

The Pac-12 will likely announce their cancellation on Tuesday, and the Big 10 should make their decision official as well, officially bringing the number of conferences down to 6. The most updated reports have said that they may only delay their season, waiting before announcing an official cancellation. But if the season isn’t officially cancelled, and those 6 conferences want to play, we could see some weird things happening that would shake up the football world. The SEC has already reportedly begun courting several teams to join their conference for a season, including Texas and Oklahoma out of the Big 12. Could an SEC/Big 12 superconference be a possible solution. Such a deal would leave the ACC on the outside looking in, maybe hoping to secure some Big 10  and AAC teams to join their conference on a temporary basis. Nebraska and Iowa voted against the cancellation officially, and with several coaches speaking out against the decision, it would be foolish to declare the season dead just yet. Meanwhile, there could also be traction for an SEC/ACC alignment, while the Big 12 welcomes in teams from the Big 10 and Pac-12 that still want to play. Could some teams from the cancelled Mountain West (Boise State being the most prominent) link up with some hodgepodge conference in 2020? Conference USA intends to play as of this moment, despite Old Dominion’s announcement that they would not play in the fall. C-USA could also be a factor in regrouping teams into a realigned conference set-up. The logistics of any of these set-ups would be a nightmare to figure out, with playoff formats and schedules having to be reconfigured, but the possibility remains in play. 

Of course, the most likely situation may still be a spring season, which would at least recoup some of the brutal financial losses that programs across the country will suffer from the cancellation of the fall schedule. If a spring season can’t be played, it would be expected that dozens of athletic teams will be forced to shut down, due to the financial strain. We’ve already seen a bevy of programs cut due to this, and the reality of missing a year of football, easily the greatest money maker for nearly every school, would cause the program cancellations to increase greatly. The outlook is bleak right now, but don’t close the coffin just yet. College football is down but not out – #WeWantToPlay.

Thomas And Cimino Preview The Big 10: Power Rankings and Championship Picks

Quick, catch up. Before we unveil our full Big 10 Power Rankings and Predictions, be sure to check out our Offense and Defense previews, so you can get the full experience. 

With that being said, myself and resident Big 10 analyst Chris Cimino will be wrapping up our 3-story saga previewing the conference today with final predictions. First off – power rankings. 

Aidan ThomasChris Cimino
Ohio StateOhio State
Penn StatePenn State
MichiganMinnesota
WisconsinWisconsin
Michigan StateMichigan
NebraskaIowa
MinnesotaIndiana
PurdueNebraska
IndianaNorthwestern
IowaPurdue
NorthwesternMichigan State
IllinoisMaryland
RutgersIllinois
MarylandRutgers

The top of our power rankings should come as no surprise. Ohio State is the clear favorite to win the conference, with Penn State being probably their only legitimate challenger. I actually almost leaned towards the Nittany Lions before recent events steered me away from that pick. Had Penn State had Micah Parsons, and fans in their stadium to produce their annual white-out game, I may have liked James Franklin’s squad to take home the head-to-head clash with the Buckeyes. However, in a fanless stadium with their best defender gone, Penn State doesn’t quite match up with Ryan Day, Justin Fields, and Co. Master Teague takes over as the primary workhorse in the backfield, and if he equals or comes close to the production of J.K. Dobbins, the Buckeyes will roll to another undefeated season. 

However, as the rankings progress, our lists begin to differ. Cimino is high on Minnesota, who returns Tanner Morgan, one of the best quarterbacks in the nation, and has a great head coach in P.J. Fleck. However, for me, the loss of Rashod Bateman leaves me with slightly more questions about the offense, and I’m not sure they have enough to compensate for significant losses on the defensive side of the ball. I slotted perennial Big 10 West favorite Wisconsin in at #4, as well as Nebraska at #6 before putting Minnesota into the seventh spot. 

Our other major difference is in Michigan State. Cimino has the Spartans crashing to eleventh on his list, barely above the traditional cellar-dwellers of the conference. In doing so, he makes some intriguing bets, including banking on a rebound season from a Northwestern team with a strong defense, and a better season than I expect from Indiana. I have the Spartans cracking my top-5 which may be high, but also reflects my belief that this a very top heavy conference. I don’t think there’s very many teams I would consider nationally relevant after Ohio State, Penn State, and maybe Michigan. Wisconsin has a case. But that’s about as far as I’ll go. Michigan State at 5 or 11? I’m not sure it makes a huge difference for me, but I think the Spartans can pull off 5-6 wins in Big 10 play. 

Conference Championship Predictions

Thomas: Ohio State over Wisconsin

Cimino: Ohio State over Minnesota

This is Ohio State’s conference to lose, and neither myself nor Cimino see that happening. Ohio State’s stranglehold over the Big 10 continues. Their trickiest game is undoubtedly their clash with Penn State, and I really don’t see a team out of the West challenging the Buckeyes significantly in the conference championship. Cimino sticks with his Golden Gophers to make the title game, while I go with a repeat of last year’s championship. I think the West division is wide open, so I went with the consistent Badgers, who haven’t had a losing season since 2001. However, Tanner Morgan alone makes Minnesota a contender at least for the division crown, so the Gophers are a worthy pick here as well. 

Coach of the Year predictions

Thomas: James Franklin, Penn State

Cimino: Ryan Day, Ohio State

Although I picked Ohio State to win the conference, I’m not going with Day for Coach of the Year honors. Quite simply because 10-0 is the expectation in Columbus, so to give him COY for meeting the standard seems underwhelming. Rather, I’m going with Franklin. Although I don’t quite see him breaking through into the CFP, I think a 9-1 season in which they lose a large portion of their significant homefield advantage and have already seen one of their best players opt out would be excellent work by Franklin. Cimino goes with the likely safer pick in Ryan Day, who impressed greatly in his first season replacing Urban Meyer, and he’s an instant favorite for the award. 

Thomas and Cimino Preview The Big 10: Top Defenses, DPOY Predictions

After releasing our Big 10 offensive player of the year predictions a day ago, myself and Chris Cimino have returned to offer up our predictions for the best defenses in the Big 10, along with DPOY picks. Our offensive previews were very similar, as we both agreed that Ohio State and Penn State are the offenses to watch, while the Tanner Morgan-led Minnesota squad is an intriguing third team to keep an eye on. Does the same story ring true on the defensive side of the ball? Let’s check it out. 

Top Defenses

Thomas

  1. Ohio State
  2. Penn State
  3. Michigan

Cimino 

  1. Ohio State
  2. Penn State
  3. Wisconsin

Once again, both Cimino and I come up with extremely similar rankings when looking at Big 10 defenses. Ohio State is just a beast on the defensive side of the ball, and although I was a little hesitant about placing them over a Penn State defense that returns a lot more production, the recent opt-out of stud linebacker Micah Persons convinced me to slide the Nittany Lions to #2. Shaun Wade is the latest in a series of elite cornerbacks to come out of Ohio State, and he leads the Buckeyes into action in 2020. 

Cimino agrees with me at 1-2, but we do differ with our third team. I initially slotted Wisconsin in here, and they are undoubtedly a solid pick. The Badgers boast a stout defense year-in and year-out, and they return a lot of production – headlined by Jack Sanborn, who recorded 5.5 sacks and 3 interceptions in 2019. I went with the Michigan Wolverines for my third best defense, but it was a really tight call. The ultimate deciding factor for me was Michigan’s starpower, as I believe they have two of the best players in the conference in defensive lineman Kwity Paye and cornerback Ambry Thomas. Michigan will be strong on defense, but it may not be enough for them to tip the scales in the Big 10. 

Top Defensive Players  

DPOY Prediction

Thomas: Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State
Cimino: Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State

Aidan ThomasChris Cimino
Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio StateShaun Wade, CB, Ohio State
Kwity Paye, DL, MichiganKwity Paye, DL, Michigan
Ambry Thomas, CB, MichiganGeorge Karlaftis, DL, Purdue
George Karlaftis, DL, PurduePaddy Fisher, LB, Northwestern
Jack Sanborn, LB, WisconsinCam McGrone, LB, Michigan


This list has at least a little bit of variation after we appeared to agree on much of our initial sets of rankings. We both like Wade to take home DPOY honors. The Ohio State corner broke up eight passes and intercepted one last season, while playing in a secondary that had two first round picks. He also forced a fumble and had two sacks, and his numbers should explode as the star of Ohio State’s defense in 2020. Paye was the consensus #2 player, returning after a breakout 6.5 sack season. He also recorded 50 tackles and recovered a fumble, and he will be a key cog in Michigan’s defensive gameplan, responsible for causing disruption along the defensive line. 

After our top-2, our lists vary slightly. Purdue defensive lineman finds his way into both of our top-5 rankings, sliding in at #3 in Cimino’s list and #4 in my own. I have Michigan cornerback Ambry Thomas checking in as the third best defensive player in the conference, while aforementioned Wisconsin linebacker Jack Sanborn rounds out my list. Cimino goes for a player that may be a slight surprise to some, ranking Paddy Fisher fourth. The Northwestern linebacker will be the anchor of a unit that doesn’t quite look ready for Big 10 contention after a 1-7 record in Big 10 play last season. Cimino also goes with a second Michigan player, opting for linebacker Cam McGrone to fill out his top 5.

Thomas and Cimino Preview The Big 10: Top Offenses, and OPOY Predictions

After releasing our SEC predictions just a few days ago, we brought in Big 10 analyst Chris Cimino to work with lead writer Aidan Thomas and unveil our B1G predictions for this season. To start it off, let’s talk offense. 

Top Big 10 Offenses

Aidan Thomas

  1. Penn State
  2. Ohio State
  3. Minneosta

Chris Cimino

  1. Ohio State
  2. Penn State
  3. Minnesota

Ultimately, both of our rankings here regarding the Big 10 offenses are very similar, with a flip of our top two teams marking the only difference. I made the somewhat unpopular choice to go with Penn State, simply because I believe the Nittany Lions have a loaded backfield, headlined by Journey Brown, who I believe is one of the top offensive players in the conference. Throw in promising 2nd-year dual-threat quarterback Sean Clifford and Pat Freiermuth – arguably the best tight end in the country –  and Penn State boasts a lethal offense.

 Cimino went with Ohio State, and there’s every reason to go with the Buckeyes here as well. Heisman favorite Justin Fields quarterbacks an offense that will likely see talented players step up to replace production lost to the draft. Minnesota rounds out both of our lists, even with the recent opt-out of Rashod Bateman. Both Cimino and I placed Tanner Morgan inside our top 5 quarterbacks heading into 2020, and that confidence in the Minnesota signal-caller is reflected in our rankings. 

Top Offensive Players

Offensive Player Of the Year

Thomas: Justin Fields, Quarterback, Ohio State

Cimino: Justin Fields, Quarterback Ohio State

Aidan ThomasChris Cimino
Justin Fields, QB, Ohio StateJustin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Journey Brown, RB, Penn StateRondale Moore, WR, Purdue
Tanner Morgan, QB, MinnesotaTanner Morgan, QB, Minnesota
Rondale Moore, WR, PurdueJourney Brown, RB, Penn State
Sean Clifford, QB, Penn StatePat Friermuth, TE, Penn State

Once more, our analysis of the offensive scene in the Big 10 produces a near-identical set of rankings. Both Cimino and I take the only returning Heisman finalist – Justin Fields – as our offensive player of the year, with Journey Brown, Tanner Morgan, and Rondale Moore rounding out our top four. Cimino elects to place Moore 2nd on his list, which may reflect Moore’s talent better than my own list. A little hesitant about his prior injury, and the fact that he plays for a much less competitive Purdue team, I slipped Moore to fourth. Instead I elevated Brown, who looks posed for a breakout season, to #2. 

We both ranked Tanner Morgan at #3 as the 2nd-best quarterback in the conference. While the Golden Gophers’ conference title hopes took a massive hit with the loss of Bateman, Morgan remains a premier signal-caller in college football and deserves his spot within our top 3. At #5, Cimino and I differ slightly, although we both target Penn State players. I go with quarterback Sean Clifford, who I believe was underrated last season and posed to take a large step forward. Cimino goes with the more proven Pat Friermuth, who averaged 11.8 yards per catch in 2019 and returns as Clifford’s top target in 2020. 

From our extremely similar rankings, a quick conclusion can be drawn – this is Ohio State and Penn State’s conference – and everyone else is just living in it.