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 Thomas||Chris Cimino|
|Ohio State||Ohio State|
|Penn State||Penn State|
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.