By Dan Leach
You sure can smell college football season in the air. The grills, the tailgating, the sweet sounds of bands and cheerleaders strolling towards stadiums around the country. It simply is one of the best times of the year.
In the lead up to the start of the season ESPN released their Big Ten Power poll, which I vehemently disagree with.
So recently on the Valenti and Foster show, sitting in for the great Terry Foster, I debuted the "DTM 2015 B1G Power Poll" where I think the 14 Big Ten teams come in to the 2015 season and where they will end up.
In a huge upset Mike Valenti didn't think I was that far off. Crazy or crazy genius?
14- PURDUE - The team is just 4-20 under Hazell and this is possibly the worst it's ever been for the Boilers in modern era. At least Austin Appleby started last year at QB. That's about all the good news for Purdue fans.
PREDICTED FINISH- 3-9
13- INDIANA - I like Nate Sudfeld at QB after the tough break he had last year getting hurt late after throwing for over 4300 yards and 34 TD's. Offense should be potent, but the D is simply atrocious. They do have four key guys back on the D line, but the secondary is a major problem.
PREDICTED FINISH- 4-8
12- NORTHWESTERN - Sorry Jamie Samuelsen, this team is going to be touch to watch. They have a true three-way QB Battle between Olvero, Alvitti, and Throson and none of them seem to be a great option.
The Cats do have a solid RB in sophomore Justin "Action" Jackson who ran for almost 1,200 yards last year with 10 TD's. O line is horrid though and coaching in late game situations almost as bad. Just ask Michigan.
Defense could go either way as they do have depth on the D Line, but to many questions to really believe in that side of the ball.
11- ILLINOIS - I don't like the player abuse allegations at all under Tim Beckham, which makes the bowl appearance last year not look nearly as good. Junior QB Wes Lunt has some solid arm strength and there are mild weapons on offense so the Illini should be able to move the ball. Defense is the issue though - as it was the worst in the league last year allowing 456 yards and 35 points a game. That can't be any worse this year right?
PREDICTED FINISH- 5-7
10- MARYLAND - I really like what head coach Randy Edsall has done in College Park after taking a UCONN squad from nothing to a solid non-power conference team. New QB senior Caleb Rowe has the arm to open up the passing game, but they might move away from the read option, their bread and butter last year. New D Coordinator is moving from 3-4 to beefy 4-3 which could backfire on the Terps cause of personnel. They allowed over 200 rushing yards a game last season and were 95th nationally in total D.
PREDICTED FINISH - 6-6 Bowl Game Loss
9- IOWA - Honestly, how does Kirk Ferentz still have a job? And who throws a shoe? That hurts man! Guy has seemingly been there for 40 years and really hasn't done much in what feels like forever. Hawks have been totally underwhelming in recent years, but think QB C.J Beathard could be just what the doctor ordered.
PREDICTED FINISH- 6-6 Bowl Game Loss
8- RUTGERS - Kyle "Here comes the" Flood seems to have the Scarlet Knights moving in the right direction. The QB Battle with Chris Laviano and Hayden Rettig is something to keep your eyes on as it seems like Gary Nova was at Rutgers as long as Aaron Kraft played for the Ohio State basketball team, a little under 10 years. They have a solid WR in Leonte Caroo who could have gone pro after last season. The O-Line is a little weak, but coach Flood has proven rushers in Robert Martin and Josh Hicks. Both has 100 yard rushing games last season and should get a bunch more this year. Defense could be an issue as there is decent depth on the D-Line, but really none at LB. Secondary filled with mostly unproven players as well.
PREDICTED FINISH- 7-5 Bowl Game Loss
7- MINNESOTA - Absolutely love their coach in Jerry Kill who always seems to get the best out of his teams. Their QB Mitch Liedner though leaves a lot to be desired . In his first full season as a starter last year the Gophers finished second to last in passing in the Big ten with just 141 yards a game. The offense will be run oriented again and Offensive Weapon Jeff Jones could be fun to watch. He was one of the top recruits in the state of Minnesota two years ago, but didn't play in 20-14 due to academic issues. Jones could play at WR or at RB like he did ion the spring, either way Kill definitely wants to get him the ball . Minny will have a solid defense again as well as one of the deepest secondaries in the conference. First game at TCU though will be hell for the Golden Gophers.
PREDICTED FINISH- 8-4 Bowl Game Win
6- NEBRASKA - Mike Riley comes in and simply won't have that first season turnaround feel that Jim Harbaugh will in Ann Arbor. The Huskers also weren't nearly as much of a scallywag-fest as the Wolverines have been in recent years either. The defense will be solid as it usually is, but look for massive struggles on the offense in the transition year to Riley's system. The future looks bright in Lincoln, but this season will be an up and down struggle at best.
PREDICTED FINISH- 8-4 Bowl Game Loss
5- PENN STATE - The team will go as far as QB Christian Hackenberg takes them as he will be a Heisman contender through much if not all this season. They do have a solid backfield with Akeel Lynch who was their top rusher last year. WR Chris Godwin could be a breakout player and should be Hackenberg's favorite and most reliable target. The D returns 7 starters, but getting defensive coordinator Bob Shoop back is even more important. This team could be very, very good, but also has a chance of being extremely mediocre.
The Nittany Lions have a very easy early season schedule, but when they get to mid-October and play at Ohio State, they likely could be undefeated going into that contest. That game will really be where you'll be able to tell just what this team has in store for the latter stages of the 2015 campaign.
PREDICTED FINISH- 9-3 Bowl Game Win
4- MICHIGAN - Memories of the horrific five-win season last year ... gone! Fred Flintstone as head coach in Ann Arbor ... gone! All that was wrong with the world because Michigan Football simply blew ...GONE! The reason is simple, cause football Jesus in the shape of a khaki pants wearing, shirtless former hero has come back to the town where he made so many memories. JIM HARBAUGH IS BACK, and all is right with the world.
Now, he hasn't coached one down or won one game as the Wolverines head coach, but the anticipation and excitement level in 'Ann Arbaugh' has been simply out of control since he was named the HC. This team has a lot of question marks, most importantly who the heck the QB will be. Whether its 'Footsteps Falco' Shane Morris or Iowa Transfer Jake Rudock, the clear leader needs to be figured out right away and if it is, good things bode for Michigan in the early season.
New Defensive Coordinator D.J Durkin will have a huge effect right away on what was a solid D last year anyway. Michigan has 24 of the 28 players that appeared on the two deep on defense a year ago coming back. The LB's should be solid with Bolden, Ross, and Morgan and if triple threat Jabril Peppers (kid can sing, dance, and act), can finally come to fruition, the Wolverines could be scary on that side of the ball.
The true key along with a QB absolutely establishing himself as a leader, is the consistency of the offensive line. It was god-awful last year and gave whoever the Michigan QB was very little time and very little chance to make a decision. The running game should be solid and has tremendous depth with Green, Issac, Smith and Johnson .
There will be growing pains at times in the first year under Harbaugh, but I look for a major statement to be made opening night in the mountains of Utah and for the Wolverines to carry it throughout what will go down as a tremendously successful season in year one in Ann Arbaugh.
PREDICTED FINISH- 9-3 Bowl Game Win
3- WISCONSIN - Melvin Gordon is gone which will hurt, but Joel Stave is back under center as a senior and provides tremendous leadership. He wasn't lights out by any means last season, with more picks than TD's, but seems primed for a big swan song season. Junior RB Corey Clement will also pick up a lot of the slack in Gordon's absence as the kid seems primed to become a bona-fide superstar. The defense is going to be sick with playmakers all over the place and might have one of the best secondaries in all of college football. Biggest question mark will be how team responds to first year head coach Paul Chryst in his first year
PREDICTED FINISH- 9-3 Bowl Game Win
2- MSU- Connor Cook will be in Heisman race all season long even though he wasn't (surprisingly) named a team captain. I feel some extra motivation coming CC's way, not that he needs any. I want to see how the secondary performs with new coordinators, there will definitely be a little drop in the secondary after losing Waynes and Denard in consecutive years. Having one of the best defenders in the county in Edge Shilique Calhoun is going to be a nightmare for everybody on the opposing side.
There are definitely some O-Line questions but there is great depth as far as offensive weapons for Cook to throw to in Kings Jr and Shelton. Aaron Burbridge could possibly become the go to guy. Sparty is solid at TE as well with Josiah Price and could get a solid year out of red shirt freshman RB Madre London who is no Jeremy Langford yet, but has upside. State could end up being more balanced than OSU when all is said and done , but they simply don't have the depth the Bucks have. If they get past Oregon, which they should, this team could really get on an early season roll with the huge game in Ann Arbor being a massive pivot point.
PREDICTED FINISH- 10-2 MAJOR Bowl Game Win
1- OHIO STATE - This team has absolutely insane depth..... EVERYWHERE. Whether it's JT, Cardale, Aaron Kraft, or a reinstated Terrelle Pryor, the defending national champs are set at QB. They have one of the best D's in the country and Urbs is just a winner whether you love 'em or hate 'em. The opening game at Va Tech will be tougher than many think, but they really don't have a tough home game until Michigan State in late November, that very likely will be a knockout game for the college football playoff.
PREDICTED FINISH- 11-1 College Football Playoff Berth
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