Every season of college football starts out the same way. We have all of these things that we think are knowns — lead-pipe locks as one popular radio host calls them. Then, by midseason, we're all wrong, sitting around wondering what happened to all that we thought was written in stone.
It shouldn't surprise us, considering that we are dealing with young men in their late teens and early 20s, but it always does.
The Big Ten Conference leads the way in "things we think we know" in 2015. Much of that has to do with Ohio State returning the bulk of its championship roster from a season ago and fielding a team many think could be the best in quite some time.
That sounds like a perfect reason to make some outrageous predictions about the Big Ten in 2015. Here goes:
The Big Ten will have a losing record as a conference after Week 1
Michigan visits Utah. TCU visits Minnesota. Northwestern hosts Stanford. Penn State visits Temple. Nebraska hosts BYU. Wisconsin plays Alabama. Purdue visits Marshall. Ohio State visits Virginia Tech. Richmond (yes Richmond) visits Maryland. That's nine games that I would not feel comfortable placing any sort of wager on. I won't exactly fall out of my chair if the B1G drops eight of them.
Michigan won't break .500 for a second consecutive season
Forget the coaching transition. This team has a star-power problem. The phrase has been beat to death over the past couple of seasons, but college football is in fact more about the Jimmy's and Joe's than the X's and O's. Michigan is short on Jimmy's (outside of the head coach) and Joe's. They also have serious questions at quarterback, as one of the main candidates for the job couldn't nail down the same gig at Iowa a season ago. And that schedule is brutal. Trips to Utah, Minnesota and Penn State accompany home contests with BYU, Michigan State and Ohio State. Let's not overlook those B1G newcomers, either. Both Maryland and Rutgers notched wins over the Wolverines a season ago.
Indiana's Nate Sudfeld will lead the conference in passing yards
Christian Hackenberg, Conner Cook and whoever starts for the Buckeyes are the popular picks here, but Sudfeld has some things in his "favor." Hackenberg's offensive line will still be a work in progress, again limiting the time he spends upright in the pocket. Cook doesn't really have any proven targets outside of the tight end position that he can depend on. And word on the street is that J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones might be sharing snaps in Columbus. Combine all of those factors with the assumptions that Indiana will be playing from behind in most games, and this prediction does not seem so outrageous.
No Big Ten teams will be represented in the College Football Playoff
The Big Ten is in the same boat that Florida State was a season ago. They have no room for error. The problem is, the conference is a lot better than most give it credit for. It's not crazy to imagine a scenario where Michigan State loses to Oregon and say — Nebraska — and goes on to knock off Ohio State. The Spartans would get the berth into the Big Ten Championship Game with two losses, while the potentially one-loss Buckeyes would have no conference title to lean on when the committee selects its final four.
The Big Ten champion will come from the West Division
The West is the red-headed stepchild of the conference — if not the entire Power 5 — heading into 2015. All they hear is how terrible and soft the division is. That said, let's say the scenario laid out above comes to fruition and Michigan State is representing the East in Indianapolis. It's not too crazy to imagine Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska or even an upstart Iowa having a good day and leaving Indy with the conference trophy.