We are a little more than two weeks away from kicking off the 2016 college football season. We've read most of the predictions. We have pretty good idea of who the favorites are – both nationally and in the individual conferences.
We really might as well just hand out trophies now, right? Wrong.
College football is a hotbed for outrageousness. With so many teams and so many variables, we shouldn't be surprised at anything.
That's especially true this year for the Big Ten, where everyone is penciling Ohio State and Michigan in as national title contenders and once again scoffing at the conference's West Division.
Outrageous College Football Predictions for the Big Ten in 2016
Wisconsin finishes below .500 for the first time since 2001
For starters, the Badgers are in real danger of being the most one-dimensional offense in the conference in 2016. There is no evidence that this team will be able to be enough of a threat in the passing game to scare opposing defenses away from loading up the box. Perhaps more alarming is that brutal schedule. Wisconsin opens against LSU at Lambeau Field, gets a bit of a break in back-to-back weeks against Akron and Georgia State, then starts running a Big Ten gauntlet. Beginning Sept. 24, the Badgers play at Michigan State, at Michigan, get a bye before hosting Ohio State, travel to Iowa, host Nebraska and travel to Northwestern. That's seven very possible losses in the first nine games of their slate. They'll finish the year by facing three teams that should be better than they were last year: Illinois, Purdue and Minnesota. It could be a long season in Madison.
Michigan wins fewer games in 2016 than they did in 2015
For most teams, this wouldn't be an outrageous prediction — considering that the Wolverines won nine games in the regular season and hit the double-digit mark with a bowl win. Be that as it may, the expectations both in Ann Arbor and across the nation are higher than they've been in quite some time for Michigan football. The Wolverines are expected to be national contenders, even though nobody outside of Jim Harbaugh's office has any idea who is going to start at quarterback. Additionally, they'll play three road games during the second half of the season where they are likely to be underdogs. Should they lose all three — which is not out of the question — the Wolverines would need to win out and notch a postseason victory to equal 2015's win total.
Purdue will be bowl-eligible
One couldn't help but to notice Darrell Hazell's confident demeanor during Big Ten media days. It was reminiscent of what we felt from Michigan a season ago — as if they knew something we didn't. Hazell has every reason to be confident heading into this season. He returns a capable quarterback, an explosive receiver, a solid running back and an experienced offensive line led by one of the best guards in the nation. Defensively, the Boilermakers return nine players with starting experience from a season ago. Taking a quick look at their schedule, I only see one game — a home tilt with Iowa — where I have a hard time giving them a puncher's chance. A six- or seven-win season is not out of the question.
Iowa runs the table in the regular season for a second consecutive year
The pundits will have a field day as the seasoned and talented Hawkeyes successfully navigate another manageable slate of games where they may be favored each week. They return an elite offensive line, one of the best quarterbacks in the country and a defense full of potential All-Americans, including the 2015 Thorpe Award winner. Look for the Hawkeyes to make another trip to Indianapolis with a goose egg in the loss column.
The Big Ten gets shut out of the College Football Playoff
Last season the Pac-12 watched the College Football Playoff from home. The year before that, the Big 12 was absent from the four-team tournament. It's going to happen to the Big Ten sooner or later, and 2016 is very likely to be the year. I like a two-loss Ohio State team to win a messy East division and defeat the Hawkeyes in another close game in Indianapolis — similar to what took place in the Big Ten Championship Game in 2015. You'll then have a two-loss conference champion in Ohio State and a one-loss runner-up. In the two-year existence of the College Football Playoff, all eight teams that participated entered with either one or no losses. That's not likely to change.
— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.