The parity in the nation's oldest conference could equate to being left out of the Playoff again
The polls are rolling out and the odds are being set. The 2019 college football season is upon us.
All of the most prolific talking heads have had their say. When it comes to the Big Ten, it seems like the same old stories and one new one being shared by everyone. It's Ohio State, Michigan, and everyone else -- but keep an eye on Nebraska.
The Big Ten is going to be way too crazy this season for it to be that simple.
The fact of the matter is, there may be more parity in the Big Ten than any other conference in the country in 2019. The conference will be strong, but that -- ironically -- could be detrimental to the conference's hopes of being represented in the College Football Playoff.
With that in mind, let's make some OUTRAGEOUS* college football predictions for the Big Ten in 2019.
Outrageous College Football Predictions for the Big Ten in 2019
Nebraska goes .500
Scott Frost and the Huskers are the sexy pick by media members and apparently gamblers around the country to make a huge jump in 2019.
Pump the brakes.
This is a program that has eight wins in the last two seasons combined. They have question marks at center, running back and wide receiver -- and serious depth issues at linebacker. They are also in a Big Ten West division that is undervalued and underrated in terms of quality coaches and teams.
Adrian Martinez is one of the most exciting players in the country, but he can't do it alone. There are at least seven games on Nebraska's schedule that are coin tosses. I'm guessing the coin flips the other way for six of them.
Michigan loses four games
The 2019 Wolverines are supposed to be the best team of Jim Harbaugh's tenure in Ann Arbor to date. I'm not sure I understand that logic, given how they lost so much NFL-caliber talent from a 2018 team that had a 2-3 record against teams that finished in the Top 25.
A road trip to Wisconsin follows what will be a physically and emotionally exhausting tilt with a 10-win Army team projected to repeat that win total. Then there is the game against an Iowa team with more NFL talent than any team in the Big Ten West -- maybe even Michigan. The Wolverines still have a road trip to Penn State, a home tilt with an equally talented Notre Dame team, and the rivalry games against Michigan State and Ohio State to deal with.
It's a brutal schedule, and there's no way Harbaugh's crew gets through it with fewer than four losses.
Minnesota wins the Big Ten West
This is where that conference parity rears its head. The Gophers are the most experienced team in the Big Ten West. They also have what appears to be the easiest schedule in the division. They can drop a conference game -- or even two -- and still emerge from the dogpile atop the West side of the Big Ten.
Everything positive being said about Frost and Nebraska heading into 2019 should probably be directed at P.J. Fleck and Minnesota instead.
Michigan State wins the Big Ten East
Last season was a fluke. Quarterback Brian Lewerke got hurt and the Spartans were never the same offensively.
The core of the nation's No. 1 run defense returns in 2019, and this Michigan State squad is built and motivated to come out on top of the round-robin battle royale for Big Ten East supremacy.
This is the year that Mark Dantonio takes back the title of "Best Coach in the East."
The Big Ten is left out of the College Football Playoff again
You would think that the best team from the best conference should get into the playoff with no issue. That may not be the case in 2019.
There's a real chance that the Big Ten is the best conference in the country from top to bottom this year. The problem is, that means every game will be a war and nobody will come away unscathed.
Despite all the rhetoric from the selection committee about what matters, it all boils down to wins and losses. The Big Ten champion likely won't have enough wins and will have too many losses for their resume to be competitive when the committee selects its final four.
*Remember, "outrageous" can be defined as “wildly exaggerated or improbable,” and “very bold, unusual, and startling.” These are "outrageous" predictions and should be treated as such.
— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo!, SBNation, USA Today and Bleacher Report. He is a three-time FWAA writing contest award winner. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.