Welcome to the college football offseason — a barren wasteland of recruiting updates and news about transfers to and from programs around the country. There are only a couple of months until spring practices start, but it still feels like an eternity.
That’s where I come in. It&’s never too early to talk about the next season, especially when you are talking about outrageous predictions regarding young men in their late teens and early twenties. You can’t go wrong really with the 2016 season this far out, as almost nothing is off the table or out of the question. That said, it never hurts to be prepared for the outrageous, especially in the Big Ten.
Way Too Early Outrageous Predictions for the Big Ten in 2016
Penn State wins the East
Yes, the Nittany Lions are going to lose three high-profile guys who will likely start immediately on Sundays. It’s what they return, however, that has me optimistic. Saquon Barkley looks like the most talented returning running back in the conference, and he’ll have the help of an offensive line that should return four starters. All told, Penn State looks to return 18 total starters on offense and defense, and the fruits of three straight Top 25 recruiting classes should be ripe.
Nebraska fails to finish with a winning record again
The Huskers lost a handful of last-second heartbreakers in 2015, yielding a 5-7 mark in the regular season. Their sound bowl win over UCLA gave Husker Nation plenty of hope, but one glance at what the team returns combined with the 2016 slate should give the realistic Nebraska faithful pause. The one true game-changer the team has on offense is coming off of two significant lower body injuries and the Cornhuskers also lose two NFL-caliber defensive tackles. They’ll play Northwestern, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Iowa on the road and host Oregon in the non-conference portion of their slate. They’ll likely be underdogs in all five of those game, lose all five, and then lose to at least one team they don’t expect to — a hallmark of Mike Riley’s coaching career.
Michigan wins fewer than nine games
Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines exceeded the expectations of pretty much everyone outside of Ann Arbor in 2015. Next season will be a different story. A new signal-caller will bring some growing pains and the loss of a strong core of seniors on defense will be huge. They open the Big Ten season with back-to-back home games against Penn State and Wisconsin, then travel to Michigan State, Iowa and Ohio State during the last half of the year. Look for a sophomore slump in 2016 for the Harbaugh tenure.
Purdue goes bowling
The Boilermakers are returning eight starters on defense. They also bring back a talented quarterback and running back that will be protected by an offensive line with some experience. They got a signature win last season against Nebraska and are confident group heading into Darrell Hazell’s fourth year at Purdue. The schedule sets up nicely, as they don’t play a road game until Oct. 1 against Maryland. Additionally, they get four of their five toughest Big Ten opponents at home. Look for Purdue to turn the corner in 2016.
Ohio State fails to hit the double-digit win mark
The Buckeyes have won 10 or more game in every season but one since 2005. The 2016 slate combined with the fact that the Buckeyes are losing more than a dozen starters to the NFL Draft or graduation means an uphill climb for Urban Meyer’s bunch next season. They’ll be talented as always, but young at most positions. That will make games at Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan State more interesting than they already were going to be. They also host Nebraska, Northwestern and Michigan. Going 4-3 in those seven games and losing the bowl game should not be ruled out by anyone.