Welcome to the dying days of B1G 2018! As we count down to the start of Big Ten football, we’re previewing the Big Ten non-conference slate by conference affiliation. Stay tuned for all the G5 and P5 conference previews, along with our Closing Arguments prediction series for each Big Ten team.
You probably didn’t even notice that this series died, did you? Look, I’m tired. And as I was putting the finishing touches on the AAC preview last Monday, I deleted the piece. Just straight nuked it off the fucking planet. I have no idea how I did it, what I pressed...all of a sudden there was just a ‘z’ there and the editor gave me an error message.
So I guess I selected all and pressed ‘z’. I don’t know how that happened. Goddamnit.
Anyways, I was running out of ideas. And the major conferences are much tougher to preview and there are team-specific sites for all these schools at SBNation that are pretty good and look, I don’t have to explain myself to you, Mr./Ms./Mrs./However-You-Self-Identify OTE Reader. You’ve already skipped to the comments anyways.
In that state of desperation, I reached out to our friends (OK, some of our friends) at a Big XII site to preview the Big Ten-Big XII matchups.
With that, say hello to the guys from Wide Right Natty Lite:
Saturday, September 1 | 11am CT | FS1
FedEx Field, Landover, MD | TX -13.5 | O/U 56.5
By: Josh Williams (jwillyISU)
Is there a team in College Football under more fire than Maryland and coach DJ Durkin? After a heat-stroke death by one of its players, the Terrapins are in disarray. Texas on the other hand is getting sexual favors from all broadcast networks, similar to, well every year. A lot of teams think they are good just because that moo cow on the side of their helmet.
The inaugural season for Mensa Member Tom Herman had its fair share of ups and downs, but if there were two things to classify them it was the following:
1) Their defense was as stout as Donald Trump versus CNN
2) They still can’t figure out the quarterback conundrum
The defense returns most of their starters from a year ago, but do lose All Big-12 linebacker Malik Jefferson and a man with an All-American name, defensive tackle Poona Ford. Defensive Coordinator Todd Orlando
paid recruited some studs in the offseason, as the Longhorns brought home the 3rd ranked class in 2018, including two 5-star safety products.
In all, Texas returns 16 starters, but have been hit by the injury bug at the linebacker position. The back end of the D is solid, and the 3-man front that Orlando operates allows for more speed to cover the field. Especially against the astounding offensive attack that is the Big 12.
The “Quarterback Whisperer” Herman shuffled the deck too many times last year to let one of his youngsters develop. Both Sam Ehlinger and Shane Buechele are vying for QB1, and both have their strengths. Buechele is a true gun-slinger, while Ehlinger is a better game-manager with marvelous legs. The inconsistencies of both plagued the Longhorns a year ago, and they will each get plenty of opportunities to display their talents in ’18.
The defense is top-3 in the conference, while the offense needs an identity. The offensive line has been anything but reliable for the past few years, and they need to find a bell-cow at the running back position.
One of the Longhorn’s unsung heroes lost was the
third leg of punter Michael Dickson. Taking his talents to the NFL, the Aussie was truly a weapon a year ago, and will be missed.
The trajectory of UT comes down to where their quarterback(s) takes them. They have the potential to be top-10 in the country, or (just like 8 out of the last 9) unranked at season’s end.
This matchup a year ago was a shootout, as the Terrapins pulled er out with a video-game score of 51-41. I don’t see anything close to that. In fact, with the drama ensuing in College Park, I foresee Matthew McConaughey lighting a cigar on the sidelines, as Bevo and company trounce towards a 3- to 4-score victory.
Iowa Hawkeyes (8-5, 4-5) vs. Iowa State Cyclones (8-5, 5-4)
September 8 | 4pm CT | FOX
[ed. note: who in their right might put this game in the afternoon/evening?!]
2017 Sagarin Rating: 25 (81st percentile)
2018 S&P+ Ranking: 46
S&P+ Big Ten Odds: 62% (+5.1 margin)
By: Matthias Schwartzkopf
After the 2017 version of El Assico, what can Iowa State and Iowa do for an encore? Well, it’s simple, really. Engage in another dog fight in Iowa City. Which is exactly what this one is shaping up to be.
This is probably one of the most anticipated Cy-Hawk matchups in recent memories as both teams are as evenly matched as they have ever been. The in-state recruiting is competitive, and Matt Campbell and Brian Ferentz appear to flat out hate each other. The fans? well Cy-Hawk Twitter can get pretty rabid. All this adds up to make it a fiery contest.
Iowa will be down a few starters against Northern Illinois due to suspensions, but will be making their season debut against Iowa State. Might as well have both teams going at full strength right? Barring injury against South Dakota State, the Cyclones will be right there with the Hawkeyes.
There are two main keys to look at for this game. The first is in the trenches. Iowa State may just have one of the best defensive lines in the Big 12 Conference, but Iowa always puts together a strong offensive line. The matchup between the Iowa State front seven and the Hawkeye offensive line will undoubtedly be the most important matchup to watch.
On the other hand, Iowa State’s offensive line vs Iowa’s defensive line is not all that even. The Hawkeyes have the clear advantage here. Iowa returns virtually the entire defensive line from last year, including stars Anthony Nelson and A.J. Epenesa. For Iowa State to be able to take control of the game and dictate tempo, the Cyclone offensive line will need to improve dramatically in run-blocking and give David Montgomery, the best running back in the Big 12, plenty of room to run.
The next most obvious question is how well Iowa State can contain future first first round draft pick Noah Fant. Can they do it? Yes. but with who? Fant is an NFL tight end right now, so John Heacock’s defense, one of the two or three best in the Big 12, will have its hands full.
Conversely, Iowa arguably has a much bigger problem to solve when they defend the pass. After enjoying the play of Desmond King and Josh Jackson over the last few years, the Hawkeyes are extremely inexperienced in the secondary. They’ll get a warmup in their season opener against UNI, but in just the second game of the season, they’ll have to go up against Iowa State’s loaded receiving corps. Allen Lazard has since departed for the NFL, but 6’6” speedster (yes, you read that right) Hakeem Butler returns, and is going to be making his case to potentially end up as an early round draft pick in next year’s NFL draft.
Many people around the program believe Butler may actually be more talented than Allen Lazard, so we’ll be waiting to see if his production can match the hype. The other prevailing opinion around the Cyclone receivers heading into this season is that it has a chance to be even better than the 2017, which many consider to be the best receiver group in school history. Right now, I see this being a long afternoon for the Iowa secondary if Kyle Kempt, the nation’s returning leader in passing efficiency on standard throws per Pro Football Focus, is allowed time to sling the ball around. Just too many mismatches for the Iowa secondary to handle all while adding in the David Montgomery factor. Iowa fans should be very concerned with this match up.
The state of Iowa is in for a treat. I see this one being back and forth once more. Maybe toss in a few overtimes, drink a few beers, and see how this one plays out.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights (4-8) vs Kansas Jayhawks (oh hey look they beat southeast missouri state)
September 15 | 11am | Fox Sports Regional, maybe? (lol)
2017 Sagarin rating: 157 (49th percentile)
2018 S&P+ rating: 103
S&P+ Big Ten Odds: 56% (+2.6 margin)
By: Matt Nelson (CyHusker)
In years past, word of this game would have likely spread across the interwebs under a moniker such as the “Battle of the Basement”, the “Struggle of Suck”, or maybe even the “Duel of Despair.”
This matchup is basically Jar Jar Binks vs. a wacky waving inflatable flailing tube man.
And while Kansas will once again play the role of the unloveable loser in 2018, Rutgers is in a slightly different place, as their 3rd year coach has the Scarlet Knights looming to rise from the ashes that lie at the bottom of the Big 10 East. Maybe they’ll even capture that elusive New York market the Big 10 has been after for so long. *sarcasm font*
However, I would like to point out that only four Power 5 teams finished below Rutgers in final S&P+ rankings from 2017: Illinois, Maryland, Oregon State, Kansas. But only 5 teams TOTAL finished lower than Kansas, so we should probably talk about that.
Kansas football is in an interesting place going into what could be (and probably should be) coach David Beaty’s final season. Many were shocked Beaty survived a disastrous 2017 campaign, which should have seen Kansas improve almost across the board due to better weapons on defense and at a few skill positions.
In 2017, Kansas really struggled on offense, averaging roughly 19 points per game, and only scoring 25 touchdowns. Their rushing attack really took a step backwards, putting up 3.2 yards per attempt, good for 123rd nationally, despite having a rather explosive running back in Khalil Herbert. Herbert’s explosiveness was hampered by the lack of run efficiency and a makeshift offensive line, which effectively limited their big play potential.
At quarterback, the Jayhawks return both Peyton Bender and Carter Stanley, and add JUCO transfer Miles Kendrick to the mix. Kansas was absolutely woeful at throwing the ball last year. KU averaged only 5.9 yards per attempt and had some of the least efficient receivers in the country (besides Steven Sims Jr). The good news is that there are plenty of newcomers at the WR position, as Kansas has taken the approach of throwing multiple new warm bodies into the fray and hoping one has hands attached to his arms.
Defensively, Kansas is a bit more interesting. Their defensive line is incredibly strong, and returns 5 of their top 6 linemen from 2017. But the line wasn’t the issue in 2017; their defensive backfield was. The KU secondary was basically an AMC Gremlin leaking oil and spitting out parts as it drove back and forth across Big 12 country before eventually exploding in an abandoned rest stop parking lot.
To plug holes on his defense, David Beaty has turned to junior college players. Desolation is often the mother of desperation, which is what this move truly is: one last desperate attempt by Beaty to keep his job. Sometimes junior college players work out great (Kansas, meet Kansas State), but other times (most times) they do not.
The bottom line is that Kansas realistically only has a chance at 3 wins, and Rutgers is one of them (44% win probability). Will the Jayhawks “upset” Rutgers at home? If they do, will the goal posts be taken down and extricated from the stadium via reciprocating saw?
It’s Kansas football. You already know the answer to both questions.
Ohio State Buckeyes (12-2, 8-1) vs. TCU Horned Frogs (11-3, 7-2)
September 15 | 7pm | ABC
JerryWorld, Arlington, TX
2017 Sagarin Rating: 12 (87th percentile)
2018 S&P+ Ranking: 22
S&P+ Big Ten Odds: 78% (+13.1 margin)
By: Levi Stevenson
If you don’t have a rooting interest in these Big 10-Big12 games and are having trouble deciding which team to cheer for, I can assure you that this will be your easiest decision in this bunch. For 18 years, Gary Patterson has led the TCU Horned Frogs football program, bringing unprecedented success, even while a member of the Mountain West conference, and has only improved since joining the Big 12. He’s one of the most likeable guys in college football, and runs a squeaky clean program with a defense that consistently ranks near the top of the conference behind Patterson’s patented 4-2-5 scheme. If it means anything to you in deciding how vociferously to root against Ohio State, TCU also has one of the best, most polite fanbases in the conference. In a nutshell, you can root for TCU pretty much anytime they aren’t playing your favorite team and actually feel pretty good about yourself.
The same cannot be said about the Big 10’s representative in this matchup.
For a program that consistently ranks as one of the most hated in college football year-in and year-out, Ohio State has actually managed to one-up itself with this summer’s Urban Meyer saga. The story has been reported out the wazoo so far, so I won’t dive into it any further, but I can’t fathom any reason a non-Ohio State fan would be able to read that story and still root for the Buckeyes in this matchup.
By the time this game rolls around, Urban Meyer’s suspension will have been reduced down to simply limiting him from being on the sidelines during the game. Is this a factor worth considering when predicting a winner? Absolutely, but the magnitude of that impact is much more difficult to measure. Urban will be with the team during the week and will be heavily involved in game-planning, so the only major loss will be his in-game impact. Urban doesn’t call the plays during the game like Gary Patterson does for his defense, so my guess is that Ohio State’s playcalling probably won’t change much without him on the sidelines.
This matchup will be another great litmus test for the experience vs. talent factor. Ohio State lost quite a bit of experience on both sides of the ball after last season, including longtime quarterback stalwart JT Barrett and a large chunk of their defense, but will feature what some believe to the most talented roster in school history, a pretty enormous claim. Dark horse Heisman candidate Nick Bosa will anchor the defense, but how will the young Buckeye secondary handle Kavontae Turpin and TCU’s stable of speedster receivers?
TCU brings in some of its own newcomers, including heralded, but unproven quarterback prospect Shawn Robinson, but will undoubtedly be one of the best-coached and fundamentally sound football teams Ohio State faces all year. Being able wield a ridiculously fast and experienced receiving corps against OSU’s young secondary should give Robinson a few opportunities to take advantage of mistakes. If Turpin gets some space on a bubble screen, look out.
After losing safety blanket JT Barrett, will Dwayne Haskins be up to the task against TCU’s fearsome 4-2-5? Fortunately for OSU, they will be toting two extremely talented running backs in J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber into Jerry World. If TCU can contain those two, it could be an extremely long day for the Buckeye offense. If not, this game could be over in a hurry.
All in all, even against a talented TCU squad, Ohio State will be playing with a significant talent advantage over the Horned Frogs, which may be too much to overcome. On the flip side, TCU will have a scheme advantage, and will likely look like the more polished team. In a game that will likely be a defensive battle, just a couple big plays could be the deciding factors. This one should be a classic down in Arlington, Texas. I’m gonna take TCU in the upset on the back of their well-coached defense.
Side note: We Cyclone fans have our own beef with Ohio State, so I personally will be rooting for TCU to win by a million. Eat s*** Aaron Craft.
Out of the four matchups, two look to be true toss ups (or toss downs in the case of Kansas-Rutgers), while the Big 12 has a massive advantage in the Maryland-Texas game, and the Big 10 has a slight-to-moderate advantage in the Ohio State-TCU game.
The Big 12’s ceiling would be 4-0 if TCU knocks off Ohio State, but Kansas and Rutgers is possibly the worst Power 5 matchup in the last decade. Kansas is on a different level of bad at football than anybody else in the Power 5…..except Rutgers.
The Big 10’s ceiling is 3-1, with the lone loss coming in the Maryland-Texas game. Maryland beating Texas would be a bigger upset than TCU over Ohio State, and MUCH bigger than Kansas over Rutgers, so if either conference has a shot in going 4-0, it’s the Big 12.
Thanks to the guys at WRNL for helping out! Vote in the poll and give us your thoughts in the comments.
Big Ten’s record against the Big XII?
This poll is closed
2-2 (tell us who loses!)
0-4 burn it all down this is the worst