We kicked off our non-conference previews, Beyond the Empire, the only way we know how—with a long-winded, fascinating, and in-depth conversation about Conference USA and conference realignment with Cyrus Smith and Tanner Spearman of Underdog Dynasty.
With those takes in mind, let’s preview the three matchups between the Big Ten and C-USA in 2019, and see if Florida Atlantic or Middle Tennessee can pull off an historic upset!
Big Ten Non-Conference Games
August 31, 6:30pm CT | BTN | Mich -32.5
MTSU at Iowa Hawkeyes
September 28 | Time, TV, Line TBD
OTE: The Blue Raiders have a lot of returning talent in RB Chaton Mobley, scatback Brad Anderson II, and WR Ty Lee, but Rick Stockstill is replacing his son Brent at QB. Any idea who is helming the MTSU offense, and...against Michigan and Iowa, will it matter? Could an aggressive and relative-efficient defense cause problems for the road-grading style of the Big Ten, or will the Blue Raiders just try to keep it close?
Tanner Spearman: Last year was probably Middle’s best chance to have a breakthrough year. They did manage to finally win a division title, but lost the championship game at home thanks in part to forgetting how to count.
Now in 2019, they lose their 4-year starter at QB, along with all but 4 starters on offense. It looks like it’s back to the drawing board for the Blue Raiders.
They’ve got a few options at quarterback, and Stockstill seems generally pleased with all of them. But will it matter against Michigan or Iowa? No. Middle has a habit of scheduling tough out of conference, and it usually bites them. It definitely will in 2019, a year where the C-USA media poll has them at 4th in the east despite being the reigning division champs. Middle at its best could maybe make a good showing against Iowa at its less-than-best. This year, however, will not be great for Middle Tennessee. Michigan will win big, Iowa probably by a few scores.
August 31, 11am | FOX | OSU -27
OTE: We are all aboard the Lane Train at OTE, and then things went (I swear, I just thought of this and it’s totally original) off the rails. Now bellcow RB Devin Singletary is gone, but with redshirt sophomore QB and facepaint weirdo Chris Robison back, along with TE Harrison Bryant and speedster Willie Wright, can the Owls’ offense (which early reports have described as “sloppy”) keep up its production under extremely junior OC Charlie Weis, Jr.? Is there any hope that a defense which collapsed against North Texas and Charlotte at the end of 2018 can put together the stops necessary to scare Ohio State in Ryan Day’s full-time HC debut?
Cyrus Smith: Last year when FAU opened the season on the road against Oklahoma, there were people who really though the Owls could cover the 21.5 point spread. Hell, some even picked FAU to win the game. The Owls of course were destroyed before folks even got a chance to watch the game. One year later and all of the buzz surrounding the football program is essentially gone.
They enter Ohio State as a 27 point underdog. No one is picking them as a trendy upset pick. Success is really that fleeting for some G5 schools, even with the advantages FAU has. Lane Kiffin enters his 3rd season at FAU and expectations are a bit tricky. No one really expected Kiffin to last three years in Boca, and if he did then he would surely be out of town before the fourth season but that’s not likely to happen.
Second year offensive coordinator Charlie Weis Jr. and Lane Kiffin had a rocky first season together. Chris Robison played like your typical freshman QB as he was pretty good at home and terrible on the road. Former Alabama RB BJ Eamons and James Charles should provide a solid rushing attack, but the success really hinges on Robison’s play. Willie Wright and Harrison Bryant are good enough to make the all-conference team. It really depends on if Robison is accurate enough to get them steady touches down the field beyond a simple flare screen.
There is hope that the defense will improve but stopping Ohio State is unlikely. First-year defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer (longtime Oklahoma State DC under Mike Gundy) worked wonders at Charlotte in his first season. Kiffin smartly plucked him away from a division rival. Strides will be made, but not enough to scare the Buckeyes.
Picking the Games
OTE: Here’s the entire B1G/C-USA slate! Give us an overall W-L total.
Tanner: If a C-USA team is going to beat a Big Ten team in 2019, it’s gonna have to be a bowl game. 3-0 for the Big Ten.
Cyrus: C-USA is going 0-3 against the Big Ten this season but watch out for Middle Tennessee against Iowa. The Blue Raiders are really good on defense with former Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer as their DC. I’m a bit surprised Shafer is still there considering how fast he turned around MTSU’s defense.
If the Hawkeyes come out lethargic, MTSU will make that a game. In 2016 they beat Missouri on the road.
How does the Big Ten finish against C-USA?
This poll is closed
2-1, Iowa loses
2-1, OSU loses
2-1, Michigan loses