Purdue v Wisconsin

CFT 2014 Preseason Preview: Big Ten Predictions


As the 2014 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we will be examining the Big Ten. 

And while we’re at it, check out our CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository for our team’s looks at the upcoming season.


1. Michigan State (Last year: 13-1; beat Stanford in Rose Bowl)
Michigan State will have the best defense in the Big Ten, despite losing some key players from 2013. Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi will figure out how to get the most out of his defense and players like defensive end Shilque Calhoun and safety Kurtis Drummond will help make that task easier. The defending champs will be unlikely to start so slow on offense this season, as they did in 2013, with quarterback Connor Cook back and seasoned (and most importantly, confident). Michigan State’s offense should be balanced and reliant on the run with Jeremy Langford coming off 1,422 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns last season. Getting Ohio State at home is key as far as Big Ten play is concerned, but a week two trip to Oregon could keep the Spartans playing catch-up in the playoff discussion from the start.

2. Ohio State (Last year: 12-2; lost to Clemson in Orange Bowl)
Here’s the thing with Ohio State. With or without quarterback Braxton Miller, Ohio State may still be the best team in the Big Ten this season, but with Miller lost for the entire season the idea of Ohio State running through the regular season unscathed becomes much less likely. In a season that was expected to be layoff or bust, the Buckeyes may have already gone bust, but this is still a talented team that could be favored in every game of the season, with the likely exception of a road trip to East Lansing in early November. JT Barrett will take over under center, lacking much experience and with a fraction of the potential of a healthy Miller, but the Buckeyes will find some ways to make it work. Afterall it is not as though the rest of the roster is lacking for players ready to leave their mark. Look for Ohio State to get a bit tougher on defense this season, with Michael Bennett anchoring the defensive line and Noah Spence on the edge after serving a suspension.

3. Michigan (Last year: 7-6; lost to Kansas State in Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl)
Is this the year Brady Hoke turns the Michigan trends back in his favor? Only a handful of players on the roster now were not recruited by his staff, so his stamp is officially on this Michigan football program. The addition of offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier comes with high expectations for improving the offense, which was dismal at times in protecting quarterback Devin Gardner and protecting the football. This was a team on the brink of losing at home to Akron but a play away from taking out Ohio State. You try figuring this Michigan team out. Moving tight end Devin Funchess to wide receiver was needed to improve the receiving position and should work well, and the running backs look to improve as well. Michigan’s defense is in the most in need of improving, cutting down on big plays allowed being the biggest concern. Adding star recruit Jabrill Peppers at defensive back could give a boost in that area.

4. Penn State (Last year: 7-5)
The James Franklin era gets underway with great enthusiasm but lingering concerns over roster depth. Penn State will have the talent at positions to do some good things and win a game they probably shouldn’t along the way (Ohio State and Michigan State at home?), but the depth concerns to lose a game they probably should not (Indiana in Bloomington, again?). The light at the end of the tunnel is there for Penn State, which is good news. Penn State also has one of the best young quarterbacks in the nation with sophomore Christian Hackenberg. Offensive line concerns are legitimate of course, as they have been for years, but if Hackenberg stays healthy the offense can be effective. The defense on the other hand, could use some playmakers and some more brute force up front to bring pressure on opposing QBs and close down running lanes.

5. Maryland (Last year: 7-6; lost to Marshall in Military Bowl as ACC member)
Maryland receives no favors on the schedule in their debut season as a member of the Big Ten, but the Terrapins join the new conference with possibly the best wide receiver unit in the conference. Stefon Diggs has the ability to break open a big play at any moment, and he plays in a division that sees some weaknesses in secondaries all over (except Michigan State). And do not forget about Levern Jacobs and Deon Long. Maryland’s biggest concern is keeping quarterback C.J. Brown upright to be able to get those receivers the football. The defense hit walls against explosive offenses in 2013 but returns a good number of upperclassmen, which is usually nice. A fourth-place finish is not all that unrealistic, but probably a reach for Maryland in 2014.

6. Indiana (Last year: 5-7)
The Hoosiers have an offense that is capable of giving every team in the Big Ten some fits. Credit head coach Kevin Wilson for making that happen since he arrived in Bloomington, but the defense is not a unit that will cause much fear on a weekly basis. The Hoosiers averaged 38.4 points per game last season, but the defense allowed 38.8 points per game. If the defense can just improve a little bit, then the Hoosiers should be seriously thinking about making plans for a postseason bowl game. It could be a rough start with the schedule though with road games at Bowling Green and Missouri. Getting to six wins may be a reach for Indiana unless they can get off to a good start. Running back Tevin Coleman could become one of the top running backs int he Big Ten.

7. Rutgers (Last year: 6-7; lost to Notre Dame in Pinstripe Bowl)
Rutgers is going to have a tall mountain to climb in year one in the Big Ten. Rutgers must go on the road to Ohio State, Nebraska and Michigan State and hosts Penn State, Michigan and Wisconsin. Getting to six wins to return to the postseason is a reach for the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers does add Ralph Friedgen as offensive coordinator, which should result in some better scheming and preparation, but Gary Nova is still the best option at quarterback and Rutgers has lost some key players over the last couple of years. Experience is thin. The defense could be picked apart by most teams n the schedule, which should be a constant area of focus for Rutgers.


1. Wisconsin (Last year: 9-4; lost to South Carolina in Capital One Bowl)
The Badgers fell shy of playing for yet another Big Ten championship last season, but now in a new division it looks as though Wisconsin has the easiest road to travel back to Indianapolis this fall. The Badgers will be led by one of the top running backs in the country, Melvin Gordon, and have a schedule worthy of legitimate playoff consideration if things go their way. A season-opening game against LSU in Cowboys Stadium is far from impossible and a home game against Bowling green should deserve more respect than it may get. Avoiding Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan and Penn State in crossover games is nice too. On offense there is a need to see some players step up to support Gordon and quarterback Joel Stave needs to be a bit more consistent. The defense will be good, not great, but needs to find a way to create more turnovers in 2014.

2. Iowa (Last year: 8-5; lost to LSU in Outback Bowl)
The Hawkeyes may not dazzle with their style of play, but it should be effective enough to make a realistic run to an appearance in the Big Ten championship game. The Hawkeyes are anchored on the offensive line by left tackle Brandon Scherff and the rest of the line should do well in creating space for running back Mark Weisman. Iowa’s offense is designed to win some ugly games, and the defense should be capable of allowing for that to happen. Defensive tackle Carl Davis will lead the way up front along with defensive end Drew Ott. Iowa allowed just 18.9 points per game last season. The most challenging game on the schedule before late November may be a road game at Pittsburgh, but Iowa ends the regular season with Wisconsin and Nebraska at home on back-to-back weeks, with the division potentially on the line and Iowa in control of its own path.

3. Nebraska (Last year: 9-4; beat Georgia in Gator Bowl)
Nebraska will also have one of the top running backs in the Big Ten and the nation with Ameer Abdullah, but the Cornhuskers have some work to do in improving the supporting cast to become a top contender in the Big Ten. The Huskers will have some help on the defense with Randy Gregory entering the season as one of the top defensive ends in the conference, but Nebraska’s defense is a long time removed from the great defenses of the past. Bo Pelini‘s team has been consistent with the win total, but inconsistent on a game-to-game basis at times. With road games at Michigan State, Wisconsin and Iowa, it looks like Nebraska could be staring at another nine-win season.

4. Minnesota (Last year: 8-5; lost to Syracuse in Texas Bowl)
Head coach Jerry Kill has done a tremendous job with building something at Minnesota, but the bar may have been reached by the Gophers for now. Minnesota needs to see big leaps from multiple positions in order to make a run at a top three finish in the west division. Minnesota needs consistency out of the quarterback position from Mitch Leidner. Running back David Cobb should help take some pressure off Leidner, but there will be a time when Minnesota needs a big third-down completion. The schedule is a challenge as well, with a road game at TCU and back-to-back road games in conference play at Nebraska and Wisconsin to end the regular season.

5. Northwestern (Last year: 5-7)
The Wildcats were a trendy pick by many in the west division throughout the offseason, but the late departure of Venric Mark and the loss of wide receiver Christian Jones will take a big toll on Northwestern’s offense, which was to be the strength of the team for head coach Pat Fitzgerald. That is a lot of offensive production lost by the Wildcats, and that does not even account for a new full-time starting quarterback in Trevor Siemian. Fortunately, Siemian is not without some experience in this offense without Mark, with Treyvon Green playing a solid role last fall. On defense, linebacker Chi Chi Ariguzo will rack up the tackle numbers but the rest of the defense can be exposed and the special teams break in a new kicker and punter.

6. Illinois (Last year: 4-8)
What will save head coach Tim Beckman? Three years in, Illinois needs to make a push for a postseason game if the heat is going to be turned down on Beckman’s job security. To get there, the Illini defense needs to improve in a hurry. The Illinois defense was shredded routinely last season and the offense was unable to keep up. Adding quarterback Wes Lunt after sitting out the 2013 season should help stabilize the offense, and should help the Illini keep up with the opposition, but the defense needs to find away to come up with some turnovers after not being able to last fall. re there six wins on the schedule? Yes, but it will be a battle to get there until the defense starts showing signs of improvement.

7. Purdue (Last year: 1-11)
There is nowhere to go but up for Purdue, hopefully. A trip to the postseason is a dream at this point, but the Boilermakers should make some improvements this fall. Head coach Darrell Hazell is in year two and the team should be starting to find its identity. On offense, Purdue managed just 14.9 points per game last season and the defense allowed 38.0 points per game. What should the realistic goal for Purdue be in 2014? Getting an extra touchdown per game and cutting one on defense would be a nice way to go. It still will not result in a winning season, but it would be a huge step in the right direction.

Michigan State over Wisconsin

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

Report: Penn State’s Sandusky settlement sum reaches $93 million

Jerry Sandusky

The cost of the fallout from the Jerry Sandusky scandal continues to take a toll on Penn State University. According to a recent report from the Associated Press, the total payout total Penn State has paid to victims of the former defensive coordinator have reached nearly $93 million.

The AP report says recent financial statements from the university show an additional $33.2 million in payments related to claims connected to Sandusky’s crimes. There may be more claims to sort through as well, which means the sum of the payouts could continue to rise. Penn State previously agreed to pay 26 people connected to the Sandusky scandal a total of $56.7 million. To date, 32 claims have been paid off by the university.

Penn State agreed to pay off a $60 million fine issued by the NCAA, with the money going toward addressing child sexual abuse in the state of Pennsylvania. even after the NCAA lifted all terms of the sanctions levied against the university and football program in September 2014, Penn State remained committed to paying the entire fine as a part of a settlement with the NCAA. The NCAA lost a fight to distribute the fine money nationally, so the money will be used in-state.

Sandusky is appealing his court decision finding him guilty of 45 counts of sexual abuse to children, netting him a sentence between 30 and 60 years (effectively a life sentence for the 71-year old convicted felon).

Miami suspends wide receiver shortly before kicking off vs. Pitt

Tyre Brady, Maurice Canady
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Former Big East foes square off in ACC play today when Miami visits Pittsburgh for a noon kickoff. The Hurricanes, however, will be without one offensive player. Sophomore wide receiver Tyre Brady has been suspended by the team for a violation of team rules. The nature of the violation, as is usually the case, has not been clarified beyond that vague description.

Brady is eighth on Miami’s roster with 112 receiving yards and a touchdown. Brady was listed second on the two-deep depth chart for Miami behind starter Herb Waters, Miami’s second-leading receiver with 585 yards and a touchdown.

USF keeps pressure on Temple as UCF joins infamous club

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UCF became the 17th team in college football history to go a full season without celebrating one victory. That adds up to a lot of free bar for patrons at one local establishment this season. UCF’s 0-12 disaster of a season was dealt a final blow by rival South Florida, who tuned up the Knights by a score of 44-3 Thursday night in Orlando. While UCF joined a list no school ever wants to be a part of, USF made sure the pressure will be on Temple to get by Connecticut Saturday afternoon. A loss by Tempel against the Huskies, who just toppled Houston last week, and it will be the Bulls who play for the American Athletic Conference championship next week at either Navy or Houston. The winner of the Navy-Houston game Friday will host the conference championship game.

USF ends its regular season having won four straight games, the last three coming in blowout fashion. After losing at Navy 29-17, USF rallied with a 22-17 victory at East Carolina and followed that up with a decisive 44-23 victory against Temple, a 65-27 thrashing of Cincinnati and last night’s 44-3 demolishing of UCF. Bulls quarterback Quinton Flowers pass for three touchdowns and rushed for two more. USF outgained UCF 455-203 and the defense forced two turnovers in the win. Because USF defeated Temple, the Bulls own a head-to-head tiebreaker that comes into play in the AAC East if Temple loses one more game for an identical conference record. A Temple win against UConn clinches the division for the Owls, who would also play on the road against either Navy or Houston.

UCF is the first winless team in the FBS since Miami Ohio and Georgia State in 2013. It is also the second time since 2000 UCF has gone through a full season without a win. The Knights also had losses pile up against them in 2004, when the Knights were part fo the MAC. UCF’s season saw head coach George O’Leary step down earlier in the season, so the program is now turning a page to find a new head coach. There is still some potential to build something at UCF. After all, this program was in and won the Fiesta Bowl just two seasons ago against Big 12 champion Baylor. The job should be an attractive one for a number of candidates as well.

Trick play by Texas Tech cemented Texas’ bowl-less season

Jakeem Grant

For just the second time since 1998, the Texas Longhorns will not be going to a bowl game this season. A home loss to Texas Tech sealed a winless season for the Longhorns, leaving them at the mercy of a waiting list to get in if they happen to pull a stunner against Baylor in the season finale to go 5-7 and hope there are bowl vacancies to be filled. In other words, don’t count on it. The fate of the Longhorns this season may have been expected for weeks or months, but the final nail in the coffin may be have delivered by a Texas Tech trick play that saw Jakeem Grant  sneak down the left sideline and dodge a couple of defenders on his way to a 40-yard touchdown, which would prove to be the game-winning score.

Up 41-38, Texas Tech forced a Texas turnover on downs at the 40-yard line of the Longhorns with 2:51 to play. Despite Texas having a couple of timeouts to spare, Texas Tech appeared  to line up in a victory formation. Perhaps inspired by the fumblerooski, Kliff Kingsbury had his offense set in a formation that would make it difficult to tell which player had the football until it was too late. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes dropped back deep and appeared to fake a hand-off on his way. Meanwhile, Grant was running with the ball to the left side of the field and found daylight. In the blink of an eye, Texas Tech expanded its lead to 48-38.

Texas still found a way to make Texas Tech sweat it out though. Daje Johnson returned the ensuing kickoff 42-yards and received an extra 15-yards due to a facemask penalty to the Red Raiders special teams unit. Two plays later, Chris Warren III ran eight yards for a touchdown. On Texas Tech’s final possession of the game, there would be no tricks. After Texas was forced to burn each of its two remaining timeouts, Texas Tech set up in a true victory formation for the final two plays of the game as the clock expired and Texas saw its postseason eligibility expire in sync.

This will mark the second straight losing season in Austin for the Longhorns after Texas lost a bowl game last season to end the season at 6-7. The last time Texas had back-to-back losing seasons was in the old Southwest Conference with David McWilliams as the head coach. Texas had consecutive losing and bowl-less seasons in 1988 and 1989. But at least Texas made an appearance in the AP Top 25 in those disappointing seasons. The Longhorns have now gone two straight seasons without appearing in the top 25 for the first time since 1986 and 1987.