Purdue v Wisconsin

CFT 2014 Preseason Preview: Big Ten Predictions

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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.

BIG TEN EAST

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.

BIG TEN WEST

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.

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME PREDICTION
Michigan State over Wisconsin

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

Ohio State won the NFL Draft’s first round, and Ole Miss lost it

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 01:  Ezekiel Elliott #15 of the Ohio State Buckeyes runs the ball against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the All State Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 1, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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After a win in the Great Satellite War of 2016 earlier Thursday, the Big Ten continued its winning streak into the night as Jim Delany‘s conference claimed the most selections in the NFL Draft’s first round.

Ohio State led the way with five selections, one short of 2004 Miami’s all-time record. Joey Bosa was first off the board to the Chargers at No.3, followed immediately by Ezekiel Elliott to the Cowboys at No. 4. The pair became the first teammates selected in the top five since Sam BradfordGerald McCoy and Trent Williams were selected in the top four in 2010. Cornerback Eli Apple joined Elliott in the NFC East in going to the Giants at No. 10, and Taylor Decker trailed six picks later to the Lions. Linebacker Darron Lee rounded out the night for the Buckeyes when he went to the Jets at No. 20.

Ole Miss trailed Ohio State with three first-round selections, but the night was anything but a win for Hugh Freeze and the Rebels, not after Laremy Tunsil was shown on Twitter smoking from a bong, then admitting in a press conference to taking money from coaches. Tunsil, once projected as the No. 1 overall pick, fell to the Dolphins at No. 13. Laquon Treadwell was chosen by the Vikings at No. 23, and Robert Nkemdiche headed west to the Cardinals at No. 29.

Most selections by team
5 – Ohio State
3 – Ole Miss
2 – Florida, Notre Dame

Other storylines of note:

– SEC shut out at the top: Thanks in large part to Tunsil’s slide, the SEC did not dent the big board until Georgia’s Leonard Floyd went to the host Bears at No. 9. It was the conference’s longest wait to join the Draft since 2006, when Vanderbilt’s Jay Cutler was the SEC’s ice breaker at No. 11 overall. Still, the SEC was the most frequent player on Thursday night.

Most selections by conference
1. SEC – 8
2. Big Ten – 6
3. ACC – 4
3. Pac-12 – 4
5. Big 12 – 3
6. American – 2
7. Conference USA – 1

– Chip Kelly‘s Pac-12 love affair continues: After loading up on Pac-12 players in Philadelphia, the new 49ers head coach double-dipped into his old stomping grounds by nabbing former Duck DeForest Buckner at No. 7, then trading back into the first round to nab Stanford guard Joshua Garnett in the Chiefs’ spot at No. 28.

– Quarterbacks at the top, again: Jared Goff became California’s first No. 1 selection since 1975, but the Big Game rivalry’s second in four years. Overall, quarterbacks have gone No. 1 overall 14 times since Peyton Manning entered the league in 1998.

The full list:

  1. Los Angeles Rams — Jared Goff, California
  2. Philadelphia Eagles — Carson Wentz, North Dakota State
  3. San Diego Chargers — Joey Bosa, Ohio State
  4. Dallas Cowboys — Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State
  5. Jacksonville Jaguars — Jalen Ramsey, Florida State
  6. Baltimore Ravens — Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame
  7. San Francisco 49ers — DeForest Buckner, Oregon
  8. Tennessee Titans — Jack Conklin, Michigan State
  9. Chicago Bears — Leonard Floyd, Georgia
  10. New York Giants — Eli Apple, Ohio State
  11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
  12. New Orleans Saints — Sheldon Rankins, Louisville
  13. Miami Dolphins — Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss
  14. Oakland Raiders — Karl Joseph, West Virginia
  15. Cleveland Browns — Corey Coleman, Baylor
  16. Detriot Lions — Taylor Decker, Ohio State
  17. Atlanta Falcons — Keanu Neal, Florida
  18. Indianapolis Colts — Ryan Kelly, Alabama
  19. Buffalo Bills — Shaq Lawson, Clemson
  20. New York Jets — Darron Lee, Ohio State
  21. Houston Texans — Will Fuller, Notre Dame
  22. Washington Redskins — Josh Doctson, TCU
  23. Minnesota Vikings — Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss
  24. Cincinnati Bengals — William Jackson III, Houston
  25. Pittsburgh Steelers — Artie Burns, Miami
  26. Denver Broncos — Paxton Lynch, Memphis
  27. Green Bay Packers — Kenny Clark, UCLA
  28. San Francisco 49ers — Joshua Garnett, Stanford
  29. Arizona Cardinals — Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
  30. Carolina Panthers — Vernon Butler, Louisiana Tech
  31. Seattle Seahawks — Germain Ifedi, Texas A&M

After his Instagram account was hacked, Laremy Tunsil admits taking money from a coach

Mississippi v Vanderbilt
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One of the most bizarre stories in NFL Draft history is unfolding in real time Thursday night, as former Ole Miss left tackle Laremy Tunsil‘s social media accounts are turning his evening into a living nightmare.

Ten minutes before the Draft opened, a video posted to Tunsil’s Twitter account showed him taking a massive bong hit.

Tunsil, at one time slated as a No. 1 pick, slid all the way to the Miami Dolphins’ selection at No. 13.

Moments after Tunsil’s selection, the person behind his Instagram account posted screenshots of text messages that purportedly show him asking Ole Miss staffers for money.

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The first set of texts, from the spring of last year, purportedly shows Tunsil asking the recipient, “Coach I need help paying my rent.” To which “Mr. John” says, “See Barney next week.”

Later, he asks “Mr. John” for $305 to pay his mother’s rent. The recipient says, “I thought we agreed on an amt (sic)- that number keeps changing.” The post is captioned “Coach freeze and the whole ole miss program are snakes. They cheat!”

Ole Miss employs a John Miller as assistant AD for football operations, and a Barney Farrar as assistant AD for high school and junior college relations.

To be clear, these texts don’t prove anything and could easily be faked. But Tunsil’s own words will be harder to dispute.

Tunsil missed seven games of the 2015 season, with a loaner vehicle reportedly at the center of the NCAA’s inquiry. Ole Miss has delayed releasing its response to the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations, and perhaps we now know why.

SEC shut out of Top 8 for first time since 2006

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 01:  Laremy Tunsil #78 of the Mississippi Rebels scores runs in a touchdown during the second quarter against the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the Allstate Sugar Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 1, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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Before you SEC fans throw your tomatoes at the screen, remember this: it’s not news when the Pac-12 gets shut out of Top 8.

But it hasn’t been a good day so far for the SEC. After losing the Great Satellite War of 2016 earlier today, the SEC saw eight picks come and go until one of its own had his name called. It was the longest drought to open the draft since 2006, when Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler was the league’s top pick at No. 11.

The full list:

  1. Los Angeles Rams — Jared Goff, California
  2. Philadelphia Eagles — Carson Wentz, North Dakota State
  3. San Diego Chargers — Joey Bosa, Ohio State
  4. Dallas Cowboys — Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State
  5. Jacksonville Jaguars — Jalen Ramsey, Florida State
  6. Baltimore Ravens — Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame
  7. San Francisco 49ers — DeForest Buckner, Oregon
  8. Tennessee Titans — Jack Conklin, Michigan State
  9. Chicago Bears — Leonard Floyd, Georgia

And, yes, Laremy Tunsil‘s free fall surely had a lot to do with it.

Another milestone has already been hit as Bosa and Elliott became the first teammates to go in the top five since Oklahoma’s Sam BradfordGerald McCoy and Trent Williams all went in the top four in 2010.

Jared Goff becomes first Cal No. 1 pick since 1975, second Pac-12 No. 1 in four years

at Stanford Stadium on November 21, 2015 in Palo Alto, California.
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As expected, the Los Angeles Rams selected California quarterback Jared Goff with the first overall selection in the 2016 NFL Draft Thursday night in Chicago, thereby re-launching their franchise with a new face to lead the club to glory — and all that good stuff.

We’re here to examine the college implications of Goff as the No. 1 pick, of which there are many. Cue the minutiae!

– Goff is California’s first No. 1 overall selection since Steve Bartkowski, also a quarterback, went to the Atlanta Falcons in 1975.

– He’s the second Pac-12 No. 1 overall pick in the last four years, the first since Stanford’s Andrew Luck went to the Indianapolis Colts in 2012. The last before him? USC’s Carson Palmer to the Bengals in 2003.

– Goff is the Pac-12’s 16th overall No. 1 pick; 11 of those 16 have been quarterbacks. The last non-quarterback Pac-12 player to go No. 1 overall was USC wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson to the New York Jets in 1996.

– Goff is the 14th quarterback to go No. 1 overall since Peyton Manning‘s selection in 1998. All other positions combined? Five. Each of those five players played on the offensive or defensive line. Coincidentally, Johnson is also the last skill player to hear his name called first overall.

– Each of the last three No. 1 picks (Jadeveon ClowneyJameis Winston, Goff) was an early-entry.

– The Power 5 conference with the longest No. 1 pick drought: the Big Ten. No Big Ten player has been the NFL’s top pick since Michigan offensive tackle Jake Long went No. 1 to the Miami Dolphins in 2008.