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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)

Nearly three dozen teams show interest in Clemson grad transfer

CLEMSON, SC - OCTOBER 01: Lamar Jackson #8 of the Louisville Cardinals looks to pass under pressure from Scott Pagano #56 of the Clemson Tigers during the second quarter at Memorial Stadium on October 1, 2016 in Clemson, South Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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It was expected there would be a significant market for a Clemson defensive lineman leaving the Tigers as a graduate transfer. Suffice to say, that is indeed the case.

This past week, Dabo Swinney‘s football program confirmed that Scott Pagano would be leaving the team and transferring elsewhere. The head coach also revealed that the tackle would “probably” end up at a West Coast school to finish out his career.

Teams in that part of the country are indeed interested in the one-year rental, as are myriad others as 247Sports.com is reporting that 32 made contact with the lineman in the hours after his impending pending departure was announced. Arizona State, Cal, Oregon, USC, Washington and Hawaii are among the teams out west who have expressed interest.

A handful of Power Five programs further east have expressed interest as well, including Arkansas, Baylor, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisville, LSU, Maryland, Nebraska, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Ohio State, Ole Miss, Purdue, Texas and Texas A&M. Group Five teams that have shown interest include Charlotte, East Carolina, FAU, FIU, Louisiana Tech, Memphis, SMU, Temple and Utah State.

Coming out of high school in Hawaii as a four-star 2013 recruit, Pagano was rated as the No. 24 tackle in the country and the No. 2 player at any position in the state. Pagano started 13 games the past two seasons, four of which came in 2016.

Ex-Miami, current Charlotte QB Kevin Olsen arrested on felony rape charges

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 24: Kevin Olsen #2 of the Charlotte 49ers throws a pass in the second quarter against the Temple Owls at Lincoln Financial Field on September 24, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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It was thought that Kevin Olsen had hit rock bottom a couple of years ago.  Based on what transpired earlier today, it’s time to rethink that stance.

According to the Charlotte Observer, Olsen was arrested Sunday afternoon on multiple charges.  Specifically, the Charlotte 49ers quarterback was charged with felony second-degree forcible rape, cyberstalking, assault on a female and second-degree forced sex.

From the Observer‘s report:

A statement released by UNC Charlotte said that the allegations against Olsen “appear to involve sexual assault within an existing relationship.”

UNC Charlotte said it had been in communication with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police following the arrest Sunday afternoon. Allegations in the case stemmed from an incident that occurred off campus, the university said, but provided no details.

As a result of the arrest, Olsen has been suspended by his latest football program.

The younger brother of former Hurricanes standout and current Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen, Kevin Olsen was a four-star member of Miami’s 2013 recruiting class, rated as the No. 12 pro-style quarterback in the country.

In September of 2014, Olsen was arrested and charged with driving under the influence and possession of a stolen or fictitious driver’s license following a traffic stop. That off-field misstep came a month and a half after it was reported Olsen would be suspended for the opener, reportedly for failing a drug test.

In mid-September, after the arrest and on the heels of what were multiple suspensions, UM announced that Olsen was “no longer a student at the University of Miami.” In December of 2014, Olsen announced that he would be transferring to Towson; he was kicked off that team for violating unspecified team rules before he ever played a down for the FCS program.

After spending the 2015 season at a California junior college, Olsen transferred to Charlotte.  Olsen passed for 842 yards and six touchdowns in his first, and potentially only, season with the 49ers this past year.

Alabama fan launches campaign to have new offensive coordinator’s name changed to “Run” Daboll

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 09:  Running back Bo Scarbrough #9 of the Alabama Crimson Tide rushes for a 25-yard touchdown during the first quarter against the Clemson Tigers in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium on January 9, 2017 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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Forget about pass-heavy offensive systems. One Alabama fan is making it pretty clear all he wants new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll to do is run the ball. He’s even going so far as to launch an online campaign to have the new Tide coordinator’s name changed to “Run Daboll.”

Alabama fan Bobby Wesson has opened up a petition on Change.org to collect digital signatures. As of this posting, the petition had just 92 supporters, but it was just hoping to reach 100 supporters.

“Imagine what the Alabama offense would look like on Saturdays if Brian Daboll heard “RUN DABOLL” 7 days a week,” Wesson says in his petition. “Imagine a world with Nick Saban yelling “RUN DABOLL” at Brian on the field instead of you yelling it at him through the television. Imagine 3rd and 3 and a stadium screaming as [Bo Scarbrough] breaks down the field for it all because “Run Daboll” called RUN DA BALL.”

The imagery here is dazzling.

If there is one thing Alabama is generally good at doing, it is running the football. With a healthy stable of running backs that would have options capable of starting at almost any other program in the country and one of the best offensive line sin the sport, why wouldn’t Alabama want to run the ball?

Unfortunately, it doesn’t exactly work like that, but this is humorous enough. It can be his nickname, however, and we suspect that may have a chance to catch on if things go according to plan for this Alabama fan.

WATCH: FSU QB Deondre Francois throws football over giant frat house

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - DECEMBER 30:  Deondre Francois #12 of the Florida State Seminoles scores a touchdown in the fourth quarteragainst the Michigan Wolverines  during the Capitol One Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on December 30, 2016 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images
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Today in acts of feats of strength, we have Florid aState quarterback Deondre Francois showing off his strong arm.

Francois was captured on video launching a football over large fraternity house, which was met with wild applause from the frat bros on hand to observe the demonstration.

According to SB Nation, this particular fraternity house claims to be the largest of its kind in the nation, so Francois being able to throw the football over it is no small task. Of course, this may just be an FSU tradition, as Jameis Winston once performed the same accomplishment as well. Add this one to the preseason Heisman hype film reel for Francois.

[SB Nation]