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CFT Previews: The Big Ten

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If there was ever a season the Big Ten looked like the Big Two and the Little Ten, this was it. Michigan State is reloading, while the rest of the conference scraps for space amongst themselves as Ohio State and Michigan take off into their own stratosphere.

Here’s a quick glance at how we think the Big Ten shakes out.

EAST
1. Ohio State (12-1 overall in 2015, 7-1 Big Ten): Losing all but six of your 22 starters would be a problem for anyone but Ohio State. If the 2014 team played like a pack of lions, the 2015 bunch was a pack of lions playing with a belly full of antelope: the ability was there, the desire wasn’t. This year’s group is just as talented, they just haven’t had the chance to prove it yet.

2. Michigan (10-3, 6-2 Big Ten): Many think next year will be The Year for Michigan. Jim Harbaugh doesn’t like working on other people’s timelines. I like this year’s team to lose to Ohio State but still reach the College Football Playoff.

3. Michigan State (12-2, 7-1 Big Ten): Seemingly every year Michigan State reaches a height previously thought to be unattainable, but last year’s second-in-three-years Big Ten championship and CFP appearance feels like the farthest Mark Dantonio can take this team now that Michigan is no longer out to a decade-long lunch.

4. Penn State (7-6, 4-4 Big Ten): With college football’s most miserable marriage of James Franklin and Christian Hackenberg at long last over, this should be the year Penn State starts to look like the Penn State Franklin wants it to be, especially with Joe Moorhead running the offense. The residual effects of the sanctions, though, say 2017 may be more like it.

5. Maryland (3-9, 1-7 Big Ten): Might as well place a giant “Under Construction” sign out side the program as D.J. Durkin works to build Maryland into a program after Jim Harbaugh‘s image.

6. Rutgers (3-9, 1-7 Big Ten): Ditto as above, but with an even larger “Under Construction” sign and Harbaugh’s mug crossed out from it and Urban Meyer‘s pasted crudely on top.

7. Indiana (6-7, 2-7 Big Ten): Kevin Wilson has done some nice things in Bloomington. He’s run the ball as well as anyone in the conference, he put a scare into Ohio State last season and he took the Hooisers to a bowl game. The rest of the Big Ten East is getting better, though, and Indiana is, well, Indiana.

WEST (A.K.A.: THE BIGGEST TOSS-UP IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL)
1. Nebraska (6-7, 3-5 Big Ten): In a division that will largely come down to who gets lucky at the right time, go with a team whose luck is due to flip after losing six one-score games in 2015.

2. Northwestern (10-3, 6-2 Big Ten): Normally Northwestern takes a tumble after Pat Fitzgerald‘s bunch builds to a 10-win peak, needing to reload after losing the bulk of a senior-laden team. The 2016 Wildcats bring back enough to contend again.

3. Iowa (12-2, 8-0 Big Ten): Kirk Ferentz‘s teams zig when they’re supposed to zag, and zag when they’re supposed to zig. Last year’s undefeated regular season, coming one stop shy of an improbable Cotton Bowl run, was a zig. Most expect the Hawkeyes to zig again this year. We know better.

4. Wisconsin (10-3, 6-2 Big Ten): Feels like Paul Chryst, while a solid coach, will only take the Badgers to heights seen previously under Gary Andersen and Bret Bielema, but not above them.

5. Illinois (5-7, 2-6 Big Ten): New AD Josh Whitman made a bold move in hiring longtime NFL coach Lovie Smith to head a program to which he had no prior connection. Building the Illini to a contender will take time, but keeping Wes Lunt healthy may be all Illinois needs to reach a bowl game this fall.

6. Minnesota (6-7, 2-6 Big Ten): ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit has the Gophers winning the Big Ten West. I’m willing to be wrong in saying he’ll be way, way wrong.

7. Purdue (2-10, 1-7 Big Ten): Make no mistake: this is a make or break year for Darrell Hazell, especially with new AD Mike Bobinski now in place. I think he’ll break.

Bill Snyder adds two former K-State football players to Wildcats staff

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As has become customary, Bill Snyder has added familiar faces to his Kansas State staff.

K-State announced late Tuesday morning that Snyder has hired former Wildcats football players Zach Hanson and Eric Hickson.  The former will serve as tight ends coach as well as help with the offensive line, while the latter will coach running backs.

In its release, the football program noted that K-State now has seven full-time coaches who played for the Wildcats, the most former players coaching at their alma mater among all FBS staffs.

“I am pleased to have Zach and Eric back with us,” Snyder said in a statement. “Both have proven their capabilities not only as very successful position coaches and teachers, but also in the development of quality and valued young men. They both have a genuine interest in the life skills enhancement of those they work with. Having also been highly successful student-athletes in our program, they believe in and understand our program.”

Hickson spent the past three seasons as the running backs coach at Akron.  That was Hickson’s first coaching job at the FBS level.

A running back at K-State, he left the program in 1998 as the school’s all-time leading rusher; he now stands fifth on that list.

After Hanson finished up his playing career at K-State in 2011, he spent four years at his alma mater (2012-15) as a graduate assistant and quality control coach.  The past two seasons, he was a graduate assistant working with special teams and tight ends at North Carolina.

This will also be Hanson’s first full-time job at the FBS level.

Terry McLaurin’s decision to stay means Ohio State’s top six receivers returning in 2018

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With Ohio State breaking in a new starting quarterback in 2018, this is latest in what’s been a long line of welcome news for the Buckeyes.

Terry McLaurin confirmed on Instagram Monday night that he will be returning to the Buckeyes for another season.  The wide receiver was third on the Buckeyes last season with 29 receptions, 436 yards and six receiving touchdowns.

Thank you Lord for another opportunity. #last1

A post shared by terry_25 (@terry_25) on

Previously, wide receiver Johnnie Dixon, fourth on the team in receiving yards, announced his decision to return, as did OSU’s leading receiver in yards, H-back Parris Campbell. The Buckeyes’ leader in catches, K.J. Hill, could also have left early for the NFL.

With all of these decisions to stay, it means the Buckeyes will return its top six receivers in yards: Campbell (584), Hill (549), McLaurin (436), Dixon (422), Binjimen Victor (349) and Austin Mack (343). Those six also accounted for 29 of OSU’s 39 receiving touchdowns.

Tight end Marcus Baugh, who was fourth in receptions with 28 and seventh in yards with 304, is the most productive member of the passing game to depart as the senior has used up his eligibility.

Tennessee QB Quinten Dormady transferring from Vols

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Quinten Dormady began the 2017 season as Tennessee’s starting quarterback.  He’ll begin the 2018 season wearing a different uniform.

The erstwhile starter announced on his personal Twitter account Monday that, “[a]fter weeks of reflection, I’ve decided to transfer from Tennessee and transfer for my final year of eligibility.” As a graduate transfer, Dormady would be eligible to play this season at another FBS program.

In starting the first five games of this past season, Dormady had accounted for eight turnovers, six of which were the result of interceptions. Five of those picks came in losses to Florida (three) and Georgia (two).

Coming off a bye, redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano started the Week 7 loss to South Carolina after Dormady was benched following the loss to UGA.  Prior to the Week 9 road trip to Kentucky, it was reported that Dormady would be sidelined the remainder of the year because of a shoulder injury.

Dormady completed 76-of-137 passes (55.5%) for 925 yards, six touchdowns and the six interceptions this past season.  The 6-4, 222-pound junior finishes the Vols portion of his playing career with 1,282 yards, seven touchdown and six picks.  He also ran the ball 22 times for a total of 21 yards.

Chip Kelly and UCLA land ex-Washington QB K.J. Carta-Samuels

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K.J. Carta-Samuels may have left Washington, but he’s not leaving the Pac-12.

Carta-Samuels brother, Austyn, revealed on his own personal Twitter account that K.J. will be transferring to UCLA. “Chip Kelly, you just got yourself a QB,” the recruiting coordinator at Missouri wrote.

The younger Carta-Samuels brother subsequently told CBSSports.com that Kelly is “a huge reason why” he chose to move on to the Bruins.

In early December, Carta-Samuels announced that he would be leaving Chris Petersen‘s Washington football program.

Carta-Samuels will be joining Kelly’s squad as a graduate transfer, which means he’ll be one of the players fighting for the right to replace three-year-starting quarterback Josh Rosen. Earlier this month, Rosen did the somewhat expected and left early for the NFL draft.

A four-star member of UW’s 2014 recruiting class, Carta-Samuels was rated as the No. 12 pro-style quarterback in the country and the No. 24 player at any position in the state of California. Budda Baker, a second-round pick in the 2017 NFL draft, was the only signee in the Huskies’ class that year rated higher than Carta-Samuels.

Carta-Samuels played in 25 games over the past three seasons. He ended the Huskies portion of his collegiate playing career with 310 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in completing 27-of-47 passes.