Thursday, April 27, 2017

Bilo College Football's Buy/Sell Report 2017: Big 10

The Big Ten as a whole has finished a proper spring football season, despite the ridiculous Michigan trip to Italy that is more garnered towards a pathetic cry for attention than anything else. Michigan is Michigan, and should be sold as such. Jim Harbaugh does not need gimicky carnival tricks to sell his program, and that is all that this is.
With everything wrapped up as far as I can see until fall, here is who I am buying in on, and who I am selling in the Big 10 as we head into the summer break:

The Buy List (At least eight wins in 2017)

Michigan: The Wolverines are coming back with a ton of talent under their belt, and that includes QB Wilton Speight, who really had some shining moments last season. If he stays healthy, Michigan has a real shot at pushing the Buckeyes and Penn State in the East in 2017. Focus from week to week will be a priority here, and Michigan lost some when Speight got hurt. Losing Jabrill Peppers on defense is not as big a deal as anyone thinks.

Minnesota: I actually believe that the loss of Tracy Claes was addition by subtraction. Claeys was an adequate coach, but not a dynamic coach, and he was part of a culture problem that the Gopher program has had in both football and basketball for some time. PJ Fleck is the real deal, and brings a dynamic energy to Minnesota that can be built off of. He is a big personality without being over the top, like Herman can be. I love the row the boat mentality, and Minnesota will become a cohesive team that will have to toe the line. Fleck will accept nothing less, and the program will flourish because of it.

Northwestern: Picking the Wildcats as a buy is against my better judgement, because this is one of the most inconsistent programs in the Big 10 over the last decade. Pat Fitzgerald gets more credit than he is due a lot of the time, but for some reason, something in my gut is telling me to buy in on the Wildcats this season. There is a good deal of talent, but getting off to a fast start is a must. Early losses to Western Michigan and Illinois Sate cannot be repeated against the upcoming schedule.

Ohio State: The Buckeyes are losing a ton of talent once again, but at the end of the day, who cares? The Buckeyes just reload under Urban Meyer, and they will once again be pushing for an Eastern Division title and a final four appearance at the end of December. I currently have the Buckeyes a fraction ahead of Oklahoma at fourth in the nation out of spring ball.

Penn State: I love what James Franklin did with a team that looked lost early in the season last fall. Penn State came storming back from a slow start and won the East, pushing Ohio State around to win the division in OT. The core of that team returns in 2017, and for that reason, I am placing my bets that Penn State is going to make another major run this fall.

Wisconsin: I am not the biggest believer in Paul Chryst as head coach of the Badgers, but Wisconsin made a very nice run last fall despite that, and I would be a fool to not believe that they are not the absolute favorites in what should be a very weak West division once again. The Badgers just have more than anyone else in the West, and I don't see them getting back to the conference title game as being a problem.

The Sell List (Seven wins or fewer in 2017)

Illinois: There were stories that Lovie Smith was already becoming bored with this college football thing this off-season, and that has me concerned. The Illini program is a mess, and is not getting any better at this point. I fail to see how a possibly non-committal coach and a lagging program is going to suddenly leap to the hierarchy. Not happening.

Indiana: Kevin Wilson was fired in a whirlwind event surrounding stories of player mistreatment, but one has to wonder if any of that was even remotely true. Not eager to be dealing with another Bobby Knight situation, the administration chose to move on from Wilson and promote Tom Allen, who nobody has even heard of, to the head job. He was the DC last season of a unit that gave up 21 more points than the offense scored, so there's that.

Iowa: This is another major gut feeling event for me. I really feel like Iowa is about to have a collapse in 2017, and it is a very strong feeling. The Hawkeyes massively under produced last season, as the offense was a complete train wreck. They now do not have CJ Beathard to beat around, so a new QB must be found, and some kind of scoring has to be identified. I just feel a huge mess coming up.

Maryland: I really liked the hiring of DJ Durkin last year, and he did manage to bring a new swagger to a very vanilla program that had not had any swagger since the days of Ralph Friedgen. I still fail to see the Terps as a true contender in the Big 10, but better days are ahead. Those better days just may not appear in 2017.

Michigan State: I don't know what is going on in East Lansing in the last 12 months, but I know I do not like it. The mix of off-field issues of a very disturbing kind, and the complete overall collapse last season where star players (looking at you, Malik McDowell) looked like they could have given a crap less about the program and winning was a combination to make me no longer believe in this program for the time being. Something went sideways, and it has to get back on track.

Nebraska: One step forward, two steps back. That seems to be the tale for the Huskers, and making things worse, I believe in coach Mike Riley not one bit. He was all the wrong kind of hire for this program, and I feel like the program is back in the Bill Callahan days. The Husker bounced back last season, but only to the nine wins that Bo Pelini was fired over, and it is not enough. Now, th Huskers are starting over again at QB, and this team looks nothing like the days of old under Tom Osborn.

Purdue: The Boilermakers finally rectified the Darrell Hazell mistake hire, but the hire they made was equally as puzzling to me. The stamp of any successful team in Big 10 history was always defense. Defense wins Big 10 titles at the end of the day, so why would they hire Jeff Brohm, who, while successful enough at Western Kentucky, never really coached a team that played much, if any, defense? He may make Purdue slightly more relevant over time, but not right away, and not by not playing defense.

Rutgers: The conference hierarchy would love to find a way to rectify the mistake of taking Rutgers into the conference in the first place. Rutgers has been, in all areas, a disaster as a member of the conference, and they have done nothing to raise the profile of the league in the New York/New Jersey metro market any higher than it was already. The Scarlet Knights were a big time disaster in the conference in year one under Chris Ash, and the talent is not there to change that issue now. It's going to be another very long go in New Jersey.

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