Aside from your traditional bold predictions where I can seemingly toss any sort of assumption your way, how about taking the scenic route for a change.
If we're lucky--or unlucky enough, depending on where fanhood lies--then we will be sure to endure these recent Big Ten happenings.
1. Illinois will Struggle with a Mid-Major
Let's revisit 2012, my sophomore year of college. The week of September 22nd went a bit like this:
"Hey mom--no, listen, I can't talk about grandma Dolores's prognosis right now, I need you to tell me why Louisiana Tech is a favorite at Illinois this Saturday. Give her my best and tell her to stay strong but see if you can dig something up, okay thanks, I love you."
"Professor McGinnis, I'm just e-mailing you to inform you that I will not be at economics class today. I've recently stumbled upon the most befuddling college football spread of all time, so I'll get the notes from Josh and see you Wednesday."
"Dear Tim, I hope Denmark is great. The Midwest is doing just fine. Listen, I know I haven't been the greatest pen pal of all time, but I need you more than ever here, boss. I'm not sure if you guys fancy yourselves college football fans in Denmark, but if you know why the Fighting Illini are getting points in Champaign versus a mid-major opponent, I'd love your reasoning. Take care.
Yep, this game scares me RT @IllinoisLoyalty: Illinois opens up a 1-pt favorite over Louisiana Tech— Ken Kobiernicki (@KJKobs) September 16, 2012
This guy gets it.
And what do you know, Sonny Dykes and the Bulldogs saunter into Illinois and thrash Chief Illiniwek, 52-24. Tim hasn't written back, for what it's worth.
It's a common theme for the blue and orange, as they've been peppered with a flurry of problems versus subpar opponents. A 25-23 loss to Fresno State to close out 2010, barely breezing by Western Michigan in 2011, 23-20, and 2014 saw a couplet of 'Group of Five' competitors take Illinois to the wire in Texas State and Western Kentucky.
Perhaps the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders fit that description for 2015? They're hauled into a sexy situation, as Rick Stockstill's club is sandwiched between Illinois' road contest versus North Carolina and its Big Ten opener with Nebraska.
2. Wisconsin will Hang Up a Gaudy Number in Conference Play
The Badgers rarely veer off-track via their offensive efficiency, but the recent few seasons have seen a certain week where Wisco lends potential carpal tunnel to scoreboard operators.
While a skimpy sample size, the previous shellackings of the Cornhuskers have come at rather ominous timing, especially since Nebraska remains no slouch defensively, historically that is. Don't be surprised if the Badgers flaunt their ways a handful of times in 2015, as Paul Chryst perhaps enjoys frequent bingo nights with the college football committee: Wisconsin slips by Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State in regards to scheduling.
3. Michigan will Slip Up in the Big House
Following a string of fourteen consecutive victories in Ann Arbor from 2011-2012, the Wolverines are just 9-5 the previous two seasons playing in front of the six-figure crowd. Last year's duels with Maryland, Utah and Minnesota all resulted in losses, and three games that Michigan was projected to snag.
Will Michigan lose once more as a home favorite?
It may nauseate my fellow Wolverine junkies, but keep an eye out for Northwestern in Week 6, as Sparty lies in the shadows upcoming. Considering it could potentially play out as a defensive-type of game, all it takes is a lone mishap for things to go awry. I'm not making any premature assumptions, however.
4. Indiana: "Why Play Defense on the Road?"
No, seriously, is it optional to try and stop your opposition when you're not playing in Bloomington? I'm asking for a friend.
You'd have to travel back to 2012 to find the last time Indiana held an opponent under 24 points on the road (12 consecutive), and frankly, this offense has overshadowed this unit for quite some time, and I'm sure quarterback Nate Sudfled is devising schemes during REM sleep on how to hang 40 per in 2015, as he's been given minimal help.
5. Jerry Kill, Minnesota will Flourish as Hefty Underdogs
Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill possess this evil-genius-type knack of upending top-tier foes, and his recent portfolio speaks volumes to his role as an underdog, and how he's relished in it.
|2014||Michigan||Minnesota +10||W, 30-14|
|2014||Nebraska||Minnesota +8.5||W, 28-24|
|2013||Northwestern||Minnesota +12.5||W, 20-17|
|2011||Iowa||Minnesota +14.5||W, 22-21|
|2010||Illinois||Minnesota +21.5||W, 38-34|
|2010||Iowa||Minnesota +14.5||W, 27-24|
This club dazzled in 2014 and is expected to encompass some top-tier talent on the defensive side of the ball this fall. For TCU, Wisconsin, Michigan, Nebraska, and Ohio State, it appears one could perhaps draw the short end of the stick in 2015, if things follow Kill's mastermind script.
Only three more weeks, Midwest maniacs.