Big Ten Football: Predictions, Analysis and Out-There Assessments for 2013
It's time to think B1G.
Over the next few weeks, you will read approximately 1,429 college football previews that explain the exact same thing in slightly different ways. You will read it because you are exceedingly desperate for anything that includes actual football, and no one is judging you for it.
In an effort to break up such monotony, however, this is not what will be presented here. Predicted records, breakout players, schedule analysis, strengths and weaknesses have been included for each team, but those are just a part of the package.
A Twitter analysis has also been provided—a 140-character summary of the season ahead for all 12 B1G members. Sometimes saying less can provide more. Also, Twitter is where all the cool kids are hanging out, and the Big Ten is simply trying to fit in.
And because college football is all about tailgating, and more specifically, what is consumed at that tailgate, each team has also been compared to a type of alcohol. Think of it much like the preseason coaches poll, only slightly more useful.
Predicted Record: 2-10
Toughest Game: Close your eyes, pick a game and it’s probably not wrong.
Don’t Sleep On ‘Em Game: See Above
Biggest Strength: Linebacker
Breakout Player: Mason Monheim, LB (He's perhaps the best player on that side, and he will only get better).
Biggest Weakness: Offensive line (It struggled in 2012 and second team All-Big Ten left tackle Hugh Thornton departed for the NFL).
Season Synopsis in 140 Characters or Less: If Tim Beckman were a stock, now probably isn’t the time to buy.
If It Were an Alcohol It Would Be… a can of Icehouse that has been sitting in your golf bag all winter.
It tastes somehow worse than you remember it, but despite being well past its expiration date and being consumed at room temperature, you crack it open.
Predicted Record: 7-5
Toughest Game: November 23 at Ohio State
Don’t Sleep On ‘Em Game: September 7 vs. Navy
Biggest Strength: Quarterback
Biggest Weakness: Defense (Yes, all of it. It gave up more than 1,700 yards…in the final three games of last season. Let’s not do that again).
Breakout Player: Tre Roberson, QB (The same pick from last season. If he’s healthy again, he could be electric).
Season Synopsis in 140 Characters or Less: Indiana is going bowling this year. I repeat: Indiana is going bowling. #whatcouldgowrong
If It Were an Alcohol It Would Be… Jello Shots
You want to like it, and you respect the work that has gone into this unique creation. But until someone creates a Jello shot that can be consumed cleanly, and until it doesn't taste like rubbing alcohol spliced with Fruity Pebbles, you have concerns. As you should.
Predicted Record: 6-6
Toughest Game: October 19 at Ohio State
Don’t Sleep On ‘Em Game: September 28 at Minnesota (and most matchups, really)
Biggest Strength: Linebacker
Biggest Weakness: Quarterback (Kirk Ferentz has said he’ll play multiple QBs during the opener if necessary. That’s...not exactly a confidence builder).
Breakout Player: Kevonte Martin-Manley, WR (Someone has to catch passes, and he should improve with more chances).
Season Synopsis in 140 Characters or Less: Great at linebacker and dare I say deep at running back. Yes, Iowa, The rest is a Big Ten mystery, and probably not the fun adventure kind.
If It Were an Alcohol It Would Be… Heineken
There are worse beers to be purchased, no doubt about it. But you just paid $8 for an average consumption experience that was once considered excellent. Even worse, what you’re left with is that "I just licked a bathroom floor" aftertaste and a wallet weighing less than it should.
Predicted Record: 10-2 (The Devin Gardner Kool-Aid is delicious. Try some).
Toughest Game: November 30 vs. Ohio State
Don’t Sleep On ‘Em Game: October 12 at Penn State
Biggest Strength: Linebacker (If Jake Ryan returns healthy and early enough, a solid group to start the season could develop into one of the nation’s best).
Biggest Weakness: Wide receiver
Breakout Player: Derrick Green, RB (The true freshman will make an impact in his first season, and he could develop into something special.).
Season Synopsis in 140 Characters or Less: Exit Denard Robinson, enter Devin Gardner. As Michigan recruits everything in sight, 2013 could serve as a surprise, at least to some.
If It Were an Alcohol It Would Be… Bud Heavy.
Sometimes, it's the unexpected, simple taste that work best, and you don't always need to overthink a drink order. Bud Heavy may not be at the top of anyone's beer list, but every once in a while, you need one. Also, it really is the Big Ten of beers.
Predicted Record: 8-4
Toughest Game: November 16 at Nebraska
Don’t Sleep On ‘Em Game: October 5 at Iowa (Still can be a difficult place to play on the road, even coming off a bye).
Biggest Strength: Offensive line
Biggest Weakness: Running Back (Le’Veon Bell was so integral to this team’s success last season. His departure cannot be overstated).
Breakout Player: Aaron Burbridge, WR (He played as a freshman and will only improve. There’s a ton of promise if the quarterback—whoever that might be—can get him the ball.
Season Synopsis in 140 Characters or Less: It won't be pretty, but it can still be effective. Offense, however, needs to find and develop weapons quickly.
If It Were an Alcohol It Would Be… Stella Artois
It’s your dad’s favorite beer. He just can’t get enough of it, and there are worse "dad beers." It’s consistent, never overwhelming but usually satisfying. And he won’t bother with that special “craft beer nonsense” you like to try. Plus, the bottle matches his favorite golf shirt, which is a real plus.
Predicted Record: 5-7
Toughest Game: October 5 at Michigan
Don’t Sleep On ‘Em Game: September 21 vs. San Jose State (Going up against quarterback David Fales will be no fun for anyone).
Biggest Strength: Offensive line (Not elite, not yet, but this group was solid last year and pretty much everyone returns).
Biggest Weakness: Secondary (Unlike the offensive line, a lot of new faces will see playing time).
Breakout Player: Donnell Kirkwood, RB (Hard to call a 900-yard back from a season ago a breakout player, but he could go well past that number behind this offensive line).
Season Synopsis in 140 Characters or Less: Another bowl game for the Gophers? It’s certainly possible if swing games go their way, and there are a few.
If It Were an Alcohol It Would Be… Gordon’s Gin.
There’s nothing wrong with a little Gordon’s every now and then, until then, which is usually the moment your eyes begin to open the next day. Gordon’s is also perfect for the Minnesota fall/winter home games, because your esophagus might actually catch on fire. Deep down, however, it never leaves the repertoire for long.
Predicted Record: 10-2
Toughest Game: November 9 at Michigan
Don’t Sleep On ‘Em Game: November 23 at Penn State
Biggest Strength: Wide receiver (Taylor Martinez could work here as well, but Nebraska has incredible depth, size and speed at wideout).
Biggest Weakness: Defensive line (This group has to find a way to stop the run and get more pressure. For examples of how not to do this, watch the final two games from last season when Nebraska gave up 23,793 points).
Breakout Player: Quincy Enunwa, WR (Yes, the senior finally has that big breakthrough year).
Season Synopsis in 140 Characters or Less: The offense is going to dazzle, the defense, well, won’t. Still, there are enough pieces for a big year.
If It Were an Alcohol It Would Be… Vodka Red Bull (with actual Red Bull, not that cheap, knockoff energy garbage, and acceptable vodka)
What happens when you mix a stimulant and a depressant? It’s a puzzling riddle millions try to find out each weekend at their favorite “I don’t really like this bar, but here I am” location of choice. For Nebraska, and unlike your personal orders, let’s hope there’s more Red Bull than vodka.
Predicted Record: 9-3
Toughest Game: October 5 vs. Ohio State
Don’t Sleep On ‘Em Game: October 12 at Wisconsin (A week after welcoming Ohio State and a road letdown certainly seems possible).
Biggest Strength: The three-headed offensive attack (Each one does unique things, but Trevor Siemian, Venric Mark and Kain Colter will combine to make defenses cringe).
Biggest Weakness: Offensive line (Inexperienced and the lone key concern).
Breakout Player: Ifeadi Odenigbo, DE (A potential freak, but he needs to stay healthy).
Season Synopsis in 140 Characters or Less: Northwestern, yes Northwestern, should feature one of the more exciting offenses in the country. Why aren’t we talking more about Colter?
If It Were an Alcohol It Would Be… Amstel Light
Consistent, dependable and perfect for the right occasion, Amstel Light is the beer for the intellectual. It may not be your first choice, but it also rarely fails. When your neighbor splurges for it for a summer party, cartwheels are in order. Also, grab two because you know that mooch neighbor down the street will be doing the same until they are gone.
Predicted Record: 12-0
Toughest Game: November 30 at Michigan
Don’t Sleep On ‘Em Game: September 14 at Cal (There’s a massive gap in talent between these two, but heading out west to play, especially early, is never easy).
Biggest Strength: Quarterback (Many places to go here, but Ohio State’s hope for a dream season falls on the arm and legs of Braxton Miller. He’s going to be much improved, which is terrifying for everyone else).
Biggest Weakness: Wide receiver
Breakout Player: Noah Spence, DE (After a solid freshman season, the sophomore is going to destroy everything in his path).
Season Synopsis in 140 Characters or Less: The bowl ban has been lifted, the team is loaded, the schedule is not and expectations are enormous. This is going to be fun.
If It Were an Alcohol It Would Be… A freshly tapped keg on game day.
The brand of beer does not matter. It is game day and a new steel drum has just been christened. The foam situation is immaculate for drinking, the sun is out, the music is perfect and the company around you is somehow ideal. You have reached your optimal tailgating experience, and you must cherish it. These moments are special.
Until it is gone. Then just go get another keg.
Predicted Record: 7-5
Toughest Game: October 26 at Ohio State
Don’t Sleep On ‘Em Game: August 31 vs. Syracuse (A young team with an early test).
Biggest Strength: Tight end (No, really. Laugh now, but wait until Bill O’Brien showcases some four-tight end sets and defenses are just as confused as you are).
Biggest Weakness: Linebacker (Replacing Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges, two leaders on last year's team, will be a challenge).
Breakout Player: Christian Hackenberg, QB (The obvious choice, but the right one. Combine his incredible physical tools with an offensive-minded coach, and the results could come early).
Season Synopsis in 140 Characters or Less: Bill O’Brien’s attempt at an encore won’t be easy, but the roster still has talent. And if Hackenberg gets it early, it could get interesting.
If It Were an Alcohol It Would Be… A Fine Dinner Scotch.
It would be much more enjoyable if you let it sit a little while longer, but it tastes absolutely fine as is. Waiting is for adults. More importantly, it’ll help wash out the taste of that horrendous bourbon that was given to you as a "gift" a year ago. Never again, and my how things change.
Predicted Record: 3-9 (This isn’t 3-9 talent, but rather a 3-9 schedule. Pretty brutal by Big Ten standards and the out-of-conference games don't help).
Toughest Game: Between September 14 and November 16, take your pick.
Don’t Sleep On ‘Em Game: November 23 vs. Illinois. (Sad trombone sound goes here).
Biggest Strength: Darrell Hazell, coach (Yes, a curveball, but this was a fantastic hire. It may not translate this season, but his influence on the program will pay off down the road).
Biggest Weakness: Quarterback
Breakout Player: Akeem Hunt, RB (Look out, seriously. So much potential here).
Season Synopsis in 140 Characters or Less: The road to the promised land ever comes easy, and it won’t be in 2013. #hanginthere
If It Were an Alcohol It Would Be… Unknown brand of red wine served before dinner at a wedding
You have no idea what you’re drinking, but you know this clearly isn’t the best merlot you’ve ever had. After a while, however, it starts to improve as your senses slowly drift away. The next thing you know you’re at the next wedding doing the exact same thing. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Predicted Record: 9-3
Toughest Game: September 28 at Ohio State
Don’t Sleep On ‘Em Game: November 9 vs. BYU (Intriguing out-of-conference matchup, and points will be at a premium).
Biggest Strength: Running back (Yes, even without Montee Ball this team should run the football incredibly well. James White and Melvin Gordon could be the best duo in the conference).
Biggest Weakness: Quarterback
Breakout Player: Melvin Gordon, RB (Seriously, this kid is an absolute freak).
Season Synopsis in 140 Characters or Less: Gary Andersen grabs the baton from Bret Bielema…and he might just keep on going.
If It Were an Alcohol It Would Be… a Bloody Mary with sausage. Maybe a bratwurst. And also cheese curds.
This magnificent combination is something that is featured regularly in Wisconsin, which is why this match seems fitting. It’s also a reminder that meat is not used in your drink of choice nearly enough. As for the cheese curds? Oh, that’s just the cherry on top, a chaser of sorts to a liquid meal of excellence.
Appreciate it, even if you don't understand it.