There's been at least 1 huge B1G upset each year of the Playoff era: The 5 candidates for 2019
Brace yourself. It’s coming.
The massive upset that’s going to change the landscape of the college football season for the B1G. It’s on its way. It’s only a matter of time.
Well, that’s been the case in each year of the Playoff era. And if we’re being honest, Ohio State was involved in nearly every one of them (odds via Oddsshark):
- 2014: Virginia Tech (+11) beats Ohio State
- 2015: Michigan State (+13) beats Ohio State
- 2016: Penn State (+18.5) beats Ohio State
- 2016: North Dakota State (+14.5) beats Iowa
- 2016: Iowa (+24) beats Michigan
- 2017: Iowa (+20.5) beats Ohio State
- 2018: Purdue (+12.5) beats Ohio State
- 2018: Minnesota (+11.5) beats Wisconsin
Not to pick on Ohio State, but it makes sense that the Buckeyes would be the face of those massive upsets because as the B1G’s best team during the Playoff era, they’ve had the largest spreads. Sorry, Rutgers and Illinois.
(By the way, I believe that Michigan State spread jumped up even higher that day when we found out that Connor Cook wasn’t playing. But finding down-to-the-wire odds ain’t easy.)
Predicting those upsets is next to impossible. After all, most of them look baffling even when we look back on them. Ohio State fans are still baffled about how Iowa turned into the world’s greatest team for one afternoon in 2017. The same is probably true of last year’s debacle in West Lafayette.
So this year, I’ll attempt to predict the 1 big upset that’ll happen.
These are my 5 candidates for that in 2019:
1. Ohio State vs. Northwestern
Why Northwestern could win — I don’t need to remind Ohio State fans about road games against B1G West opponents. Ask Iowa and Purdue about that.
Northwestern will be overlooked because it’s been forever since the Cats pulled off an upset of a team of Ohio State’s caliber. And in the off chance that the Cats get off to their patented slow start, there’s a chance the Buckeyes could roll into Evanston as a 3-touchdown favorite for one of those weird Friday night kickoffs.
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The great unknown is Hunter Johnson. How he handles this offense is a bit of a wild card, but the former 5-star recruit can definitely stretch the field vertically better than Clayton Thorson did. And maybe Pat Fitzgerald can confuse the young quarterback on the opposite sideline, Justin Fields.
The tricky thing here is that Northwestern won’t have the atmosphere that Iowa City or West Lafayette did (Ohio State fans will have a massive presence). On top of that, the Buckeyes will be coming off a bye week.
Well, all the more reason for us to not see that one coming.
2. Purdue vs. Penn State
Why Purdue could win — Usually I like picking home underdogs to pull off the big upsets, but this would be an exception to the rule. Penn State could find itself just outside the top 10 after an undefeated 4-game start to the season. This could have the makings of the Lions not showing up ready to roll for a noon kickoff.
And to be clear, one must be ready to roll to shut down Rondale Moore. Jeff Brohm is going to try and find all sorts of way to scheme him touches, obviously.
But the difference in this game could be Purdue defensive coordinator Nick Holt drawing up the best way to fluster a young Penn State offense. We saw him do that last year in that stunner against Ohio State. It’s incredible how inefficient the Buckeyes were that night despite all of that explosive talent at the skill positions.
Purdue returns 72% of that defensive production from last year. A team that could be somewhat unpredictable from week to week could definitely show up in a major way and deliver the Lions a gut punch to kick off October.
3. Michigan vs. Indiana
Why Indiana could win — I think if you polled Michigan fans, this game is their least favorite on the schedule. Traveling to Bloomington is never as easy as it seems for the Wolverines.
Since Jim Harbaugh arrived in Ann Arbor, his biggest victory in 4 meetings against the Hoosiers was … 11 points? And yeah, both of his trips to Bloomington were decided in overtime (that 2015 double overtime game was one of the most fun of any game in the Playoff era).
This year, this game has “sleeper” written all over it. It’s sandwiched in between the Michigan State and Ohio State matchups, which could determine the Wolverines’ season. It wouldn’t be surprising if Michigan rolled into Bloomington as a 2-touchdown favorite with Playoff hopes still available.
Indiana has been inches from spoiling Michigan’s season before. Could this be the time the fighting Tom Allens get over the hump?
4. Army vs. Michigan
Why Army could win — No, no, no. This would NOT be Appalachian State 2.0. Army is legit, y’all.
The Black Knights should start as a top-25 team after winning 11 games last year. (Remember when Army went into Oklahoma and forced overtime?) This is an offense that returns 80% of its offensive production, led by quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr. Yes, he can throw, too.
This matchup is scary for Michigan for a couple of reasons. A defense that has major turnover is seeing this experienced triple option offense in Week 2. I have to think Don Brown will be doing stuff to prepare for this in fall camp.
With this game being played in Ann Arbor, Michigan is almost a lock to be a 2-touchdown favorite. Possibly more. While the Wolverines have been relatively upset-proof at home under Harbaugh, don’t sleep on this tricky matchup for a second.
5. Cincinnati vs. Ohio State
Why Cincinnati could win — LUKE FICKELL’S REVENGE.
Ok, the guy really doesn’t need revenge. After all, he got to stay on staff at Ohio State after his post-Jim Tressel interim season proved to be Ohio State’s worst of the 21st century. But could Fickell roll into his old stomping grounds and pull of a Playoff-shaking upset? I wouldn’t rule it out.
The Bearcats have a dynamic tailback in Michael Warren who could give that Buckeye defense all sorts of problems, especially if those run stopping issues from 2018 carry over into the start of 2019. He was huge last year for a Cincinnati team that finished in the top 25 as an 11-win team (their season was bookended with wins against Power 5 teams).
Ohio State will probably be a heavy favorite against any Group of 5 team at home. But in what will be Justin Fields’ second career start, is it crazy to think that Fickell’s defense can confuse him, much like Bud Foster’s defense did to J.T. Barrett in his second career start back in 2014? I don’t think so.
Cincinnati coming into Columbus and knocking off the Buckeyes would stun the college football world, no doubt.
Ohio State’s 2019 goal is simple — avoid the annual massive upset.