10 B1G headlines that we'd love to see but won't in 2018
I hate to rain on the preseason parade, but I have to do it.
Now is the time when predictions are flying and everyone is in line to win a national title. Sadly, that won’t happen.
I’ve got some predictions, but they’re about things that won’t happen despite being trendy preseason storylines.
Here are the 10 B1G headlines that we’d love to see, but won’t in 2018:
1. B1G completes sweep of Notre Dame
That would mean Michigan and Northwestern taking down the Irish. I think both of those matchups could be coin flips with Michigan traveling to South Bend to open the season and Notre Dame making the trip up to Evanston in November. I’m not saying it can’t happen, but I’d be surprised if a talented Irish team lost both of its B1G matchups. Just for the sake of making predictions, I’ll say that the Irish save the B1G sweep by knocking off Northwestern in one of those 17-14 games.
2. Nick Bosa making strong push for Heisman Trophy
Don’t get me wrong. I think Bosa has a chance to earn first-team All-America honors en route to being a top-five pick in the 2019 NFL draft. But as for putting himself in the Heisman conversation, that’s nearly impossible for a defensive lineman. Ndamukong Suh was the only defensive lineman in the last 25 years to finish in the top four of the Heisman voting, and he was at an absurd level at a high-profile program. I’m expecting Bosa to have a big year, just not that big of a year.
3. Nebraska offense soaring to new heights in Year 1 of Scott Frost era
To be clear, I’ve been on the “Frost to Nebraska” train since I was covering Husker home games five years ago. In my opinion, he’s the program’s best shot at getting back to any resemblance of the Tom Osborne era. I just think it’ll take a little while for that to happen.
Like he did at UCF, I think Year 1 is a foundation year for Frost. Winning seven games after the year that was would be a big sign of progress. Let’s just wait on assuming that he’ll have a top-20 offense in Lincoln in 2018.
4. Shots fired: Jim Harbaugh takes jab at Urban Meyer
I think we can all agree that a serious war of words with Harbaugh and Meyer would be fantastic theater. Having said that, I’m not holding my breath on that because until Harbaugh gets over the hump and beats Meyer, he’s not about to trash talk him. Now if Michigan actually stops the bleeding this year…
5. Making the case for P.J. Fleck to win B1G Coach of the Year
Yes, I think Fleck clicking in Year 2 would be a great story. No, I’m not ready for that to happen. Well, at least not until I see what the Gophers are working with at quarterback. For now, that’s a big unknown. To me, that roster still needs some significant upgrades, especially in the passing game, if it wants to get on Wisconsin’s level. Shoot, just finishing in the top four of the B1G West would be a respectable accomplishment for Fleck. That’s not coach of the year worthy, though.
6. Maryland, Rutgers finally holding their own in B1G East
Until Maryland or Rutgers competes for a division title, or at least has a winning conference record, neither team is going to be fully embraced nationally as a worthy B1G program. That’s the way the college football world works. Since both teams joined the divisions, here are their conference records:
That’s a combined 17-51 mark in conference play. Do I expect that to turn around? Eventually, yes. I even think that Rutgers and Maryland could both have better teams in 2018 than they had in 2017. But considering how good the top of the B1G East is expected to be this year, I’m not banking on either Maryland or Rutgers to get over the hump and beat a contender.
7. Trace McSorley saving best for last
Let me preface this by saying I’ve been a McSorley fan since I saw him nearly lead Penn State back to an epic comeback against Georgia in the TaxSlayer Bowl. I thought he deserved more Heisman Trophy consideration in 2016, and I thought his 2017 confirmed his place as a household name. Having said that, I’m not convinced he posts his best season without Joe Moorhead, Saquon Barkley, Mike Gesicki and DaeSean Hamilton. McSorley is coming off a year in which he was a score away from putting up 4,000 yards from scrimmage and 40 touchdowns. I think he stays in the Heisman hunt, but I don’t think we see him hit those marks. Besides, something tells me Tommy Stevens is going to start getting into games a little earlier.
8. Jonathan Taylor/J.K. Dobbins wins B1G’s first Heisman Trophy since 2006
I know, I know. Taylor and Dobbins are the two early favorites to win the award:
Odds to Win the 2018 Heisman Trophy (via @Bodog):
Johnathan Taylor (RB Wisconsin) +600
J.K. Dobbins (RB Ohio State) +650
Tua Tagovailoa (QB Alabama)/Bryce Love (RB Stanford) +700
Jake Fromm (QB Georgia) +1200
Khalil Tate (QB Arizona) +1400
Jarrett Stidham (QB Auburn) +1600
— OddsShark (@OddsShark) April 4, 2018
But I’ve seen this movie before. Preseason running backs rarely start a season as a Heisman Trophy favorite and finish as one because of how they’re picked apart. Expectations are higher for those guys, and as we saw with Saquon Barkley, it makes it that much easier to break down their credentials. I wouldn’t be surprised if either Taylor or Dobbins made it to New York, but no running back in the 21st century has started off the year as a favorite and won the award.
9. Noah Fant announces he’ll return for senior season
Sorry, Iowa fans. I think the dominant tight end will head to the NFL after his junior season. He certainly has the size, athleticism and red-zone prowess to make it at the next level. The only thing that could keep Fant in Iowa City in 2019 could be either an injury or a disappointing year, neither of which would really be good news for the Hawkeyes. In all likelihood, Fant’s final B1G game will be delivering a few more daggers to his home state of Nebraska.
10. B1G Playoff woes gone after _______ wins national title
No, I don’t think 2018 is the year that any B1G team wins a national title. Ohio State and Wisconsin are again the best bets in my eyes, but I still think they’re both a notch below what Alabama, Clemson and Georgia have rolling. As well as the conference performed last bowl season, nobody is shaking the B1G postseason narrative until a team wins a Playoff game for the first time since the 2014 season. I would, however, expect a B1G team to send a team to the Playoff, score points and maybe even earn a title game berth. But if I’m picking today, I’m not banking on next year’s national champion to come from the B1G.