A delayed season would mean a throwback B1G: Here are 4 teams who would benefit from that
I can see it now.
It’s Week 4 of the college football season. Wisconsin travels to Michigan for a huge crossover showdown. It’s a battle of top-15 teams squaring off in what’s been a back-and-forth matchup since Jim Harbaugh and Paul Chryst arrived in 2015. College GameDay is on hand. The Big House is desperate for a big-time win after last year’s embarrassment in Madison.
And down comes the snow.
After all, it’s late-January. That type of thing happens … a lot. Shoot, it’s happening right now and we’re in mid-April.
Why would this game be played in late-January instead of late-September? Well, that’s one of the ideas on the table with COVID-19 impacting seemingly everything on the 2020 sports calendar. It’s especially relevant considering this week’s news that college football games won’t be played in empty stadiums, and that the sport won’t return until students are back on campus. College football would inevitably have a much different feel to it with a January start, especially north of the Mason-Dixon Line, where the 4 seasons actually exist.
If that’s the scenario we get, the B1G will take a step back in time. Get ready for a throwback B1G.
It might not be 3 yards and a cloud of dust, but I wouldn’t hold my breath on a team throwing the ball 50 times in sub-freezing temperatures, which we’d see for the majority of the season. We’d see an increased importance with field position and establishing the run (I’m pretty sure that sentence would get the hairs on Kirk Ferentz’s neck to stand up).
Obviously you can still throw the ball in colder temperatures. You can throw in snow better than you can throw in wind, any quarterback will tell you. These modern, up-tempo offenses that we’re seeing across college football would have to adjust, at least somewhat.
A team who can run the ball and win that battle at the line of scrimmage would theoretically have an advantage, as would the teams who have a proven ability to stop the run. And on the flip side, a team with a foundation built on its returning talent at receiver like Iowa might not be suited for that.
So who would benefit from that type of college football season?
I mapped out a few B1G teams:
Let’s start with the team who had the 2nd best ground game of any Power 5 team last year (and first among teams without a triple option or Lynn Bowden playing quarterback). The Buckeyes are so dangerous because they can mix up their styles. Justin Fields can beat a team in more ways than just about any quarterback we’ve seen in recent memory. If the weather dictates that he needs to get 15 carries, he’s plenty capable of that.
Justin Fields is a cheat code on third down. pic.twitter.com/dyUeGgXtwC
— Eleven Warriors (@11W) November 23, 2019
Had Master Teague been healthy, he would’ve been penciled in as an obvious replacement for J.K. Dobbins. A delayed start to the season would certainly help someone like Teague, who is working through rehab for his Achilles injury. The good news is the Buckeyes added Oklahoma transfer Trey Sermon, who has nearly 2,500 yards from scrimmage and 25 touchdowns at the Power 5 level.
Wyatt Davis, Josh Myers and Thayer Munford all could’ve left for the NFL, and instead, they’re back to lead an Ohio State offensive line that could be as good as any in America. On top of that, 5-star sophomore Nicholas Petit-Frere is expected to fill in at right tackle while 5-star redshirt freshman Harry Miller could win the job at left guard.
And defensively, Ohio State lost 7 starters, but a group that finished No. 9 against the run isn’t falling off the face of the earth. The Buckeyes have no problem winning games in normal conditions, but it’s fair to wonder if they’re in even more favorable position to win in colder weather.
- A) Return all of their offensive line starters
- B) Return a 1,000-yard rusher (Mohamed Ibrahim)
- C) Have the highest-graded returning B1G running back (Mohamed Ibrahim)
- D) Bring back one of the most efficient quarterbacks in FBS (Tanner Morgan)
- E) All the above
It’s “E.” It’s always “E.”
Yes, there’s a new offensive coordinator and there’s some significant turnover on the defensive side of the ball. But 2019 was the year that Minnesota proved it can win in the trenches, and that should carry over in 2020. That oversized offensive line would probably love it if Minnesota played all of its games in sub-freezing temperatures.
Speaking of that, all of Minnesota’s first 4 games are in the Twin Cities. Who in the world is going to want to make that trip in January?
Now is the time when the Gophers can truly benefit from having an outdoor stadium.
Does it count as a White Out if there’s snow in Happy Valley? It should.
Unlike when James Franklin was just starting out at Penn State, the Lions are built to push people around. Last year’s most efficient run defense in America has turnover, but it still has All-American Micah Parsons and Shaka Toney to anchor the front 7. That’s the good news.
The even better news is that the Lions should have some sky-high expectations for that ground game. New offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca ran the ball a ton with Minnesota last year, and with the weapons he has to work with at Penn State in 2020, that shouldn’t be any different. Journey Brown and Noah Cain have the ability to be the best backfield duo in America. Seriously. That’s how much potential the Lions have.
Penn State’s Journey Brown just trucked his way to the endzone, WHAT A RUN! His first run of the game for 32 yards and through a handful of Memphis defenders.
— Run Pod Option (@RunPodOption) December 28, 2019
Maybe the best news is that ground game — one that was a work in progress in the first half of last season — returns 4 of 5 starting offensive linemen AND the elite blocking of All-B1G tight end Pat Freiermuth. And while Sean Clifford isn’t quite Justin Fields as a runner, he’s also willing and able to carry the ball 12-14 games if needed.
The Lions offense won’t get the preseason buzz that they’ve had in years past with guys like Saquon Barkley and Trace McSorley returning, but they’re plenty capable of winning games in the middle of a Midwest winter.
Duh. The question isn’t how would Wisconsin adjust to a colder college football season. It’s how many snow games would the Badgers play in. Can you picture how big of a home-field advantage that would be?
Wait a minute. I just realized something. Could Wisconsin play snow games at Lambeau AND Wrigley this year?!?!? Sign me up for that. Here’s a crazy thought — Wisconsin’s most-southern matchup in its first 6 games is … Ann Arbor?
Yes, that obviously bodes well for a team that runs the ball at an elite level on a yearly basis. It doesn’t matter that Jonathan Taylor is gone. As great as he was, dismissing the Wisconsin ground game would be like predicting the demise of George Clooney. It’ll never happen.
But if you need actual reasons, sure. Cole Van Lanen is back for his senior year to anchor an offensive line that has turnover, but still returns 5 guys who got multiple starts last year. That’s, by any stretch, a victory. In the backfield, the Badgers return Nakia Watson and versatile fullback Garrett Groshek, while 4-star true freshman Jalen Berger also figures to carve out a roll.
Oh, and defensively, Wisconsin returns 9 starters from a group that was No. 6 in the country against the run and No. 4 in total defense.
Yes, the Badgers were built to thrive in these conditions.