The program doesn’t matter. When a new coach walks into town, expectations soar.
For 2017, the B1G is welcoming three new head coaches into the conference: Tom Allen (Indiana), P.J. Fleck (Minnesota) and Jeff Brohm (Purdue). All three will encounter different challenges this fall, but there’s a strong sense that all three have the potential to do great things with their respective programs.
Expectations are going to vary for each new coach. Allen and Fleck inherited programs that are trending in a positive direction. Brohm is tasked with rescuing a B1G cellar-dweller. So, yeah, results are going to differ among the three this season.
So, what exactly should we expect from each of the B1G newbies? What’s a good measure of success at the end of the 2017 campaign?
We’ve broken down realistic expectations this season for all three coaches.
Tom Allen, Indiana: Seven wins, a bowl appearance and pulling off a big upset
What’s a mediocre year for most programs is a great year in Bloomington. That’s why reaching bowl games in back-to-back seasons – the first that had happened in 25 years – was such a big deal for Indiana. Now, the Hoosiers have a really good chance to make a postseason appearance for a third-straight year.
Allen inherited a program on the rise after Kevin Wilson’s abrupt departure at the end of the 2016 season. The past two seasons have somewhat resurrected Indiana football, but Allen has vowed to get the Hoosiers to the next level.
Looking at Indiana’s schedule, seven wins should be relatively easy considering the talent that returns on both sides of the ball. Nick Westbrook and Simmie Cobbs are two of the best wide receivers in the B1G. And a defense led by Tegray Scales and Rashad Fant is going to be formidable in the B1G.
Five wins are almost guaranteed for the Hoosiers, considering matchups against the following teams:
- Georgia Southern
That means Indiana would need just two more wins over teams like Virginia, Michigan State and Maryland, to get to the seven-win mark. It’s an attainable goal for a program that hasn’t posted a winning record in 10 years.
But if Allen wants to prove Indiana is really turning a corner, the Hoosiers must knock off one of the B1G’s bluebloods this fall.
Allen has already pegged Indiana’s first game against Ohio State as the “biggest home opener” in the history of the program. That could be a scary matchup for the Buckeyes in Week 1. We’ve already picked the Hoosiers to beat either Michigan or Ohio State this season. Athlon Sports thinks Indiana has a great chance to take down Wisconsin. A victory over any of those teams would be monumental.
Indiana enters the year with one of the best teams it’s had in years. This really could be a special year in Bloomington. Anything short of seven wins would be somewhat of a disappointment.
P.J. Fleck, Minnesota: Eight wins, a more balanced offense and having a say in the B1G West
Expectations are really all over the place for Fleck has he enters his first season at Minnesota. Some believe the Gophers can compete in the B1G West while others think the program will enter a rebuilding phase, with a ceiling of four wins.
Minnesota is coming off its best year since 2003, finishing 9-4 and knocking off Washington State in the Holiday Bowl. It returns Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks and has a competitive defensive unit. Insert Fleck – one of the hottest coaching commodities in college football – and it’s hard to imagine this being a team that won’t be competitive in the West.
Fleck is going to bring a fun new offense to Minnesota, one that includes a vertical passing attack and utilizes the strengths of its skill players. The big question comes in the trenches, as depth is a concern on the offensive line.
Still, The Gophers should be a factor in the West.
Non-conference games against Buffalo, Oregon State and Middle Tennessee are all winnable. Minnesota gets Maryland, Michigan State and Michigan in its cross-division games, so a 2-1 mark is certainly manageable. The big question is whether or not the Gophers can compete with Wisconsin, Northwestern and Nebraska.
Winning the division might be a stretch for Fleck and the Gophers in Year 1. They’re probably not quite there talent-wise. But Minnesota is more than capable of pulling off an upset or two and should have a say in determining who travels to Lucas Oil Stadium in early December.
Jeff Brohm, Purdue: Four wins, a more entertaining offense and winning more than one conference game
Brohm takes over a program that’s been nothing short of a disaster for the past four seasons. Since 2013, Purdue has won just nine games, including three conference victories. Improving on those marks shouldn’t be too difficult for a coach that won back-to-back C-USA titles with Western Kentucky.
Success in 2017 should be measured by progress more so than wins, however. The Boilermakers still have a long way to catch up talent-wise and a tough schedule is going to make victories scarce again in West Lafayette.
Purdue brought in an offensive guru and a guy who fits the school’s quarterback-rich history. And with David Blough back, this is a team that can be really effective through the air. So even if the Boilermakers aren’t putting more tallies in the win column, they should be more competitive and more entertaining. That would be a step in the right direction.
After opening the year against Louisville, Purdue rounds out its non-conference slate with a home game against Ohio and a trip to Missouri. Victories in both those games will be key if the Boilers want to reach the four-win total. And with conference games against Illinois and Rutgers, posting two B1G wins – they’ve not won more than one each of the past four years – is within reach.
Brohm won’t completely turn this program around overnight. Purdue is going to need to clear small hurdles before it works up to being a contender in the West. Showing a more competitive side is the first step in that process.