Well gents, the moment we've been waiting for is finally here. After a long offseason, a grueling training camp (for the players, not us), and endless debates over who wins which game, it's time to put our predictions in writing so we can all laugh at them at the end of the season. So without further ado, on to the questions!
Let's go B1G picture. Who wins the West, who wins the East, and who goes on to the Rose Bowl/Playoff?
Kevin Recio: Now that Braxton Miller is out, the East is a lot easier to predict. I think Michigan State goes 11-1 after another dominating year on defense. Probably not as good as 2013's unit, but I think they get better on offense to help compensate for the regression. In the West, I think Wisconsin takes the division crown with an 11-1 record (including a season opening win against LSU) for a rematch of the 2011 B1G Championship Game. The Spartans win a second straight conference championship, reach #4 in the committee poll for the last spot in the playoff, and proceed to lose convincingly to #1 seed Florida State.
Bob Cancro: Yeah, the loss of QB1 is enormous. They're still good, but they lost the key to the offense. Like Kevin, in the East I'll go with MSU as well. There has been a good deal of talk about Iowa and while I don't know tons, I like the hard-nosed character of the Hawkeyes. Ferentz is an experienced, seasoned coach and could bring them around to the division top. I think those two go to Indianapolis to duke it out, with the Spartans going to Pasadena.
Dave White: I still think OSU has enough to get through. They may not get to the playoff, but they should win the division. And, then, yeah... Wisconsin... that's when OSU might lose.
Andy Egan: I agree with Dave on OSU as East champs - they are still outrageously talented, and Urban Meyer has still not lost a regular season game since he has been in Columbus. I think Iowa surprises Wisconsin and takes the West.
Ray Ransom: Michigan State's preposterous defense wins the day in the uber-competitive East, while Wisky has a cake walk in the West. An epic championship game with a super close finish vaults both MSU and Wisky to the first ever college football playoff, where they meet in another championship game to decide it all! SEC whiners set a record for most griping in an offseason and the B1G's future is as bright as ever.
Next up, Big Ten MVP honors. Take your pick for Offensive POTY, Defensive POTY, and coach of the year.
KR: Since I have Wisconsin in the B1GCCG, I'll give the offensive award to Melvin Gordon. Wisconsin running backs are good for tons of production every year, so it's a good bet it'll happen anyway. For the defensive award, Randy Gregory brings prestige back to the blackshirts with a double-digit sack season. Gary Andersen takes home coach of the year for sending the Badgers back to the conference title game.
BC: Let's get this out of the way quickly: it will not be anyone from Rutgers. There, I said it! Coach of the Year? Ferentz (if he actually wins the West). On Offense, without Braxton Miller - and maybe even with him - Melvin Gordon eats up yards, clock, and opponents. It's what UW does, and Gordon will top the pack. On the defense, MSU's Shalique Calhoun is outstanding. Sparty will be tough again and this guy makes things happen on that side of the ball.
AE: OPOTY - Melvin Gordon (this is the B1G - aren't we required to pick a RB?), DPOTY - Our very own Darius Hamilton surprises everybody, including Kevin and Bob, and is just an unstoppable force on his way to a first round NFL draft selection. BOOM. Coach of the Year - Urban Meyer, who somehow continues to find a way to win with consecutive top 5 recruiting classes and some of the best facilities in the business; a true underdog story.
RR: On offense, it's all Melvin Gordon. A great team, a great line and some weak competition means that he'll put up video game numbers en route to a season for the ages. On defense, Shilique Calhoun juuuuuuust edges out Darius Hamilton, prompting Hammer 2 to return for his senior year, to finish unfinished business. Rutgers' very own Kyle Flood takes coach of the year after a wildly successful 8-4 season, including an epic win over ttfp.
And now, for the main event. What should we expect from Rutgers' inaugural Big Ten season?
KR: The Scarlet Knights go bowling. After losing the opener to Washington State in Seattle, RU wins the remaining non-conference matchups. On September 13, Kyle Flood makes sure his team is ready, and wins a thriller at the Point over the Nittany Lions for the program's first ever Big Ten win. It'll be a long time until the next conference win, however, as the Knights notch their second Big Ten win over Indiana. Rutgers ends the season on a high note with a win over Randy Edsall in College Park for a 6-6 overall record, and 3-5 in B1G play. The Knights are picked to go to beautiful Detroit for the new bowl at Ford Field against former conference mate Pittsburgh.
BC: This will not be the devastating, horrendous experience being predicted by so many. I think it is very realistic that the Knights go 6-6, 3-5 in B1G play. Will we beat the Nitty Kitties? Oooh, no, but it will be quite close. But I think we do take the blackout game on October 4 vs. the Wolverines. And we play for a bowl against Maryland in a game that has something on the line for us, but not the Twerps. The three B1G wins? UM, Indiana, MD.
DW: Moments of glory, moments of pain. Honestly, I count 5 wins on this schedule, which leads me to believe it'll likely be 4, because there's always a WTF loss.
AE: 7-5 (hi haters). Wins: ttfp, Michigan, Indiana, Maryland, WSU, Howard, Tulane. Losses: OSU, MSU, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Navy (trap game after huge emotional ttfp win and before Michigan under the lights). We go to something called a "Taxslayer" Bowl in Jacksonville and lose close to South Carolina. Kyle Flood gets an extension, and ALL YOUR RECRUITS BELONG TO US ttfp.
RR: In the latest installment of Rutgers LegendwaitforitDary seasons, The Scarlet Knights of Football go 8-4, beat ttfp and strike fear into the heart of Jersey-haters across the league. RU lands key players all over the All B1G team and extensions/raises/security for current staff returns recruiting to the heady levels of the past few years. Pinstripe Bowl revenge against Notre Dame caps off a killer 2014 for the boys on the banks.
Who are the offensive and defensive MVPs for Rutgers?
KR: Darius Hamilton has a great season, but he can't outshine the sheer production of Steve Longa. The sophomore racks up over 120 tackles, four sacks, and three forced fumbles to garner team honors. Offensively, Ralph Friedgen brings out the best in Gary Nova and the senior QB is named offensive MVP after throwing for over 3,000 yards, 20 TDs, and 9 INTs.
BC: Apparently, whenever defense and RU are mentioned, my computer is programmed to type Darius Hamilton. Again and again and again. Including this time. As for the offense, I want to say Nova, too, but I'm not convinced he's ready for MVP. I do, though, think he's ready to step up and be the guy we need. For Offensive MVP, I'm going to go with the combined RB stable, Paul James and the duo of Hicks and Martin. I think the ground game shortens games and keeps the D fresh.
DW: Hamilton and Caroo, probably. Maybe Nova.
RR: While Nova and the receiving core get a lot of attention, Paul James is the straw that stirs the drink for the Rutgers offense. He stays healthy all season, goes over 1,000 yards rushing and 500 yards receiving, totals 20 touchdowns and secures the OPOTY. On defense, it's Hamilton all day all night.
AE: Can I name Friedgen himself as offensive MVP? If not, I'll will name the instrument through which he works on this Earth, Senior QB Gary Nova, in his stead. Nova finally puts it together for a full season, and is named All Big Ten, Second Team QB. On D, I have to be consistent with my conference-wide pick above, and go D-Ham. This kid is going to be an absolute monster this year, and will be an emotional, vocal leader as well. Eric Foster reincarnated.