It was the end of an era after 2018 as Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer
was forced to resign had another mysterious ailment that no one can prove or follow up on stepped down in Columbus leaving behind a scorching 83-9 overall record and 54-4 mark in Big Ten play. The Buckeyes completed back-to-back league championships in 2018 and completed a 7-year run without losing more than 1 game in the Big Ten in any given year.
Obviously, the loss of Urban Meyer could have a massive ripple effect across the Midwest.
Team – Overall – League – F/+ Rank
* Division Champion
$ Conference Champion
Ohio State, 13-1, 8-1, #5 * $
Michigan, 10-3, 8-1, #9
Penn State, 9-4, 6-3, #14
Iowa, 9-4, 5-4, #20
Northwestern, 9-5, 8-1, #49 *
Wisconsin, 8-5, 5-4, #33
Michigan State, 7-6, 5-4, #29
Minnesota, 7-6, 3-6, #45
Purdue, 6-7, 5-4, #46
Maryland, 5-7, 3-6, #81
Indiana, 5-7, 2-7, #68
Nebraska, 4-8, 3-6, #53
Illinois, 4-8, 2-7, #108
Rutgers, 1-11, 0-9, #112
Ohio State’s dominance masked what was a very successful 2018 for the Big Ten featuring 10 teams inside the Top 53 of the F/+ rankings. The changes in Buckeye Land will surely have many other programs hoping the opportunity to climb to the top of the league exists as early as this fall.
Mike Locksley – Maryland
Ryan Day – Ohio State
Locksley was hired at Maryland following a tumultuous season in College Park that saw head coach D.J. Durkin placed on administrative leave (reinstated October 30th, fired the next day!) with offensive coordinator Matt Canada running the team for the whole season. Locksley was OC at Maryland for 4 seasons under Randy Edsall and was previously interim head coach of the Terps following Edsall’s firing in 2015.
Day was hired in Columbus less than 36 months after coming aboard as co-offensive coordinator and now finds himself as the heir apparent to Urban Meyer’s legacy at Ohio State. Day did go 3-0 as interim head coach last year while the offense averaged 53.3 points and its his offensive mind that the Buckeyes are hoping continues their schools strong run.
Easiest Schedule: Rutgers
Most of the Big Ten schedules are strong to quite strong featuring at least one or two quality tests outside of league play. Rutgers has Boston College at home plus UMass and Liberty also at home. They will also miss our top 4 teams in cross-divisional play, as well.
Toughest Schedule: Ohio State
There are a few reasons to sell OSU stock this year and their schedule is right up there at the top. The Buckeyes won’t have much breathing room with a decent FAU squad in the opener and last year’s 6th best G5 team in Cincinnati lined up for week two. The next 2 weeks should be easy (at Indiana and Miami [OH] although their last 3 visits to Bloomington have been tight games) and early November (Maryland and at Rutgers) but the rest is tough facing 6 out of the top 7 projected teams in league play.
Stock Up: Nebraska
It’s time to jump on the bandwagon but maybe be ready to jump off at any time. Yes, Nebraska was better than their record showed last year and yes they will improve. However, this has as much to do with a really wide open division that is lacking anything close to a sure-thing team at the top. This does seem kind of crazy to have this much confidence in a 4-win team it’s just someone has to finish in first of the West and so many teams have major question marks.
Stock Down: Maryland
I’ve been adamant that Maryland is the worst Power 5 job in the country and their 2018 season certainly doesn’t make things any easier. Then they went ahead and hired someone whose previous head coaching tenure regularly pops up on the worst ever lists in college history who also had his own personal baggage in the past. You can’t stress it enough that Locksley has coached 34 games in his life and won only 3 of them.
Burning Question: Is a New Era Upon Us?
Ohio State has shared or outright won the Big Ten on 9 occasions since 2002 compared to three times for Michigan State, three times for Wisconsin, twice for Iowa, twice for Michigan, and once for Penn State. Michigan hasn’t won the league over the last 14 years and is on a 7-game losing streak to Ohio State, including defeats in 14 out of the last 15 meetings. The Big Ten is replacing long-time commissioner Jim Delany with Minnesota Vikings COO (and Notre Dame law grad) Kevin Warren, will the football league be going through a major change this fall too?
Top League Game: Ohio State at Michigan
It’s easy to envision Ohio State taking a step back in 2019 and Michigan continuing on their path as underachievers with Jim Harbaugh. It’s also easy to see how the rest of the Big Ten has a lot of quality but far from dominant teams that will keep Ohio State and Michigan still atop the league. Therefore, I don’t see either the Buckeyes or Wolverines heading into the final week with more than 2 league losses which likely makes The Game for all the marbles in the East Division.
Worst Team: Rutgers
Artur “Don’t Call me Arthur” Sitkowski’s freshman campaign at quarterback was truly something special, in fact it was an artistic performance of the highest degree aided by the fact that he played so poorly and was allowed (forced?) to continue starting. Two-hundred and seventy-three pass attempts for a 49.1% completion rate with 1,158 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 18 interceptions. A glorious passer rating 30 points lower than the second-worst finisher in the Big Ten! Best of all, a game that would make Nathan Peterman blush from November 13, 2018: 2 of 16 for 8 yards with 0 touchdowns and 4 picks.
Anyway, Sitkowski is lined up to start again in 2019. It can’t get worse, right? Right?
Predicted 2019 Finish
Ohio State 10-2
Penn State 8-4
Michigan State 7-5
This is a weird time for the Big Ten in the playoff-obsessed era as they’ve missed the Final Four in each of the past 2 seasons. Yet, their league is in a pretty healthy place overall. You have a few basement-dwellers (Rutgers, Maryland, Illinois) but pretty much everyone else (excluding Indiana) has a believable shot at winning their division. That should make for good college football.
Like I’ve said, if playoffs are the only thing you care about 2019 will come down to Michigan or Ohio State it seems. Otherwise, it should be a very fun year with a lot of different teams jockeying for position.
This is especially true in the wide open West Division where Iowa through Nebraska in our predictions will compete for the title with plenty of fun storylines.
Can Nebraska really turn things around this quickly like Scott Frost did at UCF? Has Wisconsin started to fall back or was 2018 just a blip? Can Purdue live up to the hype Jeff Brohm has been building? Are we short-changing defending divisional champion Northwestern who welcomes their biggest quarterback recruit ever via transfer? Are we hilariously underrating an Iowa program that is usually solid and will have an experienced quarterback? Is P.J. Fleck’s super young team ready to take a leap or two and surprise as he enters an important third season in Minneapolis?
This does feel like a pressure-filled 5th season for Jim Harbaugh at Michigan as an improved 2018 fell flat on its face with back-to-back blowout losses to end the season and the frustration of Ohio State dominance continuing. At the same time, the Ryan Day hire has extremely large shoes to fill and can certainly be classified as a risky decision from the Buckeyes brass. Ohio State may very well take 2019 again in the form of a divisional title and win over Michigan but it wouldn’t surprise me if 2020 and 2021 we see the Wolverines slowly chipping away at the Ohio State grip in this conference.