The Obstructed Big 12 Preview-2019

The Big 12 for years has been widely regarded as the weakest Power 5 Conference in college football. Last year didn’t necessarily change much though a Texas win against Georgia in the Sugar Bowl did help (as well as the PAC-12 falling back in a big way). The conference for the longest time has been dominated by the Sooners, who for the second straight year made the Playoff. But for the third time in the Playoff, the Sooners have gone one-and-done as teams have been able to gash up Oklahoma’s “optional” defense. Will it continue in 2019 or will the Sooners defense find ways to improve their defense and make the Playoff a 4th straight year? Texas under Tom Herman has made strides and the hope is the Longhorns are back as a top ten college program, but will have to answer questions. Baylor seems to have recovered from the Art Briles fiasco while Oklahoma State and TCU still look to be a thorn in the powers that be. Iowa State has plenty of hope in 2019 to surprise again. But there are going to be questions abound at West Virginia and Kansas State with new coaches and Kansas hopes to start a new era under Les Miles. So the Big 12 will have a lot of storylines in 2019.

Hurts will lead the way for Oklahoma in 2019

(1) OKLAHOMA: Two things dominate the landscape in Norman: 1. Jalen Hurts is a Sooner and hopes are he follows in the footsteps of Mayfield and Murray of winning a Heisman and making the Playoff and 2. Can the defense show any life? With or without Hurts, Oklahoma can put up points galore and will (48 points per game last year-most in college). They can beat you in any way possible on that side (run, pass, doesn’t matter). They have a bevvy of running backs who can break one to the house at any given time and they will with Trey Sermon and Kennedy Brooks (who combined for 2,000 yards in 2018). And they have receivers who can do it all the time. So Hurts will have some fun with his receivers who can also dominate like CeeDee Lamb. However, if there is one concern on the offense, it may be on the line and Hurts at times could get rattled at Alabama at times when he got hit. But if I am a Sooner fan, I wouldn’t be worried too much on that. On defense however, yes, they return nine but is it really a good thing? Oklahoma finished dead last against the pass and 114th overall on defense. Alex Grinch takes over as coordinator from Ohio State. They just got ran ragged by teams and Alabama royally exposed them in the Playoff badly. But while he has a leader and a linebacking stud in Kenneth Murray the rest have to be more aggressive, up front and in the secondary. The secondary has been a major albatross though so if they can’t stop teams in the air, they will remain a team that is an afterthought in the National Championship talk. Oklahoma has a very favorable schedule in 2019 as the road games at UCLA, Kansas, and Kansas State are very winnable and teams that are practically in rebuilds. The games to look at are Texas, Baylor, and Oklahoma State but the talent level the Sooners have are greatly wider than the latter two while they still probably hold an edge on the Longhorns. BEST CASE PREDICTION: 12-0 WORST CASE PREDICTION: 9-3 Oklahoma will improve under Grinch (by how much is the question) on defense and Hurts will be in the mix for the Heisman and get a plane ticket to New York for that. And yes, Oklahoma will be in the Playoff again.

Ehlinger is pointing Texas in the right direction

(2) TEXAS: The excitement is back in Austin. The Longhorns finished 2018 with a Sugar Bowl win against Georgia which gives fans plenty of hope for the future. Some hope it is NOW but it may be another year as at least on defense there will be some adjustments. Only the safeties return on that side though they are tough notably Brandon Jones. Texas likes their defensive line depth but will have questions with linebacker as they are young and inexperienced. They may have issues there as it will be a learning process with youngsters all on the depth chart. So the progress will be eyed very carefully in Austin and if they can make a splash early. But it will be tough given those offenses. However, Texas has a solid quarterback in Sam Ehlinger and have Collin Johnson returning at receiver. If Parker Braun plays like he did on the line at Georgia Tech, the Longhorns have a formidable line to protect Ehlinger. The hopes are high for incoming freshman Jordan Whittington at running back who could be the next in line as one of the great Texas backs. Texas will have a pretty tough front end with seeing LSU and both Oklahoma schools in the first half of the year. LSU and Oklahoma thankfully have to come to Austin and the Sooners game is always in Dallas. The rest of the schedule eases up a little bit after the Red River Shootout though a late road trip to Iowa State and Baylor could prove challenging. But all of it is manageable. Just is it time this year for Texas? BEST CASE RECORD: 12-0 WORST CASE RECORD: 7-5 MY PREDICTION: 9-3. Texas will have a war with LSU but I think they will come up a bit short on that one and not sold on the Red River Shootout while I feel like Iowa State will be a trap one.

Oklahoma State’s Tylan Wallace (2) catches a touchdown pass between Oklahoma’s Brendan Radley-Hiles (44), Kenneth Murray (9) and Justin Broiles (25) late in the forth quarter of a Bedlam college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the Oklahoma State University Cowboys (OSU) at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla., Nov. 10, 2018. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman

(3) OKLAHOMA STATE: Mike Gundy doesn’t get enough credit of being a stellar offensive head coach and getting the most out of his quarterbacks and receivers. But he does need to shoulder some responsibility for the defensive woes that plagued the Cowboys from being a national force in the college football world. Gundy will have a new offensive coordinator in Sean Gleeson which will keep the spread going in Stillwater. Also, Gundy will have to tackle who will be the starter at quarterback, freshman Spencer Sanders or Dru Brown. Sanders is a dual threat QB and many think he will come out as the starter. If the Cowboys start with Sanders, he will have an assortment of receivers to throw at headed by Tylan Wallace, who had nearly 1,500 receiving yards and with him will be Dillon Stoner. Another good piece of help is the Cowboys return three linemen which will be great and get a back who is primed to make a splash in Chuba Hubbard and the Cowboys offense will be surging again. Defense is obviously the question. The secondary will be better as pretty much they bring back all their starters including AJ Green, but the Cowboys have to replace a defensive line that netted three sacks per game in 2018. Linebacker is always a question it seems in Stillwater and this year is no different. Will there be anybody that can stop opposing offenses on third down? The Cowboys have a good start to the season with three wins before they travel to Texas from all likelihoods. But, can they win games away from Stillwater and not have a trip up at home as well? The schedule is favorable with Texas Tech, Iowa State, and West Virginia on the road. But it seems like they always have that horrendous loss at home that isn’t to a team named Oklahoma. So potentially they could have a monster season in 2019 if all goes well. BEST CASE RECORD: 10-2 WORST CASE RECORD: 7-5 MY PREDICTION: 8-4. Road games at Texas, Iowa State, and West Virginia just too much and until proven otherwise, they still have that dragon in Norman they can’t slay.

Jeff Gladney is becoming a great cornerback in college

(4) TCU: Year in and year out the Horned Frogs will put up fight after fight after fight. They don’t look pretty (alongside K-State they are pretty ugly on how they play offense), but they fight. It may be a similar case in 2019 where the Frogs resorted to defense (allowed 14 points or fewer in 6 of their wins). It may be a small adjustment there but the style of play remains the same and bring back star tackle Ross Blacklock. The secondary will have Jeff Gladney who is one of the best in the nation and will continue that this year too while Innis Gaines could also be a key factor. Questions will be up front as Ochaun Mathis could be a monster alongside Blacklock and could be one of the best defenses if not the best defense in the conference. But even as good as TCU’s defense is, the offense has to step up. It has been a work in progress since Trevone Boykin was the quarterback. since then the QB position has been a mess. Kansas State transfer Alex Delton is the favorite to be the next QB for TCU before Justin Rogers takes over. But Delton’s numbers were uninspiring at K-State (granted, different scheme) and there will be questions early if Delton struggles when Justin Rogers comes in. So the one guy who could be huge for the Frogs will be receiver Jalen Reagor (who had over 1,000 yards receiving in 2018) TCU will have a “thunder and lightning” approach at running back with Sweo Olonilua (thunder) and Darius Anderson (lightning). If Delton struggles they will also be counted on to shoulder the offense which has been going backwards. The offensive line may also play a factor in Delton’s success as four linemen return and quality linemen at that. TCU’s schedule is one that’s manageable ad even the road games not at Oklahoma can be attained including a non-conference trip to Purdue. But it will be a massive stretch where it is tough from mid-October onward. BEST CASE RECORD: 9-3 WORST CASE RECORD: 4-8 MY PREDICTION: 7-5. I think Delton struggles to the point where TCU gets stunned at Purdue and again at Iowa State and you see the Frogs go to Rogers. He will take over and far pretty well but will have hiccups along the way.

Brewer has helped Baylor rebound from the doldrums

(5) BAYLOR: Baylor is ridding themselves of the Art Briles stench and Matt Rhule has the compass pointing North on the program that was upper tier just 5 years ago. They have a good quarterback in Charlie Brewer who could have big numbers in 2019 and will bring back two starters at WR that can create havoc in the conference. The run game is a back by committee style but Trestan Ebner may be the guy getting most of the carries in 2019 which will balance the offensive attack. Defense has always been an issue under Briles and now Rhule where the Bears normally find themselves near the bottom of the nation. They bring back six including four of their front seven which helps and James Lynch could have a nice year as he will be alongside Bravvion Roy at tackle and James Lockhart on the other end. They could really be an improved unit. The secondary will be a major question if they can stop passing attacks. Injuries plagued the group last year, but what will help is the linebacking corps who could fly all over the place and one reason why I think the Bears are going to be a sleeper in the Big 12. Baylor’s season will be defined by two games in two weeks in November: Oklahoma and Texas. It is feasible to see the Bears in this conference going 9-0 heading into the game (they *can* win at Kansas State, Oklahoma State, and rival TCU) but it will be a great litmus test to see where they stack with the two powers. My guess: they are probably a year off from them but they will put up a fight either way. BEST CASE RECORD: 9-3 WORST CASE RECORD: 6-6 MY PREDICTION: 8-4 They could actually be 6-0 going into Oklahoma State, 7-1 going to TCU, and then seeing the Sooners and Longhorns after. Make your deduction on which four teams will beat them. TCU will have a better conference record hence why Baylor sits behind TCU.

Getting the ball to Simms will be key for West Virginia in 2019

(6) WEST VIRGINIA: Not often do you see a head coach from a power 5 program leave for a “Group of 5” program but Dana Holgorsen had enough in Morgantown as he was pretty much a polarizing figure. When they won, he was praised. When they lost, he was vilified. But despite having a “friendly schedule” in 2018 when they saw the Sooners late at home, fans were ready to see a change. And Holgorsen gave it to them. Neal Brown comes in from Troy to take over as head coach. The good news is Brown brings excitement at Morgantown and what feels like hope on the defensive side of the ball. Despite only bringing back 5, the Mountaineers are in a new, better scheme than the Holgorsen era had. But there will be an adjustment. Can they get a pass rush to help their corners? Can they find ways to stop key third downs? The scheme of a 4-3 (or close to it) should help with linebackers making more plays and take less pressure off of them. But the linebackers are all new so it will be interesting to see what the defense brings. On the offense, questions abound as Will Grier is gone. David Sills is gone and the line returns only two starters. Oklahoma transfer Austin Kendall will have something to prove so that helps, but will he be protected and will he have an assortment of weapons like Grier had? Those are key questions. The one guy he will have help from is Marcus Simms, West Virginia’s everyman (receiver, returner). He could play large in West Virginia’s season in 2019. The Mountaineers schedule as a rough road schedule with trips to Missouri, Oklahoma, and Baylor while finishing at TCU. They also have a game against Power 5 foe NC State at Morgantown while seeing Texas (whom they did beat last year in Austin). It will be interesting as they will just have really a young team in 2019 but a talented one. Playing in Milan Puskar Stadium is an underrated homefield advantage so that helps. BEST CASE RECORD: 9-3 WORST CASE RECORD: 4-8 MY PREDICTION: 7-5. I think they lose road games at Missouri, Oklahoma, Baylor, and TCU while get stung by the Longhorns at home.

Purdy is the future for the Cycolnes football team

(7) IOWA STATE: The Cyclones are the Big 12’s most resilient team. After a 1-3 start, Iowa State strung 7 wins in their final 8 games. Some of it has to do with the defense as the Cyclones took over as being the top defense in the conference and bringing 7 starters back including JaQuan Bailey at end. Bailey had 8 sacks in 2018 and figures to be a bigger disruption in 2019. The front really stays the same which is great to stop the run especially against squads who can run the ball. But cornerbacks will be the key issue here is if anyone can step up and defend these receivers the conference has. If the Cyclones can get quality cornerback play from what is a young group of corners (notably Anthony Johnson and Datrone Young. Offense could be the surprise here if Brock Purdy continues his progression. And to think he is only a sophomore. He could be a key reason why if the Cyclones get to be a dark horse in 2019. But the run game has to be far better and I am not sure if it will especially that David Montgomery isn’t there. However, the good news for Purdy and whatever running back is featured will have an incredibly experienced line up front as all five starters return. Purdy will also miss Hakeem Butler and receivers are pretty much new. Deshaunte Jones returns but will have to be more of a playmaker. Tarique Milton will also be counted on in a big way at receiver now that he replaces Butler. The Cyclones will have their early tilt at home with rival Iowa. If they can start 3-0 in conference play, they could start a run where they could go 7-1 or 8-0 heading into Norman at Oklahoma in November. And remember the last time they went to Norman… BEST CASE RECORD: 9-3 WORST CASE RECORD: 6-6 MY PREDICTION: 8-4 Cyclones stun Texas as their big upset but road trips to West Virginia, Baylor, and Oklahoma may be too much to overcome.

Walker could be a disruptive force for the Wildcats

(8) KANSAS STATE: Kansas State is going to be a very interesting case in 2019. Bill Snyder has finally retired and Chris Klieman from North Dakota State takes over. Klieman won 4 FCS national titles at ND State and a few wins against FBS schools (including 13th ranked Iowa in 2016). So his ability to coach shouldn’t be in question. The question is, how far can he take his offense which was a massive disaster in 2018. Skylar Thompson is more of a scrambling quarterback than anything and shouldn’t fully be relied on his arm. However, the Wildcat staff is really high on him with his arm and legs. He will have an assortment of receivers that can make plays when given the ball. But the biggest question is at running back as they have a whole new crew taking the rock as the four top backs are gone. If they can’t solve the question of “who replaces Alex Barnes” in the system where it is focused on running the football, the Wildcats could have a long year. The good news however is the defense returns 8 and will emphasize on a lot of blitzes and aggressive play that has always been solid. The key guy to keep an eye on is end Reggie Walker, who can get to the quarterback as good as anyone. But it will be the secondary that will need to step up in a conference known for their passing offenses which was rough. Kansas State has a schedule that doesn’t give them much breathing room from mid-September (road trip to Mississippi State and then at Oklahoma State before a run of games against Baylor, TCU, and Oklahoma). Somehow, just somehow if the Wildcats can find a way to go 3-2 in that stretch they have a nice shot at a bowl game. But it feels like the talent level at K-State has dropped over the years where they can seriously compete. BEST CASE RECORD: 8-4 WORST CASE RECORD: 4-8 MY PREDICTION: 4-8. I think the hire of Klieman is a good one, but the talent level isn’t there and I do think Thompson isn’t any answer at quarterback.

Pooka Williams needs to stay on the field and avoid off-the-field troubles at Kansas

(9) KANSAS: Let the Les Miles era commence in Lawrence. Is it a good fit? Time will tell on that, but at least Miles will recruit at a higher level for Kansas than what they have seen in the past decade. But in any case, the Jayhawks will not see the benefits of it in Miles first year. Last year Kansas went 3-9, which is normally about one or two wins higher than some expect (disclaimer: not trying to sound pompous in this assessment, but it feels like they are often 1-11 most years as of late). At times they showed they can compete including a W against TCU and being competitive with not just Oklahoma but Texas as well. So Miles will have that “heart” issue for the Jayhawks working. He will have an experienced secondary that actually ranked in the top half of the Big 12 (take it for what that’s worth) and having a +16 turnover margin which ranked tops in the conference and second in the nation. Now what it will be the concern is up front. A lot of seniors up front but Miles likes who he has recruited on defense that really has more talent than they’ve had in a very long time. On offense, Miles will rely on Pooka Williams Jr. like he had on Leonard Fournette at LSU. And he has good reason why. Williams is scary good. He’ll be suspended for the first game of the season due to a domestic battery charge. But Miles will go with a run game that is not too bad. Miles will go with his LSU recruit Thomas MacVittie at quarterback to lead the way. Miles, who is always faithful in his players, will put a lot of that into MacVittie this year, but will have questions abound at receiver so already the concerns of the passing game under Miles will come back. Kansas schedule has two FCS opponents to go along with a trip to Boston College. They travel to TCU, Texas, Oklahoma State, and Iowa State this year. I wouldn’t say they don’t have a fighting chance outside of that, but it will be impossible to win away from Lawrence. But there are a few home games that could be very interesting for the Jayhawks and could net them maybe two victories. BEST CASE RECORD: 5-7 WORST CASE RECORD: 2-10 MY PREDICTION: 4-8. I’m thinking the talent level is still way behind the majority of the conference, but I think they get past Texas Tech and could take down rival Kansas State. I also think they could give Oklahoma a run to the point where it will be a 4th quarter game given the Sooners D’s woes (remember Kansas put 40 in Norman).

TJ Vasher could have a monster year with the Red Raiders

(10) TEXAS TECH: Kliff Kingsbury is gone. But the Air Raid will stay in play with Matt Wells as the head coach. And he will bring offensive coordinator David Yost with him. The one thing to expect is more of a balance of an offense as the Red Raiders had been more of a one dimensional squad with Kingsbury (i.e. just passing the ball around). Alan Bowman will return at quarterback and will continue his accuracy prowess. Ta’Zhawn Henry will have more of a role at tailback as Texas Tech installs some more running. But questions will be at receiver of who can step up there. TJ Vasher returns but it is a new crew altogether including Oregon State transfer Seth Collins (who was a starting QB for the Beavers). The offensive line is strong with four starters and plenty of depth with it. Of course it isn’t the offense that will be the issue. It always comes back on the defense. After hopes that the defense turned the corner under Kingsbury in 2018, the passing defense collapsed again being dead last against the pass. Eli Howard is the guy up front to really get after the quarterback, but there will be a need to pressure the quarterback as the secondary will be new with only one starter returning and a secondary in question. Linebacker Jordyn Brooks could have a good year as he will be the leader of that defense that needs a leader. Texas Tech does not figure to be in the mix with any Big 12 title run and the schedule isn’t fun with road trips to Oklahoma, Baylor, and Texas notably. But if that defense can find a way to improve and the offense doesn’t have any setbacks, a bowl game is definitely in the realm, but an early tilt Arizona will be an early gauge of where the Red Raiders stand when conference play begins. BEST CASE RECORD: 7-5 WORST CASE RECORD: 2-10 MY PREDICTION: 4-8. I’m in the “I’ll believe it when I see it with the Red Raiders defense” category.

Another go at it with the Sooners and Horns in Dallas.

BIG 12 CHAMPIONSHIP: OKLAHOMA VS. TEXAS: We might just see this being the standard norm in the Big 12 in the foreseeable future. The talent pool for these two teams are deep and has been for a while and miles ahead of the rest of the conference. Oklahoma has utilized it and Texas is beginning to consistently utilize theirs. So depending on what happens in the Red River Shootout the game could be one of a revenge factor. I think by this time, the Longhorns will gel better and be a tougher out for Oklahoma than the first go around and it could spell trouble for Hurts and the Sooners offense. That said, I don’t know if Sam Ehlinger is the right guy to lead the Longhorns to a big W against the Sooners in a championship match. Hurts may just be too much for Texas to handle as well. OKLAHOMA 41, TEXAS 34

TOP 3 QUESTIONS

Oklahoma has been 0-3 in the College Football Playoff and teams have scored at will on them

(1) IS OKLAHOMA’S DEFENSE ENOUGH TO STAND UP TO THE NATIONAL POWERHOUSES? Right now, no. Right now I think some of it is that the Air Raid system (i.e. quick strike) really wears out Oklahoma’s defense more than anything else. If you look at the three playoff games they’ve had, the Sooners have given up 37 or more points to Clemson, Georgia, and Alabama. The former two they were pretty close with before being unable to do anything in second halves while Alabama obliterated the defense start to finish. Yes, the Sooners can put up points against all those teams, but cannot get that “needed stop.” I mean it’s one thing to get that “needed stop” against the likes of Texas Tech, West Virginia, and Oklahoma State because none of them can stop a turtle climbing a mountain. It’s another when you have to go against teams who can dominate a game through defense. Alex Grinch has to develop a defense that can pretty much be dominant and not give up 40 to Kansas late in a season.

The Longhorns made astatement with their Sugar Bowl win over Georgia

(2) COULD TEXAS BE A MAJOR THREAT TO THE PLAYOFF? I don’t know about this year so I’m leaning towards no. However, even when Texas has been on a “weaker” level, they always give Oklahoma massive fits in the Red River Shootout, but there’s a lot of turnover to the team in 2019. That said, Tom Herman is becoming one of the top coaches in college football. If the Longhorns can upset SEC power LSU like they had Georgia in the Sugar Bowl last year, all bets should be off on Texas. But I think there will be a small adjustment. I do think they are going to be in a New Year’s Six game though.

Miles brings hoe to Kansas for the first time in a long time, but will they be at the forefront with him ever?

(3) HOW MUCH TIME WILL LES MILES NEED AT KANSAS TO BE A THREAT? Miles will recruit and recruit well and with those Louisiana ties could help getting a few stars from the Bayou. So that shouldn’t be a problem. However, what pretty much ended Miles tenure at LSU was his in-game strategies which were very dumbfounding at times. That and his inability to have a strong quarterback (and unable to beat Alabama since 2012). If Miles doesn’t do the stupid stuff that got him out of a job in Baton Rouge, the Jayhawks could find a way into a bowl game perhaps in 2021. But while Miles does have a national championship to his credit, many feel like his coaching ability has dwindled over the years. They will be competitive down the road but I don’t see any Big 12 championship under Miles.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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The Obstructed Big Ten Preview-2019

The Big Ten. It has been the most polarizing conference in the last few years. Ever since the Buckeyes won the National Championship in 2014, the Big Ten has laid a goose egg. First their 2015 appearance by Michigan State where they were shut out by Alabama and 2016 when Ohio State got shut out by Clemson. Then the last two years the Big Ten hasn’t represented as their best chance in the Buckeyes came up short behind Alabama in 2017 for the last spot and then thanks to their blowout loss at Purdue and slipping by a few games, were 6th in the vote, even behind two-loss Georgia. So the Big Ten is trying to find a way to get back in the Playoff. The question is, will they?

Ohio State will have a new coach in 2019 as Urban Meyer retired. But they still have talent all over the place. Michigan many feel like will have their moment in the sun this year with a returning quarterback and a stout defense. Penn State and Michigan State can’t be taken for granted either. In the West, it may be very competitive with Nebraska making strides under Scott Frost. However, Iowa looks to be a formidable challenger themselves and the likes of Purdue, Northwestern, and Minnesota will put up fights. Wisconsin wants to show last year was a fluke when they went 7-5 too so that could be a fight in the west. It could be very interesting on what happens in the Big Ten this year.

BIG TEN EAST

Donovan Peoples-Jones is poised for a breakout year at Michigan.

(1) MICHIGAN WOLVERINES: Jim Harbaugh will be under the scope for one game in 2019: Ohio State. Yes, the Wolverines will field another dangerous team under Harbaugh especially on defense. But the offense is in question of “can they take that next step?” Michigan brought over Alabama co-OC Josh Gattis to run things and develop a spread offense. That will help Shea Patterson at quarterback to go along with a stout offensive line to protect him. He will have Donovan Peoples-Jones and Nico Collins. If those guys can stay healthy, watch out. The running game will be interesting as Karan Higdon and Chris Evans are not on the team. It leaves Tru Wilson as the main guy. He rushed for 344 yards last year but 5 yards per carry so it could be a secret in the making. The defense has been strong but will miss three studs in Devin Bush, Chase Winovich, and Rashan Gary. However, the Wolverines are pretty deep and fast up front and bring back sack leader Josh Uche. The secondary is strong with Lavert Hill at corner and Josh Metellus at safety. Michigan’s schedule is a “thankfully we have our rivals come to Ann Arbor” schedule as Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Ohio State are all coming up to the Big House (in between those teams are Maryland and Indiana on the road). The two tough battles away will be Wisconsin and Penn State. It’s manageable and they can go 12-0 as the Badgers and Nittany Lions aren’t as strong as they’ve been the past few years and maybe just maybe, Harbaugh can silence critics. BEST CASE RECORD: 12-0 WORST CASE RECORD: 8-4 MY PREDICTION: 11-1. A hair uneasy with the road tilt at Penn State as it is a nightmare place to play. However, the rest of the schedule bounces in their favor including I think a big W against their rivals in Columbus.

Dobbins will show why he’s a Heisman candidate

(2) OHIO STATE BUCKEYES: Urban Meyer is gone after last season’s controversy. Enter Ryan Day. Obviously he doesn’t have the prestige of a star head coach but that may not be too bad. AND he is running one of the elite programs in college football. He will also have a new quarterback in Georgia transfer Justin Fields. Fields, who expected to get plenty of playing time at Georgia, didn’t get that much at all (and when he did it was “hand the ball off” mostly) and opted to transfer and play important minutes. He’ll get his shot at Ohio State. The major issue is that Fields will have an offensive line that is very new and if last year at Georgia showed anything, he was still wet behind the ears when he was there. At least Fields will have a stud in JK Dobbins at tailback. Dobbins and Mike Weber split time last year but it seems like he will get a bulk of the carries. If he takes pressure off of Fields, Fields will have KJ Hill, who could have a huge year in Columbus. On defense, the Buckeyes hope to improve from last year where they were less than stellar, especially against the pass. In fact, the Buckeyes ranked at the bottom half of the conference in all major categories. This year that can’t be the case or else Ohio State will struggle. However there is hope with Chase Young at end (9.5 sacks last year) and Tyreke Smith. The linebackers at Ohio State are experienced, but haven’t been as dominant or intimidating like we would think of Buckeye linebackers in the past. The secondary is solid with Jordan Fuller and Isaish Pryor being great safeties and Jeffrey Okudah could be a shutdown guy. But if Damon Arnette can’t get things cooking, even the average passing squads of the Big Ten will have field days on the Buckeyes. Ohio State has a a schedule seeing key rivals of Penn State and Michigan State at home but three games on the road could be interesting: at Nebraska, at Northwestern, and of course at Michigan. We’ve seen the last few years going to a Big Ten West school has been Ohio State’s death for the playoff. BEST CASE RECORD: 12-0 WORST CASE RECORD: 8-4 MY PREDICTION: 10-2 I am not overly sold on Fields just yet and I think the Nebraska game will be like Iowa and Purdue for the Buckeyes. And Michigan gets them this year.

Robert Windsor will create problems for opposing offenses.

(3) PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS: To say Penn State is going to have an interesting year is an understatement. Trace McSorley…gone. Miles Sanders…gone. The offense will probably take a step back as a new quarterback takes charge in Sean Clifford. The good news is he will have a seasoned targets at receiver in KJ Hamler and a tight end in Pat Freiermuth. Three linemen return which will be helpful, but again, it will be a young crew up front outside of that. The youthfulness extends to the backfield as Ricky Slade takes over. He did well in the times he was in last year but the question will be can he be the feature guy like Sanders was and Barkley before that? So questions abound on Penn State’s offense. Defensively Penn State should be the force and an improved one. Yetur Gross-Matos had 8 sacks last year and Robert Windsor had 7.5 and the line is pretty deep with young underclassmen. Linebackers also will pose a problem with offenses as Micah Parsons and Jan Johnson come back alongside Cam Brown. The secondary is solid and only going to be better with that pass rush up front too. If Penn State can stop the run (which they struggled a bit in 2018) and I think they will, they could be a sleeper in the Big Ten. Largely I think that is because the schedule starts out pretty good for the Lions until mid-October when the teeth of the schedule comes in at Iowa, then Michigan, and at Michigan State in three consecutive weeks. And they nearly finish off at Ohio State. By then, hopefully for Penn State, they answered their questions on offense. BEST CASE RECORD: 11-1 WORST CASE RECORD: 7-5 MY PREDICTION: 9-3. Penn State could go 5-0 heading to Iowa which will test their physicality. I feel like they can sting Michigan in Happy Valley but Michigan State has been their albatross the last few seasons and that late tilt in Columbus won’t be fun either.

Willekes leads a Michigan State unit that is one of the nation’s best.

(4) MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS: For the first time since starting at Michigan State, Mark Dantonio is feeling it from the Spartan faithful. After a year where the Spartans could have netted maybe a New Year’s Six game with their defense and a quality offense, it has gone south. The Spartans were dreadful on offense and many blamed the coaching staff for its inability to adjust. So Brad Salem takes over at coordinator and will try to use more of an up-tempo offense. The line returns four guys hopefully that have improved in the off-season that can protect Brian Lewerke. Lewerke was injured midway through the season but tried to play through it which really was a bad idea (and also something Dantonio got ripped for, by keeping him in games). If he is healthy, Michigan State should have a solid passing attack especially having the top two targets in Cody White and Darrell Stewart Jr (assuming both can stay healthy-notice a trend here?). The running game is a big question mark. Connor Heyward starts but he isn’t a game breaking RB. So a lot of ifs on offense. Defensively, Michigan State remains a strong squad. They ranked first overall against the run and bring back six of their front seven starters. The pass rush is going to be strong with Kenny Willekes at end. Joe Bachie is the next of great Michigan State LB’s and will have a seasoned group to captain. It will be can they get stronger in the secondary with Josiah Scott leading the way. If history shows, then yes as David Dowell and Xavier Henderson at safeties can reignite the No Fly Zone that dominated Big Ten foes from 2012-2015. Michigan State’s schedule is a typical schedule but having to see Michigan and Ohio State on the road this year while having trips to Northwestern and Wisconsin (both of whom have given Michigan State nightmares) so any chances of a dark horse run is slim in 2019. BEST CASE RECORD: 10-2 WORST CASE RECORD: 6-6 MY PREDICTION: 8-4. The road games will doom Michigan State, but it could all depend on consistency on offense.

Anthony McFarland Jr. could be the face of Maryland’s turnaround in the Big Ten

(5) MARYLAND TERRAPINS: Mike Locksley returns after going to the Nick Saban School of Coaching and installing an offense at Alabama that just obliterated opponents all season long. Of course, being in the Big Ten East, he will have his work cut out. He is really going to have a clean slate as three starters return on offense, notably Anthony McFarland Jr, who could be a sleeper at RB in the conference. And he will get Virginia Tech transfer Josh Jackson to quarterback the offense. But the question will be especially in the division is can they protect Jackson from the likes of what they see out of the Big Four in the Big Ten East? On defense, the Terrapins will also have a clean slate as the defense returns four which is a middle-of-the road crew but with high hopes down the road with their recruiting. They will need to get to quarterbacks better (which they didn’t last year) to help out a decent secondary. But the front guys need to step up everything that pretty much gashed them in 2018. Maryland’s schedule is intriguing with a home game against the vastly improved Syracuse team and open up with Penn State at home and they get a fun run of seeing Michigan and Ohio State in back-to-back weeks late in the season which may decide if they see a bowl game in 2019. BEST CASE RECORD: 5-7 WORST CASE RECORD: 3-9 MY PREDICTION: 4-8. Maryland is very young and will be better in the years to come, but it isn’t this year.

Ramsey will need to be on his A+ game in order to keep Indiana in the bowl conversation….and to keep his job.

(6) INDIANA HOOSIERS: You have to give credit to Tom Allen’s teams for putting up fights against the big boys. There is hope with bringing 15 starters back to put up some fights again in 2019. Peyton Ramsey looks to start but the depth at Indiana is pretty impressive and could give secondaries fits with Nick Westbrook and Donavan Hale on the other end. Add on Stevie Scott who ran for 1,100 yards and you have a very formidable offense. Some questions abound if the Hoosiers line can protect the backs as they only return two starters up front. On defense, the Hoosiers struggled last year in nearly everything. They got to get better without question. Returning 8 can be good but the upperclassmen all have to make bigger contributions or else it will be another long season in Bloomington. James Head and Jerome Johnson could be keys to the Hoosiers pass rush. Indiana’s schedule has an easy non-conference one but plenty of road games on the conference one that will doom them and they have Ohio State and Michigan in Bloomington but I wouldn’t expect upsets there. The talent isn’t there like it is with the rest of the Division. BEST CASE RECORD: 6-6 WORST CASE RECORD: 3-9 MY PREDICTION: 4-8 IF they can find a way to win at Maryland the Purdue game will be huge and to see if they can get into a bowl game. But I don’t see it happening. Beating Rutgers may be their lone conference W.

Blackshear is one of the few bright spots Rutgers has in the program.

(7) RUTGERS SCARLET KNIGHTS: A debate can be made Rutgers is now the worst power 5 squad in the nation. Hopes of Chris Ash turning the program around have disappeared and the Scarlet Knights don’t have any kind of depth even on the levels of Indiana and Maryland. The offense is brutal with Artur Sitkowski at quarterback (bad decisions and poor accuracy) and that’s where it ends on Rutgers offense honestly. Raheem Blackshear and Isaih Pacheco are good running backs but won’t amount to much if the Scarlet Knights are behind all the time. Defensively Rutgers can’t give up that many yards on the ground (215 per game last year). Questions abound if they can stop the run and so far it hasn’t been the case. The passing defense is not too bad and they have guys who can get to the QB (Elorm Lumor, Mike Tverdov) and Damon Hayes and Avery Young are solid corners. Rutgers schedule, well…doesn’t have too many wins on there. They are probably the least talented bunch in the conference and just don’t have the horses to compete with the rest. Wins vs. UMass and Liberty are pretty likely but I don’t see them taking anyone else down. Maybe Illinois? They gave Michigan State a run last year but I doubt it happens again. BEST CASE RECORD: 3-9 WORST CASE RECORD: 1-11 MY PREDICTION: 2-10. The Chris Ash Era has run its course at Rutgers but the buyout is $8 million. It could be another year of misery in Jersey.

BIG TEN WEST

Under Frost, Martinez could lead Nebraska back to glory.

(1) NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS: Still too soon to pick the Huskers to win the Big Ten West? Last year Nebraska started off 0-6, a nightmare for Frost in his first season. However, the minute they started winning, they were an entirel different team. The Huskers had a near miss at Ohio State and then a W against Michigan State and another near miss at Iowa showed they were ready to compete with the big boys of the Big Ten and the stride begins this year. Adrian Martinez is a budding star at quarterback and only got better as the season progressed. He will miss Stanley Morgan but will have JD Spielman and Maurice Washington as complimentary targets. Washington will be the feature guy in the backfield and could have a big year. The line returns two starters but high hopes are with Trent Hixson and freshman Center Cam Jurgens. On defense will be a different thing which was a giant mess last year. They return 5 starters and questions will have to be on the line (if they can get pressure on quarterbacks) and linebackers on the outside to add more of a rush. The secondary is inexperienced as well, but hopes of a young crew behind the upperclassmen gives Nebraska hope. In other words, Nebraska is hoping to outscore their opponents to cover up some defensive woes and make the needed stops to win games a la Oklahoma does. Nebraska’s schedule is pretty nicely laid out for them in 2019. They get Ohio State at home and avoid Michigan and Penn State too. Road trips to Colorado, Purdue, and Minnesota aren’t the end of the world. Could the Huskers actually run the table? Possible, but only if the defense makes strides which may not be the case. But regardless, Nebraska is a sleeping giant ready to wake up. BEST CASE RECORD: 12-0 WORST CASE RECORD: 7-5 MY PREDICTION: 10-2 They get Ohio State at home, but I wonder if the inexperience nails them at Minnesota and Purdue.

Oct 6, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Nate Stanley (4) drops back for a pass in the first half against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

(2) IOWA HAWKEYES: Iowa is always known as the “stale, vanilla” program of the college football world. Honestly, I think that changes at least for this year. Nate Stanley is a quality quarterback who can get the job done and is accurate. Now if he can move it downfield more instead of relying on the tight ends (which his top two targets at end are in the NFL now) he could be a Heisman dark horse. He will have a few guys to throw at receiver in Brandon Smith and Ihmir Smith-Marsette but they need to be more involved. The running game could be solid if the line improves in between the stout tackles as Iowa has a bevvy of experienced runners (Mekhi Sargent, Toren Young, Ivory Kelly-Martin). But the defense is where they will be vicious. AJ Epensa had 10.5 sacks last year for the Hawkeyes. Chauncey Golston is also a beast in his own right. The linebacking corps may not be dominating like they’ve had in the past but they are deep and seasoned. The secondary will miss Amani Hooker but they are also seasoned and we have always seen Iowa put up quality defenses that keeps them in games. With a pass rush that Iowa has, the secondary’s loss of Hooker won’t be as impactful. Iowa’s schedule is rough to say the least. They see their annual improved rival in Iowa State on the road early on, but that may be the “easiest” road game all year with trips to Michigan, Northwestern, Wisconsin, and Nebraska to end the year. Stealing a win or two is a must if the Hawkeyes want to play in Indianapolis in early December. BEST CASE RECORD: 11-1 WORST CASE RECORD: 6-6 MY PREDICTION: 9-3. Iowa will take down their in-state rivals and edge out Wisconsin in Madison. But Northwestern is always an issue as will be Michigan and Nebraska.

Gaziano can get after the quarterback as well as anybody.

(3) NORTHWESTERN WILDCATS: Say what you will about Northwestern but they are probably the most resilient team in the conference. After two embarrassing home losses to Duke and Akron, the Wildcats nearly stunned the Wolverines before decisively beating Michigan State and kick-started their run to the Big Ten Championship game. That said, there are some gaping holes on offense notably. Clayton Thorson and his inconsistency is gone. But hopes of Clemson transfer Hunter Johnson giving that needed jolt on offense. Isaiah Bowser will ease pressure off Johnson in the run game as he was rolling down the stretch for the Wildcats and their success. But Johnson will enjoy the receiving corps that helped the Wildcats get there in Ben Skowronek and Riley Lees. But Northwestern needs that deep threat to really make them have a strong shot. Defensively Northwestern is quietly underrated. Linebackers are their strength as Paddy Fisher and Blake Gallagher being mentioned as some of the best in the nation. The Wildcats have a defensive line that can get after the quarterback led by Joe Gazaiano (7.5 sacks last year) and can stop the run. However, what the Wildcats struggled in was the secondary (109th in the nation against the pass). Some of it was injuries but still, they were beat a lot last year. It may make or break the Wildcats chances at a Big Ten championship game return. Northwestern has an early road schedule that is rough with a start at Stanford before a 3-game stretch against Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Nebraska (with the latter two being at home) and then a home tilt with the Buckeyes. If they can find a way to be 4-2 midway through the season, the Wildcats have a great chance at Indianapolis again. BEST CASE RECORD: 10-2 WORST CASE RECORD: 6-6 MY PREDICTION: 8-4. Front side is too problematic and may be 2-4 with Iowa coming in. But they will continue to fight.

Wisconsin needs more help for Taylor

(4) WISCONSIN BADGERS: Many people seemingly banked Wisconsin due to their recent history under Paul Chryst and a strong running back in Jonathan Taylor to make the College Football Playoff (I wasn’t one of them). However, the defense fell back big time against the run and teams could make key passes as well. Adding on with more inconsistencies under quarterback Alex Hornibrook and a tougher schedule, the Badgers fell to 7-5 and was pretty much done from the Big Ten Championship race by November. The main target of Wisconsin’s struggles, Hornibrook, is gone as a transfer to Florida State. Enter either Jack Coan or Graham Mertz. Mertz is highly touted and gives Badgers fans hope. He may start the season but there isn’t much in the way of a lot of help on offense aside from Taylor. Receivers over the time have also been maligned for being unable to make big plays. AJ Taylor may be the best guy in that group. The line will also be in question after the losses of key guys but has an established center in Tyler Biadasz. But of course the offense will be centered around Jonathan Taylor who is a front-runner for the Heisman. The questions seem to be more an more for Wisconsin on defense the last few years. The defensive line is thin and on the secondary nobody has stepped up being that guy yet (though three starters return). Linebacker may be a strength but also a question of depth there as well. The Badgers schedule starts off pretty nice with five straight home games after their trip to South Florida, but one of them includes Michigan. The back end is interesting with trips to Ohio State, Nebraska, and Minnesota (with a home game against Iowa sandwiched between the former two). It’s possible they can upset the Huskers and Gophers, but a lot of things need to pan out. BEST CASE RECORD: 10-2 WORST CASE RECORD: 5-7 MY PREDICTION: 8-4. I don’t see Wisconsin doing much early on to Michigan and forget Ohio State. Nebraska may decide Wisconsin’s fate of a Big Ten Championship run.

Moore and Purdue embarrassed Ohio State last year

(5) PURDUE BOILERMAKERS: Northwestern is probably the most resilient Big Ten team, but Purdue is right there too. After an 0-3 start including a home loss to Eastern Michigan, Purdue rolled off 4 wins including a 49-20 beatdown of Ohio State. The Boilermakers will probably have one quarterback instead of a dual tandem as Elijah Sindelar takes over. He is a pocket-style QB which will be huge as Rondale Moore (who could be the best receiver in college football) is his primary target. Tight end Brycen Hopkins and Jared Sparks also look to factor as key targets for Sindelar. The questions will be is if can the run game can get going and the line can protect Sindelar long enough to get the ball out to Moore. Purdue’s defense returns 9 starters. They were gashed last year on really both the pass and the run (mostly pass), but the linebacking squad could be a force with Markus Bailey and Western Kentucky transfer Ben Holt. Purdue’s line hoping that experience helps will be under the scope a bit if they can pressure quarterbacks and stop the run. However, hopes are high on the secondary where they are fast and will get after it and may have some depth back there with the recruits they have brought in under Jeff Brohm. Purdue’s schedule is one that if they can handle the home portion of it (3-4 at West Lafayette) could set up a really interesting go for the Big Ten West in 2019 as they avoid Michigan and Ohio State. If they can take down Vanderbilt and TCU, they could go into Penn State 5-0. But the monster is the end run at Northwestern and Wisconsin, two teams that really give Purdue nightmares. BEST CASE RECORD: 8-4 WORST CASE RECORD: 5-7 MY PREDICTION: 8-4 I like what Brohm is doing up there and I think they will make significant progress to the point they still have a shot at the Big Ten West title in November.

Coughlin is a monster for Minnesota.

(6) MINNESOTA GOLDEN GOPHERS: When he’s winning, PJ Fleck is that coach that can do no wrong for a college football program and he has “charisma.” When he’s losing, it is “enough with the antics and just win.” Fleck will have to answer the question of “who leads the offense,” Zack Annexstad or Tanner Morgan. Annexstad was injured and the Gophers went 3-4 while Morgan went 4-2. Whatever quarterback starts needs to be consistent. At least the parts around them should be fine. Tyler Johnson had an excellent year of having over 1,000 yards and looks to be a force regardless of QB and Rashod Bateman also is a great secondary receiver. If both can make big plays, it will go a long way. Minnesota’s running game is going to be a bully to opposing defenses. Mohamed Ibrahim rushed for over 1,000 while Shannon Brooks and Rodney Smith come back from injury and could give fits as well. The defense returns seven including star end Carter Coughlin (9.5 sacks in 2018). Thomas Barber and Kamal Martin will lead the way at LB while safety Antoine Winfield Jr looks to stabilize a young but effective secondary. But they will need to find a way to stop the run, which really got them good last year. Minnesota’s schedule avoids the monsters of the East save Penn State and a fairly easy out of conference run while road trips at Purdue, Rutgers, and Northwestern are attainable. If they can take care of business at home and steal a win or two on the road, they also have a shot at Indianapolis. BEST CASE RECORD: 10-2 WORST CASE RECORD: 6-6 MY PREDICTION: 8-4. Minnesota continues to make strides under Fleck, but I am not sure if they can take down Nebraska even at home. Purdue, Iowa, and Northwestern may be too much as well.

Corbin will be a focal point of the Illini offense.

(7) ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI: Lovie Smith has been in a nightmarish situation in Champaign. They have not been close to a bowl game in his tenure (last year was close when they were 4-5 but then dropped their final 3 games including an embarrassing 63-0 home loss to Iowa). At least the running game is a bonus with Reggie Corbin getting a large bulk and Mike Epstein backing him up. However, they need anything….ANYTHING to keep a balance as the passing game was dreadful. MJ Rivers is likely the QB for Illinois but he will have competition. But the receivers will have to step their game up too which has been a problem. The offensive line returns four so whoever the quarterback is, will need to not worry too much save for his receivers making plays. Defensively, Smith will take over a group that was horrible on all aspects. Bobby Roundtree is likely not going to play but they do have returning starters and a USC transfer in Oluwole Betiku. It should help a seasoned secondary as well. The question will be can the linebackers step up and play stronger? Illinois schedule is one that if they can sneak an upset here or there, could net them a bowl game. It will be hard, but the non-conference schedule should be 3 wins and they host Rutgers, but if they can steal two wins somewhere (Northwestern, at Purdue?) it could go a long way for Smith. BEST CASE RECORD: 5-7 WORST CASE RECORD: 3-9 MY PREDICTION: 4-8. Despite the record, Illinois will be a tougher out to teams especially in the West.

BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP: NEBRASKA VS. MICHIGAN: Michigan finally gets their shot after seeing rivals Ohio State and Michigan State primarily dominating the show in Indianapolis while Nebraska could get there with a young group and a stout offense. It would be more of an offense vs defense war I think. However, I am always in line of the “Defense wins championships moniker” and Michigan has that. Nebraska, not as much. Wolverines pull away in a close battle for three quarters. MICHIGAN 38, NEBRASKA 28

TOP QUESTIONS

Patterson leads Michigan to their best chance at a Playoff spot in 2019

(1) WILL MICHIGAN GET TO THE PLAYOFF WITH ONE LOSS? Yes. If Notre Dame and Ohio State are a top 10-15 program (which I think at least Ohio State will be) and if Penn State is a top program still, then Michigan should have no issue getting in.

Minnesota linebacker Julian Huff (20) tackles Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor (23) behind the line of scrimmage during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018, in Madison, Wis. Minnesota won 37-15. (AP Photo/Andy Manis)

(2) HAS WISCONSIN’S WINDOW CLOSED? Temporarily, yes. But if Graham Mertz is any indication what he can be, the badgers will have an adequate quarterback for the first time in a very long time. We know their run game will always be near the top of the college football world. But the defense took a step back and now the Badgers are in a division where the competition is much stronger than in years past where their primary rival was Iowa. But Paul Chryst will have to adjust accordingly on offense to get the Badgers atop the Big Ten West again.

Fields has a lot of pressure at Ohio State

(3) IS JUSTIN FIELDS THE ANSWER AT OHIO STATE? Honestly, I don’t really see it. I get that he was a top blue chip prospect coming out of Georgia and he is the ultimate dual threat QB. However I do wonder how mentally tough he is. He went to Athens thinking he was “the guy” over incumbent QB Jake Fromm and instead rode the bench and played garbage minutes where he really didn’t show his skills nor did he play that great when he was in. Now, the Fields camp said Georgia promised him things that didn’t deliver. So either Fields will A. Try to show Georgia made a mistake; B. Try to overdo it in Columbus and make many mistakes; C. Make mistakes and lose what I think is a shaken confidence and the Buckeyes struggle. Or D. All of the above. He’s got to focus on playing football. And something about him doesn’t make me think he will.

That’s it for this week.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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The Obstructed PAC-12 Preview-2019

The season is almost here. Most years I start off with the conference the National Champion resides in (mostly SEC or ACC with Alabama and Clemson). So I figure I can give some love to start on the back end of the power 5, which is the PAC-12.

Earlier this summer, I posted about what was wrong with the PAC-12 as not only have they missed the College Football Playoff for the second consecutive year, but also not being close as a consideration for the playoff. While some PAC-12 fans scream that there’s an East Coast Bias (or more of a “Southeastern” Coast bias), they can’t really argue much as the conference has not been overly competitive as a whole in this time period.

Will that change in 2019? Anything is possible. And there is hope among that Washington will revamp and re-tool on offense with Jacob Eason replacing the inconsistent Jake Browning at QB. Oregon hopes Justin Hebert wins the Heisman and takes the Ducks back atop the division and get back to the Playoff. Stanford will always be a threat. However, the PAC-12 South will be do or die for a few programs, especially at USC where Clay Helton is probably in a “win or go home” bit. Chip Kelly suffered an embarrassing first year at UCLA. Kevin Sumlin will start to have some of his guys come in and run his style of play at Arizona while Herm Edwards tries to show last year was no fluke at Arizona State. So it should still be fun to watch the PAC-12, but will they get a Playoff spot?

PAC-12 NORTH

Jacob Eason took a long and winding road to play back in his home state in Washington

(1) WASHINGTON HUSKIES: Goodbye Jake, hello Jacob. The Huskies will not have the polarizing Jake Browning at quarterback (you either loved him or hated him in Seattle) and say hello to Georgia transfer Jacob Eason. Eason was considered the best quarterback coming out in 2015. However, injuries and falling out of favor with new coach Kirby Smart made him return home to Washington. Eason has an arm and is more of a pocket style quarterback than Browning ever was. And that to me will pay dividends for the Huskies. The offensive line returns four of five starters from last year (and the 5th starter started 32 games prior before an injury). They will be a problem for opposing defensive lines both for the pass and the run. The Huskies will miss Myles Gaskin but will have Salvon Ahmed if he can improve his running lanes. Defensively, the Huskies only return 2 starters. Washington has recruited strong up front and has been one of the strengths of the defense under Chris Peterson. If the likes up front can continue the trend, Washington will be very problematic. The linebacking corps may be a weakness as nobody returns and have questions there while the secondary returns only one starter there (Myles Bryant). However, hopes are high for that corps and many feel Kyler Gordon is going to be a stud. Washington’s schedule is VERY favorable to them and one that could have the potential to easily run the table in the PAC-12 which will net them that Playoff berth for the first time since 2016. Their toughest game away from Seattle is at Stanford and then will have to travel to Arizona the week after. So if the Huskies escape those, it could be a memorable season. BEST CASE RECORD: 12-0 WORST CASE RECORD: 8-4 MY PREDICTION: 11-1. I don’t know if they escape Stanford alive, but the rest of the schedule is manageable. Will it be enough for a Playoff?

Stanford quarterback K.J. Costello broke the school record for passing yards at Santa Margarita Catholic set by Carson Palmer, a Heisman Trophy and No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft out of USC. (Don Feria/isiphotos.com)

(2) STANFORD CARDINAL: Every time people shrug off Stanford that is where the Cardinal come up and make a big threat for the PAC-12. Last year however, a key reason why Stanford is not heavily considered to make noise for the upcoming year is simple: the defense. Needless to say they struggled (115th against the pass; 78th overall). The Cardinal return only 5 starters which is also a concern. But if the Cardinal’s front 7 can roll (the line should be excellent with Jovan Swann and Michael Williams), it could help the secondary which has potential though concerns at safety. However, Paulson Adebo could be another star cornerback in the making in the PAC-12. However, Stanford will have a solid quarterback leading the way in KJ Costello, who was probably only behind Justin Herbert in the conference as best quarterback. But what it will come down to is if they can keep healthy in the run game as Bryce Love is no longer there (and had a lot of injury plagued moments). Cameron Scarlett could have a big year and be more of a disciplined runner than Love was which I think is more beneficial for the Cardinal as well. Stanford’s schedule is an interesting one early on with a home tilt with Northwestern but then two road games at USC and UCF while coming back to home to face rival Oregon. If they go 3-1 in that span, keep an eye on the Cardinal the rest of the way especially hosting Washington October 5. BEST CASE SCENARIO: 11-1 WORST CASE SCENARIO: 5-7 MY PREDICTION: 10-2. I think the Cardinal stun Washington but will have a hiccup out at Washington State and they have historically struggled at USC.

Herbert is a Heisman front-runner in 2019

(3) OREGON DUCKS: Justin Herbert is without question the best quarterback Oregon had since Marcus Mariota and also hopes of a Heisman resides with him also like Mariota. If history repeats itself, Oregon will find themselves in either Atlanta or Tempe for a Playoff game. Do they have enough talent to do it? Yes. The Ducks bring back their entire offense from last year which should not go unnoticed with a great balanced running attack with CJ Verdell and Travis Dye getting the bulk of the carries. Dillon Mitchell may be gone but the receivers will be good if not better than last year with Herbert throwing it around. Defensively, while the Ducks have never been mistaken for Alabama’s defense or Clemson’s defense, will be better than what it has been over the last few years. The line will be a question outside Jordon Scott but high hopes are with freshman Kayvon Thibodoeaux who if he can show he is a monster in his first year, watch out. The secondary will be improved from last year (which returns three starters and if the Ducks can get a strong pass rush) and with new defensive coordinator Andy Avalos bringing different attacking packages could give teams fits. Oregon’s schedule out of the gate starts in Dallas against Auburn. If the Ducks win that game, you have to think they are going to be talked about as a contender. If not, there is no margin of error (there may not be one even if they do win against the Tigers) the rest of the way and a loss at Stanford may actually deflate the sails and chances of Herbert at a Heisman. BEST CASE RECORD: 12-0 WORST CASE RECORD: 7-5 MY PREDICTION: 9-3. Oregon gets the short end where they have to run around to face Auburn, Stanford, and Washington. Road games at USC and Arizona State will be intriguing but I think Herbert will win those games to still keep him in the Heisman consideration.

Davontavean Martin will provide Gage Gubrud a major target at Washington State

(4) WASHINGTON STATE COUGARS: You always wonder when that year at Washington State the shoe will drop for Mike Leach, but he’s a quarterback whisperer. Gardner Minshew went from “who is this guy?” to a cult icon in Pullman and was figured in the Heisman race until that blizzard in the Apple Cup where he was just unable to throw. As always, Leach’s offense will rely on the quarterback play in the Air Raid. And the defense does “just enough” to hold teams at bay (most of the time). So the question will beg if Eastern Washington transfer Gage Gubrud will be that guy. From all looks of it he can, but let’s see what he has on paper. He has receivers who can catch like Davontavean Martin and playmaker Dezmon Partmon. So as a person who thinks Mike Leach is a quality head coach, I wouldn’t doubt the Cougars offense to roll, well the passing game is. On defense the Cougars will need more of a pass rush but are high on West Virginia transfer Lamonte McDougle at nose tackle. And they have a quality safety in Jalen Thompson so if the Cougars can the front on defense rolling, this could be a major sleeper not just in the PAC-12, but in college football (much like last year). Washington State has a schedule that thankfully in the PAC-12 can be very manageable including having a nice run against Stanford and Oregon. But the road games are going to test the Cougars (Houston, Utah, Arizona State, Oregon, California, and at Washington). I think Washington State is strong enough to compete with all of those teams away from Pullman, but Washington is the obvious albatross here. BEST CASE RECORD: 9-3 WORST CASE RECORD: 6-6 MY PREDICTION: 8-4. That road schedule is not going to be fun and with Oregon making strides and Utah being that physical monster, I don’t see the Cougars enjoying that same success as they had last year.

Bequette is becoming the face of Cal’s resurgence on defense

(5) CALIFORNIA GOLDEN BEARS: The script was flipped last year. California went from all Air Raid with the defense optional approach to a defensive, grind it out approach. The Golden Bears were tough as nails against the pass and that really helps them out in their conference (especially with Herbert and Eason there) and solid agianst the run, but the offense tanked. Chase Gerbers was turnover prone and inconsistent. Devon Modster is a UCLA transfer who could really push Gerbers. If Gerbers starts, he needs to make sure his play improves tremendously. If not, the Bears will have to rely way too much on defense. Thankfully the defense brings back 7 starters including the secondary that helped them have a top 10 defense against the pass. The linebacking corps is also another bonus with Cameron Goode coming back from injury which really helps them out more. The Bears defensive line is headlined by Luc Bequette (5 sacks last year) and if they can continue to improve against the run, they could really spoil some teams in their division. But it will all come down to the quarterback play. We’ve seen great defenses go to waste because the offense isn’t as strong. California has the unfortunate deal of a schedule of facing Oregon, Stanford, and Washington away from Berkeley as well as having to travel to Ole Miss and UCLA. If they could muster two or three wins on the road, you have to think it would be a great season for the Bears. BEST CASE RECORD: 8-4 WORST CASE RECORD: 4-8 MY PREDICTION: 6-6 Road schedule is just too tough for the Bears.

Jefferson was one of the few bright spots the Beavers had in 2018

(6) OREGON STATE BEAVERS: Poor Oregon State. They have to get footing somewhere, but right now the PAC-12 North is not the most ideal place to get that footing. The good news last year was they ended a nice road losing streak with a win in Colorado and one that was pretty dramatic. Aside from that the Beavers defense was woeful at best allowing 35 or more points in 10 losses and was the second worst in the nation in most major defensive categories (scoring, rushing yards allowed, and total defense). They return seven starters (is it a good thing?) and having two transfers from Nebraska (Avery Roberts) and Oklahoma (Addison Gumbs). The secondary will be upper-classmen and safety David Morris could be underrated if Oregon State establishes any kind of pass rush. Offensively the bright spot is Jermar Jefferson, who rushed for 1,380 yards last year. The question will be who hands off to him, Jake Luton or another Nebraska transfer Tristan Gebbia. Seems like it will be Luton as the Beavers passing game wasn’t too shabby though Luton was injured at times. To keep Luton or Gebbia upright may be a problem as the Oregon State line allowed a lot of sacks last year which could repeat with only two starters returning. Oregon State’s schedule isn’t fun especially for a program trying to establish anything. They start the year hosting Oklahoma State and then a road trip at Hawaii before getting their home game against Cal Poly. And there is no Colorado either on the PAC-12 schedule so it may be another long year for Jonathan Smith. BEST CASE RECORD: 4-8 WORST CASE RECORD: 1-11 MY PREDICTION: 1-11 I could see the Beavers sting Arizona State or even UCLA, but it is very doubtful for either one.

PAC-12 SOUTH

Moss will be a big factor in Utah’s chances in 2019

(1) UTAH UTES: Utah has replaced Stanford as the PAC-12’s physical squad and have been that way for a while now. They are one of the top teams in the nation defensively and return 7 starters. They bring back two of their top linemen in Bradlee Anae and Leki Fotu. Anae recorded 8 sacks and could have a monster year so those numbers can go up. The line itself could be the best in the nation which is something to be said. They are deep as is and will create plenty of havoc. If Penn State transfer Manny Bowen comes in and does his thing, the Utes could just be a national terror on defense which could be comparable to the likes of Clemson, Alabama, and Georgia. The secondary is pretty stout and could just only get better so that 53rd ranked passing defense will be higher in 2019. The question will be can Utah get an offense to at least stand toe to toe with Washington as both games last year the Utes had numerous problems with the Huskies only scoring a total of 10 points in two games against them. The guy under the spotlight will be Tyler Huntley. He started off shaky but started to roll in October before getting injured to end his season. If Huntley can be that dual threat and remain consistent, to add on with Zack Moss, the Utes could be knocking on the door of a playoff spot themselves. But it will all depend on the passing game of Utah. Utah’s schedule is pretty manageable with two major road games at USC and Washington. If they can split those and find a way going to the PAC-12 Championship at 11-1, they have to be considered for a Playoff spot. BEST CASE RECORD: 11-1 WORST CASE RECORD: 8-4 MY PREDICTION: 9-3 I just don’t trust Utah’s offense enough to think the Utes will take down Washington at all and I do worry on that USC game too.

Benjamin may be the best kept secret in college football

(2) ARIZONA STATE SUN DEVILS: Herm Edwards sent a few messages last year to critics. 1. He can coach in the college level. 2. The Todd Graham Era is long gone. What you got last year was an offense that emphasized heavy on the run (second in the PAC-12) thanks to Eno Benjamin who rushed for 1,642 yards and an improvement on the defense as the Sun Devils were traditionally ranked 100th or lower in most defensive categories under Graham. The defense was young on top of it and are bringing back 6 starters. If Merlin Robertson builds off his freshmen year (five sacks, 77 tackles) and Darien Butler does the same, the Sun Devils defense will only get stronger. But the question is going to be the line which struggled a lot (the rushing defense did improve under Edwards and defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales, but they were 10th in the conference against the run) and probably need George Lea and Jermayne Lole to have big years to really have a formidable defense. Offense is where the questions will rise notably in the passing game as Manny Wilkins is gone as is top receiver N’Keal Harry. Kyle Williams is a monster deep threat but who will be throwing it to him, Dillon Sterling-Cole or freshman Jayden Daniels? So for early on you will probably see plenty of Eno Benjamin running the ball before we know who the play-caller is. Whoever it is, they will have a good running game and a solid offensive line. Arizona State’s schedule will have some speed-bumps for Edwards to build off his first year with a early road trip at Michigan State who wants revenge from last season and then a stretch of 3 road games in four (at Cal, Utah, UCLA) and then two big home games to end it with Oregon and Arizona. It’s very difficult to figure out what the Sun Devils will be with questions at quarterback, but if Benjamin is healthy, that only helps the cause. BEST CASE RECORD: 10-2 WORST CASE RECORD: 4-8 MY PREDICTION: 7-5. They could have a really good year or a really rough year. Or somewhere in between. Once the quarterback is figured out the Sun Devils should be okay.

Tate struggled under Sumlin’s system in 2018.

(3) ARIZONA WILDCATS: Kevin Sumlin’s first year was as up and down as you could get. Khalil Tate struggled in Sumlin’s system and that also played into the Wildcats struggles. The running game however, with or without Tate is still pretty strong with JJ Taylor (1,434 yards). But the focus will be on Tate if he can stay disciplined and be that dual threat a la Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M when Sumlin was there. But he will have an all new set of receivers as the top three guys are no longer at Arizona. The other issue that Arizona has and that has plagued Sumlin at Texas A&M was defense. The Wildcats surrendered yards both in the air (121st overall and last in the PAC-12) and on the ground (64th overall and 8th in the conference). They are undersized and not deep so we could see more of the 41-38 games in order for the Wildcats to compete. The one positive will be the linebacking group as they return all three starters led by Colin Schooler (119 tackles and 21 for loss). The issue is aside from depth is can they develop a pass rush when they see the likes of Herbert, Eason, Huntley, and others? Arizona’s schedule is tough despite an easy non-conference schedule (at Hawaii, Northern Arizona, and Texas Tech). Back to back road games at USC and Stanford right after a home game against Washington could really decide the fate of this team while ending with Oregon, Utah, and rival Arizona State (Oregon and Arizona State being road games) so getting to a bowl game will be huge in Sumlin’s second year before people start to get antsy in Tucson. BEST CASE RECORD: 8-4 WORST CASE RECORD: 4-8 MY PREDICTION: 6-6 Arizona will get off to a nice start but after their road trip to Colorado will be just murder the rest of the way save Oregon State.

Thompson-Robinson could be a massive threat for UCLA

(4) UCLA BRUINS: If Kevin Sumlin’s run in 2018 at Arizona was a nightmare, then Chip Kelly’s run at UCLA was an absolute disaster. UCLA started off 0-5 including home losses to Cincinnati and Fresno State and went 3-9 overall. Is there hope? Yes. UCLA returns 8 starters on offense and 9 on defense. Dorian Thompson-Robinson is that quarterback that is a dual threat and with seasoning he could be a major threat in the conference. Joshua Kelly at running back will provide a strong rushing game while Demetric Felton and Theo Howard will have bigger roles in the passing game. On defense, where they really struggled, they will have an improved secondary with Darnay Holmes at corner. The linebacker group is going to be solid with Keisean Lucier-South showing promise and Krys Barnes leading the way, but the problem is the line. They struggled tremendously and doesn’t seem like it will get better as the other units will probably have too much pressure to make big plays. UCLA’s schedule isn’t easier than last year with a road trip to Cincinnati and then home to San Diego State and then the Sooners roll into town another 0-3 start is possible before they take their conference schedule on the road to Washington State. Speaking of, road trips there, Arizona, Stanford, Utah, and rival USC won’t be fun (at least Oregon or Washington isn’t on the schedule) so again, Kelly and UCLA will have their work cut out for them. BEST CASE RECORD: 9-3 WORST CASE RECORD: 4-8 MY PREDICTION: 5-7 I fear that Kelly’s style on offense is just not going to cut it in the PAC-12 where they seem to be more reliant on defense and getting beaten on the D-line could be a major issue.

Daniels is the next great hope at USC

(5) USC TROJANS: My guess is that in Clay Helton’s first two years that needed two PAC-12 championships and a Rose Bowl win was enough to keep his job for 2019. However, Helton will start out 2019 as the head coach on the hottest seat in the PAC-12 and maybe the nation (a debate can be made for Gus Malzahn at Auburn). But maybe it wasn’t the Trojans that declined as much as it was some of the teams started catching up to them. Even in Sam Darnold’s last year in Los Angeles you noticed some cracks to the team as they were just not as strong and got obliterated by Ohio State. With the likes of Utah, Arizona State, and Cal getting better, the Trojans had no answers. JT Daniels was a true freshman last year so you could expect improvement especially with a solid group in Michael Pittman Jr and Tyler Vaughns. However, what has decimated the Trojans the last couple of years has been the offensive line. If they can’t get that going, the growth for Daniels is stunted. On defense, the Trojans weren’t bad, but weren’t good. That’s not great when the offense is “middle of the road” at best. But there are some bright spots especially up front with Christian Rector at end and Jay Tufele at tackle. The linebacking corps also seems solid with Jordan Iosefa, Palaie Gaoteote IV, and John Houston all expecting to have big years. However, the secondary was beat badly and the majority of the defensive backs are very inexperienced. So, the pass rush needs to be very strong to take pressure off the younger players. USC has a not-so-fun schedule as they have road games against Washington and Notre Dame in consecutive games while seeing Oregon and Stanford at home and a late road trip to Arizona State and Cal. Its schedule could be the one that dooms Helton’s tenure. BEST CASE RECORD: 8-4 WORST CASE RECORD: 4-8 MY PREDICTION: 5-7 I can see USC upsetting the likes of a Utah and/or Stanford but I think they are just going to have issues stopping anybody on the run and keeping Daniels upright.

Johnson is a quarterback’s nightmare fo opposing teams

(6) COLORADO BUFFALOES: How things have gone south for the Buffaloes since their 2016 run to the PAC-12 championship. Mike MacIntyre is gone and in comes Mel Tucker, a Nick Saban/Kirby Smart disciple that Buffaloes fans hope to bring that Alabama/Georgia attitude to Boulder. It maybe a rough start. Tucker will have a quality starting quarterback in Steven Montez. Montez will have a solid group of receivers headed by Laviska Shenault (1,011 receiving yards), and KD Nixon (636 yards). But if Tucker follows the styles of Saban and Smart, expect more of a running game, which was anemic and moreso now that Travon McMillian is gone. Alex Fontenot is going to be the featured back, but expect others to carry the load. But the question may end up being is if the Buffaloes line open up holes for those backs and that isn’t a certainty. On defense is where Tucker may have more of his fingerprints on given his strength. However, five starter return and the ones who are new are very new. He could mold them into monsters or it may take a year of adjustments. Nate Landman will anchor the defense at linebacker while Mustafa Johnson is a monster for opposing quarterbacks. However, the secondary has to make strides which they fell off after a nice run in 2016. The line will give them so much to do but it is the secondary who will need to step up big time. Colorado’s schedule has a rough non-conference run with their rivals in Colorado State, their old Big 12 foe in Nebraska, and Air Force, which runs options and has always given Tucker fits. The road trips aren’t fun seeing Oregon and Washington State in back-to-back weeks while seeing Utah in Salt Lake City to end their season. The home schedule won’t be fun either especially near the end with Stanford and Washington coming to Boulder. It may be a rough first year for Tucker in Colorado. BEST CASE RECORD: 6-6 WORST CASE RECORD: 2-10 MY PREDICTION: 3-9 Too many questions on both sides of the ball for Tucker to answer and teams are far more talented than the Buffaloes right now in the PAC-12

Hopefully if there is a PAC-12 Championship rematch it will be better than last year.

PAC-12 CHAMPIONSHIP: UTAH VS WASHINGTON: This would be a rematch of last year’s title game which was exciting as watching paint dry. However, if it is that game again, I think it will be a little more fun to see with Utah’s offense being a little more polished and if Washington’s defense takes a step back. My take is that the Huskies will be playing for a playoff spot and after a second tilt, will have an improved defense when they see Utah. But I think you will see another relatively low scoring game but I think Eason makes some plays down field to set the Huskies up for scores and it will be enough to edge the Utes. But will it be enough for the committee to put them in the Playoff? WASHINGTON 24, UTAH 17

TOP 3 QUESTIONS

Oregon’s match against Auburn is a statement game for the Ducks and the PAC-12

(1) IF OREGON WINS WEEK 1 AGAINST AUBURN, WILL THAT CHANGE THE DYNAMIC THAT THE PAC-12 CAN HANG WITH THE SEC? It will be a boost for the PAC-12 if Oregon wins that match-up. However, many fans in the SEC will say Auburn is a maligned program with a coach that can be fired midway through the season. To me, Auburn should always be considered a massive threat to any team as they’ve showed by beating Georgia and Alabama. So it will help out. It also could give Oregon that boost they haven’t seen since 2014 when they made the playoff.

Sumlin struggled at Arizona in his first year with the Wildcats

(2) IF UCLA OR ARIZONA DOESN’T IMPROVE IN THE SECOND YEARS OF THE CHIP KELLY OR KEVIN SUMLIN ERAS RESPECTIVELY, COULD EITHER ONE BE FIRED? Not for Sumlin as the buyout is too high and maybe Kelly too. However, Kelly cannot afford anything worse than 4-8 in year two of his run. People project the upward trend on the Trojans. I’m not too high on that but Kelly has won in the past so there is something to be said. I just don’t think that his offense is as flashy largely because other teams especially in the PAC-12 run a similar style to his now.

Helton is definitely in a “win now” mode

(3) WHAT DOES CLAY HELTON DO TO KEEP HIS JOB AT USC? Win the PAC-12 South. A debate can be made that the PAC-12 South is the worst division among the Power 5 (between them or the ACC Coastal Division). If USC cannot overtake a division that is weak and given the talent they have over the years then a change must be needed in a big way.

That’s it for the PAC-12.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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NBA Mock Draft v2

NBA Mock Draft v2, By Bryce Olds (@ItsBrizz)

 

So, in my last NBA Mock, I did a simulation where I also tried to predict the order as well and I didn’t perfectly predict that, but if you’re interested in seeing how that went, you can view it here. For this mock, I’m gonna try and predict the whole First Round. I’m not sure if this will be the last version, but for now, enjoy my updated Mock Draft.

Pick #1: Zion Williamson, PF, New Orleans Pelicans.

I think this one is just painfully obvious, so I won’t take too much of your time on this one, but with all the AD rumors I’m not sure what will happen with this pick. Maybe someone else is making this pick, I have no idea, all I know is that this pick will be Zion Williamson.

Pick #2: Ja Morant, PG, Memphis Grizzlies

This one is also pretty obvious to me, and it’s saddening. It sucks that such an exciting player and great talent is being forced to play in Memphis. I wish him the best and I think he’ll do well but the poor kid is gonna have a hard time getting his name out.

Pick #3: R.J. Barrett, SG/SF, New York Knicks

I don’t know what is going to happen to this pick or who’s going to make it, but I’m confident that R.J. will be the third pick in the draft. If he does end up with the Knicks, I’ll be very happy with it. I know it isn’t Zion but this kid can play and loves the spotlight, two things you need to have if you’re gonna play in the city of New York.

Pick #4: Cam Reddish, SG/SF, Los Angeles Lakers

Again, I can see this pick being moved as well. But, if the Lakers make this pick, I think they go with Cam Reddish. Interestingly enough, I had the Lakers taking Reddish in my original mock as well, just at 10th overall and not fourth. But hey, Cam is a great talent and I can see them selecting him at fourth.

Pick 5#: Jarrett Culver, SG/SF/PF, Cleveland Cavaliers

I think Culver is going to be a really solid player on both sides of the ball in the NBA, so the Cavs pairing him with the young Sexton will really help the Cavs start to reform their team after the end of the LeBron era. Culver won’t be the LeBron replacement, but he could be a solid piece on an upcoming team.

Pick #6: Darius Garland, PG, Phoenix Suns

I think the Suns make the move they have to here, they have messed up on so many draft picks that they need to take one that works, and I think Garland is their guy. I think he is for sure the second-best point guard in this draft behind Morant, and the Suns should keep this pick and take him. I’ve seen rumors that the Suns want to move this pick for a veteran guy, and I think that is an incredibly stupid idea and they should just take who they get at six and continue the rebuild.

Pick #7: De’Andre Hunter, SF/PF, Chicago Bulls 

The Bulls got it rough this draft, like the Suns. Being the third worst team in the NBA and getting the seventh pick is a nightmare, but getting Hunter is not a bad consolation prize. Hunter is kind of like Culver, but a little less offensively skilled. I think he’ll fit the gritty nature of the Bulls and help them be a bit more competitive next season.  

Pick #8: Jaxson Hayes, C, Atlanta Hawks

I know the Hawks have a young center in Dedmon, but you can’t pass up on having a trio of Trae Young, John Collins, and Jaxson Hayes if you’re the Hawks. That young trio is just exciting to even think about, think of all the fancy assists and lobs Trae could throw to Hayes and Collins. I think this is the move the Hawks have to make if it’s possible.

Pick #9: Sekou Doumbouya, PF, Washington Wizards

The Wizards need something to go their way, between the Wall injury, Beal being the center of like 45 different trade scenarios, they need something of their own. I think Doumbouya is something the Wizards can be happy with as they try to build their future after the mess of contracts they have on their roster.

Pick #10: Nassir Little, SF, Atlanta Hawks

I think the Hawks making a lineup of Trae, Huerter, Little, Collins, and Hayes is what they absolutely need to do if it’s possible. That is such a powerful, young lineup that I would be very interested in seeing grow in the future.

Pick #11: Coby White, SG/PG, Minnesota Timberwolves

I don’t think D Rose and Jeff Teague are the answer at PG for the Timberwolves, so I think they take the last first-round worthy PG left. White is a fun player, and I think pairing him with KAT will be a deadly duo and can help Minnesota start being a more competitive team again.

Pick #12: Brandon Clarke, PF, Charlotte Hornets

Clarke is a solid player and is going to help out any team he gets drafted by. Now if the Hornets lose Kemba it’s going to be a sad, hurting offseason for them, but getting a solid draft pick in Clarke would help ease that pain and give Hornets fans a reason to be optimistic about the future.

Pick #13: Romeo Langford, SG/SF, Miami Heat

With D Wade retiring, and the having only three other true guards on the roster, the Heat are in desperate need of a guard. Langford would be a good fit in Miami, I think he has the attitude and flare Miami fans love and they’ll come to like him in South Beach.

Pick #14: Bol Bol, C, Boston Celtics

This is going to be an interesting offseason for the Celtics, they could end up with anything from a Kyrie and AD pairing to a team led by Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. But based on the team right now, they need a new center to come off the bench and maybe even replace Horford once he’s done. With Hayes off the board, I think letting Bol recover and get healthy for the future would be their best option.

Pick #15: Keldon Johnson, SG/SF, Detroit Pistons

This was probably the hardest pick to map out, the Pistons need a PG to replace Jackson, but all the good first round guards are off the board. So, with that in mind, I think they take Keldon. Keldon is honestly a great fit for the Pistons, he is a gritty guy who can get a bucket when you need him to and plays great defense, so I think the motor city will come to like him if he ends up there.

Pick #16:  Kevin Porter Jr. SG, Orlando Magic

Porter Jr. I think is an underrated player in this draft, and he would be a great piece for the Magic. I know that they need a PG but Porter Jr. is better than any PG available at this point and with Fournier aging, it’s time to get a new look at the SG spot.

Pick #17: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, SG, Atlanta Hawks

So while I was writing this, this pick got traded from Brooklyn to Atlanta. In that deal was also Taurean Prince, so the Nassir Little pick makes even more sense. Originally I had Rui Hachimura going at this pick to Brooklyn, but because this is now Atlanta’s pick, they go a different route and select Walker. Walker is a great scoring SG and could maybe even be a depth piece for them as they have a solid lineup already.

Pick #18: Rui Hachimura, PF, Indiana Pacers

Instead of Brooklyn taking him, the Pacers decide to take the best available player in the draft in Hachimura. They don’t really need a PF per se, but I think if Rui did slip this far it would be impossible to pass up on him.

Pick #19: PJ Washington, PF, San Antonio Spurs

Washington is a solid player and will be for a long time in the NBA. With Pop’s guidance, he can really help PJ turn into a massive threat in this league and be the next great Spur.  

Pick #20: KZ Okpala, SF, Boston Celtics

The Celtics are in need of some help off the bench since it looks like Morris will be leaving, so KZ makes a lot of sense for them. KZ is a tough player and a good talent and should be able to get some solid production for the C’s off the bench.

Pick #21: Tyler Herro, SG, Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder need help, it’s pretty obvious. I think a guy like Herro can come in and really help take the pressure off of Westbrook and PG when it comes to scoring, even if they wouldn’t want to start him he would be great off the bench and would provide a nice spark.  

Pick #22: Ty Jerome, PG/SG, Boston Celtics

The Celtics may be losing Kyrie and Rozier this offseason, so if they don’t take a player that can play the PG spot in this draft I’d be stunned. At Pick 22, it may be a little bit of a stretch but Jerome can be a nice piece to have and can start if needed.

Pick #23: Carsen Edwards, PG, Utah Jazz

I know that is maybe a stretch, but hear me out. Edwards lit up the NCAA Tourney out of nowhere this March and I think a lot of teams slid him up on their boards because of this. Utah needs it’s next PG, as Rubio seems to be out, it makes sense for both sides.

Pick #24: Cameron Johnson, PF, Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers as of right now are pretty stacked in their starting five, so adding the best available player in the draft to their rotation can only help things. Johnson is capable of adding a lot to this team whether he’s starting or coming in as a rotation player.

Pick #25: Darius Bazley, SF, Portland Trail Blazers

The Blazers need a new SF, there’s no question about it, and I think Bazley is their guy. He’s a solid prospect that has been impressing while being independent. The Blazers like the hard nose, blue-collar guys and Bazley fits the bill perfectly.

Pick #26: Mfiondu Kabengele, C, Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavs need a lot of things, and a new center that can actually score and is not eating up cap space like its a meal would be nice. Kabengele is a great addition to the Cavs and is probably a steal at 26 overall.  

Pick #27: Luka Samanic, PF, Brooklyn Nets

Samanic is a big man from Croatia that does have a lot of skill and can make an impact at the NBA level. The Nets could have a hidden gem here if he falls to 28.

Pick #28: Luguentz Dort, SG, Golden State Warriors

Dort is a bit of an interesting pick, especially for Golden State, It looks more and more like Finals MVP Iguodala and Shaun Livingston are retiring soon, so the Warriors will need new guards to help fill the rotation, and Dort is a solid pick for that.

Pick #29: Goga Bitadze, C, San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs are known for turning picks into something with almost magic, and I can see Goga being one of those picks. He’s a good raw talent and with the work of Pop, he can become a great player in this league.

Pick #30: Grant Williams, PF, Milwaukee Bucks

I can see the Bucks doing a lot with this pick, but Willaims makes the most sense to me. He can come off the bench and be a spark or you can move him into the SF or PF spot and play him alongside Giannis, which is both hard to guard and hard to score on.  

So that wraps up the second edition of my mock, if you enjoyed it you can check out more of my stuff on my twitter @ItsBrizz, or you can complain about something I said people like to do that too.

Why the Cowboys will have to overpay for Dak Prescott

With technology and social media at an all-time high, the world in sports has evolved. Why am I bringing this up? Well, anybody who goes on Twitter (myself included) seeing sports-related Tweets or posting sports-related Tweets about teams, players, etc. is posting it right there on emotion, most of the time having a “hot take” at that moment.

For those who are saying I’m a hypocrite for pointing this out, well, I have done my share in venting and taking hot takes on Twitter (I try not to, but human emotion does take over).

Why am I bringing this up? Rewind to 2016 when the Dallas Cowboys were the toast of the town, dominating with two young rookies of Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott. Elliott was a first round pick by the Boys in the draft, but Dak was drafted in the 4th round as a backup to Tony Romo. Well, we know the story: Romo gets injured and Prescott takes over. And wins game after game after game for the Boys.

The toast on Twitter? Dak Prescott. He did no wrong. He was considered a front-runner for both rookie of the year and MVP. He had a great background story, a sympathetic one, etc. Life was good for the young quarterback. People went “there is no earthly way Romo should return at quarterback given how Dak is playing” But then…things started to change.

Dak’s Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones came out and said he wasn’t sure if Dak should remain the quarterback if and when Romo returns from injury. Nearly a week later, Dallas’s torrid run at 11-1 ended in New York, losing to the Giants. Many on Twitter went after Jones, who made the comments during that week. Other people started to question Dak’s ability to lead the team into the post-season and wondered if Dak was the right man, especially that Romo was on the mend.

Dallas kept Prescott as the quarterback and had homefield throughout the playoffs. They lost to Green Bay at home in a classic battle though Prescott did nothing wrong (more of what Aaron Rodgers was doing was the reason why Dallas lost).

After the season, it was reported Elliott would be suspended due to violating the NFL personal conduct policy. While he appealed his case and played early on, Elliott struggled as did Prescott. When Elliott had to serve his suspension, Prescott and the Cowboys really struggled. They went 3-3 without him, but the three losses were embarrassments, and were ones who were fighting for the playoffs (Atlanta, Philadelphia, Chargers) and the wins were to teams who were pretty much done for with the season (Giants, Raiders, Redskins).

Dallas finished at 9-7, but many wondered if Dak is the right guy for the job.

The next season a healthy and suspension-free Elliott came back. Dak’s numbers however, didn’t show the improvement or growth like some had believed and many questioned his ability to be that guy getting the Cowboys back to the promised land for the first time in 25 years. However, the trade of Amari Cooper helped things for Prescott as he finally got that big time receiver he lacked since Dez Bryant left after 2016. His numbers were stout after the Cowboys traded for Amari Cooper and Dallas won the NFC East for the second time in 3 years. A win over Seattle in the first round, but the Boys fell to the eventual NFC Champion Rams. Many pointed to the fact that Dak did not make the necessary plays as Los Angeles stopped Elliott on the run and made him pass. Of course, the take is “Dak is not an answer at quarterback and doesn’t deserve any contract extension that he is asking for.”

Which, the extension value? $30 million per year.

Needless to say, the Cowboys are in a bind. Is Dak worth that much in the scheme of things for NFL quarterbacks? No. But we have to realize a key issue here: he is an adequate, if not good quarterback. And in the NFL, you DO NOT let a franchise quarterback go unless you know you have another franchise quarterback right behind. Teams who haven’t that franchise quarterback are the teams who often languish at the bottom (see the Cleveland Browns pre-Baker Mayfield, Detroit Lions pre-Matthew Stafford, Buffalo Bills). Sure, they may have a year or two with some backup quarterback who has a nice run, but they still don’t sniff a post-season berth or they remain near the bottom and will continue to be that way. Prescott is at anything a constant for Dallas. Yes, he isn’t going to put up those massive numbers like a Brady, Brees, or Rodgers. But he doesn’t need to. He has to make sure he plays smart (which overall he does), and makes those needed plays to win games (still has SOME work there, but overall, he’s not the worst at it).

Again, I don’t think Dak is worth $30 million, but to Dallas, they may have to pay him that regardless. Not having a franchise quarterback really destabilizes a franchise. And in Big D where the owner is desperately wanting to return to the glory years of the early/mid 90’s, it is not great to have massive question marks at the one position you don’t need to have the question mark.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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Kyrie and the Knicks, by @ItsBrizz

Kyrie and the Knicks, by Bryce Olds (@ItsBrizz)

The Celtics losing in the second round in five has caused some issues in the organization, particularly with Kyrie. Ever since the season has started, speculation about him leaving has seemed to be all people have talked about, the media, the fans, and even some players. Personally, I think he will leave this summer, but if he going to New York or LA, that’s a tougher question. As a Knicks fan, I feel very indifferent about Kyrie.

My first problem with Kyrie is, honestly, I don’t trust him. Kyrie stated during the preseason to all Celtics fans that he’d love to resign and stay “if they’d have him.” Well, everything he did after that contradicted that statement drastically, saying things like “ask me July 1st” or “I’m not gonna miss this shit when I’m done playing.” Most of his quotes have been backpedaling on his statement about resigning, which as a Knicks fan I love, but as someone who might have to have this guy on my team, it makes me nervous.

My second problem with Kyrie is, he did not seem like he even wanted to lead the Celtics. Again, as a Knicks fan, I loved that Kyrie hated being the guy in Boston, but it makes me wonder, what if the Knicks don’t get him a co-star? I mean don’t get me wrong, if the Knicks do get Kevin Durant, I’ll feel a lot better with Kyrie being the wingman, but say they don’t get KD and they end up with another free agent who maybe is good but isn’t better than Kyrie and he has to be the guy again? Kyrie couldn’t lead the Celtics past the second round with a good group, I can’t even imagine the nightmare of Kyrie being the leader of a 17 win team with almost strictly young guys.  

My last problem isn’t exactly a problem with Kyrie, but it’s a problem none the less, the New York media. Kyrie was furious with the Boston media all last season, and while Boston media can get annoying, New York media takes that up about 10 notches. I don’t know how he’d react to the media in New York, and if he is the leader of this Knicks team, he might want out as fast as he wanted in.  

Kyrie is an incredible player, someone who’d bring exciting basketball back to the Garden. I think he has been a little unfairly treated by the media and wasn’t used to being the leader, but what I said still remains true. If the Knicks can’t get a guy like KD, Kawhi, or even Jimmy Butler, I would stay very, VERY far away from Kyrie.  

Thanks for reading my piece, if you enjoyed and want more of my work, you can check out my articles on my twitter @ItsBrizz.   

 

Sources:

Kyrie’s Quotes: https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nba/celtics/2019/02/01/kyrie-irving-backpedals-boston-celtics-commitment/2743445002/  

https://larrybrownsports.com/basketball/kyrie-irving-interesting-quote-walking-into-arena/486464

 

NFL Super Bowl Odds

As the NFL Draft wrapped up in Nashville on Saturday evening, big football fans are already excited for the upcoming season. We are about 4 months away from regular season NFL football, and the clock continues to tick. With the offseason nearly complete, experts are starting to map out their contenders and pretenders before the season. Obviously, not everyone will be right, and there is bound to be a team with high expectations that disappoints. But I’m going to take my crack at picking six teams who I believe are safe bets to make a run at the Lombardi Trophy in 2020. After that, I’m going to end by giving you my rankings for the other NFL teams in terms of best to worst bets and compare them to some data gathered from this article on early Super Bowl 54 odds. Let’s get into it!

 

The Favorite: New England Patriots

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MyTop SportsBook Odds: +700 (co-favorite)

 

You cannot bet against Tom Brady and the Pats until they prove otherwise. The dynasty is coming off of yet another Super Bowl Title and the G.O.A.T. is looking to add another ring. The Patriots had an interesting offseason, losing Trey Flowers, Cordarrelle Patterson, Trent Brown, and a few others. But they also acquired Michael Bennett via trade and brought back Phillip Dorsett, Jason McCourty, and special teams Star Matthew Slater. At 7-1 odds (according to MTSB), there really is nothing to lose by betting on Bill Belichick’s boys in Foxboro.

 

The Team To Avoid: Kansas City Chiefs

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MyTop SportsBook Odds: +700 (co-favorite)

 

I truly think Patrick Mahomes is the best player in football right now, but I don’t know how this Chiefs offense will flow without speedy wideout Tyreek Hill, who was huge for them in 2018 and will likely face a long suspension. MyTop SportsBook says it bluntly and straight-forward, right now you shouldn’t bet on the Chiefs, because 7-1 odds are a bad bet with their current franchise State. Obviously, the Chiefs are still a serious contender, but I just can’t list them as my co-favorite alongside New England right now.

 

My Sleeper Team: Atlanta Falcons

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MyTop SportsBook Odds: +3500 (19th best)

 

This is quite honestly a great bet to place down right now, because I think the Falcons will surprise a lot of people this season. They haven’t really been fully healthy as a unit since 2017, and this season marks another shot at redeeming their forgettable Super Bowl loss. With guys like Deion Jones and Devonta Freeman back on the field, Atlanta isn’t a team to sleep on. As long as they have former NFL MVP Matt Ryan tossing the pigskin, they will compete in the NFC South.

 

My Odds:

 

*(These are basically a power rankings list of which teams I’d bet on from highest to lowest.  MyTop SportsBook Odds are in parentheses.)*

 

Patriots (7-1)

Saints (9-1)

Rams (9-1)

Chargers (16-1)

Bears (12-1)

Chiefs (7-1)

Eagles (14-1)

Colts (16-1)

Browns (12-1)

Packers (20-1)

Cowboys (20-1)

Texans (25-1)

Steelers (22-1)

Vikings (22-1)

Seahawks (25-1)

Ravens (30-1)

Falcons (35-1)

Panthers (55-1)

Jaguars (35-1)

49ers (25-1)

Redskins (150-1)

Broncos (60-1)

Titans (70-1)

Raiders (66-1)

Lions (90-1)

Jets (80-1)

Bills (100-1)

Giants (75-1)

Buccaneers (75-1)

Bengals (150-1)

Dolphins (150-1)

Cardinals (100-1)

 

NBA 2018-19 MVP Odds

NBA 2018-2019 MVP Odds, By Bryce Olds (@ItsBrizz)

The 2018-19 NBA Regular Season has come to a close, meaning the debates about MVP are now raging more than ever before. I believe it’s down to two players, James Harden of the Houston Rockets and Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks. These two have had incredible seasons, but there is only one MVP trophy, and I have some odds to determine who it should be.

The last set of NBA MVP odds were unanimous that Giannis Antetokounmpo was the favorite, but online sportsbooks believed the race was closer than those in Vegas. In early April, Bovada gave James Harden a +150 (40%) chance, while BetOnline had Harden at +180 (35.7%). The Westgate Superbook in Vegas, on the other hand, only gave Harden a +300 (25%) shot, while making Giannis a prohibitive -400 (80%) favorite. Whether it’s Bovada or BetOnline all these sportsbooks in this comparison chart are pre-screened to guarantee that they’re safe sites to place bets at, so you can be guaranteed it’s a safe option for NBA MVP or playoff betting.


Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Odds: -100

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I think Giannis is the all-out favorite for the MVP, and he’d get my vote. Harden has had a statistically great season but in terms of team success, Giannis takes it for me. He led the Bucks to a 60-22 season, best in the NBA and looks like his form is keeping up in the playoffs so far.


James Harden’s Odds: +100

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I think Harden’s season has been great, but Giannis’ has just been a touch better. Not to discredit Harden’s performance this year, but Giannis has turned the corner this year and I think he should take home his first MVP. Despite that its illogical to ignore the tremendous season offered up by last year’s MVP. In reality Giannis will all but certainly win this award but Harden did in no doubt give some contention. 


Thanks for reading my first Pro Sports Fandom article, I am excited to join the team and I hope to be adding new content very soon! If you’d like to drop my personal twitter a follow, click here!

 

The Obstructed Big Ten Review-2018

It was a different vibe after last season in the world of the Big Ten. Sure, they had failed to get a team into the Playoff, but the compass was pointing north. Michigan’s recruiting would get them off the snide, Michigan State had just won another 10 games, Penn State was strong, Wisconsin was strong (and many projected them to finally take that step), Purdue and Northwestern were looking to make massive strides as was Minnesota. And Iowa was Iowa (in a good way)

Then the 2018 season happened. Michigan and Ohio State fulfilled their end of the bargain, though for Ohio State, controversy plagued them and they had too many close calls to the weaker squads. Penn State had hiccups along the way. Michigan State and Wisconsin both disappointed. Purdue got off to a slow start as had Northwestern. And Minnesota was up-and-down. And Iowa was Iowa (in a bad way) And what you got was no team for the second straight year making the Playoff from the Big Ten.

So the question now is, can the Big Ten return to being that conference that was a massive threat not just for the Playoff, but a national championship.

In the Big Ten East, it was Ohio State despite all the controversy. However, the Buckeye close calls and the beatdown loss to Purdue really eliminated them from a talk on the Playoff. Michigan’s slow start at Notre Dame probably hindered their shot and their fate was sealed in Columbus where they had no response to the Buckeyes. Penn State’s two home losses to Ohio State and Michigan State deflated their season and the beatdown that was given to them by Michigan set them back. Michigan State’s offensive woes were horrid to the point they nearly collapsed in their final regular season game to Rutgers. Indiana, Maryland, and Rutgers all remained a struggle (though the Terrapins did knock off Texas for the second straight year).

The Big Ten West was a mess. Northwestern won the division at 8-4. Wisconsin, who many had to be a favorite for the title, had issues with the offense and at times defense, and realized the schedule wasn’t as easy as years before fell apart. Iowa never gained consistency nor did Purdue nor Minnesota. Nebraska got off to a very slow start, but turned it up in the second half of the season. And Illinois….um, yeah.

So looking back at my godawful predictions, let’s see what I got right, wrong, and also let’s see what to look ahead on.

Huge turnover rate from the year before, tougher schedule, and issues at quarterback were why I projected Wisconsin to have an off-year and was stunned how others had them as a National Championship contender.

I WAS RIGHT ON: Mostly the Big Ten West, but especially Iowa and Wisconsin. Iowa because while many feel like they are pretty vanilla in terms of how they play football, it isn’t like they rank near the bottom and stink yearly. I had them in 2nd place at 8-4 so voila. Wisconsin I was right on. I didn’t like their schedule. The turnover rate for returning starters was pretty high. Alex Hornibrook is not anyone’s answer (have fun with him Florida State fans) and their schedule was pretty tough compared to years prior. Though to be fair, the losses at home to BYU and Minnesota took me aback.

I WAS WRONG ON: The Big Ten East. I’ll just say that. Thank you Michigan State for crashing and burning. Thank you Rutgers for somehow being able to take a major step backwards. Thank you Penn State (notably James Franklin) for faltering against Ohio State and letting it spoil your season. Thank you Michigan for being dominant in games 2 through 11. Thank you Ohio State for winning by the skin of your teeth. Honorable mention goes to Nebraska for their slow start under Scott Frost.

Haskins did everything he could to have Ohio State win the Big Ten

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State. The one thing that the Buckeyes did right and had it not been for him, Ohio State may have ended up 8-4. Haskins did it all at quarterback for the Buckeyes, which really had been up and down since their national championship run in 2014. He made the needed throws, adjusted, and did all the things in order for the Buckeyes to avoid some disaster losses to Nebraska and Maryland. But when the guy was on fire, he was a Heisman lock. He had some moments, but again, he made the adjustments.

COACH OF THE YEAR: Jim Harbaugh, Michigan. Of course, people will be ridiculing him more in part because of the inability of winning the big game against Ohio State (0-4 now) and how Michigan can’t get over that hump. But this was the first time really that the Wolverines looked like a dominant team under Harbaugh prior to that. The recruits are coming in, and with Urban Meyer not on the sidelines in Columbus, he can really take the Big Ten East.

MOST SURPRISING TEAM: None. Nobody really sneaked up an anyone this year.

Lewerke and Michigan State’s offense was anemic at best in 2018

MOST DISAPPOINTING TEAM: Michigan State. The Spartans defense is a top ten defense in the nation. But the offense stepped back to about 50 years ago where they couldn’t pass, couldn’t run, and couldn’t do anything right. Some you can point to the injury to Brian Lewerke, but for only so long. The running game struggled and the special teams were a problem. The hope was with a solid offense to go along with the defense, the Spartans would have been in the mix for the Big Ten title and possibly a playoff. But the offense killed this team.

COACHING CHANGES: Mike Locksley replaces DJ Durkin/Matt Canada at Maryland; Ryan Day replaces Urban Meyer at Ohio State. The big news was Urban Meyer stepped down. Of course there will be debate whether it was Ohio State politely asking him to step aside in light of the controversies that plagued him all season or if Urban really wanted to coach and if his mental state is in question. Anyway…Ryan Day takes over an elite football program and all eyes in Columbus and Buckeye Nation will be on him. If the Buckeyes struggle in 2019 (their schedule isn’t demanding as no power 5 non-conference game happens, and the road game at Michigan is their toughest one right now) and if he can’t beat Michigan, he will be looked at very closely after this year so for him, there’s no “getting accustomed.” It is win or else. Mike Locksley takes over at Maryland again (he was the interim after the Terps fired Randy Edsall and was a meager 1-5), but he went under the tutelage of Nick Saban at Alabama for three seasons including transforming Alabama into an offensive juggernaut. So there is hope perhaps for the Terps with Locksley.

TOP 3 QUESTIONS

Harbaugh vs. Ohio State…..yeesh.

IS IT BOOM OR BUST FOR JIM HARBAUGH? Yes and no. I think yes because he HAS to beat Ohio State now with Urban Meyer gone and the fact the Buckeyes and Michigan State come to Ann Arbor, a place where Harbaugh is 0-4 against both. Next year Michigan’s schedule is VERY favorable of a 12-0/11-1 run (road games at Wisconsin and Penn State are on there, but honestly, I don’t see the Badgers being a threat again nor do I see Penn State look as dominant as they have in the past few seasons). However, while maybe not a Playoff berth will happen, but giving the Wolverines a Big Ten title would also suffice and a return to the Rose Bowl will temporarily satisfy the Maize and Blue faithful. But he has to do something against Ohio State. And it’s not up for debate on that.

IS THERE ANYBODY IN THE BIG TEN WEST THAT CAN LOOK LIKE A MAJOR THREAT TO THE BIG TEN EAST? Nope. Wisconsin showed they were not the legit threat. And until they find something at quarterback and handle a tough road schedule, they cannot be taken seriously. But Michigan, at Ohio State and two interesting road trips to Nebraska and Minnesota (who beat them in Madison this year), and I don’t see the Badgers winning more than 8 or 9 games. Purdue is in a similar situation at quarterback, but if that gets solved, they avoid Ohio State, Michigan, and Michigan State this year, but three roadies at Penn State, Northwestern, and Wisconsin is going to be tough. Nebraska if the trend continues upward (Ohio State and Wisconsin both are at home), could see the Big Ten Championship game (I said that last year and failed miserably however), but they are a year away at the earliest.

WHO IS ON THE HOTTEST SEAT HEADING INTO 2019? Well probably the obvious is Lovie Smith if Illinois can’t get to a bowl game and given how Smith has now been there for 5 seasons, yep, time is ticking. But also while I don’t think either one is in danger of losing their jobs for next season, both James Franklin (Penn State) and Mark Dantonio (Michigan State) started to get plenty of critics within their own bases. Franklin for not beating any of the Big Ten threats last year (1-5 in the last two seasons against Ohio State, Michigan, and Michigan State) and Dantonio for having inexplicable futility in some of Michigan State’s losses during the season (home to Northwestern, at Nebraska) and just inept play on offense (3 of the last 4 games the Spartans failed to score a TD and the other game could only muster 14 points to Rutgers…..AT HOME). So both Penn State and Michigan State need rebound years in a big way (of course, both have to travel to Columbus-good luck with that), but people will bicker more if these two teams fail to take that next step.

That’s it for this week.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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76ers Top Pacers

This would be the first game that Joel Embiid would appear in since the last couple of weeks. He scored 18 of his 33 points in the fourth-quarter as the Philadelphia 76ers defeated the Indiana Pacers 106-89.

Embiid also grabbed 12 rebounds and recorded two steals. He showed in this game why he is one of the best players in the world right now.

Ben Simmons scored 15 points, grabbed four rebounds, recorded six assists, and recorded one steal. Jimmy Butler scored 12 points, grabbed four rebounds, recorded four assists, blocked one shot, and recorded one steal.

Tobias Harris scored 16 points for Philadelphia. He also grabbed eight rebounds, recorded four assists, blocked one shot, and recorded one steal.

The 76ers scored 21 bench points. James Ennis III and Mike Scott each scored eight points off the bench. Ennis III grabbed five rebounds and recorded one steal. Scott grabbed six rebounds, recorded two assists, and recorded two steals.

Philadelphia’s biggest lead in the game was 18 points and Indiana’s biggest lead in the game was 14 points.

Bojan Bogdanovic scored 18 points, grabbed five rebounds, recorded two assists, and recorded two steals for the Pacers. Darren Collins scored 14 points, grabbed four rebounds, recorded two assists, and recorded one steal.

Indians scored 37 bench points and Domantas Sabonis scored 10 of them. He also grabbed six rebounds, recorded six assists, and recorded one steal.

The Philadelphia 76ers move into the number three spot in the east and the Indiana Pacers move back to the number four spot in the east, even though both teams have an identical 42-25 record right now.

Philadelphia won the season series against Indiana 3-1. The Pacers next game will be at home against the New York Knicks on Tuesday night. The 76ers next game will be at home against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night.