NCAA Preview 2016
NCAA BIG TEN WEST
The NCAA football season is near. Get ready to play CFB at FanPicks (click to play). With the impending kickoff in Sydney on August 26th, FanPicks will cover every NCAA conferences and their teams for the 2016 season. If you’ve missed the Big Ten East CFB preview, click here. Now let’s get to the NCAA Big Ten West division.
Iowa was the only Big Ten program to have stayed undefeated (12-0) during the regular season. They represented the West into the championship game, but ultimately lost the one that counted the most against Michigan State 16-13. They got whomped even more at the Rose Bowl the following week versus Stanford 45-16. The division will be more explosive now that they’ve added a 9th conference game this season, something that the league hasn’t had since 1984. Will the west finally get the Big Ten championship title, after two years of losses since it’s 14 teams inauguration?
Illinois finished 5-7 last season, including 2-6 in the Big Ten. Bill Cubit took over as the head coach, after Tim Beckman was fired a week before the season. The project didn’t last long, as Cubit was fired after the season. Former NFL coach Lovie Smith looks to bring new life to this team. He’ll manage the squad star quarterback, Wes Lunt, on the youngster final college season.
The 2015 Hawkeyes were one of the biggest surprises in the country, going 12-0 in the regular season, winning the NCAA Big Ten West Division and coming within a couple of yards of the College Football Playoff. A better result is a great possibility with the central nucleus of the team coming back. C.J. Beathard will be back at quarterback and should be one of the very best signal-callers in the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes will also have a strong running pair with LeShun Daniels and Akrum Wadley returning.
The Golden Gophers are coming off a 6-7 season. They extended their streak of making bowls to four seasons last year despite a 5-7 regular-season record, thanks to their high APR scores. Minnesota will be counting on the offensive back dynamic duo of Shannon Brooks and Rodney Smith to carry the load. They’ve combined for 1,379 rushing yards and 5.0 yards a carry last season, and that was during their freshman campaigns. Brooks is coming off a season in which he won B1G freshman of the week three times, and Smith impressed against teams like Michigan with 12 carries for 74 yards.
The Cornhuskers finished last season 6-7 with a victory against UCLA in the Foster Farms Bowl, capping a nice turnaround in the final four games. Nebraska beat Big Ten champion Michigan State and hung tough with Big Ten West division winner Iowa in the regular-season finale. Mike Riley’s first season in charge featured its share of unlucky moments. The Cornhuskers’ first five losses came by a combined 13 points. With their loaded offense, this squad has the elements to be in the double-digit wins. Can’t be that unlucky, right!
Northwestern running back, Justin Jackson ran for 2,605 yards in two years in Evanston, only 94 fewer than Florida State’s Heisman hopeful RB Dalvin Cook and more than Shock Linwood (Baylor), Wayne Gallman (Clemson) and Jalen Hurd (Tennessee) in that same time. The Junior won’t dazzle you though but he is a workhorse. He averaged more than 6 yards per carry in just one outing last year and ran for 10-plus yards only 30 times. His 312 rushes (third most in the country) accounted for more than half of Northwestern’s ground game.
The Purdue Boilermakers are coming off a 2-10 record and a last-place finish in the Big Ten West. They’ve had one winning season since 2008. If they have any chance of turning their misfortune around, it will be because of quarterback David Blough. The Big Ten’s most effective signal-caller in the red zone last season, Blough boasted an 87.2 QBR in the red zone, with five touchdowns and no picks. He was just a different player when the Boilermakers approached touchdown territory. Outside of the red zone, he had only a 39.1 QBR. Inside the red zone, he completed 72 percent of his passes. Now it’s Blough or bust.
Wisconsin is coming off its second straight double-digit win season (under two different head coaches) and has won at least 10 games in seven of the past 11 seasons (under four different head coaches). That’s pretty impressive. With an insanely difficult schedule ahead, the Badgers will likely struggle to reach 10 wins this year. It doesn’t help that defensive coordinator Dave Aranda is gone, as well as three key starters in the secondary and the NCAA Big Ten linebacker of the year also.
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