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eXp & April Rosemurgy Present: Big Ten’s 2022 Races & 2023 West Predictions

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The B-10 West & East Divisions both came down to to the final week of the 2022 season. In the West, all Iowa (7-4) needed was to beat a 3-8 Nebraska team @ home. The Hawks had beaten the Huskers seven (7) straight times and it looked like the Hawkeyes were a lock to be heading to Indianapolis. Yet Nebraska rolled into Iowa City, outgained the Hawks 329 to 274, forced 4 turnovers, & won the game, 24-17.

As a result, Purdue, who had lost to Iowa, in West Lafayette, 24-3, was now in the drivers, a win over Indiana, and the Boilers would be in the B-10 Championship Game. IU outgained the Boilermakers 421 to 388 and were better on 3rd down, 6 of 18 to 2 of 9, however Purdue was the more opportunistic team and won the game, 30-16, and the West!

Per usual, the Big Ten East had more at stake then just a B-10 Championship, as both teams were in position for a CFP berth! Michigan marched into the ‘Horse shoe’ @ 11-0 and OSU, also 11-0, was looking for payback after losing to the Wolves in the ‘Big House’ in 2021, 42-27! The Buckeyes were up 20-17 @ half time and looked to be set for their 15 win in 17 games vs UM! Yet Michigan had a different perspective as they outscored the Bucks, 28 to 3 and won the game, 45-23!

Michigan scored 5 TDs from outside 45 yards (3 passes for 69, 75, & 45 yards and two runs of 75 & 85 yards) the most scores from outside 45 yards in the history of 102 game series!

The Wolverines, the East Division winner, advanced to the B-10 Championship Game, to take on the Boilermakers, winners of the West. Michigan led only 14-13 @ halftime, yet, outscored Purdue, 29 to 9 in the 2nd half, winning 43-22! The East Division has never lost a Big Ten Championship Game to the West. The West Champion will have one more shot to beat their East counterpart, as divisional play will end beginning with the 2024 season!

So who does SCFP think will be playing in that final B-10 Division Championship Game?

Let’s start with the West:

7. Northwestern: The Cats are in disarray, to say the least, 4-20 the past two years and their highly regarded coach of 18 years, Pat Fitzgerald, was unceremoniously dismissed for/with cause. The new HC, David Braun, (just hired as the DC, spent the past 4 years as the defensive coordinator at North Dakota State and in all likelihood, does not even know the players names ,,, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Just when we thought things could not get worse for NW, they did, considerably worse!

6. Purdue: Jeff Braun has moved on to his alma mater, Louisville and Illinois’ DC, Ryan Walters has been hired as the Boiler’s new HC! This is the 1st time Purdue has hired a head coach, whose prior experience was not on the offensive side of the ball, in two (2) decades. Purdue has 6 starters back on offense (not QB) and 5 players return on defense. If NW HC, Pat Fitzgerald, had not been dismissed, Purdue would have been picked here to finish dead last!

5. Nebraska: This is the 3rd program in the West Division that will kick off the 2023 season with a new coach! Matt Rhule has had successful stints at Temple, 10-4 in both his last two (2) years, then @ Baylor (a mess when he arrived) he went 1-11 in his 1st season, 7-6 in year two , and then 11-3 in 2019, reaching a national ranking of 6th during that season! Rhule is the right guy for this program and has a chance to make a bowl game in 2023, given the existing talent!

4. Illinois: Brett Bielema has done an outstanding job at Illinois as he enters his third season. The Illini were 5-7 in his 1st year and 8-5 in year two! It was widely regarded that U of I was the best team in the West in 2022 and shocking, when they lost back to back games, @ home, in November to MSU, 23-15 & Purdue, 31-24. Illinois returns 12 starters, 6 on both sides of the ball, yet have lost significant talent @ QB, RB, & in their defensive secondary! Look for the Illini to be a factor in the West Division race and to make a bowl game in 2023! One final thought, Bielema has hired former UW Coach, Jimmy Leonhard, as a Senior Football Analysts! While Leonhard can have no contact with the players, his interaction with the coaches will most certainly help the Illini in the 2023 Season!

3. Minnesota: PJ Fleck has resurrected the Golden Gopher football program. Prior to his arrival, the Gophers had lost 14 games in a row to their arch-rival, Wisconsin. Since then, Minnesota has won 3 of 6 and two in a row vs the Badgers, while going 44-27 in Fleck’s 1st 6 years in the Twin Cities! In their two (2) critical divisional games, UM has Iowa on the road and Wisconsin @ home, yet will struggle in their divisional crossover games, as they have drawn Michigan, in Ann Arbor and Ohio State, & Michigan State in Minneapolis!

2. Iowa: The Hawks have a stale taste in their mouths from the close of the 2022 season; losing, @ home, their final game and the divisional title to Nebraska, 24-17, a team the Hawkeyes had beaten 7 times in a row! This loss opened the championship door for Purdue, a team they had beaten, 24-7, in West Lafayette! Iowa took out their frustrations on the SEC, shouting-out Kentucky, 21-0, in the Music City Bowl. The Hawks return 16 starters, and have added former Michigan QB, Cade McNamara, who will be under center for the Hawkeyes in 2023. Phil Steele rates the 2023 Iowa D-Line as the nation’s 5th best (between Ohio State 4th & Michigan 6th) while their secondary is the country’s 6th best and #1 in the B-10!

1. Wisconsin: The Badgers are the or one of the most interesting storylines for the coming season. 1st: Wisconsin’s AD. Chris McIntosh fired Paul Chryst, after an embarrassing loss to Illinois, 34-10! Chryst won 72% of his games (67-26), including 3 Big Ten West Division titles (2016, 2017, & 2019). Chryst also won the 2016 Cotton Bowl, beating an undefeated W. Michigan, 24-16, the 2017 Orange Bowl, beating Miami, 34-24, and then lost the 2019 Rose Bowl, 28-27, to Oregon. 2nd: McIntosh decides not to hire fan favorite, DC Jimmy Leonhard, and 3rd: shocks the college football landscape by hiring the hottest coach in all of football (Pro or college), Luke Fickell! Coach Fickell better win & here is why he will!

In all the excitement of the Chryst firing, the failure to hire Leonhard, the hiring of Fickell and all the conversations since; three names have been flying under the radar, Phil Longo, Mike Tressel, & Tanner Mordecai. New Offensive Coordinator (OC) Phil Longo is an Air Raid guy, philosophically aligned to Mississippi State’s, Mike Leach (sadly & recently deceased)! The Air Raid is often misunderstood as being a pass happy offense, while it can be, Longo is all about balance! At UNC last year, the Tar heels passed on 526 occasions and ran the ball 506 times. In 2021, the Heels ran it 513 and had 382 pass attempts. Two thoughts about Longo 1) he will play fast (no huddle) and 2) his offense will adjust to the talents of the players he had inherited. UW’s pass attack is no longer dependent on play-action! Mike Tressel will play a 3-3-5 as opposed to Leonhard 3-4-4 although JL would use multiple fronts! Tressel’s challenge will be to get the Badger defense to the level Leonhard had it during his tenure (2017: 1st in Total D & 3rd in points per game (PPG); 2019: 8th in Total D & 1st PPG, 2020: 5th in Total D, & 2021: 1st in Total D & 2nd nationally in YPP @ 4.17) Finally, Tanner Mordecai, a Transfer Portal arrival from Southern Methodists University (SMU) is now in Madison! Mordecai 1st transferred from OU (Oklahoma) to SMU after the 2020, won the QB job in 2021 and passed 3628 yards with a 39/12 TD to INT Ratio and in 2022, he passes for 3524 yards with a Ratio of 33/10! While I know Badger fans are fired up about ‘Luke’ … Longo, Tressel & Mordecai are the likely suspects in determining UW’s winning the West and finally, beating the East in the B-10 Championship Game!

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