With 20 percent of precincts reporting, Nebraska is picked to finish fourth in the West. At least that’s one way to look at it, though things can still change.
Stassen.com has 25 seasons worth of preseason picks you can peruse — it’s really a remarkable time capsule — the 2017 predictions are just starting to roll in as the preseason magazines hit shelves. Last year’s tracked selections at Stassen included 20 outlets. So far, just four are listed for this upcoming season, but you can already get a sense for the ideas and feelings that have set up since the spring.
Here are a few Big Ten themes that jumped out to me:
>>No real surprise with Nebraska’s placement. Athlon and Street & Smith pick the Huskers third in the West, Lindy’s and McIllece Sports fourth. In all but one case, it’s a choice between Huskers and Hawkeyes for third and fourth, the exception being Street & Smith, which has Iowa No. 2 in the division. That leaves Northwestern at No. 4 in that particular ranking, which . . .
>> . . . feels like the more traditional pick in most years, but in this year it might end up qualifying as bold. I’m buying what the Wildcats’ are selling this year as one of the most experienced teams in the conference. Add in new quarterbacks and coordinators at Iowa and Nebraska and you have ideal conditions for Northwestern to gain some preseason steam. That said, there’s still some history to overcome. I do have the Wildcats ranked as second-best in the West, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Northwestern doesn’t finish there. In some ways, I might be less surprised if it was Minnesota that jumped Iowa and Nebraska to finish behind Wisconsin.
>>Status quo is the story in the East. Each of the four outlets listed so far has Ohio State-Penn State-Michigan finishing 1-2-3. Michigan State used to be included in that “haves” group, and seems to fall at four out of a lack of other options. But I see two options capable of finishing ahead of the Spartans, not because of the residual effects of Michigan State’s rough 2016 but because I don’t really like the roster.
>>In the power rankings I contributed for the Yearbook, I had both Maryland and Indiana ahead of Michigan State. I doubt both of them will top the Spartans — Mark Dantonio is still a very good coach — but defaulting to Michigan State at four feels a little too easy to me.
>>Finally, Purdue isn’t viewed as the worst team in the West so far. The Boilermakers are merely tied with Illinois for the last spot in the division, and that’s already progress. Purdue hasn’t been a consensus pick for anything other than seventh in the division since 2013, so with a few more picks this year maybe the Boilermakers will already have won something with the hire of Jeff Brohm.
This is as good a time as any to mention that we’ll be publishing Trend Reports, quick and digestible previews, on each of the Big Ten teams over the next two weeks so look for those.
The Grab Bag
- Former Huskers Amber Rolfzen and Justine Wong-Orantes grabbed gold medals with the U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team in the Pan American Cup over the weekend.
- Speaking of preseason prognostications, Tom Shatel of the Omaha World Herald spoke with Phil Steele about the process of putting together his magazine.
- Ameer Abdullah recounts a memorable football camp experience from his youth, something he hopes to bring to Nebraska next month.
- ESPN looks at the toughest three-week stretches in college football this season.
- ICYMI: Jacob Padilla caught up with Nebraska’s latest commit, 2019 DE/OLB Garrett Nelson of Scottsbluff. (Premium)
Today’s Song of Today
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.