Everyone has a floor and a ceiling and that’s what we are pointing out here today. Our best case/worst case scenarios are different than over-unders. We are looking instead at what could happen to a team, given the talent they have, if they catch all or none of the breaks.
I’ve done this in the past for NFL teams and caught flack from people who say “the best case and worst case for every team is going undefeated or winless.” In theory, that’s true. In reality, there aren’t many teams, especially in your major college football conferences, who have to worry about going winless or even winning all of their games.
Chances are, your team’s final record is going to fall somewhere on the scale I’ve laid out. This is not a cupcakes and rainbows piece, so if you are looking at reading something that makes you feel 100% great about the upcoming season, I’d stop reading now.
With that, here are the Best Case and Worst Case win-loss scenarios for the regular seasons of all 14 Big Ten teams.
BIG TEN EAST
Ohio State — Best Case: 12-0, Worst Case: 8-4
The Buckeyes should be favored in every game they play in 2014, depending on how things are shaping up when they head to East Lansing to play Michigan State. In addition to the Michigan State game, three others would scare me if I were a Buckeye fan: Penn State, Michigan and — call me crazy — that opener against Navy in Baltimore.
Michigan State — Best Case: 12-0, Worst Case: 7-5
Ohio State and Oregon are the toughest tests on paper, and those could go either way. After that, Nebraska, Michigan and Penn State all pose serious threats to the Spartans.
Penn State — Best Case: 11-1, Worst Case: 6-6
Even in a perfect world, I’m not sure these Nittany Lions have the horses to beat both Ohio State and Michigan State in the same season. Central Florida, Northwestern, Michigan and even Indiana could all spoil what should be a fine season in Happy Valley.
Maryland -- Best Case: 9-3, Worst Case: 1-11
Maryland is an enigma. They have talent and a seasoned coach, but are dealing with a brutal schedule in 2014. They play play a six-game stretch of Ohio State, Iowa, Wisconsin, Penn State, Michigan State, and Michigan. Winning half of those would be monumental. In reality, every team on their schedule with the exception of James Madison is a threat to knock off the Terps.
Michigan — Best Case: 10-2, Worst Case: 4-8
Michigan has all of the talent in the world if you go off recruiting numbers over the past few seasons, but they haven’t been able to put it together. I think best case is splitting the games against Penn State, Northwestern, Ohio State and Michigan and winning out. On the flip side, the only guaranteed wins are the three home non-cons and either the home against Minnesota or the road game at Rutgers.
Indiana — Best Case: 9-3, Worst Case: 4-8
This Hoosier squad is going to score a ton of points again in 2014 and they are good enough to beat all but Ohio State and Michigan State straight up while splitting Iowa and Penn State. That said, if the offense sputters and the defense shows no improvement, their only wins could be Indiana State, Bowling Green, North Texas and Purdue.
Rutgers — Best Case: 8-4, Worst Case: 2-10
The Scarlet Knights aren’t expected to do much in 2014, but as always, they’ll have future NFL stars all over the field engaging in individual battles. They are good enough to get by against everyone but Ohio State, Michigan State, Penn State and Nebraska while upsetting Wisconsin at home. There are also enough question marks to open up the possibility of a season with wins over only Howard and Tulane.
BIG TEN WEST
Wisconsin — Best case: 10-2, Worst Case: 6-6
I haven’t been shy in saying I’m not as high as everyone else is when it comes to Wisconsin’s season outlook. I don’t see any way the Badgers are going to line up and beat LSU and am confident that they’ll drop at least one other game to Nebraska, Iowa or Northwestern. With what the Badgers lost, a .500 season isn’t out of the question, including losses to all four previously mentioned teams as well as Minnesota and either Maryland or Rutgers.
Iowa — Best Case: 12-0, Worst Case: 6-6
On paper, Iowa will line up a more experienced and complete team than every team on their schedule. The problem is, you still have to play the games and make it through the season without major injury and/or legal troubles — something the Hawkeyes haven’t been able to avoid as of late. Given that, Iowa State and Pitt pose serious questions in the non-con, as do four of the last five teams on their schedule.
Nebraska — Best Case: 11-1, Worst Case: 5-7
I feel like Nebraska has a good shot of being better than most think in 2014. I’m not sure they get through their two non-cons and five legit conference foes without at least one loss. Should the wheels fall off, they could lose to Fresno State, Miami, Michigan State, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. That scenario would mark the end of the Bo Pelini era in Lincoln.
Northwestern — Best Case: 10-2, Worst Case: 4-8
The Wildcats should contend for the Big Ten West in 2014. It will be tough for them to make it through the mid-season season stretch of Penn State, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan, and Notre Dame without drop two of those games. Then again, it wouldn’t shock me if they lost all seven of those games as well as the opener wil Cal.
Minnesota -- Best Case: 9-3, Worst Case: 5-7
I like what Jerry Kill is doing in maintaining his trend of improving every year, regardless of the team. Ideally, the Gophers go unbeaten in the non-con and split the six Big Ten games against teams not named Illinois and Purdue. I can also see them losing those six as well as the TCU game.
Illinois — Best Case: 6-6, Worst Case: 3-9
Sadly, that 3-9 might look good to some Illini fans. I can see them sweeping their non-cons with an upset win over Washington, a team who will be going through a coaching change and having to replace its best player (Bishop Sankey). After that, I think they can beat Purdue and pull an upset at Wisconsin or Northwestern. Realistically, the worst case is more likely, with wins over only Youngstown State, Western Kentucky and Texas State.
Purdue — Best Case: 5-7, Worst Case: 1-11
Poor Purdue. They could pull off wins over Western and Central Michigan, Southern Illinois, Illinois and maybe Indiana. If I were a Boilermaker fan, I’d be cautious in expecting anymore more than a win over Southern Illinois.
BY J.P. SCOTT ON JULY 16, 2014