The latest Big Ten prediction from a popular media personality is good for Ohio State, but — should it come true — might be harmful to the conference as a whole.
Like many, FOX Sports’s Stewart Mandel is projecting a fast start for Michigan due to its experience and home-field advantage through the first five games. On the other side, he believes Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes will struggle out of the gate.
That sets up an interesting dynamic for Mandel’s hypothetical finish to the Big Ten East schedule. Here’s his take on why Ohio State will peak late and why that’s bad news for its neighbors to the north, Michigan State included.
But by late in the season, as inexperience becomes less of a factor, talent often prevails above all — and lord knows the Buckeyes are talented. Guys like redshirt freshman RB Mike Weber, sophomore DE Sam Hubbard, sophomore CBs Marshon Lattimore and Denzel Ward and sophomore S Malik Hooker will emerge as big-time playmakers sooner than later. And we already know DE Tyquan Lewis, MLB Raekwon McMillan and CB Gareon Conley can play at a high level.
It’s not hard to see a scenario where Ohio State struggles early but peaks in time for its all-important last two games at Michigan State and, on Nov. 26, at home against Michigan.
Why could the late-peaking Buckeyes be detrimental to the Big Ten, you ask? Well, Mandel projects Ohio State finishing 11-2, leaving the College Football Playoff committee’s hands tied trying to select a Big Ten representative. Mandel has already predicted an SEC-heavy playoff this season.
Mandel also predicted finishes for all 14 teams by division, with records and a few thoughts on each heading into the 2016 season. Here’s how the FOX analyst thinks the conference will shape up.
Big Ten East
1. Ohio State
T-3. Michigan State
T-3. Penn State
Big Ten West