The Congrove Computer Rankings at CollegeFootballPoll.com have produced a somewhat radical forecast in comparison to other major national prognostications.
For starters, it puts defending champion Michigan State and Northwestern in the conference title game when no one else that we've seen has the Spartans or Wildcats no higher than 2nd.
Then, there's the whole Ohio State deal of saddling the Buckeyes with 3 over-all losses and a 7-2 conference record. How dare the computer put The Ohio State University in 2nd!
If the initial shock has subsided, let's delve a little deeper into the computer's forecast.
Ohio State will face the nation's 4th-toughest schedule with the fewest number of returning starters of any team in the nation, and the 11th-fewest returning lettermen. Still, Ohio State is only a mild underdog in 3 very tough road games - by 7.62 at Oklahoma, 4.92 at Wisconsin, and 4.72 at Michigan State.
Michigan State isn't loaded on returning starters either, but the Spartans do get Ohio State at home, along with Wisconsin, Northwestern and Michigan. We're ready to enroll for some classes at East Lansing so just we can enjoy their crazy home slate of football games, because MSU also gets BYU at home. Their only ho-hum home games are Furman in the opener and Rutgers in November.
Michigan State's road slate presents 2 potential speed bumps. The Spartans are favored by just 4.91 at Notre Dame on September 24, and by 7.01 at Penn State in the season finale.
Michigan, on the other hand, has to travel to Michigan State, Iowa and Ohio State. The Wolverines are preseason underdogs in each of those contests, and on the wrong side of a slim 0.93-point pick for their home date with Wisconsin.
In the Big Ten West, the computer actually has 3 teams at the top separated by no more than 4.33 points - Northwestern, Wisconsin and defending divisional champion Iowa. All three are picked to finish 7-2 in the conference. In the end, Northwestern rises above Wisconsin and Iowa on head-to-head wins over the Badgers by 2.06 at home, and the Hawkeyes by 0.40 on the road. Wisconsin gets 2nd thanks to a head-to-head win over Iowa.
Nebraska is a distant 4th in the West as the 'Huskers trail the top 3 by 9 or more points. Minnesota, Illinois and Purdue are all at least 10 points behind Nebraska. The Gophers get Rutgers and Maryland among their 3 division crossover games, thus helping to make a 6-win season conceivable. But Minnesota is a narrow favorite by 3.86 points or less in 4 of its projected victories.
The Big Ten ties the American and ACC for the most new coaches this year with four. There were varying degrees of messy partings at Illinois, Maryland and Rutgers, and a mid-season passing of the torch at Minnesota that was medical-related.
New Illinois Athletic Director Josh Whitman, on his first official day on the job, fired Bill Cubit on Saturday (March 5). Cubit stepped up when the school fired Tim Beckman a week before the 2015 season opener. Beckman's dismissal was triggered by an investigation into player mistreatment which revealed he allegedly meddled in medical issues and inappropriately treated athletes who left the team but remained on scholarship. Cubit went from offensive coordinator to interim head coach for the 2015 season, after which he was rewarded with a reported 2-year deal for the permanent job. Instead, the new AD fired Cubit and announced Lovie Smith as the new head coach on March 7, but that wasn't the end of the drama. Spring football, scheduled to start March 11, was postponed until April 1 so that Smith could complete his staff. As for Cubit, he wasn't even retained as an assistant.
Maryland gave Randy Edsall the boot on October 11, the day after a 49-28 loss to Ohio State. Rumors of his impending dismissal came to light in the days leading up to that game. Edsall was 22-34 in 4+ seasons at College Park. Offensive coordinator Mike Locksley was handed the duties of interim head coach. Locksley's prior head coaching stint at New Mexico was a certifiable disaster as he produced a 2-26 record. Locksley's Terps managed to win the season finale over Rutgers to improve his record to 3-31. Michigan defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin was confirmed on December 2 as the new head coach of Maryland. This will be his first head coaching job.
Tracy Claeys had the interim tag removed from his title on November 11 and signed a 3-year contract as head coach for Minnesota. The longtime assistant to Jerry Kill was named interim head coach after Kill announced his immediate retirement on October 28 due to health reasons. Kill deals with epileptic seizures and had a previous bout with kidney cancer in 2005. Minnesota had a record of 29-29 during his tenure. However, Tracy Claeys was the acting or interim head coach for 7 of those games and was 4-3, leaving Kill's official record at 25-26. Claeys was 0-2 in the interim capacity with losses to Michigan and Ohio State, and 1-1 after the interim tag removed.
On December 7, Rutgers announced Chris Ash as its new head coach. The Ohio State defensive cooridnator (2014-2015) has been an FBS assistant since 2000 with the likes of Iowa State and Wisconsin, among others. Ash replaces Kyle Flood who was fired on November 29 after a season of turmoil that included a 3-game suspension of Flood and the arrests of at least 7 players. The school also fired athletics director, Julie Herrmann, and named her successor, Pat Hobbs. Rutgers was 4-8 this season with assistant Norris Wilson going 1-2 during Flood's suspension. In all, Rutgers was 27-24 overall during Flood's tenure and 12-19 in conference games.