Heat Checks and Hail Marys – Big Ten Football Predictions

By: Mike
November 1, 2023

Mike Cagley, Co-Host Sports Spectacular and Big Sports Radio

November 1, 2023

We will try something a little different today. I’ve got a list of questions that I’ve heard or read about, and I’ll provide my quick predictions to the "what if" style questions. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong, maybe not. Only time will tell.

Question 1: Is Bret Bielema’s job in jeopardy at Illinois?

No way. Illinois has been a bottom feeder program for most of the last 30 years. Bret Bielema has to have time to build the program. Anyone would need to have time to build the program. He’s already had one season with 8 wins. He may not win that many games in either of the next two years, but if he can make a run at a bowl each season, he will be okay. It’s Illinois.

Question 2: Will Penn State go in a different direction if James Franklin fails to defeat Michigan?

If Penn State walks away from James Franklin, the school does that at considerable risk. Franklin still has a chance for his fifth 10+ win season since he took over in 2014. There is no sin in being challenged at toppling both Michigan and Ohio State when both are at historic program highs. Fan is short for "fanatic" and the fans need to appreciate the success that Franklin has brought to Penn State.

Penn State does not want to fire James Franklin and have that termination compared to the firing of Frank Solich at Nebraska. Nebraska has yet to equal Solich’s 1999-2001 season win totals of 12, 10, and 11 wins consecutively. Learn from history, don't repeat it.

Question 3: Who takes the Michigan State job?

No one is sure who really wants it. Insiders around the program will say that more and more things are being uncovered and the program is in worse shape than it looks. The NIL program SD4L cancelled deals with dozens of football players leaving “less than five” players with continued funding. There are estimates of 10 to 20 players hitting the transfer portal when it opens at the end of the season.

It doesn’t help that Michigan and Ohio State are performing at historical highest levels making the conference even more challenging than the past and the specter of USC, Oregon, Washington and UCLA joining the Big Ten won’t make the job easier.

Michigan State alums Mat and Justin Ishbia have billions of dollars to help them fund Michigan State sports, but is it easier to fund a solid investment like Tom Izzo? Even Michigan State’s best football years from 2010 to 2015 aren’t easily replicated as Rich Rodriguez or Brady Hoke aren’t coaching the Michigan Wolverines.

There’s no doubt the Spartans will have to overpay for their next coach.

Question 4: Will Michigan Get into Real Trouble over Signal Gate?

No. Harbaugh may decide to go to the NFL, but the Wolverines are doing what most of the teams are trying to do – steal signals. They’ve taken it too far. Okay way too far, but there aren’t any innocents on this issue. As legendary UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian once said, “Nine out of ten schools are cheating. The other one is in last place.”

The NCAA is hesitant to make current players pay for what was done in the past and the NCAA doesn’t investigate quickly. By the time the NCAA concludes this inquiry, there won’t be any real desire to make one of the marquis brands of college football look bad. The days of death penalties, taking teams off lucrative television deals (hurting the ratings of the partners who pay the conferences) and limiting scholarships and bowl appearances are over. The NCAA has no teeth.

Bill Self and Kansas got away with breaking the current rules and using delaying tactics for years until the rules changed. This seems like an easily replicated strategy for other large universities to employ as well. Michigan will find a way to weather the storm.

If Harbaugh leaves, Chicago Bear fans might be happy, and Harbaugh will leave the program in a place where it will easily be the best opportunity in college football. Who knows, we might even see Urban Meyer throw his name into the ring! Not likely, but that would be fantastic to watch! I'd guess that even Michigan fans will end up happy as well.

Question 5: What Happens if Ryan Day Loses to Michigan, Again

If Ohio State loses to Michigan again, it is what it is. Ohio State fans can get upset, but Ohio State is playing defense like it did pre-Ryan Day and the offense is doing what it needs to do to win games. This year has been a very Tressel-like season. It’s hard to ask much more of Day and the team. Injuries have been a challenge, though every team has their fair share of injuries eight games into the season.

If Georgia doesn’t put Marvin Harrison, Jr. out of the game during the CFP last January, or if a targeting penalty had been called, the Buckeyes win that game and go on to defeat TCU. Then, it’s hard to complain about not beating Michigan. Though national titles have a way of making all wounds heal quickly.

The Buckeyes have a tough task to go on the road and beat the Wolverines in Ann Arbor on November 25th (assuming they’re still undefeated), but they have already beaten Notre Dame on the road and Penn State at home. It's impressive preparation to have two victories over Top 10 teams at the time and both teams are still in the Top 15. While Michigan won’t play a ranked team until they travel to play Penn State on November 11.

There will be a mountain of pressure on Day to get a victory over a highly ranked Wolverine team in Ann Arbor, but his job should not be on the line. Even at Ohio State.

Now, save this column and we will see how accurate my predictions will be.


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