The offseason is nothing if not a time for predictions. That's why it's time for optimistic, pessimistic and realistic predictions for every Big Ten team this season.
No one was surprised to see Ohio State in last year's Big Ten title game, but how many figured Michigan State would become one of the hottest teams in the country by year's end?
Will this season have any more surprises? Or will it be preseason favorites dominating the top of the standings again?
Our optimistic, pessimistic and realistic picks are in this slideshow.
Redshirt freshmen have stated their importance by proxy the past two seasons, as quarterbacks Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston—two guys who did not see active duty in their first year out of high school—won back-to-back Heisman Trophies. The latter won a national championship, too.
But it's not just quarterbacks who can make an impact after sitting out a year. Redshirt freshman Shock Linwood emerged as a force at running back for Baylor last season, and in 2012, redshirt freshman Mike Evans emerged as Manziel's favorite target at Texas A&M.
Offensive weapons should emerge in like manner this upcoming season. Based on their pedigree, the reports coming out of spring camp and the battle for playing time around them, certain players are set up to post huge numbers after sitting out their true freshman season—no matter the reason they might have sat out.
Here are just 10 of the best.
Sound off below and let me know who I missed.
If there were five recruits to add to Florida State's 2015 signing class, a wish list for the future, who would be on it?
National signing day is still eight months away, but Florida State has 12 "hard commitments'' according to 247Sports, including Friday's commitment from tight end Jalen Wilkerson from Coffee in Douglas, Georgia. The list should grow as the rising seniors take visits to Tallahassee over the summer (with many of them arriving for coach Jimbo Fisher's camps on June 11-13 or July 16-18).
Let's take a look at five prospects that FSU would love to sign.
DE Josh Sweat (Chesapeake, Virginia, Oscar Smith)
At the top of the list, at least in the opinion of 247Sports analyst Chris Nee, is defensive end Josh Sweat. The 5-star prospect is quick off the ball and at 6'5" can still add to his 235-pound frame.
"He may be the best player in the entire country regardless of position," Nee said.
Sweat had 94 tackles and 22 sacks as a junior in 2013. The 247 Crystal Ball predictions for Sweat are split, with Virginia Tech and FSU as the two leaders.
DE Cece Jefferson (Glen St. Mary, Florida, Baker)
FSU is also pursuing defensive end CeCe Jefferson—but he appears to be a distant second. He had 68 tackles and 17.5 sacks as a junior.
The 6'2", 250-pound Baker product is an athletic, fast pass-rusher. The 247 Crystal Ball predictions lean heavily toward Jefferson signing with Florida. Jefferson said he knows where he will attend college but told 247Sports that he won't tell anyone but his mom and ex-girlfriend until national signing day.
DB Tarvarus McFadden (Fort Lauderdale, Florida, American Heritage)
At 6'3" and 200 pounds, McFadden has the size and physicality to match up with a team's No. 1 receiver. 247Sports' Josh Newberg believes that FSU is "in the driver's seat" for McFadden. The 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions have McFadden leaning heavily toward FSU over LSU.
RB Jacques Patrick (Orlando, Florida, Timber Creek)
At 6'1" and 220 pounds, Jacques Patrick has steamrolled defenses for three seasons, racking up 5,385 yards and 67 touchdowns. He's surpassed 2,000 rushing yards in each of the last two seasons.
The 247Sports Crystal Ball projects that Patrick will land at FSU.
Jimbo Fisher loves to stockpile running backs. He simply can't have enough. This may not be a position of need in 2015, but for the long haul, Patrick could be a key part of the Seminoles.
RB Johnny Frasier (Princeton, North Carolina)
Considered the top running back in the nation by 247Sports, Johnny Frasier put up video game numbers last season (3,042 rushing yards, 45 touchdowns). While not as tall or big as Patrick (Frasier is 5'11", 200 lbs), he is a physical, powerful back. Frasier is pretty fast, too, clocking in at 4.45 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
Despite interest from Duke, North Carolina and Georgia, 247Sports' Crystal Ball predicts that Frasier will choose FSU.
Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained first-hand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bob on Twitter.
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Less than a year after arriving at Ohio State as a heralded freshman, Mike Mitchell is heading home. According to 247Sports.com reporter Taylor Hamm, the Plano, Texas, product has decided to transfer to Texas Tech:
The 6'3", 222-pound linebacker left the Buckeyes' football program in February to seek opportunities elsewhere after the spring semester.
At the time, Eleven Warriors writer Kyle Rowland reported that his father's health played a factor in the decision.
After weighing multiple options in the Lone Star State, Mitchell is the newest Red Raider.
His choice caps off a stunning turn of events for a recruit whom many expected to make an immediate impact in Columbus. Rated No. 5 nationally among outside linebackers and No. 58 overall as a prospect at Prestonwood Christian Academy, Mitchell was a marquee member of Urban Meyer's 2013 class.
He registered 337 total tackles and 22 sacks during his junior and senior high school seasons, securing scholarship offers from more than 20 teams.
Mitchell committed to Ohio State over Oregon and Texas A&M in front of a national television audience at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
On Friday, with far less fanfare, he officially moved on from the Buckeyes following a redshirt season.
Texas Tech offers Mitchell an opportunity to push the reboot button on his collegiate career, just a few hours away from his hometown. Luke Zimmerman of Land-Grant Holy Land suggests that he also considered Baylor and Texas A&M (again).
Red Raiders coach Kliff Kingsbury adds to a growing collection of impressive incoming defenders.
It remains to be seen whether Mitchell will be receive a waiver and be ruled eligible for the 2014 season, but standard transfer rules require players to sit for a full season before returning to game action.
Texas Tech has already assembled a solid 2015 recruiting class, which is currently rated 26th nationally in 247Sports' composite team rankings. Much-needed defensive help anchors the group.
With Mitchell's commitment and a few key pledges between now and national signing day, there's serious potential for a major influx of defensive talent in Lubbock.
Texas Tech surrendered 30 points per game in 2013, ranking 88th nationally in that category.
Recruit ratings and information courtesy of 247Sports.com unless otherwise noted.
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The final day of SEC spring meetings means it's time for Mike Slive to hand out some checks.
No, they weren't those oversized novelty checks that Adam Sandler demanded in Happy Gilmore, but Slive did need quite a bit of room to fit all of the zeros in.
The conference announced a record revenue distribution of $309.6 million, which averages out to over $20.9 million per school. For perspective, the SEC distributed a total of $304.7 million a year ago and $165.9 million in 2009.
So what does it all mean?
According to Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury-News, that puts the SEC ahead of the Pac-12 on a per-team distribution basis. The Pac-12, which owns its own network, distributed $228,242,350 to its schools, with no school breaking the $20 million mark in fiscal year 2013, which ended on June 30, 2013, according to USA Today.
It did, however, eclipse the SEC in terms of total revenue with $334 million for 2012-13, which more than triples the $111.8 million it reported in 2010-11. But expenses, which included start-up costs associated with the Pac-12 Network, knocked down the per-team payout a bit.
The Big Ten, which doled out $298 million, didn't eclipse the SEC in terms of total distribution. But with two fewer teams, the only team to receive fewer than $23 million over the same fiscal year was Nebraska ($15,411,595), according to Mike Carmin of JCOnline.com, which joined the conference in 2011.
The Big 12 announced Friday that it will distribute approximately $212 million to its 10 teams, with eight of the 10 teams receiving approximately $23 million, and TCU and West Virginia, which joined the conference in 2012, taking home $14 million each.
The ACC's figures aren't out, but it distributed $293 million in 2012-13, according to the Kansas City Star, an average of $24.4 million per team.
What the Numbers Mean
Clearly the Big Ten Network is paying off big time for its members, and the Pac-12, which leads all conferences in revenue, has Pac-12 Network start-up costs and other expenses knocking down its per-team split.
The SEC doesn't have much rent (a conference official told me its rent is $1.00), and since the new SEC Network is owned by ESPN and headquartered at ESPN's previously existing campus for ESPNU in Charlotte, North Carolina, start-up costs are minimal compared to conferences that have gone down this path in the past.
That's huge for the conference, because its per-team distribution is already healthy and competing with the Big Ten (which already has an established network) and the Big 12, which only has four fewer teams.
When the SEC Network money starts rolling in, the SEC might as well establish a mint at its headquarters, because it'll be printing money.
The SEC's Financial Future
Instead of printing money, the SEC should just plate its offices in gold, because that's essentially what's going to happen anyway.
According to Scott Rabalais of The Advocate, the new cable network could be worth a cool $35.7 million per team once the network reaches its full distribution goals, assuming it gets a rate of $1.30 per customer per month, and it achieves its goal of 30 million subscribers.
But how realistic is full distribution?
The SEC Network has deals in place with DISH Network, AT&T U-Verse, Google Fiber and other smaller distributors. But the bigger fish in the pond—DirecTV and Comcast—aren't on the hook yet.
Don't worry, because it'll happen. In fact, it'll surpass that number. It already has around 20 million customers thanks to the DISH and AT&T deals, and more will come with DirecTV and Comcast.
Since the network is wholly owned by ESPN, it can and will leverage its other properties, including non-sports content like the Disney Channel and Disney Junior, to force the hand of potential partners.
The SEC's future is paved in gold. Gold generated from the new cable network.
* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report.
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