The best part of 2020 is that it puts everything in perspective. The ‘Cats had a rough year in 2019. We won one game in the Big Ten, our last. Our three wins included Illinois, UNLV and UMass. But here in 2020, you look back and say, “eh”, maybe that year wasn’t so bad.
The ‘Cats were picked to finish either 6th or 7th (Of 7) in The Big Ten West in every single CBS Sports Preseason poll. Every other team in the West was picked by at least one writer To finish in the top 3. Our highest ranking was 6th.
This is where I put on my optimism hat. If I know anything about the Cats, it’s that we zig when people expect us to zag. When we are expected to perform, we fall apart. When no one expects us to be any good, we are halfway decent.
Our offense finished last in the Big Ten last year. We played five different QBs. But why would this year be any different? When you get a solid QB and a solid new O coordinator, it’s a new variable factor. And again, perspective. When you’re comparing to Mick McCall, even a bunch of children piled on each others’ shoulders inside a trenchcoat, wielding a playcalling sheet, would look solid in comparison.
But seriously, Bajakian brings a new offense to the scheme. Up tempo. Runs a lot. Uses TE. No more Superbacks. And he’s got a QB to run the system. Again, we played 5 QBs last year. None of them were even mildly competent aside from Marty (and maybe TJ Green for 5 snaps). Now we pick up Peyton Ramsey “Bolton,” a starter at Indiana. PFF absolutely loved Ramsey last year…
That’s about all the time I have to write, so wrapping this up with a few quick hits.
Player to watch on offense: John “Purple” Raine, TE. This transfer from FAU had some decent success with the Owls last year and brings some experience to a position group that did absolutely nothing last year. We need some pass-catchers to get open this year, and I’ve got a good feeling that Raine will become a go-to target for Ramsey. Ramsey’s obviously the most important player on the team, but going with Raine here who’s a little more off the radar.
Player to watch on defense: Earnest Brown IV, DE. With Miller opting out on the D line and Gaziano now in the pros, a position of general strength for the ‘Cats gets weaker. Brown is now our best player on the line – can Earnest generate some pressure on opposing QBs this year?
Most important game: @Iowa week two. Most people are picking Minnesota or Wisconsin to top the Big Ten West, but I feel this Iowa game is more important because it sets the tone for the year. Kinnick is typically a brutal place to play, but no fans will take some of the sting out of it. Win this game, and it could propel us on a really nice path with a very manageable schedule this year.