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Tuesday, February 4, 2014
Bold predictions: Big Ten

By Tom VanHaaren

National signing day is less than 24 hours away and there's still plenty of recruiting action that could take place in the final hours. The Big Ten still has some big questions and storylines leading up to the big day.

College decisions are often unpredictable, but here are five signing day predictions for the Big Ten.

1. Malik McDowell

Malik McDowell
There's a lot of drama brewing around Malik McDowell's announcement, but Michigan State might be the team to beat.
The No. 60-ranked prospect in the ESPN 300 has kept everyone in suspense about his pending decision. McDowell (Southfield, Mich./Southfield) took his final visit to Ohio State over the weekend and will now announce his decision on Wednesday.

Florida State, Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State are his four finalists, and it’s anyone’s guess as to where he will end up.

His parents are trying to convince him to leave the state of Michigan, but McDowell seems to be leaning toward Michigan State. His father, Greg, believes leaving the state will give McDowell an opportunity to have a fresh start and get away from any distractions.

Each team has put on the full-court press, with assistant coaches and head coaches all stopping by to see the ESPN 300 defensive lineman, but McDowell's decision seems to be between Florida State, Michigan State and Ohio State.

There is a struggle here within the family to figure out the best place for McDowell, but his parents also want him to be happy. That's why I think McDowell lands at Ohio State.

The Buckeyes might be a good compromise for McDowell to get out of the state, but close enough to home where he isn't uncomfortable.

2. Surprises

Signing day always means there is work being done behind the scenes. Coaches are trying to land recruits who weren’t on the radar before, and trying to flip bigger commitments to their class.

Not every team will have surprises, but there could be a few still in the works within the Big Ten. It should be an interesting signing day to see if any surprises pop up.

These are tough to predict specifically what will happen, but if you're going to watch a team for a surprise, then watch Michigan State. The Spartans still have a few tricks up their sleeve.

3. Will there be any more flips?

There have already been plenty of prospects who have flipped their commitments within the Big Ten.

Most Big Ten teams have already had a decommitment or landed a prospect who switched his pledge to a new team. The biggest so far have been ESPN 300 prospects Lawrence Marshall (Southfield, Mich./Southfield) from Ohio State to Michigan, Saeed Blacknall (Manalapan, N.J./Manalapan) from Rutgers to Penn State and Thomas Holley (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln) from Penn State to Florida.

There is still opportunity for more flips to happen as we near signing day as well.

Offensive lineman Jamarco Jones (Chicago/De La Salle) is still committed to Ohio State, but took a visit to Michigan State. The Ohio State staff did an in-home visit with Jones before the trip to East Lansing trying to keep him on board.

Jones should have a decision made on Tuesday, and while there is still a chance he sticks with Ohio State on signing day, the Spartans are expected to win out with this one.

4. Who moves in the class rankings?

As of now, Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Michigan State and Nebraska are all within the top 40 class rankings.

Northwestern has closed out its class with a commitment from Xavier Washington (Cedar Hill, Texas/Cedar Hill), but plenty of other teams still have big targets on the board. As mentioned, Michigan State has plenty with McDowell, Jones and Evans.

The Spartans are also in on defensive tackle Daniel Cage (Cincinnati, Ohio/Winton Woods).

Wisconsin isn’t quite done yet either, as the Badgers are still hoping to reel in ESPN 300 athlete Chris Lammons (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./Plantation). The No. 86-ranked prospect will announce his decision between Wisconsin and South Carolina on signing day.

If Michigan misses out on McDowell and Ohio State loses Jones there is a chance both teams see a slight drop in the rankings as well. Michigan hasn’t landed a 2014 commit since August, and there isn’t much room to move up without adding McDowell in this class.

The Wolverines had the No. 1 ranked class in the country at one point in April, but have fallen all the way to No. 12.

In the end, Michigan State should improve its stock on signing day.

5. Does Jones stick with the Gophers?

ESPN 300 running back Jeff Jones (St. Paul, Minn./Washburn) is still committed to Minnesota despite receiving interest from some top programs throughout the process.

Jones had received offers from Michigan and Florida after his Under Armour All-America game performance, but both schools moved on before he was able to visit.

Despite other teams still coming after Jones, it looks like the Gophers will be able to hang on.