Everyone has their own method of making predictions. Some lean heavily on a statistical model that they've tuned for years. Others like to go with their gut and intuition, but for me, I know only one tried and true method for predicting the future in sports: "The Oregon Trail."
You don't believe me? Check the receipts from my NBA days. Who could have predicted LeBron James going back to the Cavs in free agency in 2014? The Oregon Trail. What about the Golden State Warriors winning the 2015 NBA title? The Oregon Trail.
Now it's time to bring the Oregon Trail to college football as we roll through Power Five conference previews and predictions here at CBS Sports. For all of our expert picks, click the link to the right. Those are guesses. These are facts.
We start with the Big Ten, but first, a quick introduction to how this works.
The trail leader is the conference. The traveling party consists of the four highest-ranked programs in a randomized order. Why do I do this? Any veteran Trail player knows the leader is the last to have anything happen to them, which would make it easy to rig. The random order, all in the two through five slots ensures disaster will strike all equally.
We dial back food to bare bones rations and set the pace to grueling to ensure the most misery for everyone and that health will get to "very poor" as soon as possible. I buy plenty of food, oxen, clothes and bullets, just to have them.
We send our fearless group off in May, because that means they travel through the meat of the trail in the hottest months, which means they get hit with the most illnesses. The only way this works is if three members of the travel party die, so I need carnage. At rivers, the wagon gets caulked and floated every time. No fording (that always ends in death) and no using the ferry or Indian guides (that always gets across).
Once three teams have died, you have your conference champion. If two teams make it somehow (this rarely happens but is possible), or if the last two die together (this can happen on the river), we go to Sudden Death Trail. Those two get sent off again, same rules, but with each team listed twice. First one to die loses.
Those are the rules. Welcome to the Trail.
Sorry, Wisconsin and Northwestern, you just missed the cut. If one of you wins the title, you can yell at me in November for being an idiot. Anyways, we're off to the trail!
Not a great start for the Wolverines. We're 10 days in and already a broken leg. Harbaugh's gonna have the entire team drinking two gallons of whole milk a day to strengthen their bones because of this.
Rub some dirt in it, Iowa.
I knew depth could be an issue for the Buckeyes this year, but two weeks into the season? C'mon, guys. Get it together.
Alright, so it's an even playing field less than a month in. Two broken bones, cholera and exhaustion have struck our four combatants in the Big Ten in May. This might get decided quickly.
Guys, game control is key for the College Football Playoff Selection Committee. This is not going to help your chances at all. Lock it up.
So June was pretty uneventful and the Ohio State went and broke its arm. It's not looking particularly good for the Buckeyes right now.
Measles is the punting from plus territory of illnesses, so this fits.
That's like all of our bullets. A quick list of the coaches most likely to set the wagon on fire, ranked:
1. Jim Harbaugh
2. Mark Dantonio
3. Urban Meyer
4. Kirk Ferentz
What are you even doing in the offseason, Urb? Get these boys in shape.
ALTERNATE UNIFORMS, BABY!
And then there were three.
Bad water, a classic. And then there were two.
Advantage: Ohio State.
"Anything you can do, we can do better" is not a good strategy when that thing is typhoid, Buckeyes. Goodness.
Harbaugh's done it! He's like a camel. Lack of water doesn't even affect him anymore. Congrats to Michigan, Big Ten champions, as guaranteed by The Oregon Trail.
Let the record show that they didn't actually make it to the end because I forgot to pause the game while trying to screenshot floating down the last river, and I crashed into some rocks and made Michigan drown. Sorry.